The first two images below may look familiar to everyone. These are two of the images I submitted to the recent Blurry Image Challenge.
The paragraph below is what I included with my Blurry Challenge images.
“These images were made a couple of years ago when Dear Susan was publishing a series of “Un-Destination” photographs by several of the contributors. Since where I live is about as un-destination as anywhere, I thought I would try to make a contribution. At the same time I was feeling that I was too hung up on pursuing ultimate sharpness and depth of field as image qualities. And therefore needed to do something else. The something else I decided on was shallow depth of field, using my M9 and 50 Summilux V1 lens exclusively at maximum aperture or stopped down only one stop. I titled the project “Embracing Imperfection” because this lens was not well regarded when it was introduced, and it does not perform the way I expect a Leica lens to perform unless it is stopped down to f4 or more. These images are from my first session walking around the downtown business district of where I live. Both images are of the same sculpture, which is on a street corner. My project stalled a few weeks after these images were made. Though, at times I think about restarting the project, because these images seem to have their own character.”
At the time of the challenge Pascal and I had an e-mail conversation about my project and he encouraged me to restart it. Fortunately for me, and you, I did restart the project and now over one-thousand images later I have some samples to show you.
For the second attempt at this project my rules were simple.
The first two images were taken at the Pike Place Market in the south section of Post Alley. The gentleman in the hat was so interested in his phone that he never noticed me. Though the interesting feature of these is in the first image. Look between the man and woman on the right, next to the Ghost Alley Espresso sign.I do not remember that figure being there at the time. The Pike Place Market is reported to be haunted and the date was right before Halloween, so I will let you decide if this figure is an apparition or a projection.
The following images were taken on the same day in the South Lake Union area of Seattle and they show what this combination is capable of when things come together. I have included some un-edited B&W images direct from the camera.
These images seem to show that on a digital camera the lens is better than it’s reputation. Though, after reviewing the 1,000+ images I have made with it, on film I think it deserves it’s reputation.
Why? The first reason is the image circle, or the area of good focus, projected on the sensor at infinity focus is very small. I estimate this is a bit more than 5% of the sensor area.
Plus, at f1.4 the depth of field is so shallow that you need to be very quick to focus and press the shutter. Otherwise if you have any body movement your plane of focus will move off of your subject; using a tripod would have helped eliminate the body motion. Finally, add in rangefinder focusing with new, mis-aligned, progressive glasses and you have a real challenging photographic experience to master.
On the other hand, when everything comes together the lens has a unique rendering that makes the effort worthwhile. At least if you can use it when you have plenty of sunlight, which makes rangefinder focusing a bit easier.
Another factor to consider when using a vintage lens at f1.4 is composition. Composition is quite simple, select your preferred point of view for your subject, place the object you want to be in sharpest focus in the center of the frame and press the shutter. To modify the composition you need to crop the image to remove any undesirable elements. The image above is an example of what cropping can do for you, and it is the only one of this series that is cropped. It is also the only image made in overcast light that survived the editing challenge.
Overall this was a very interesting and enjoyable experience, though the challenges of using a range finder in less than bright light led to a fair amount of disappointment when reviewing the images. Which leads me to a question for those of you reading this. Should I continue project using a rangefinder, or mix it up and add a mirrorless camera with an EVF for focusing.
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