It was a beautiful warm spring day yesterday. Ideal to go on my yearly daffodil hunt. Its difficult not to love these wonderful yellow flowers as they signal the end of winter and promise brighter warmer days ahead. This is the UK so that promise may end in disappointment but I live in hope!
I used a Leica M9 and 2 lenses. Zeiss 21mm f2.8 Biogon and Leica Summarit 90mm f2.5. Had myself a nostalgic day using the same techniques I used to use with film cameras.
Using the 21mm in this way was very much like how I used to use a 35mm lens on a Pentax 645 Medium Format film camera. By setting the lens infinity symbol to the F-stop mark on the lens you can achieve the maximum depth of field for any given f-stop. For the most part I used f13 with the infinity mark set to f11. This gave me everything in focus from about 2ft to infinity.
For the 90mm I used the opposite technique. Opening up the lens to its maximum aperture f2.5 I obtained very shallow depth of field with very little of the image in focus.
It actually felt I had come full circle. I was using manual focus lenses, using techniques I had learnt on film cameras and using equipment that looked as though it had been gathering dust in an attic for many years. Yet the end result was 51MB digital files.
I do very little to these Leica files, apart from getting rid of the dust spots. (Very annoying - the M9 gives a great impression of a Hoover!) Using this camera and the lenses I have for it, puts an almost permanent smile on my face when I'm out shooting. Sure its harder work than blasting away with autofocus and auto exposure, but the results are worth it. I use the automation on modern cameras as much as anyone else and there are times when I wouldn't want to be without it, but yesterday was an opportunity to use a slower, more thoughtful approach. It was an enjoyable and satisfying experience.
Someone once asked me why I liked using a Leica with all its "quirks" - manual focus, prime lenses only, framelines etc. I answered that I liked it because it wasn't easy to use and because I had to think about what I was doing. Years ago I developed a sense of what focal length to use, what aperture, what shutter speed as my brain registered a possible photograph. Its a pleasure to use your senses, your brain and your eyes to create something without letting the "machine" do it all. The medium may be becoming the message but if you work at it you do still have the possibility of exercising full creative control over how you take a photograph. Many camera manufacturers like to treat us as idiots who have neither the capacity or inclination to understand what their camera is actually doing. Leica leave most of the decisions up to the photographer and thats fine by me.
Words - D
Images - D & A