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Friday, May 15

The LEICA Diaries - Part Ten





And just when it had all been going so well...

Leica is famous for its red dot logo but perhaps I should be paying more attention to two much smaller red dots that feature on the classic M bodies. I'm talking about the dots on the rewind knob that spin round to confirm that the film is winding on properly...

I had hoped to be able to show you some cracking photographs from the latest roll to pass through my M2. Except it didn't. Pass through, that is. And had I been paying closer attention to the aforementioned dots I would have noticed this before I spent lots of time taking some really nice photographs only to realise, when I'd wound on to the 40th frame, that something was amiss.

The M2 and M3 bodies have a particular way of accepting film. The take-up spool comes out of the body, the leader of the film is pushed under a bit of springy, coiled metal that wraps itself around the spindle and then the cassette and spool are fed back into the body in tandem, firmly connected by a silver gelatin umbilical cord.

Leica knee-trembler?

Some people have difficulty with this system but I'm not one of them. I think the method of attaching the film to the take-up spool is very secure. Yes, the process of getting the film ensemble back into the camera can be finicky but it's not difficult. The problems start, however, when you attempt to load the camera standing up outside with nothing to lean it on. At least one spare hand would certainly make for lighter work and a grand total of four wouldn't be too many.

I'm fairly sure that's where I went wrong, hunched over like a dog doing its business with the detachable camera base between my teeth and a face set in furious concentration against dropping many hundreds of pounds of camera and lens onto the ground. Since it's rare to get more than 39 frames from a 35mm roll I suspected one of two things when the wind-on lever refused to stop at what should have been the end of the roll: operator error or a malfunction in the film transport system.

When I opened the camera up in the darkroom and had a grope around the take-up spool it was obvious that the film, although still attached, hadn't wound on. I switched on the room light and my error revealed itself.

A Summicron shot from an earlier, successful roll.

The film hadn't been laid flat across the film gate and had kinked just where the transport sprockets would normally engage. This lifted the film clear of the sprockets with the result that my attempts to wind on were doing no more than spinning the toothed wheels without them making contact with the film. A beginner's error but that's OK because, in Leica terms, that's what I am.

Scunnered

I would tell you exactly what was going through my mind at this point but my mum occasionally reads my blog so I'll exercise some self control. It's euphemistically covered by the good Scottish word "scunnered"*.

Normally, I'd chalk something like this up to experience and reload the film but I knew there were some fine images on that roll - or would have been. I'd spent a creative hour at the waterfront at Montrose and was seeing one picture after another, some in the finest traditions of Ralph Gibson. Or so I'd like to think - they might have been rubbish.

It's difficult to know how I managed to cock up the film loading. Checking that the rewind crank is spinning on an SLR or watching for the red dots turning on the M2 is what I always do as I wind the film onto the No. 1 mark. For some reason, perhaps because it was a wonderful day at the seafront, I must have been so keen to get snapping that I forgot. A lesson learned the hard way.

So, instead of some inspiring pics, you'll have to make do with a few token gestures instead. The kinky roll is back in the camera - yes, the dots are spinning - and it won't be long until I've got something else to develop. I might even, time and weather permitting, go back to Montrose and re-shoot the earlier images I saw.

But will I be able to recreate those shots that got away? If the sun's shining and I'm at the seafront at around 11 a.m. then there will be every chance but this is Scotland and I'm sure the sun finished shining for the year sometime during the Easter holidays.


* Scunner: to disgust; nauseate. Apparently, the word is used in the north of England too, according to the dictionary.

You can read the rest of the LEICA Diaries here.

10 comments :

steve said...

I've done that too with a Barnak Leica, its a mistake you only make once

Jan Moren said...

Hah! Been there, done that, got the solar eclipse shielding material. At least you had a clear indicator that something was wrong.

The last time it happened for me was with my Minolta SRT101 last autumn. I failed to make sure the film caught properly in the take-up spool sprockets, and so a whole three-day trip to Tokyo is recorded only in my fond memories.

I'm not the least bit upset. I still fondly remember a few of those pictures - and no doubt my memories of those frames are far better than the actual film recordings would have been.

John Carter said...

Like Steve, something you only do once.

Nasir said...

I'm sorry to hear this. I've been fortunate not to have had this problem with my M2 so far but once I did forget to ensure the back flap was underneath the base plate and got some fogging - another thing to be careful of.

Perhaps ditch the never ready case and use a strap connected to the body?

Donato Chirulli said...

I did that way in 1993.... and was a Nikon f401....
A lot of wonderful images of the mighty Ludwig's Neuschweinstain Castle....
I realized later what happened! Still Criyng!!! :'(

morris1800 said...

Last summer I purchased a Panasonic G1 digital camera with a Leica adapter . First time out I charged its custom battery in the Panasonic charging unit overnight and ventured out the next day with the G1 and my Leica M5. Only to find the G1's battery was totally flat! I had not switched on the wall socket the charger was plugged into. Had to be satisfied with just taking 36 shots with my M5......:-)

Koen Verbeke said...

Had the same experience with an M6 and had it only once indeed. Since then, I always have a suspicious eye on that rewind crank of the M6... and the OM2n, the AE1, the FM3a, ...

Look at it as yet another advantage of the old digital photography where you never had problems like that... (just kidding, still have your last post in mind ;) )

Richard Owen said...

If only it was just with Leica that this would happen. Having started with SLRs back in the day, it had happened more times that I would like to admit.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, I know how bad this feels but consider yourself a lucky man and be happy to have lost only 36 Exposures. I lost the whole travel-shots on my last summervacation with my kids. 150 Pictures gone in one blow when the memory card failed.
I try to not only be save on film transport but also fire two speeds, once in a while, looking through the camera to check shutter-courtain operation...
Nick

Pete B said...

You got closer than I did with my OM1. I hadn't even put the film in.
Pete