|Leica M2, 50mm Rigid Summicron, Tmax 400 developed in Firstcall Superfine.|
BLOODY LENS CAPS! Yes, I've taken my first pic with a blinkered lens. The solution? The lens caps now live permanently in a drawer in my darkroom. I've put UV filters on the lenses instead. Just need to remember not to leave the camera out in bright sunshine in case the rays burn a hole in the shutter cloth. Mind you, it's less of a threat up here in Scotland than in California.
Here's another near-first for me. With an SLR, I practically never lose a frame through poor focusing. I'd certainly have no excuse if I did as I don't really photograph anything that moves and can take as much time as I want to get the focus spot on. But with the Leica? Everything looks in focus when you look through the viewfinder and I'm guessing that's the reason I forgot to focus on a couple of frames. On the plus side, the Summicron's bokeh is nice! Mental note: Leica lenses don't focus themselves.
My second trip with the Leicas was along the coast to Arbroath harbour. Another cold day, in fact, colder than on my previous outing so I was again extra careful not to drop a lens when switching focal lengths. There's quite a lot of lens changing going on, too, as I'm eager to try out all three.
A Different PerspectiveThe main difficulty I'm having just now is "seeing" the composition. Normally I'll spot something I want to photograph and put whichever lens I think will do the job on the OM2. When I look through the viewfinder I know two things straight away - whether it's the right lens and whether the pic is likely to be any good. I'm not getting that with the Leica. Because you don't see perspective like the lens does there's no way of judging the relationship of foreground objects to the background.
This isn't such a problem with the standard lens but it is with the Summaron and Elmar. Composing with the Leica is like holding a rectangle made of K'Nex rods up to a scene. I find that hard. It seems to require a different kind of visualisation that I expect might come with practise. Or maybe not.
|It was the harbour water at the top of the frame that drew me to this one.|
When you think about it, what do we do when we want viewers to be able to concentrate on a print? We mount it on card and then hang it on a plain wall. That isolates the image from the surrounding clutter and is the SLR way of viewing. With the Leica you see what's captured by the framelines but also everything that is going on around them.
Some photographers speak of this as an advantage. To me, it's akin to taping a print to a window and inviting people to view it against the backdrop of whatever is outside. It certainly doesn't help me concentrate on the image at all. But then again, if the Leica rangefinder experience was just the same as an SLR there wouldn't be much point in The LEICA Diaries, would there?
The shutter fault on the M2 is beginning to get annoying so I think I'll need to send it off for a service before too long. That bright band it intermittently leaves down the right hand side of the frame is threatening to spoil the odd shot. I was having a moan about this to Phil Rogers. I've handled a fair few Leicas, both Ms and screw thread, at local auctions and, quite honestly, haven't come across a fully functional one yet. A lazy second curtain seems to be the most common fault.
Now, this might have something to do with the fact that most of these cameras come from house clearances where the occupant has died. That pristine-looking camera might have been sitting in a cupboard with the shutter cocked for 30 years or only been used now and again over the course of its 60-plus years.
What The F?However, and it's a big however, I've also handled a similar number of Nikon F bodies from the 1960s and early '70s that reach auction via the same unfortunate route and most of them are working just fine. My conclusion is that Leicas might be the most hard wearing and fixable cameras but they're certainly not the most reliable.
The same goes for the Leica lenses which always seem to come with some optical defects courtesy, I believe, of softer coatings - and sometimes softer glass - used by the good people in Germany as opposed to the harder coatings employed by their Japanese equivalents.
Phil said, "I know what you're saying and I agree that 60's Nikons are very reliable, but it's like comparing an axe with a fine-toothed woodsman's saw - they'll both get the job done, but one has more finesse. Of course you could just give them to me in exchange for a nice early 70's F and some lenses..."
And now on to the pics accompanying this post. All three were taken with the 50mm Summicron on a roll of Tmax 400 (the first roll was Silvermax). It was only when I started looking through the negs that I noticed a few that are what I'd call Gibson-esque. Or, at least, my interpretation of what Ralph used to get up to with his film camera and his curious method of exposure and development that would lead to a dense, contrasty negative. This wasn't intentional on my part and I joked to Phil that I've maybe started to channel Ralph even while he's still going strong - and hopefully will be for many years to come.
Not all the negatives had that graphic look that I'm quite keen on but the ones I've posted here gave themselves readily to the treatment. In my case, though, the "treatment" comes courtesy of Lightroom. I've not got round to printing yet and the negatives were exposed and developed normally. It's the work of but a minute or two to dilute their "representativeness" to something I like to imagine is a little more arty. You might have a different opinion, or course!
So, the second roll was a bit more comfortable from a shooting point of view than the first and I think the Leicas possibly took me by the shutter finger and led me along a slightly different path towards where I'd like to be photographically-speaking. I have to say as well that I love 400 ISO film.
I'd always tended towards 100 ISO when using 35mm for a finer negative but the faster film just frees up my shooting so much more. I've been enjoying this freedom when using the OM2 with TMY but I think it's even more beneficial when using the Leica to have a faster film.
You might also like:More Thoughts on the Gibson Method
The LEICA Diaries - Part One
The LEICA Diaries - Part Two