12.08.2021

Fun stuff arriving from unexpected quarters. Getting ready to sell off a bunch of non-Leica stuff. You might be interested in some of it...


I spent an interesting and fun afternoon at my CPA's offices talking about financial strategies. It's probably the kind of conversation I should have had with him 15 or 20 years ago but it was fun just the same. He ran track for UT back when he was in college and back then the athletic department was small enough that no matter which sport (other than football) you pursued you were probably within six degrees of separation from all the other athletes at the school. We had a little trouble keeping each other on track because we'd fall into reminiscing about our days at UT Austin. But for the most part we got serious. We talked about boring stuff like Roth conversions, the mechanics of gifting money or stock to your kid, and the tax consequences of buying and selling stuff. Meaning financial instruments, not cameras and lenses. The upshot? It's fine with the CPA and the spouse if I buy whatever cameras or lenses catch my attention in the moment. Now, that was good news! If things get tight we can always boil the leather straps and make soup...

And the universe has a wonderful sense of humor. When I got comfortably back in the office I had a text from a close friend and fellow photographer. He'd been holding on to a very mint, made in Germany, R series 50mm f2.0 Summicron lens for a long time and was finally ready to sell it. He was asking me how to price it. We went back and forth and agreed on a price so he could list it on one of the photo sites; in the "for sale" forum. But then, a few minutes later, he e-mailed to see if I would like the lens for that set price, minus 20%. The final tally hit a psychological sweet spot and just like that I was the new owner of the lens. 

Back in the days of film I was a die hard Leica M and R fan. I owned an almost identical copy of this 50mm from the mid-1980s all the way through to around 2005. I always remembered that lens fondly because it was probably my most used lens of the time. It seemed to do everything well and it's probably the lens that reinforced my already strong affection for the focal length. 

It was late afternoon/early evening when we finished our e-mail back and forth and he asked me when I wanted to get the lens. I told him I could drive over to his place (ten minutes away) and pick it up immediately; if he was so disposed. He countered by offering to drive his fancy new car (a Porsche Macan S turbo) over to hand deliver the lens. I readily accepted because I am inherently lazy when it comes to driving around. Just not well adapted to the frustrations of homeward bound, rush hour driving... And I wanted to make him a bit jealous when he parked his car next to my gleaming Subaru Forester.

The lens was in the promised condition: no scratches or wear on any surface and the glass as clean as a newly unwrapped surgical scalpel. The lens even came with the original leather case, and, of course the front and back caps. I was happy to have a pristine copy back in the studio and immediately put it on a Novoflex R to L mount adapter and gently clicked it into place on the lens mount of a Leica SL. The size and weight balanced perfectly. I keyed in the lens profile from the extensive selection in the camera menu and shot a few frames around the kitchen before dinner. I like the lens enough that its appearance may stave off my desire for the SL APO Summicron ($5500) of the same focal length for a respectably amount of time. 

Why this lens? You'd have to handle it yourself to really know. For me it's a combination of the perfect weight and heft, the smaller size versus the girth and size of modern, high end lenses, the very long throw of the perfectly smooth focus ring and, finally, my memory of the way the lens makes photographs. Sharp and detailed but mellow and with a distinct focus decay that is a defining characteristic of some classic Leica lenses. And, not incidentally, the advantageous pricing. I've been shooting with the lens a bit today and it's as nice as I remember. 

But this new acquisition, relatively unplanned, caused me to look through the equipment cases and decide I need to do a year end purge of all the non-Leica cameras and some of the duplicate lenses. 

Here's what I'm selling: 

One chrome Fuji X100V with hood and all original pieces. It's mint. No wear, no scratches. There's also a black Fuji X100V in the same shape with the same inventory of stuff. Then there's the Zeiss 35mm f2.0 ZF lens (for Nikon mount cameras) which is a duplication of effort with the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens in L mount (first gen). I'd be happy to see them both go... I've got a duplicate Sigma 45mm f2.8 i-series. They are too cute not to own one but not so cute as to require two of them. Working my way down the list we've also got a Contax/Zeiss 50mm f1.7 for the Contax system, along with an adapter for L series use. Same with a 28mm f2.8 Contax/Zeiss with same. Not that much stuff when I stop to look at it but ready to be cleared out, for sure. I'll post something formal in the next few days along with how I'd like transactions to go....

Pain and suffering: I spent my youth in disregard of sunscreen and caution, and swam, unslathered,  on sunny beaches in Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts, Anguila, Hawaii and all up and down the Mexican Riviera. And surfed a bit too. That doesn't even begin to count the days, weeks, months and years I've been swimming outside in UV rich Texas. But if you have basically a pale, UK style complexion the years of abuse tend to catch up with you. 

Late last year I had a squamous cancer removed from my left cheek and I've got little spots on my torso that aren't cancerous but might turn on me some day. With all that in mind I spent the morning with my favorite dermatologist who (not so) gently burned off all the small stuff with liquid nitrogen and then got to work on the bigger stuff with his anesthetizing syringe in one hand, a scalpel in the other hand and a cauterizing instrument in his third hand. I walked out of his office hours later with pains and ouchies from my neck to my waist; front and back. Ouch. Just f-ing ouch. 

But he did agree that I could go to swim practice in the morning if I covered any and all of the actual scrapes up with waterproof bandaids (of which I have many, I'm sure...). For a couple hours this morning I was devoid of all thoughts of photography. It was a sobering time. Last week the shingles vaccine, this week the skin torture session. Does it ever stop?

Speaking of swimming, I went to the noon swim practice yesterday. It was sparsely attended and for the first few minutes of the warmup I had a lane all to myself. Then Lizzie showed up. She's 25 and a Silver Medalist in the 100 Meter Long Course Butterfly. She proceeded to set a pace that would have horrified my cardilogist but, fortunately, even at my fastest pace, my heart did not choose to explode yesterday. But that practice was reinforcement of the fact that 25 year old Olympians can swim faster, and recover between sets MUCH FASTER, than 66 year olds. I probably won't try that again for a couple weeks. And even then I'll have a plan to escape to a much slower lane the second I start dragging. Still, it's nice to get a fast swim in at midday in mid-December when the water is 80° and the air temp is 70°. Almost like a Disney swim...where everything is perfect. 

Lizzie did tell me at the end of the workout that I was okay for an old guy. Not nearly as slow as she thought I'd be. Little consolation for getting lapped more times than I could count. 

business note: People keep tossing NDAs and disadvantaging contracts to me just before planned shoots. I guess I'm ready to retire from that part of the business because I keep tossing the paperwork back, telling them to either clean it up and get the NDA down to one concise, readable page, or to delay the start of the shoot by a week so my attorney can review the weasel words and explain them to me. I also start each one of these paperwork toss backs by letting them know that there's an administrative charge for me having to slowly and carefully read the ponderous contracts and NDAs they send me. Tomorrow's shoot is cancelled. It's not coming back. But then again I'm not extra spending money at my attorney's office and hoping to get his fees into my final invoices. It's their call. I'm happy to spend the day walking around getting reacquainted with the Leica lens and having coffee with friends. 

It's only money. And not enough to break a sweat over.