Leica Monochrom on Heligoland
Anna was densely populated for a long time

Two Leicas and the island of Heligoland

In between times I have to see something else. There comes a weekend trip on mine Favorite island of Heligoland just right. Comfortable arrival and a quick recovery effect is the benefit for a visitor from Hamburg – no matter how short the stay is. As soon as the island was free again after the Corona lockup, I was with my beloved one (meaning my wife and not my Leica, dear reader) in June iip Lunn, as the inhabitants of Heligoland would say. And then again in July. The September trip is already booked. The nice thing about Heligoland is that it is different every day.

This was particularly noticeable on the second visit in July. The weather was better than on the mainland because it rained almost only at night. But more and more wind came up during the stay. Especially on Lummenfelsen and the long Anna, strong winds are to experience. While you can hardly find a firm hold on the cliffs yourself and the seagulls like to be driven away in gusts, the gannets stand quietly in the air. A fascinating spectacle that we love to see again and again.

Corona is of course an important topic on the island in summer 2020. With only one intensive care bed on Heligoland, careful handling of disinfectants, masks and follow-up is necessary. Most guests understand that too. Even the Halunder jet is not fully occupied. Only the restaurant capacity is limited on the island. We always make reservations in our favorite restaurants on the first day of the island for all subsequent days. Visiting the restaurant is of course completely problem-free and calm.

The logistics for the only offshore island in Germany have always been complex. In winter, the supply ship comes once a week and if it cannot call because of the waves, food will be delivered the next time rather than building materials. That makes sense, of course, but some house construction takes a long time. Timely planning is also essential when it comes to the ingredients for the kitchen. In summer the ship comes more often, otherwise the many guests wouldn’t be fed up.

The island is most beautiful, at least from my point of view, when the day guests have left Heligoland in the evening. Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. it becomes quieter on the red rock in the middle of the blue between sky and water. Then the liquor stores are closed and those interested have the chance of a long Anna in the sunset. Even the shaking of the head at ignorant parents is gone. Nobody tells their children anything about seagulls when they see the northern gannet.

Because then the ornithologists come and enjoy the breeding success of the largest gannet colony in Germany. Or the host of guillemots who gave the rock its name. And yes, there are seagulls there too, of course, but they’re not even half the size of the gannet offspring …

On my first trip in June, I mainly tried filming. So the title lies a bit, because I filmed with the Panasonic S1. It shares the bayonet with the Leica SL2, but has wonderful features that make filming smoother. Since it was my first cinematic approach to Heligoland, I had made enough mistakes. I was able to fill some of them with the Leica SL2 on my second visit in July. I find the Leica SL2 easier to operate, especially for slow-mos, because you can set the shutter angle and don’t have to calculate the correct exposure time. You can now see the result of my first cinematic effort in my YouTube channel or right here …


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Heligoland – filmed with Panasonic S1 (mainly) and some slow-mos with the Leica SL2

Incidentally, the postscript in the video is meant seriously. It was precisely this rope with the knot in it that we rediscovered on our second visit with older offspring from the gannets. It was wrapped around the body of a cub and will prevent that animal from ever moving away from the island. It can’t fly thanks to the rope. Very sad…

Photography was the focus of my second visit in summer 2020. And shortly before leaving, I had the completely absurd idea of exchanging a lot of camera luggage for the Leica Monochrom and the 50s Noctilux. Photographing animals with 50mm and also in black and white sounds a little crazy. But the northern gannets are easy to reach and the weather played into my hands. And yes, the following pictures were taken with the ancient and slow CCD monochrome. I like the atmosphere of the photos …

If you pay attention to the Exif data in the gallery and are amazed at the shallow depth of field with a fairly high f-number, I can tell you that the Leica M models do not transmit an aperture. In other words: the camera does not know which aperture is set on the lens. It guesses the value based on the exposure used. This is of course flawed – especially if you screw an ND6 filter onto the lens. I had to use it to take photos with open aperture in strong sunlight. Because that Noctilux got its name because it enables photography with an aperture of 0.95. That is a little more than an aperture more light than with your overrated f1.4 lens. The Leica M can only work with 1 / 4000s exposure time because otherwise the dimensions of the camera would have to be larger. So to work with a neutral density filter is key…

I praise the Leica SL2, which technically draws from the full. The lenses that fit on the L-bayonet are pretty much the finest available on the 35mm market. I used it to take the pictures that called for color or required long focal lengths.

Conclusion: Heligoland is always worth a trip. Especially for people who love wind, sun, birds and water. We will be back…

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