The night was hot, oppressive. Barely a breeze stirred. Heady scents of spices hung in the air. Gas lamps, beaten and well worn, cast ghostly glows over vendor’s wares. Here, in the night markets of Meknes, you can buy anything. It’s exotic, tantalizing, and assaults your senses like only travel can do.
I walk between stalls. My pale skin marks me a foreigner, but not a tourist. I walk alone, sampling both wares and conversation. I raise my camera, a Leica M10, twist the range finder’s focus ring and press. A satisfying metallic click sounds quietly, imperceptible to any but the photographer. It’s an intimate moment between man and machine. There is no electronic ping or auto-focus here. I feel the shot. I worked for it. I earned it. And, I am rewarded for it.
To my left, rows of bottles are arranged. Children squeal with delight as they throw small rubber rings attempting to catch them on the bottle necks to win prizes: soft toys, blow up giraffes, whirling gadgets that strobe red and blue in the night. To my right, a woman, face covered in a brightly colored scarf, sells root vegetables so twisted and gnarled they look like the branches of the ancient oak trees that grow near my home in California. I raise my camera again. Twist. Focus. Click.
I step to the side, out of the way of the flow of locals doing their shopping. Here, in Morocco, many people still shop for their food on a daily basis. The food is fresh, and delicious. I look down at my camera checking the LCD screen. My last shot is beautiful. Deep shadows, vibrant reds, succulent blues, and loads of character.
The Leica M10 fascinates me as much as the unfamiliar items haphazardly strewn about on vendors tables. This camera brilliantly blends the benefits of digital cameras with the tactile feel of analog. Somewhere over the years, in the quest for more pixels, we lost sight of the essence of photography - to make you feel. The Leica M10 takes incredible photos. It’s a Leica, you kind of expect that. What you don’t expect, and what is hard to truly understand until you shoot with it, is how this camera makes you feel while taking the shot.
For many years I shot with a Nikon D800. It’s a workhorse of a camera that has served my unfailingly from high in the Himalayas to deep underground in the caves of Vietnam. It’s a technological marvel, but I always felt that I was separate from the scene. The camera is big. People notice when you shoot. They act differently. The Leica M10 feels more intimate. It’s the best travel camera I’ve ever owned. The D800 produced perfect photos with such clarity they often felt over produced, kind of like a studio recording of your favorite band. Give me the imperfections and character of a live show, or the crackle of the needle from an old record as it pops and spins on the turntable, every minute particle of dust adding to that once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s the Leica M10 difference. Photos feel genuine, raw, and brimming with warmth that only comes when the goal isn’t just to capture a visual scene. To me, the goal is to capture a moment and everything that comes with it: sights, sounds, smells, emotions, the good, the bad, the perfect, and the imperfect. That’s true travel photography. There is no sugar-coating, or staging for social media. It’s raw. It’s real. I love the on-the-road quality of the Leica M10 photos so much that I created my own set of Lightroom presets to tease even more of this soul out of the photos.
I walk deeper into the market, the gas lamps becoming more scarce. Shapes move in shadows. Unseen. Nefarious. My skin tingles. The laughter of children is swallowed by the night. I come across a man, skin dark as the sky above him. His eyes are like stars drawing me in. He sits on the ground dressed in robes of sapphire blue. Potions and powders, antlers and dried animal parts, surround him. He offers to crush ingredients into powder for me. They help with virility, he assures me. He calls them Turbo Viagra, smiling wickedly. I decline, instead politely ask if I can take his photo. He nods, going about his business realizing he would not make a sale with this customer. Again, I raise my M10, align the range finder, adjust the shutter speed and click. There is no need to adjust the ISO, the M10 may look and feel old fashion but it packs a technical punch that is hard to beat, especially in low light conditions like this. The photo, the moment, the camera, are magical. It’s the way photography should be.
I thank the mysterious man. He smiles warmly, almost as warm as the Moroccan night. I walk off satisfied with this evenings adventure. For a brief moment, my steps falter, I consider turning back. Should I? Who wouldn’t be curious about Turbo Viagra.