I’ve returned to film photography fairly recently, having impulsively bought a Yashica TL-Super (plus three lenses and a parts body) for $30 at a garage sale last September. Since then I’ve found that my lust for cameras roughly matches my magpie-like tastes as a photographer: I’m a sucker for anything that catches the light in a nice way, and I’ve had to learn to say “no” to friends and coworkers, as well as to Goodwill’s online store. But when you’re offered a Leica IIIf on a long term loan…?
Sometimes “no” is not an option.
I grabbed a roll of Tri-X 400, trimmed off ten sprocket holes worth of extra leader, and tore through 24 frames at the local arboretum after work. When the scans came back though, disaster! A constellation of white stars and orbs was superimposed over each photo, the result of a holey shutter. The real twist of the blade: when I looked past the light leaks, I was really taken with the rendering from the Summicron 50mm f/2. Deep blacks, crisp contrast, and the Leica 3D quality I’d read about were evident, but it was all a disappointing waste.
Later that month I remembered that my Helios 44-2 had come with a 39-42 adapter, and just for the heck of it I wedded that enticing Summicron to my humble TL-Super. I had no expectations beyond wanting to wring some useable images from this lovely lens. I quickly learned that focusing past a foot or so was out of the question, and indeed that the lens’ focus mechanism seemed to have no effect. However, extending and retracting the lens barrel did give control over depth of field and zone of focus.
The first roll I shot, Kodak 400 Ultramax, showed promise but only a few images really jumped out at me. It was enough to try a roll of Velvia 50, and boy did my heart sing when I got those scans back!
In my day job I’m a hospital chaplain, high stress work that involves being of service, and being accountable, to many, many people: my patients, their families, the medical team, my boss, his boss, my denomination, the diocese… In the last year I have found photography to be a rejuvenating and freeing creative outlet, something I do to please my own sensibilities and no others. The moments when it all comes together (technical skill, artistic eye, timing, and luck) are thrilling and satisfy me in a very deep place. In my work I am called to witness and accompany people who are in the grips of the absolute ugliest the word has to offer: disease, injury, addiction, abuse, pain, and death. The joy of creating and bringing forth something beautiful helps me stay balanced and present as I try to do my part to ease some of that suffering.
This particular, peculiar experiment brought me great and surprising joy, and I’m glad for the chance to share that joy with my photographic fellow travelers.