A few years back a fellow by the name of Mike Johnston used to write a weekly/monthly/occasional column called “The Sunday Morning Photographer”, and sometimes he wrote about some really interesting stuff. Like how the Pentax Limited lenses are the best autofocus lenses on the market right now and how the photo industry hasn’t figured out that some of us want a digital camera that doesn’t try to do things a camera shouldn’t do. He would also write columns about improving our photography, like this one. I did something very similar after reading that article with a K1000 and an M28/3.5. By the time I finished that little exercise I felt like my photos weren’t half bad.
The last couple years I haven’t liked my pictures very much. Perhaps I’m taking them too seriously or not seriously enough. Or maybe I’m just a bad photographer. Really, though, I just need to focus and pay attention to what I’m doing, which means I’m going to limit the distractions, photographically speaking.
It sure looks like Mike is up to his old tricks. He went and wrote a few more articles about using a Leica and one lens for a year. Here and here and here. Read them in that order. In my opinion, the Leica isn’t necessary. Mike wrote that from his point of view because he did it with a Leica and that’s what he knows (at least, that’s what I got from his articles). You could say basically the same things about spending a year with Hasselblad or a Spotmatic or whatever. Each of those cameras is going to impart a different way of seeing, of working, of taking pictures. Also, there is the Leica tax, which is the thousand dollars you’re going to have to spend, minimum, to get a functional double-stroke M3 and a 50/2.8 Elmar. Lots of folks say the tax doesn’t really exist, because once you spend your year with the camera you can sell it for at least what you paid for it. I think that’s true, but I don’t have a thousand dollars right now to dump into a camera and I want to get started, which means the Leica is out. Not that I need it, but Mike was generous enough in that third article to give us permission to use whatever we have on hand, so long as it’s MMM (metal, manual, mechanical).
Name your axe.
I picked the Pentax SP500 with an SMC 55/1.8. I’ll be shooting Arista Premium, which, by most accounts, is rebranded Tri-X for half the price. Since I don’t have any at the moment I ran over to the drug store and overpaid for a couple rolls of 24 exposure 400TX. There’s a new pouch of Xtol around here somewhere and I’ll soup it in that. Negatives will be scanned and prints made using Nicholas Hartman’s methods for “single black ink”. Christie says I should get off my ass and build the damn darkroom already, or something like that.
And that’s that. One year with a Spotmatic and Tri-X. A few rolls a week and more printing than I’ve done in my whole life. This is gonna be fun.