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Stuff Mar 26, 2004   Photography

“Mommy, why does the man have so much stuff?” “He is from New York, you know…” The kids were very bright, the mother was very friendly, the grandmother was very quiet and did not even make a sound when I hit her really hard with my somehow extended monopod stick. (By accident, of course.)

We met at the drinking fountain in the park. I was taking pictures of the water being blown away by wind. My face was wet from trying to drink out of the fountain before realizing that the wind would just blow the water in unpredictable directions. I helped the family to get their Sprite out of the very well protected, racoon proof coke machine. And so we became 2 minute friends.

We were all so happy about having found the park. I told them about me not having a car and walking all the way. They were very excited to be there, also for the very first time. The grandmother quietly rubbed her arm. It was a very nice encounter… Oh, and I also explained that I had so much stuff because I did not have a car (I paid the pedestrian fee at the park entrance,) and so I had to carry everything with me… I really had a very heavy bag. I must have looked like a reporter for some magazine in 1954, who’s mules and assistants were taken out by landslides, or mines, or who knows what… well, they were just gone.

My equipment waa a bit epic: there was a giant black 300mm Zeiss Sonnar Lens attached to my 50 year old Praktina FX, a bag filled with various lenses and other rather heavy objects was attached to me. It looked like I was on a mission. And in a way, I was. I wanted to shoot on film again. I was very serious about it. Well, I was serious and I also did not really trust myself. I still brought the digital camera along with me, just to make sure that anything was recorded, just in case I really managed to completely mess up.

There is pretty much nothing automatic about my good old Praktina FX. I measure the light with an external meter, the focus the aperture, they all need to be somehow figured out. The camera will probably need to also be calibrated soon, because the focus I see in the frame is not quite the focus that makes it to film. This would maybe not be so much of a problem, if the camera came with some bad lenses, where such things would not matter, but the equipment is rather nice, the lenses I have are “magical”, they have serious names, their technology is often from the 30’s, they tempt to be very specific and exact…

My favorite lens is a Biotar 1.5/75 and those who know their lenses will know that these values are pretty amazing for a lens from the 50s. It is a portrait lens, it was designed to slightly soften the features of a face and also to allow for a really shallow depth of field. A portrait lens is most wonderful, once one realizes that everything in the world deserves having a portrait taken and so all trees and birds and anything, anything appears to be the most important magic object in the world. So no wonder that I was fascinated by the bark of a tree, or that I made sure to bracket that simple looking weathered stump of a tree… (I can only guess the focus that’s why…)…

It was a bit frustrating when the film actually ripped inside of the camera, on maybe the last frame, just when I came across a little guy who really wanted to have his portrait taken… well, not really… I think I will have to start this story again, maybe from a completely different angle… “Mommy, why does the man have so much stuff?” “He is from New York, you know…”


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