I was very much looking forward to this, shooting with a 60 year old lens. My Dad gave me a vintage 90mm Leica Summicron F/2 for Christmas (thanks, Dad, for the awesome present). The beauty of the Leica M system is that you can attach any lens from the Leica (M)esssucher (=rangefinder) system introduced back in 1954 to modern Leica digital cameras with an M-Mount. And as I have acquired a (for digital camera standards also vintage) used Leica M (Type 240) about a year ago, the 90mm is a great addition to my small collection of Leica prime lenses.
From a distance – wasn’t there this song by Bette Middler? It’s the core theme of these days, with countries slowly returning to the “new normal” and people trying to find the right balance between staying safe and the necessity of somehow have to carry on with their daily lives.
This photograph of a mother and her child was also taken from a distance. I was standing on the balustrade above the “Liebesinsel” (Island of Love), a small island in the River Pegnitz in Nuremberg’s Old Town.
Public life has come to a total standstill on the Streets of Nuremberg. Bavarian state authorities have issued a 24/7 curfew for the next two weeks. We can leave our homes only to go to work (if we have a pass from our employer), to seek medical assistance or to buy groceries. Single persons (or people living in one household) can also go for a walk outside. Only grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and places selling take-out food are open. When things got bad in China and the government locked up 15 million people in Wuhan, we all said that would be impossible to do in our western democracies. Four weeks later we know better. Crazy world. Amazingly, the majority of the affected population is fully supportive of the measure. Including me.
Took the Leica on a stroll into town on Saturday. There were noticeably fewer people on the streets of Nuremberg. Could have been due to the week of school holidays. But maybe it was the fear of getting infected with the new coronavirus that leaves people confined to their houses.
Last Sunday, together with good friends, The Significant Other and I visited the exhibition of contemporary German painter Christopher Lempfuhl in the Museum Würth in Künzelsau-Gaisbach. Frequent readers of this blog know that I love shooting street photography in an exhibition. Taking my recently acquired used Leica M for a spin, I gave myself the challenge to shoot a small reportage with only a 35mm prime lens. One exhibition, one lens.
Shooting street photography with a Leica produces what I call “the rangefinder effect”. While people in the streets have a tendency to find it disturbing having a big ass DSLR pointed at their faces, their reaction is definitely quite different when they see the casually wandering photographer working the manual focus and the aperture ring of an almost anachronistic looking small black camera.
Obviously, shooting with other retro looking cameras like the Olympus PEN-F or the Fuji X100F is also much less intimidating than using a big DSLR with a huge lens attached. But those cams use autofocus and thus the process is often reduced to a simple point and shoot. The point and shoot approach would also work on a rangefinder using zone focusing (the systematic pre-focusing of a lens at specific distance and aperture to achieve a sharp image), but to get the hang of using a rangefinder I mostly take the time to set up the shots individually. Which, as totally unusual these days, draws curiosity and often a (probably pitiful) smile, the rangefinder effect. Especially when you are close to your subjects, what you have to be when you shoot street photography using a 35mm lens.
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Yesterday was my first day back shooting on the Streets of Nuremberg after the passing of my mom. The past four weeks have been tough, both emotional and physical. The two weeks being daily at her side, when it was already clear that her life will come to an end. Sitting at her bedside the last hours. Then, coping with the loss and with all the tasks that come with it. I didn’t feel like picking up a camera. Neither I was up to do any blogging. But now it is time to get back into the light. I missed going out to play with the light. It’s the best therapy one can ask for.