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PORTFOLIO

31.10.17

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Extensive pastures, land cultivation and cattle raising: gigantic herds of cattle and buffaloes roam the apparently endless expanses of the Great Plains east of the Rocky Mountains. You only rarely see train tracks, windmills or grain silos. Over the years, many farms have been abandoned, and cars left to rust among tall weeds. Thomas Woods captured his impressions with a Leica M-P (Typ M240) and the 50mm-Noctilux – the outcome are still lifes from the past.  

Why did you start shooting lonely houses, and abandoned, rusty cars?

These kinds of subjects attract me because they can provide a powerful glimpse into the past, and a time when the car was not rusted, the house was not shuttered, and the lawn was not overgrown with weeds. All the photographs in this series were taken on the American Great Plains, a vast and largely uninhabited region that is haunting, lonely, and lovely.

Your pictures look very cinematic - the peaceful, but at the same time troubling, atmosphere reminds me of Hitchcock, Lynch and their thriller colleagues. What inspired you?

My inspiration for these photos arises mainly from the contrast between my memory and experience of the Great Plains as a child and teenager, and what the Great Plains have become today. Many towns have disappeared. Family farms have been absorbed by gigantic corporate concerns. Most young people growing up on the Great Plains leave for a big city as soon as they can. The region has emptied, and overall has become poorer and less prosperous than it once was. The photos are a paean to a place, people, and way of life that have changed dramatically, and that continue to evolve today. Beneath the stillness lie stories of the people of the Great Plains, many of them now long since gone.

You shot them with a Noctilux – in daytime …

I use a Noctilux for 95% of my photography, and almost always shoot with the lens wide open. Thus, a strong neutral density filter (0.9) is required for daytime shooting.  The resulting fast shutter speeds virtually guarantee very sharp images, even when shooting hand-held (I don’t like using a tripod). I shoot with a Leica M-P/M240. The 50mm Noctilux is my preferred lens because of the completely unique way it is capable of rendering a scene. I’ve learned to be patient with the 50mm Noctilux lens, and to take my time.

All of your pictures have substantial vignetting, which is an effect from shooting with the Noctilux in daylight …

Correcting this in post-processing typically does not work very well. It is therefore necessary to anticipate vignetting while shooting, and to work to place the main subject somewhere near the center of the frame (where the Noctilux lens delivers maximum sharpness).
Buffalo Ridge, Minnesota
Goodrich, North Dakota
Goodrich, North Dakota
Lamar, Colorado
Nebraska
Kyle Thomas, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Thomas Woods

Thomas Woods (61 years old) has been a Leica user since 1970, when he bought a used M3 with a 35mm lens and a 90mm Elmar. His father was a Leica photographer, as are his brother and his wife. He is a scientist, engineer, patent attorney, and cyclist – and a photographic autodidact. Woods lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.
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