Competition Entries Inspiration

Contact (Tango) Sheet – The photo and camera that won a Leica M4 – By Julián Péter

What a competition! 373 amazing photographs, the quality was very high and in the end it was a neck and neck race. Thank you to all who submitted and congratulation to the finalists.  Thank you also to all the people who left kind comments on the winning post. Last, but not least, thank you Hamish for organising the competition and once again awakening a wave of passion for film photography. It goes to show the camera is just a tool, be it a Leica, auto SLR or just a small plastic point-and-shoot. Take what you have, get out there, and make some art, dammit!

I have been a long time supporter and avid reader of 35mmc since its beginnings. I have submitted to “Compact Shooters”, tried my luck in the previous competition and have the site open at least once a day to check for new articles. I especially love the tinkering DIY stuff that has been appearing lately.

Anyways, Hamish asked me to do this AL (Anno Leica) post to show the process. Remember how in school the teacher would always ask you to show your work? This is it…

Cannot say I remember when I heard about this competition, but I remember telling my fiancée about it. She said “Cool, you should do it.” and with that I had an excuse to hunt for a suitable camera. It has been a couple of months since I sold my Mjus, so I was a bit dry on the point-and-shoot side stock.

There are a lot of “plastic fantastics”out there. Tons! Given the limitations set by Hamish, I only had two requirements: the camera had to have a wide lens and a reasonable aperture. If on top it was not ugly – bonus points! A quick scroll on the interwebs and I found the one:

samsung

“Plastic fantastic” Samsung AF300. It rewinds backwards!

Samsung AF300 with a 35mm f3.8 lens. It cost only a Euro and arrived in good condition. I popped in some batteries and the film. Now, as with most of the cameras in this range, everything is full auto, which is great, but shutter is adjusted according to your film speed. Via DX code. Which I did not have. I bulk load all my b/w film into black aluminum cartridges, usually with something cheap, like Fomapan 100 in this case. I tend to over-develop (1.5 hrs half stand), so normally I push to ISO 200. With this camera, I had no clue what it was doing. Anyway, nothing much to review about the Samsung itself, as it is a standard among its peers. It did however break down soon after. First, the rewind mechanism went all crazy, next up the battery door fell off… Since then, I had dismantled it for purposes of extracting the viewfinder. I will leave that story for another post…

Moving on to the actual sequence!

I live in Hamburg, Germany and every summer there is a festival right on the banks of the Elbe River called “Sommer in Hafen City”. Hafen City is the newest (and most expensive) quarter of Hamburg, with fancy modern apartments, wide streets and open spaces. It is also a massive development area. I had the Samsung with me on a look out for the perfect photo. That weekend was the tango argentino event (they also did swing on other days). Having just done a dancing course (getting married, have to know some moves), my fiancée and I figured we could go there and learn new steps.

As we arrived, the dance floor was already full. We soon realized we could only watch. These people knew how to really dance! Tango argentino is not like something you can imagine. It is very slow and passionate; the dancers often stand still and then make small deliberate movements.  It is also very intimate. Lot of the people had their eyes closed, stuck to one another, cheek on cheek.

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I shot off a couple of frames from the nearby staircase. The background was miserable, the people looked the same and while it was a joy to watch live, the scene just did not work. Not until a lonely storm cloud rolled in from the west. The majority of the people scrambled for shelter. Some remained and danced on. The dance floor (a glorified rubber carpet) was immediately drenched and became very slippery.

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People took of their shoes and opened the umbrellas. “I have to go. I am going now”, I mumbled to my fiancée, and ran off down the stairs and towards the dancers. Hell, almost slipped over myself! I noticed a woman in a tight red dress with white polka dots. She looked very feminine and elegant, and immediately became the center of my image.

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CLICK! The pair moves toward me. I try to position myself in a way to have the river in the background

 

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CLICK! I notice I am too high and crouch.

 

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CLICK! Another couple joins in the frame.

 

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I move closer. CLICK! The woman in the dress turns.

 

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The pair pauses. CLICK! That’s the shot!

 

I switch back to landscape mode and make couple of more frames, but that is the shot. The background is busy. The edges are busy. In the end, I still decide for this photograph. The run up shows the same couple, but only as dancers. Here, they are lovers: the man I holding her close with gentle pressure on her back, her body curves in and out, her legs taunt and ready to move with his impulse. Underneath their umbrella, it is just two of them, their world, their love and desire.

I got wet. The camera got wet. It was worth it. And not just because of the Leica.

leica

Glorious Leica M4 with borrowed Elmar courtesy of my friend Darko. Strap by SailorStrap.

I shall be returning with a Leica review and another post I am working on entitled “How to make your own VF and almost slice your finger off”.

Good light,

Julián

P.S.: You can find me sneaking around on Twitter under @JuloPeter or submitting on Tumblr at http://strangerofuniverse.com .

P.P.S.: Special thanks to Darko for lending me the Elmar (go check out his work at http://darkosaric.deviantart.com) and to SailorStrap (http://sailor-strap.com) for supplying me with their latest prototype camera strap.

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5 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    August 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    A great step by step guide to a perfect shot!

    Just to remind us to have a camera ready in all weather (well in this rain it better be a cheap p&s…)

    Well done and enjoy the Leica!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    David S. de Lis
    August 29, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Ah, great entry! As one of those who participated and didn’t win, I’m quite jealous of you. And not for the Leica, mind you, but that “hunting” for the light, the perspective, the right moment… Thrilling! My own entry was more “paused” as I was just a tourist in a beautiful place on a beautiful day: reading your post was making my blood boil with lust, I was feeling that I needed to get out there and make some amazing pictures (or as good as I am able to, of course 🙂 !!! Now, with all the info you gave us, and seeing the “contact sheet” I cannot but think you must have miss the perfect picture, the one with the perfect background, the main couple looking at the right direction and the second couple complementing the background; it had to be there, because you moved near, you moved down, you were practically over them, under the rain, with the tango stringing your tendons and bones and heart. You did everything we are told to get the perfect shot. You must have blinked. Only possible explanation. Still, a well deserved reward. Next time, though, don’t blink. 😉 I, for my part, will get closer, lower, insider, and look for a good background, great light, contrast, composition, triangles and all that you have so naturally walked over while hunting your picture… And if I manage all this, I will probably blink. 😉 Cheers! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Barry Smith
    August 29, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Excellent post. So nice to hear the story behind the image. Well done, enjoy the camera!
    Baz.

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    August 29, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Julian,
    Congratulations on winning the contest. When the pics were posted, your shot was one of five that I though had the potential to win the contest. All the entries were excellent, but a few had a little extra. I didn’t envy the judges, they had a tough job to do.

    I like your pic because it displays a joyfulness and humanity. Does it have compositional flaws? Perhaps. But if it was perfect, it would lose the spontaneity of the moment. It is a photo I’d like to take.

    Use the M4 with abandon. You deserve it.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Eddy
    September 5, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    This is a superb post Julian. It was great to see more shots from the roll. And your description of how it all came together was very interesting. You are a worthy winner of the Leica and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for sharing.

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