As a follow up to my Take Charge entry, I thought I'd share a "practice what you preach" outing from Virginia International Raceway.
In the interest of full disclosure, this was a working race weekend and I still had my DSLR gear to address the needs of my clients. I don't want anyone to think I left all my Canon rigs back in Florida. That's just not going to happen. But I did commit to the goal of generating a full portfolio of reportage images using only my Leica M9. My 50mm Summicron was off being adjusted so I was limited to my 35mm Summicron and my 90mm Summicron. I also recently acquired a 1:25 magnification eye piece which was very helpful with the 90mm.
Not surprisingly, the 90mm became the workhorse of the weekend. I did several sessions early in the week where I went out only carrying the Leica. As the weekend wore on and the schedule picked up, it was time to get to work. Though I did keep the Leica with me in case an opportunity to shoot presented itself.
Keep in mind, for the most part my motorsports work is done at eight frames per second using a 70mm-200mm zoom lens and a 500mm prime. So you can see, the Leica 90mm Summicron would be the bare minimum for shooting anything trackside. And with the M9's 2fps burst rate, panning multiple frames of a car traveling the length of a football field per second will make a real man out of you. Though the biggest challenge was reach. Shooting with the Leica, you really miss the long glass.
Another habit I had to overcome in on-track sessions was keeping the car low in viewfinder. With a rangefinder and especially with the 90mm, the viewfinder isn't your positioning guide… the frame lines within the viewfinder determine the crop of your image. With the 90mm, those frame lines are only about 25% of the viewfinder area and (of course) they're in the center. Yes… I did have a few shots with car roofs in them.
And then there is the issue of manual focus. Everything and everyone at a race track moves quickly. People are busy, time is of the essence and no one is going to stop and wait for you. You need to be quick.
All of the challenges I faced were good challenges. I didn't have to do anything a photographer 50 years ago wouldn't have had to do. And let's not forget, I still had the digital advantage of seeing the results immediately.
I'm pleased to say I was extremely happy with the results of the weekend experiment. Even though I always take the M9 with me and use it at every race. I've never put myself in a do-or-die situation with it. Slowly, but surely, I am incorporating into my workflow. I like the challenge and more importantly, I like the results.
A rangefinder and specifically the Leica M9 give me a sense of being more involved. Often I'm left with a sense of being in a sort of redundant production mode. Not that I'm not satisfied with my work or the results… but its hard not to feel like you're manufacturing photos given the technology and the gear we use. The Leica gives me a better sense of involvement with each image and the results. Not only do I like that, I feel it also carries over to my other work.