September 2010 Archives

a day out of state

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business class

travel within the united states can at times be a bit of an experience separate from the living layer of things. it somehow feels as if all of it had to take place in an environment defined by artificial lighting, artificial surfaces, artificial sounds.
train travel can be a class of its own within that set of experiences. trains are often tucked away, hidden from sight in the station, accessible only through staircases or escalators, or at times pathways that can feel as if one were at a loading dock for cattle.

many trains seem loud, sweaty, oily and somehow oddly angry at themselves.
it feels as if most of their energy were used to just get their own wheels into any kind of motion. human beings just there for the ride. a shaky ride. often one on shiny pleather.

the acela today was actually not bad. not bad at all. we took the 10 am train towards washington. and it was better than i had expected somehow.

a tiny but bright led display over the door to the next car announced the time, and then the destination; went on to inform all of us that september was national preparedness month, that we should be ready for an emergency, and that double points were available with the new amtrak master card, with the offer expiring soon...

the train back in the evening was overbooked.
a traveler from first class was forced to travel business.
it was not me. i was just one of the many passengers who were given the opportunity to listen to the story that came with that move between classes.

the entire train was business, i think. first class was most likely too.

a washington commuter train. with lobbyists and pr experts and those interested in powerful things.

two people from the chocolate lobby were in the seats next to me.
i did not realize it was necessary for chocolate to have a lobby.

today we did not go to washington.
our stop was along the way.
hours away from washington.

went through a full day of travel.
and meetings. presentations.

good day. good work.
no artificialness.

com mute

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somewhere on the bus.

not sure when the last time was that i took the train to work. i stay above the ground up to a point these days. the morning is a proper morning with light and sun and rain and wind and all.

the bus takes me to manhattan in about ten minutes. i just wish it then continued on the west side. maybe up the west side highway. up 10th avenue?
madison is where agencies used to be. that's where the busses go. madison avenue.
it is not like they would need to put down new tracks or dig a tunnel.
but whom would i need to let know to change the route of a new york city bus?
and how many years would it take to change things? (assuming i am not the only person in kensington working on 11th avenue in manhattan.)

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like a raw pile of papers, with pencil markings on them, beginnings of words, lines of thought turned sideways on themselves, ignorant of a reality beyond the edge of the page.
less like a bound book with content that has been edited lovingly by hours and hours of many caring minds.

a counterbalance made out of frozen mercury and little dirty rocks of various shapes.
even if the idea of that picture will change faster than the words describing it could.

the morning is running away.

i will need to leave soon.

there are rides to catch.

a minimal garden in battery park city

the rain, the rain. soon we will pay attention to leaves again.

and the air will be crisp and cool. the sounds will be different too. the whispers of the trees will continue all the way to the ground.

and the colors. the colors.

today it is just the rain.

the taxi was an suv, but i was late for a breakfast meeting.

a rushed day.

the rain, the rain.

home now.

This is a copy of the description I had originally posted on the flickr page
Thought it would be nice to have it here after all.
There is still no "about me" on this site anyway.
And the little description felt a bit long for flickr.

I started shooting at around four or five. I was allowed to use my father's Praktina FX, (the first system camera in the world). I have two of them now. Every few years I take them out of their case and shoot a little bit with them. It is slow and very bare bone photography. No light metering. No way to precisely set focus. Not even by looking through the lens.
After firing a shot, the mirror needs to be brought back into position in several turns of a dial.
But the lenses are pretty amazing. Imagine a F2.8/180 Zeiss Sonnar. Designed in the 30s. Yes, Zeiss in Jena manufactured some pretty nice lenses for that camera.
My father had a Zeiss Jena F2.8/50.
I remember spending hours staring at the world through the finder of the camera and just shifting focus. Moving around that layer that was allowed to become the main element of the picture I could have made.

I have shot with many small cameras. A small nikon about 20 years ago. Then an Olympus Miu.
Eventually decided to find out what it would be like to shoot with a Leica. I really wanted to buy an M camera, but it felt too much like a weapon at that time, and with about $2000 for the body, it was also incredibly expensive.
I ended up buying a Leica Minilux. The one with the Summarit 2.4/40.
And I loved what happened to the world. I was so impressed by the way the lens of this camera rendered the outside that my review on Amazon read like it had been written by a crazy person.
My little silver minilux was eventually stolen. I found someone who sold me his black one. The man did not understand how much I loved the little camera.

I tried other film cameras as well. Some were borrowed. Some are still part of my collection. My creative director let me use his Contax G2 for several weeks. It is an incredible camera somehow.

I bought the Yashica Electro 35GS. It was through the LOMO people. It even came with a sticker that it had been part of the equipment of USS Midway.
I wish it managed to focus properly. And the color rendition. Hmm... Well...
The camera is more of a historic artifact than a working machine.

I also purchased a Graflex Crowngraphic. The suitcase it is stored in might weigh something like 20 pounds? I never had the courage to actually shoot film with it. Only polaroids. Pretty great polaroids though.

And then there was also the Hasselblad. I love the 501CM. It takes beautiful pictures. It is a solid, heavy, incredible object.
One to take to the moon indeed.
I hope for a proper digital back for it one day. Not the ones available now. They do not seem right. They just do not seem right.

Yes digital changed things. Changed everything.
It became more and more difficult to handle film. I also found out that the seemingly trusty store on the corner that had been handling and scanning my 35mm films, has also been scratching the negatives because of unclean equipment.
All my scans were actually retouched to cover that blunder.

I have been developing all of my film with Duggal since. They do a great job. Obviously.

So back to the smaller cameras.
I eventually bought a Canon S70. It felt a bit like the Olympus miu. The clamshell design made it possible to keep the camera on me at all times. And probably most of the pictures here were taken with the S70. It was a trusty little camera. And I have to say that I enjoyed the shape of it, the quiet operation and also the dynamic range. But the chip was pretty small. And the barrel distortion was a bit of a joke.

I actually wanted a Leica again. Even a small one would be nice. And so typically, I got a D-Lux 3 for my wife.
Then, in January of 2009, I finally bought a D-Lux 4. At the camera store in the A terminal of the Frankfurt Airport.
The camera had just been released a short while before that, and the first firmware made it shoot in some crazy color. Especially the reds were pretty, how do I say it... bad.
Software updates eventually fixed the little guy. And I also discovered that a wide angle extension could actually be applied to the lens. (Okay, let's not mention the barrel distortion on that one. It was so horrible, no wonder Leica never endorsed it.)

And so I shot with the D-Lux 4 a good bit. And it is a fine camera. We got to know each other better and better. I can only recommend it. It is very nice for macro photography actually. And also rather nice for very quick jotting down of visual ideas. Oh, and the ability to record HD movies should not be underestimated.
A stealthy, very quiet little friend, that D-Lux 4. And the wide angle extension is a bit of a secret gem. (It does not show up in the EXIF data. So some of the info that comes with the pictures here might be not completely accurate.)

In September of 2009 Leica announced the M9. And it felt as if the circle could finally be closed. I could at last get a "proper" Leica. I could shoot in what could potentially feel like film again? And I could get access to that kind of lens quality I had somehow briefly experienced with the minilux. (Silly, I know.)

It took me almost a year, (actually 364 days,) to finally manage to buy an M9. I could have bought one sooner, of course. I could have paid more. Or I could have bought the silver edition I happened to come across in Frankfurt Airport again.

So I have an M9 since 9/8/2010. (Or 8.9.10) And the two lenses I use it with are a Voigtländer Nokton F1.1/50 as well as a Summicron F2/28.
The Nokton is incredibly difficult to handle properly. It is capable of producing such shallow depth of field, that precise shots need a setup that results in photographer lag. Or they are just lucky.
The Summicron is much wider, not as fast, and so incredibly forgiving.
It is also much smaller. And it is lighter. It is pretty lovely.

I somehow know that the camera journey is not going to end here. But I am happier than ever with the quality I am getting out of the M9.

It is not as quiet as I had expected. Compared to the virtually silent digital cameras I have used before it has a pretty noisy shutter.
But because it has pretty much no detectable shutter lag, I keep messing up pictures, because I fire off too quickly, having been trained by my randomly focussing pocket friends.
Oh yes, the manual focus. It is actually much better than I had expected. I am learning to estimate distances again. (Though I had to shoot completely static objects, like trash in the street, for more than a week, just to give myself an introduction.)
Now I am beginning to admire the ergonomics and the logic behind the Leica rangefinder.

I can feel how that sense of wonder and connection to the world is slowly being brought back somewhere between the shots.

And the M9 somehow gave me no buyer's remorse. It surpassed my expectations many ways.
I feel like I have some catching up to do. I can not hide behind the faults and limitations of the equipment. The things I want to shoot in the street, I suddenly seem to be able to shoot somehow. Well, almost. Hopefully soon.

Anybody who says that the camera equipment does not matter at all, most likely uses better equipment than the person they are telling that it does not matter.
Photography is obviously not only about technology. One should not be tempted to believe the marketing of camera manufacturers completely.
I would not be surprised if more personally relevant moments are captured on phones now than on actual photographic equipment.

But there is still some strange magic to making pictures that are based on reality. They appear so close to it, that they seem to be part of it. And yet they are really not.
I do believe that photographs are actually made, not simply taken.
And I just love making photographs.

looking at things...

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The shutter on the old Praktina did not really want to close. I had to let it find its way again and again and again. Eventually it somehow remembered how to get from right to left. I have let the camera sleep by itself for too long, displayed on a small tripod in a glass case, with the olympic lens attached, waiting to take another shot, for months. Maybe years actually.

There are boxes with film in the refrigerator. And there is a box on my bookshelf in the office as well. The film must be not only expired by now, the seasons must have turned the chemistry on it into a run away reaction.
I dare not to put any of it in the cameras.
Some actually still have the old film in them.

The Praktina was empty. I took off the back and looked at the sleepy cloth shutter.
It eventually got to where it needed to be.
I think it did.
How would I dare to remember what 1/1000 of a second looks like.

I looked through the lens. No matter what the camera was pointed towards, it looked suspiciously like an object from 1954. Somehow the world was a different place in that complicated glass. A grainy world. The ground glass made everything look as if it were a super 8 film; perhaps bad 16mm.
It makes perfect sense that the Leicas from the same period must have felt incredibly bright and clear.

A battery arrived today.
It is such a pathetic symbol of what is about to follow in the mail.

The Praktina would never ask for batteries.
It asked me to shoot with it. Even with no film in it.
It taught me to see the world as a potential picture.
Somewhere in the early 70's when I assembled objects on the table outside of the kitchen, and then shifted focus with the aperture wide open.
Again and again.
And again.

And objects would melt.
Then they would reassemble themselves.
Then melt again.
Soft cloudy objects.

It was brilliant.

Even without film.
The best moments that were never recorded.
Only seen with intense focus.
But I guess that's the way things work sometimes.

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