I can recall the moment like it was yesterday. I wanted a rangefinder. I wanted a camera that was tidy, discreet and would shoot like a boss.
My friend, Mike Levitt from LAT USA, let me try two of his… a Leica M8 and an Epson RS. Both very, very cool looking and equally as cool feeling. So off I went to roam the paddock.
Upon my return to the photo room, you have no idea how disappointed I was. Sixty images… three in focus. I was stunned and totally disheartened. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to focus, after all, I started shooting in the 70’s…. all you had was manual focus. No… the problem was my eyes. Time had caught up with me.
Fast forward a few years, I had found a reasonable source of satisfaction for my rangefinder jones and was shooting with the Leica Digilux 2. I loved the camera.
But along the way, I picked up a couple of converted Polaroid Pathfinders… vintage folding Polaroid’s from the 1950’s. Oddly… they used a rangefinder focusing system. Lo and behold, I discovered that if I used my reading glasses I had great success in focusing.
From there I jumped into a Leica M5… it was great. I was shooting with a rangefinder and loving it. But I wasn’t loving the workflow involved with film. The next step was obvious.
I soon swapped the M5 for a digital Leica M8.2 and ultimately the full frame Leica M9. Heaven.
Shooting with a rangefinder, for me, is the most satisfying and enjoyable form of photography I’ve ever done. I love it. I can’t get enough. I love the challenge. I love the process. And I love my time doing it. It’s personal. It’s emotional and it’s incredibly (creatively) satisfying.
I’m telling you this because I’m beginning to finally feel “in control” of this journey. Shooting with a rangefinder isn’t easy. Well… it is, actually... but we tend to make it complicated with our own fears. At least that’s how its been for me.
When I say “in control”… I guess I mean relaxed, confident, comfortable… and, yes… in control.
I’ve been taking my Leica along with all my Canon gear to every race for the last two plus years. I’ve been trying to work it in to my workflow whenever possible…. though not at the risk of missing opportunities that result in necessary images for my client.
This weekend at the Long Beach Grand Prix, for the first time, I chose to use my Leica exclusively for all of my background and atmosphere shooting. All my personal and paddock work was done with the Leica M along with the Leica 35mm Summicron and 90mm Summarit lenses.
I’m thrilled with the results.