Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Slovenia with the Leica X2 and Ricoh GRD 4 – Part One

Slovenia with the Leica X2 and Ricoh GRD 4 – Part One

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For my 60th birthday, friends and family conspired to launch a kitty to finance either a new Leica or a trip abroad. I did not hesitate a second and invested all the money on a trip to Slovenia, that small country situated between Austria and Croatia. Many tourists simply drive right through en route to Croatia, but I decided Slovenia was a magnificent destination in its own right.

I packed the X2 as my main camera and the little Ricoh GRD4 as a backup. I had forgotten from past experience that I had taken the Ricoh exclusively to hike in the mountains or go to the beach. But I ended up using the Ricoh almost all the time (despite the somewhat-off-the-mark colour signature in some cases) as it was much lighter and less obtrusive when it comes to shooting people than the X2. It also has great macro abilities.

But the real reason was for this favouring of the Ricoh was because of a persistent SD card problem with the X2. By the time I noticed the issue I was 100 miles from the nearest place to buy a replacement. And, of course, I had forgotten to bring another card with me. So settling for the Ricoh was in some way happenstance.

Ljubljana

Arriving in Slovenia, we decided to make our base camp in Ljubljana, then move to the mountains (Triglav national park) and end up at the seaside with its 30 miles of coast.

What a nice capital Ljubljana turned out to be, quite compact with an amazing network of public transport and an extended pedestrian area in the city centre. I just wish we had the same at home.

Another bonus is that almost everyone speaks English. Ljubljana was awarded the prize of Greenest European Capital in 2016 or 2017. You find different coloured bins everywhere and apparently almost everything can be recycled — including, no doubt, malfunctioning SD cards. You also have drinking fountains all over the city centre. On our first day, we were struck by the number of street musicians that were close to real professionals. The repertoire went from jazz to world music.

We were also lucky because the Copenhagen show band was visiting on a tour of Europe. It’s an amazing brass band, with a repertoire ranging from high-end jazz standards to The Village People. They did a few gigs in the city centre but the best time to make pictures was at the end of the show as you could approach the musicians.

The centre of the city is strictly for pedestrian and cyclists and it was quite easy to get some good street scenes. The people usually don’t mind having their photographs taken and walking helps a lot to make images. There’s a park with an open-air library not far from the city centre and you can just sit on the grass or on one of the easy chairs, pick up a book or just relax on the grass. There’s a nice atmosphere to the city: It is quiet, the rhythm is slow and the sun just encourages you to slow down.

Another striking feature is the number of tags and graffiti in the alternative district. Hardly any tourists venture to this part of town although it is close to the Slovenian ethnography and national museums. Some of the artwork was is not particularly inspiring, but a few outstanding examples added a nice feeling to our visit to the city.

The Istrian Coast

After a week in the mountains (another article to come) we finished our three-week holiday by the seaside before heading back home. The Slovenian coast is not very big (some 30 miles long) but can boast a few Venetian towns with coloured houses and exhibiting a stark contrast between lights and shadows.

There are also salt marches which still produces salt, situated not far from the Croatian border. I only used the Ricoh by then and wanted to have a try at what is referred to as street (or rather, in this case, beach) photography here.

Although I like taking pictures of people I had never thought of shooting people that close. Some street photographers such as Jeff Chane Mouye and Olivier Duong were raving about the GRD4 as a street camera, so I thought as it was my only available camera at the time I would try to make good use of it, I shot most images either from the hip or from ground level.

After using the Ricoh exclusively for almost two weeks I found the 28mm-equivalent 6mm lens bitingly sharp and I like the colour signature of that tiny CCD sensor, although sometimes the colours can be slightly off the mark. The depth-of-field is huge of course (except in macro mode) and the image stabilisation is a real bonus when shooting in poor lighting conditions.

Read more photographic travelogues by Jean Peranet

Quiz: Which photo is taken with which camera?

  • Leica X2: Images 1 to 10 and 13 to 17
  • Ricoh GRD4: Images 11, 12 and 19 to 24

11 COMMENTS

  1. Another great selection of pictures! You definitely have a knack for street photography. The low angle sun on the cobbled street in image 11 is just magical. It’s very difficult to photograph people on a beach without coming away with pictures that look mundane at best. Your approach of getting very close makes for very interesting results. They remind me of Martin Parr’s work. You’ve used that tiny sensor to maximum effect.

  2. Thanks Richard for your kind comment,
    I must admit it was a really odd experience photographing people that close and that was one of my first experience in “street photography”. I mainly shot the images from the hip but I didn”t feel that comfortable doing it. I was quite pleased with the results but just felt as uncomfortable as when loooking at Martin Parr’s images although I love his work. It was such a different experience from shooting people anytime I went to Asia where people are quite pleased with having their photograph taken. Down here in Europe you tend to shoot on the sly. As for the ricoh, it’s got its flaws but the colour signature of that little camera can work wonders but it takes some time to tame that little black box to your liking.

  3. Hi Jean,
    I enjoyed the journey and experience you had here – although note to self, check I carry a spare SD card for my future adventures.

    My initial favourite for its interesting light, and shadows, was image 11 – oddly it turned out to be a GRD4 image. So testimony that it is doing something right. However the other images from both camera’s are excellent, I love the Leica’s orange return on the trombone player.

    Note to Mike – I cannot get the images to pop out, so the smaller ones are harder to see – is that me, or the website?

    Dave

    • Could be me. I will check it now….. Later — yes my fault. I wish I could get the system to show the Lightbox by default, instead I have to remember to change the settings for every image posted. I need to have a word with the developers to see if I can get this sorted.

  4. Hi Dave,
    “Sd card missing” was my mistake although I had a couple of spare ones at home. I love my leica like you but I must admit the ricoh is a pretty impressive tool when it comes to being discreet and stealthy. I appreciated the ricoh in-body stabilization to make images while walking and shooting from the hip. I did try street shooting with my X2 but so far it has not worked as I wish as the images are sometimes blurred and I personally lack the feeling of outer space and huge DOF that the 6mm lens gives you.

  5. Thank you for a very interesting and fun article, Jean.
    I’ll bare my soul and admit that I scored just 69%. Good results at the start of your series, good results at the end of the series, but I lost the plot in the middle!
    Beyond that, it was instructive to look back through the images after knowing the result. It reminded me of the old days of Kodachrome v Agfachrome v Fujichrome. Personally, I prefer the more clinical rendering of the X2 compared with the richer tones of the Ricoh. But this could likely be adjusted to personal taste in camera.

    That said, what you have put together illustrates that a respectable camera provides its own inherent quality into the image, but other properties of the image itself are just as important, or maybe even more important.
    Enjoyed it. Well done.

  6. Belated HappyBirthday, that was a great present! I hit 50%on photos. Still trying to figure out if those buildings are graffiti, gang tags, or some one idea of Art! Know what you mean about taming the little beauty, going gd with GR11, might just get another use same setting only one bw andother color. HAve looked at EBay grIv and just not sure. Thank you for putting up with my queries and ask g for assistance. Number 11 it is magical and mystical, when part two. Next birthday have your family mortgage the farm and go Japan and team up a Daido Moriyama god father of Ricoh, what a blast you two would have.

    • Thanks John, I truly enjoy shooting the gr or grd as I loved to shoot the leica mini2 or 3 in film times. Same sort of feeling. For hip shots the camear is always horizontal. I don’t know why but most of my shots are horizontal. Enjoy your Xs and gr.

      Jean

  7. Hi Jean,
    Thanks for this, I enjoyed reading about a country I have wanted to visit but have yet to. I guessed a few correct ones because the colours from the X2 look more muted.

    My favourites are the cyclist passing the three figures on the wall, I appreciated your timing. Also the close up of the man’s feet on the beach which made me smile. Were you wearing a swimming costume at the beach to fit into the crowd? If so the smaller the camera the better!

    Looking forward to reading about the mountains.

    Kevin

  8. Thanks Kevin,
    Slovenia is truly a nice destination. The people are friendly especially in the Triglav national park ( we stayed in Trenta, a small village in the middle of nowhere) and on the coast from our experience. It is less crowded than Croatia as people tend to drive through Slovenia without stopping. Some spots are quite busy but can be easily avoided.
    To answer your query, Yes I was wearing a swimming costume at the beach and a t-shirt.
    Jean

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