Li Shen - About Me
Li (Lilian) Shen was born in London, UK. She came to the USA in 1979 to further a career in biomedical research. Li currently lives in Thetford Vermont. Alongside the pursuit of science she has worked in several different art media over the years, starting with drawing and painting, then ceramics and clay sculpture, transitioning into welded and mixed media works. She has always had an interest in photography but did not devote herself to this medium in any depth till 2013. Li is inspired by photographers in many different genres, but particularly street photography and cultural documentary - the multilayered work of Alex Webb and also classic masters like Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Matt Stuart, Steve McCurry, and others. In a completely different vein, the still life and cultural paintings by Dutch and Italian Masters are a source of ideas and enlightenment about composition, lighting, and atmosphere. In her photography endeavors, Li has been largely self-taught, referring to books and the internet for information, plus a lot of trial and error. She received valuable insights from photo tour leaders David Wells and Harry Fisch with whom she enjoyed memorable excursions into India, Cuba, Nepal and lastly Ethiopia. Her efforts have started to pay off, her work has been juried into numerous photography exhibitions at the Darkroom Gallery in Essex Junction, Vermont, The Photoplace Gallery in Middlebury, Vermont, and an exhibit of artists’ books at the Artistree Gallery in Pomfret, Vermont. Her present goals include producing a cohesive photography project through a series of still life works and continuing to interpret the world around her through the lens.
My Comments on Using the Leica IIIa
At first, I was a little intimidated by the prospect of using the Leica. I hadn't touched a film camera for at least thirty years, and never anything like this beautiful vintage machine.
However, after going over the manual it was all surprisingly straightforward. Camera basics never change! Travis had kindly mounted a light meter so there was not too much guesswork regarding exposure. The camera is very thoughtfully designed. I like the lever that swivels around the lens to bring the subject into focus. You can pull up the film rewind knob to make it easier to turn. The bottom of the camera comes off to allow loading of film and there is a compact pin that makes aligning the bottom to re-attach it a breeze. I found that trimming the new roll of film to lengthen the leader was not a problem and it seemed to load just fine, in spite of my less than perfect cut.
Shooting was, of course, slower than with a modern digital camera. I found focusing using the split image rangefinder took some getting used to and I couldn't always tell if the two images had merged into one. Using high contrast areas of the subject made it much easier. I often switched my eye between the rangefinder and the viewfinder several times before I pressed the shutter, particularly if the subject was not keeping still. Taking photos under low light conditions was tricky. The subject was a white flower against a black background with limited indoor lighting from one side. It seemed that the light meter was near the bottom of its sensitivity and I wasn't sure of the accuracy. I was probably pushing it. The readings seemed quite different from what I was seeing on my digital camera. Definitely an experiment.
Shooting outdoors with good light got progressively easier the more I used the Leica. It is nice and light and not bulky. I could see how one could quickly grow conversant with it and what a great, handy and unobtrusive camera it would be.