Portrait Making as an antidote to the hustle and bustle of life.

I had a deep and wonderful flirtation with all sorts of medium format cameras in the film days but the camera and lens that seemed to yield the most wonderful portraits, albeit with much struggle, was probably the 90mm Summicron on the front of whatever flavor of the year slr camera Leica had on offer to foolish photographers of the time. I'd like to say that this portrait was done with an R6 or an R8 but we had a mix of cameras and since the "sensors" inside were all identical (you got to choose what film you put in..) it hardly matters. But there was (is) something about that ancient 90mm f2.0 lens that was just magic. Or maybe it was the placebo effect. Perhaps we were consistently trying to justify having spent so much more on a lens than we would have spent on one of the Japanese equivalents. The closest two lenses I've used from the "big two" would be Canon's inexpensive 100 mm f2 and Nikon's too expensive (but not in Leica territory...) 105mm f2.0 Defocus Coupling lens.

After having shot several thousand considered images this weekend on GH4's, EM-5's and the stalwart Nikon D7100 I've come to re-understand that the bodies are increasingly meaningless and that the personality of images comes from the lenses with which they were created. Something to consider.


  1. I had an R5 kit with the 35 f2 and the 90 f2 that I still have occasional pangs of regret about selling to make room for a Pentax 67 even 15+ years later. Both lenses were remarkable and the R5 just got out of the way and stayed there.

  2. Totally agree, Kirk. My 90mm Summicron was welded to a Leicaflex SL, with wider lenses used on an M body. The 90 is nice in many ways, but something special happens as you open up from f/2.8 to f/2. The image desaturates just slightly and defocuses just slightly, creating portraits that have a special kindness to the subject. My fave portrait from those days was of an aunt who claimed she'd never had a portrait made of her that made her feel so good. Wow, did that response ever make ME feel good.

  3. nbessa HalKirk Tuck said: "Or maybe it was the placebo effect."

    Woody Allen said: "Is sex dirty? Only if it's done right."
    (Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex)

    Ima Robot says: Your most important photographic tool is your brain. Without using your brain nothing can be done right.

  4. Off topic, but wanted you to know I finished the book this weekend reading it all on my iPhone!

    As an author of 13 books (all non-fiction) I know what it takes to write a book and you have made a good first effort. Congrats!

  5. I put a Minolta 35mm F2.0 lens on my A33 and suddenly got that 'film look' colors to my pictures which the Sony zoom couldn't. A unique and subjective tonality that comes through regardless of the sensor or film. Older lenses tested vs newer lenses have less correction, yet more character.

  6. " the bodies are increasingly meaningless and that the personality of images comes from the lenses with which they were created. Something to consider."

    Today's sensors and image processor units yield ever so slightly different results, but so did the different film emulsions and processing methods back in the day.

    In other words, the core basics of photography haven't really changed. The basic rules still apply, and knowing them is still more beneficial than knowing how to peep a pixel. That's one of the soul-soothing facts of photography, isn't it.

  7. Beautiful portrait.


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