Wednesday, July 27, 2011

confessions of a stevedore 3

part 3 (unedited)

confessions 3

du-par's restaurant and bakery since 1938, farmer's market, corner of fairfax and 3rd, 3:00 am

i've been coming here for almost 30 years, though not half as long as paul mazursky.  mazursky haunts this place.  like a kind of filmic quasimoto fixit he saunters from table to table, greeting the 400 and trading war jibes about 70s realism and the editing skills of hal ashby.  "llama land is a misnomer," he says...
 "concocted by wannabe zoot suiters, mock hipsters, mailers white negroes
 remoras attached to the goatee of lenny bruce, chroniclers of beat solos..."  you need an advanced degree in rat pack just to piss next to this guy in the men's room.  but, it's his house, his rice's his rules or the highway.

i have to admit, it's taken a few well placed jibes pissing next to this guy in the men's room to even get the time of day but it's been worth it.  he knows just about everything about this town, the lore, the mythology, the sad history of the brandbury, bunker hill and central avenue...jazz!  and who the fuck knows that shit—i mean really knows it.  you don't qualify just because you have a copy of kind of blue or love supreme in your collection.  you have to know what what charlie parker had for dinner at billy bergs december fixit 1945 or what reed eric dolphy used in uppsala.  forget having read chandler or having a hardon for veronica lake, you have to be able to write chandler know who veronica is buried next to.  mazursky and ilk are all done recruiting.  their war stories leak out painfully in the throws of a diabetic fit, between bouts of manic depression and free refills at starbucks (as long as that pencil necked geek is behind the counter—the one who pulled a tour of duty at samy's one summer and is now enrolled this fall, corteosy fixit of daddy's coat tails, in the new york film academy...he's doomed of course, fated to trolling goodwills for kodac tele-instamatics, the singleman party foxtrot and sunporch cha-cha-cha on vinyl, but mazurkys crew won't tell him that—they call him "the kid" and fill his head with visions of sunadance and irving thalbergs)

i hooked mazursky with a bit of filmic histronics;  i'm a little proud of this tidbit that i picked up so i'll share it with you in-toto...  did you ever wonder how orson welles came to know so many personnal details about the life of william randolph hearst?  details like his pet name for davies' clit?  well, it's no secret that herman mankiewicz hung out with hearst at the castle, in fact, he paled around mostly with marion davies—they were commited drinking buddies (mankiewicz's downfall by the way) and they used to have to sneak around behind hearst's back, even going to the trouble of hiding liquor bottles in the castle.  one of their hiding spots was behind books on bookshelves.  you know that famous scene, the one where kane destroys susan alexander's room..?  there's a quick shot of him raking a bookshelf and suddenly finds a bottle that he quickly and with mild disgust tosses across the room...  the scene happens so fast that it's possible to miss it entirely, or to lump it in indistinguishable from the ongoing malestrom fixit.  most people are looking for that bit where he cuts his hand and hides the blood from the camera.  well, i've never heard anyone mention the scene,  not pauline kael, not roger ebert or even peter bogdonovich fixit, orson's self-appointed protege (bogdonovich has run a few sorties fixit at farmer's market—i have the pictures to prove it!).

i slipped it in once while passing his table.  they were talking about greg toland (who isn't in this town) and they migrated to mankie and his antics with marion.  it didn't hurt that i was carrying a twin lens rolleiflexRolleiflex 3.5F TLR, lovingly restored, cocked and ready (i love the 120 medium size film format but we'll go into that later).  i was careful not to fire off a few candids...i'm not that dumb.  i waited, bided my time until i was asked to join the round table.  then, of course, they asked me to take a pictures of them.  five hours later i brought back three or four 8 x 10s and i was in like flint.

the lackeys and hangers on, the wannabe ex-easy riders and raging bulls can get a bit thick at times.  you never who to believe.  here is andrew jackson sporting his stp t-shirt again and brushing up on the jacobins fixit.  the basement tapes he lauds to the balcony, sighting their turgidity, tenacity and their uncanny resemblence to gnostic texts.  he flips the bill of the bourgeoise in a series of clever runes, challenges them to a bought of sudoko and raises his eyebrow at the skinny young thing apping channel.  the world and all who habitate will reap their comeuppance—this he knows through interpreting feynman and studying the tibetan book of the dead.  to the would be joyceans he points with relish to a sign on his subission guidelines page:  we are leery of the overly prosaic...

and this guy over here, hair club for men, the one in the cardigan and glassless horn rimmed glasses—he leaves abstractions to the landed gentry.  forever whistling holst and deligting in tales of the lunatic express, he brands himself by lack of idle chatter and his abject refusal to sing the happy birthday song, prefering instead the orotorios of handel and a few verses of the ancient mariner, just enough to set it on its head.  he's a confirmed brahmsian and tosses around  mark twain quotes like some midwest substitute teacher

mazursky sees king leapold and his cohorts eating gelato on the patio.  they better not come in, not on his watch.  not to worry...nothing that a few jabs at british petrolium would't fix.  besides, what do they know of particle physics and double entendres...alan alda and the history of the wpa—fodder for nazi baitors, ballast for the simple souls.  mazursky could tell them a thing or two about buonooarti (?), not that they wouild listen.  to them zecharia is a peddler outside the tom bradley international terminal prosletising on sp 2012 and reeking of toe cheese.  from the onset of type two diabetes you would think that the latinates got it wrong.  automation, the offspring of henry ford and the internal combustion engine have weaned us off the greeks for good.  fixit.... reverse order

everyone's got their holy grails, their own particilar contemporary rosetta stones, jack the rippers, killers of black dahlias... i'm no different though mine is in the form of a magazine clipping.  an image ripped from the pages of some 70s smut magazine...i found her, my black dahlia, amoung miles of chapparell, perhaps a furlong, within a spawnfield of teen angst littered with cigarette packs, water bongs and used condoms, her photo nestled in the foosteps of jim morrison the backdrop for waiting for the sun or jim rockford's trailer in malibu and in the distance imported date palms, bouganvilla and iceplant from outerspace, also in the distance, dingbats and straight lines, false doorways and beamed ceilings, on the hillside, case study houses and the lure of serial murders.

You may not remember her.  Her name was Evangelina Cisneros but for the sake of brevity we'll call her Angie (I think Evangelina Cisneros was her stage name but don't quote me on that) She had, what would pass today for common vernacular, a butter face But like the vestiges fixit of Michelangelo's Pieta repleat with garlic farts and bouts of exima fixit together with her numerous injurious ruins-I (injurious ruins and all...) forgave her all She was my fixit lolita "say it trippingly on the tongue..." She had the mute expression of a harware store owner's daughter the one in the back, with the nails and trip wire.  She had the face of one of Erda's neices or a rhine maiden kept sequestered beneath the surface.
In truth she was the spitting image of a girl who sat in the back row of Mrs. Robson's class, 2nd grade...she had a forgettable face.  

but her figure was something out of giselle, margaret fonteyn fixit (ballet term fixit), with flopping double dds of course.  she had nothing less than viking lines, quaint amazonian shoulders, 5'10" in her bare stockings and long california hair

(insert my meek iseult here)

mazursky showed me the picture, on his iphone no less.  there she was, in the midst of some vision quest, her tits in mid flight and all those onlookers pretending not to care too much.  this fiasco, this penultimage child of eden had taken this free love thing just a little too far.  no crime in 1970.  she was that dancing naked chick in the maysels film gimme shelter.  i never put the two together, how could...i had never seen the film, or maybe i had, bits of it, the scene with the gun and mick's insociance fixit.  and mazursky even knew her name, evangelina cisneros, a big tit model in the early to mid 70s, a russ meyer protege though she only appeard briefly in one film that never made it off the cutting room floor.  i have a copy of that thanks to youtube.

(here...inset iseult poem out of mazurskys mouth)                    

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

confessions of a stevedore

part 2 (unedited)

confessions 2

"i use a digital slr camera for all my professional work but my personnal preference is for film..."

there are no variations on this theme.  this is pretty much government issue for all serious lovers of photography.  annie leibovitz fixit shoots all day with hassleblads but in her down time she shoots with those stupid little point and shoot 10 megapixel compacts.

i know what you're thinkkng—it's all slumming, a deliberate dumming down, sneetches fixit trading in their stars to differentiate themselves from the masses.  but you're wrong...perhaps not about annie leibovitz, but she's a freaking kook, or so i've heard.  film has its rightful place, it's own particular sainted nitche in the world of art photography and in some very special cases, it reigns supreme.  here is a breakdown:

first, i admit there are idiots out there that shoot with film because they get a nice warm fuzzy feeling.  all that history and analogness...has to be good right?  there is also the school of thought that equates all things evil with digital, a selling of our collective artistic souls.  digital to them is a lie, counterfiedt fixit. an approximation.  a diabolical plot of the knights templar to suck our brains dry and turn us all into little neo-cons.  lovers of analogue pine for the tape hiss, the friendly warm reassuring scratching sound of the needle on vinyl, edward weston's  Pepper No. 30 on silver gelatin.  i have go say that i  dont exactly fall lock step into these kinds of arguements.  i'm not exactly confused about most media and it's confusion, ignorance and just plain naievete sp that leads down this road.

that's not to say that there isn't a grain of truth to all this digital bashing, it's just that the majority of what passes for water cooler chatter is just that—a lot of chatter.  the rub is that digital is too clean, too unforgiving.   moore's law is wearing a little thin,  not that it doesn't hold true.  it more than likely does (but who keeps up with all that crap).  it's just that all this technology has obscurred the one true tenet of artistic endeavor—that of the search for the lost note, the eternal music of the spheres, that indefinable something that distinguishes a vivian maier photo from that of a john q tourist...

let be me more specific;  in the early days of digital cameras, i mean the mid to late oughths, the days when digitial sensors were more or less perfected and pixel count became more about marketing than any real selling point,  when the market fell out of memory cards and hard drive space....i shot on average about 5,000 photos a week and on average i saved about 10 to 15 of those photos.  by that i mean that only about 10 to 15 pictures would i consider part of my ouvre, a decent sampling of my work or style, photos that i woudn't be too embarrassed to admit that i took, photos that i might show to fellow stevedores.  that's an absurd ratio—something around .01 percent.

so what's wrong wrong with this picture?  if todays digital imaging cameras deliver more quality than yesterday's film cameras (and they don't, not always) wherein lies the dilema sp.

the dilema is this:  film has a higher dynamic range than digital.  by that i mean that a piece of film can better display the full range of tones within a dynamic range.  lets say that we are taking a picture that has many differrent degrees of light, in other words, lots of sun, lots of shade.  digital cameras are really really good at rendering one particular dynamic at a time, either sun or shade.  they are not good at rendering both at the same time.  so if you are taking a picture that has subjects in the shade and in the sun, your digital camera only wants to properly develop (or expsose) one of these subjects, either the light or the shade.  now, all things being equal (meaning that we are using a digital sensor that is roughly equivalent to say...35mm film—not all digital sensors are the same size as 35mm film, in fact most of them are much much smaller.  to put this in perspective, a decent digital camera and lens that is equivalent to 35mm film will cost you damn close to 4,000 dollars!) like i was saying, all being equal, given an image that has only one dynamic range, lets say sunny, both the digital and film camers will give you something valid and useful, albeit different.  the difference is largely that of grain and texture.  film has a certain look to it, a filmic look—that of grain and relative softness.  digital cameras can produce images that are sharper and have more clarity, but it's a sharpness of a digital kind that is not always beneficial or flattering.  film more closely reproduces what our eyes see...or, and i could be playing my hand here—film more closely reproduces what our eyes have become accustomed to seeing—images that have some degree of softness and grain, more forgiving, more, dare i say, analog?

i can hear the haters in the gallery and they are screaming "hey!  what about hdr?"  hdr or high dynamic range photography is something of a dirty word amoung true fans of photography.  hdr is a term that largely means bracketing, that of taking a series of snapshots with a range of expsosures.  with film, the images can be double or tripled expsoed in the camera or this can also be done in the darkroom.  with digital, a range of exposure can be set within the camera, usually three images that are taken one right after the other.  these images are then merged within a software program on the computer, such as photoshop.  hdr photos tend to look like some kind of poster for a james cameron film or a typical fantasy book jacket du jour sp.  they tend to look fake, generally because the bracketing is too high, too dynamic and too unnatural looking, hence the fantasy references.

the truth behind the obsession with film cameras is that photographers have lost over the years their true objective, that of taking a good image.  these machine gun  antics of most tourists and newbie paps do nothing to achieve the goal of taking a great photo.  using film cameras reinstills this lost art.  a photographer is once again forced to look with his eyes and rely on his wits, and in most cases, he must rely on his knowledge of exposure, shutter speeds, film speeds and aperture settings because a lot of these old film cameras don't have built-in light meters which means that it's up to you to get the right exposure.

sure, there is the argument that digital slrs are bigger by nature than film cameras. they have huge lenses and bodies to house all this technology and they are a bit intimidating to the general public.  a pap with a decent camera rig can be seen a mile away whereas a gent with a small rangefinder camera around his neck is largely scene as a gentleman stroller out to take in the sights, not plaster your photo all over hello magazine.  if your objective is to take great pictures then you have to do what it takes to get a great shot.  pros generally get by with long telephoto shots of their subjects, especially paps who generally can't get close enough without getting their asses kicked.  any shot of bernie madoff hailing a cab downtown will sell, so why not just get a telephoto shot from a mile away.  but, all the really great street shots are taken at close range and generally with 35 to 50mm lenses.

the notion that rangefinders are more stealthly is a crock, especially from a paps point of view.  who cares if they see you coming.  did jackie o see ron galella coming.  we wouldn't have that shot of her smiling at him otherwise and who's ready to trade that in.  sophia loren...forget about it.

but there is a kind of validity to wrapping an old leica m3 around your neck, nice old leather strap, an elmar 50mm...brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation.  carter-bresson, that cat walk of his, on tippy toes immortalizing the crepe makers.  galella courting the great whore of the twentieth century, though he shot nikon...    there's a magic too of not knowing what you've shot, not caring and being deliciously surprised perhaps weeks later.  i can't quantify it.  suffice it to say that chicks dig it and let's move on.

du-par's restaurant and bakery since 1938, farmer's market, corner of fairfax and 3rd, 3:00 am...  

Monday, July 25, 2011

confessions of a stevedore

part 1

confessions 1

there is a common misconception about our lot, one that relegates us somewhat below the stevedore, in terms of sophistication, breeding and slightly above judas of macabeea sp.  i don't mind the judas comment, especially coming as it usually does from corn fed housefraus towing a litter of brats, their mouths bursting with hydrogenated soybean and sporting the lastest in digital compact camera technology, which i might add, can be really quite impressive...especially those new 4/3 size sensors with (multiple lens support), but slightly below the stevedore in terms of sophistication!  never.

in my profession there is a lot of down time and generally you can pick your own hours.  downtime leads to reading.  newspapers, magazines, raymond chandler...always raymond chandler, especially in this town.  i don't cotton much to the new kids on the block, all aping joe giddis and dripping with exagerated histrocity.  give me the classics; chandler, hammet, cain...john mccormack on a rainy afternoon...graham greene...forget about it!   not an afternoon at starbucks goes by without some pap dropping a graham greene line.  goes with the territory, the romance of it all.  and take my word for it, there is a romance to it all...granted, it's a distant cousin to tolstoy but it's there all the same, if you choose to look.

that's what i mean by the stevedore comment.  five paps on a hilton shoot, and i mean hilton back in the day, debating the gilded age and the rise of ida busters and verbleens theory of the leisure class, all five took a powder on hilton emerging from county to debate and discuss the environmental conditions that led to the emergence of paps and tabloid journalism,  jfk and the death of the gentleman press.  not exactly your first monday of the month book club pre-chatter.  theories were posited, conjectured, debated and at the risk of giving away  the farm, lets just say that in this country, we all work for a living.

i don't mean to come off like some rube on a city counsil gig, but there is a great line from a movie, clint eastwood's the unforgiven (you'll note that i refer to directors first when referencing film), the scene where english bob decries the state of democracy in america and "a president...well, why not shoot a president..!" i agree to a certain extent, not with assassinating a president but with the circumstances that (allow) one to be shot.  i won't aplogize for my abhorrance for democracy but i do aplogize for relying on movie quotes to get my point across.  but, of course, this is a starbucks in santa monica, not the round table at the algonquin hotel (fix).  when in rome... i guess what i'm saying is that this grand experiment, this two and half century long project in jacksonian democracy is not without its drawbacks.  we essentialy wait upon ourselves.  it's difficult to smile and kow-tow to the slacker in ripped jeans when just yesterday he was serving you yogurt and punching your buy-ten-get-one-free card.  i mean, where's the grandeur, where's the magic—the je ne se qua?

i think that a perfectly mobile society is a bit of a misnomer.  sure, you can make it in this country...why not, but for every self-made man there is some trust fund baby sipping espresso in some local coffee house dive gesturing snarkily at all these pathetic ceos and their iron clad copies of dale carnegie, their 16 hour days and their steadfast belief in thank-you emails.  it's a viscious cycle, one dr seuss would revel in.  i'm a trust fund baby.  i have no problem admitting that.  it's just a fact, another cycle in the wheel for which i have neither the time nor the inclination to deceipher sp.  i eek out my own particular pathetic existence in dilapidated coffee house diners, sammy's camera on fairfax avenue and across the street at farmer's market—which is a pap's wetdream; an eclectic mix of old los angeles (term for new chic etc fixit)  sapphron for bokeh nerds and not at all a bad way to pay your gas bill.

an analogie i like is that dude from the hustler, findley, murray hamilton, a gentleman, and i use that term loosely, photographer, essentially an amateur photographer just waiting for someone like vivian maier to show up and kick my ass—i've got sort of a old southern bent, a mild lackadaisical refrain and i have habit of strolling, not unlike hannibal lecter, towards my next victim, my next assignment.  i'm not really in it for the money, just the action, the thrill of it all—truth be known, i get bored easily.    like i've said, i don't really need the money although i'm not above the odd stock photo and contrary to popular opinion, i do portraits on occassion, for friends and associates—yes, i've done the odd wedding but only for commrades and besides, there's that vivian maier shot of the bride running towards the car that in my humble opinion rivals anything shot by carter-bresson.  weddings are apocraphal moments.  terminal bridesmaids and lackey best men, bitter maids of honor and those future pall bearers all pefectly lit and posed. as for all this tourist shit, i more or less have to in order to keep up appearances.  you see, my close friends (and what's left of family) have no clue what i really do with my camera.  i think they would be horrified.  admitting your a pap doesn't exactly go off well at cocktail parties.  well, let's just say it's not about the money.

i won't bore you with the details, but it's all qbout the gear.  the evolution of the digital single reflex camera...i could write volumes.  i was tempted by the first nikon d1 but i resisted.  1999 and it went for about 5,000.  ridiculous, but it replaced film at most newspapers at a mere 2.7 megapixels.  remarkable. i jumped on board the dslr bandwagon with the nikon d200 back in 2006 but later switched to canon when the accolades started pouring in about the eos 5d mark ii and its adoption by every major film studio in town and it's used almost exclusively by several tv shows i would'nt be caught dead watching...but i'm beginning to bore...

most paps are closet camera geeks,  nikon fan-boys, retro fanatics whose encyclopdic knowledge of subjects ranging from ansel adams and henri carter-bresson fixit to the evolution of leica rangefinders and the onslaught of the all mighty nikon f makes the collier brothers akin to a couple of tweens collecting pokemon.  while gear is vital, the trees of the vast forest, it's not the end-all by any stretch of the imagination.  one mention of capa's death of a loyalist soldier and you'll be locked in a deathmatch of wits and philosophical conumdrums... mysteries of the universe...hydrogenated soybean...twitter...celebrity rehab... why susan sontag's book on photography is, in point of fact—sold in bookstores in the photography section next to canon rebel manuals... i can mix it up with the best of them when it comes to camera lore, but when you start jabbering about holgas fixit, the death of polaroid, hdr photography and how stealthy are the leica rangefinders, it's time for time for me to call a cab.  there are arguments, postulates, theories and extrapulations on the rise and fall of the photographic esthetic, it's ursupatation sp of the painterly art of portraiture, it's subsequent hegemony (the era of photographic essay) fixit, but when you boil right down to it—dslrs, good ones, the second, third or fourth gen monsters that are now finally available are a fucking  godsend to street photographers, paps and photo journalists.  i remember when vogue magazine actually had articles.  not any more.  why pay plum sykes when some teenage freelance photographer on flickr is pumping out 18 megapixel images of the cellulite on zoe deshanel's thighs using a canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 L IS II USM lens (which, by the way, on the 7d's APS-C sensor turns the effective focal length to something in the neighborhood of over 300mm...) (i'm not a zoe basher by the way)    


issues of privacy, essays, famous cases etc.          

chk: michael douglas kathrine zeta jones wedding pics, brittish law, privacy, other famous paps...onassis etc.

... this is a t-shirt wearing town.

it's difficilt to discuss my obsession with the original nikon f without i descend a rung or two on the old evolutionary ladder . . .which is up your line, you, the marvel comic fanatic, not nick the nazi sympathizer...  one doesn't really talk about film cameras, range finders and exaktas, not at anything resembling a pap rally (any shoot where paps hang out) lest you run the risk of getting your ass kicked.  but, there is a great line attributed to susan sontag when asked about the onslaught of computer word processors—"i don't want to write with anything that makes the writing process easier..."  i'm paraphrasing of course, but a point can be made about the current onslaught of digital cameras and their subsequent hegemony in photo journalism, they're abject and stinking foray into the realm of tourism (i've shared the pit with paps shooting on iphones and if you know anything about vingetting fixit and various other lens defects you can spot iphone pictures within the folds of any fixit asshole tabloid magazine) and the sad fact that our so-called noble profession, that of the photojournalist, has been hijacked by a mob of day-trippers, shutter happy weekend warriors who've discovered that their decade long sorties as latch key children resigned to super mario brothers have spawned nicely into a new trade—that of the paparazzi.  congratulations, you can hold down a button with the best of them.

don't get me started on critizizing what passes for contemporary photojournalism these days.  yes, an infinite number of monkeys on a typewriter will eventually catch the cellulite on the back legs of said movie star emerging from the waves at some exclusive malibu beach enclave but, the f-stop will be wrong and the exposure is courteosy of some geek on photoshop in the editing closet of hello magazine.  point and shoot cameras have fixed f-stops and automatic iso, digital zooms and in some cases, lenses that should be selling next to eye-glass magnifiers at your local .99 cent store.      

my fucked up camera bag
leica as door operner  you would probably get your assed kicked at a pap rally, kike showing up in (sex pistol territory) with a gibson les paul or some pre cbs sunburst strat sturttiong like a teddy and sipping (relevant cocktails).  abput the snob exists, especially in this town. are you kidding me?  barbeques, pool games, dodger games (wouldnt go to q dodger game for all the tea in chinatwon...i'd go, but i would just excuse myself feiging a trip to thr hptdog stand and tale a strool trhough chavez ravine, maybe chinatown or elysian park...  

i've seen those youtube videos and some of are great and some of them are leave it to beaver.  well,  ot to give away my penchant for the succession of the stewarts, but youtube is a little middle brow for me and putting my face up on youtuve and trying to remain true to my pap roots is anathema.

photographer from three days of the condor, faye dunaway, kathy hale, hommage to, ode to, fantasy on a theme of kathy hale

you havenet seen three days of the condor, but then one man"s dvd collection is another man's detritus...not mine of course, i have awesome taste in film, unlike my little gen-yster co-horts—most older folks do since their taste in film developed at at time when parents dragged their kids along to watch their own movies rather than chapperone their kids to the latest johnny depp fiasco.  well, there's just too much money to be made from film these days and most adults, if they like a film, they might watch it twice but kids between the ages of 8 and 14 are more likely to see a film ten times.  your kathy hales are animee creatures, pocchontas fixit,  half-human (term for that, ghost in the machine) in-human avatars that synch with your notions of the universe, your obessions with social media and angry birds.  in my mind  i've given kathy hale a personal history, risen her from the elephant graveyard of 70s cable and placed her on par with the greats of street photograpy.  like martha, i have to remind myself in polite company that kathy hale does not exist, did not exist—is the figment of latch key child's imagination—
but in my mind she reigns supreme, up there with bresson, arbus and — ansel adams...i don't know, not the real ansel admas, i'm not particularly obessesed with landscapes, but you know, the iconic figure, the poster child.  i even go as far to categorize her ouvre fixit series:  the greenwhich village years, upstate wonder bread, eva braun and the dissimulation fixit of times square.  as for her style, i have her running with wolves, with a kind of amazonian femenine insciousance fixit, a street style more remeniscent of winogrand and vivian maier but less overtly artsy, more photojournalistic, more topical, more relevant.  i also have her with a nikon f of course.  there is just something too romantic about a rangefinder, to gentlemanly, too non-commital.  there is a picture i like...david hemming in the park with the legendary nikon f, that big slr 50mm lens soaking up the light.  i see kathy hale in this photo, trolling in the park for some pedophile, cradling her nikon with her left hand, steading the body wide open with some preposterously slow shutter speed.

a word about rangefinders versus slrs or single lens reflex cameras;  rangefinders are the stuff of leisure, fodder for disinherited second sons lamenting their fate and cruizing the outbacks of harlem.  rangefinders are those cameras you see hanging around the necks of well-healed victorians strolling up fifth avenue fixit, with vintage leather straps and voigtlander light meters fixit.  they are slim, sleek and retro looking, james bond styling with little shiny buttons that look mysterious and inviting.  they are almost exclusively leicas, little precision fixit german works of art that have very few moving parts, no batteries and last for decades, half milleniums.  slrs or single lens reflex cameras were perfected by the japanese in the late fifties, though not invented of course.  they imploy a through-the-lens focusing system that allows precise composition by placing a mirror in front of the film which reflects light from the lens up to another mirror in a prisim or viewfinder.  in essense, with slrs, what you see is what you get.  not so with rangerfinders.  they use a viewfinder off to the side of the lens.  they use an ingenious though less than perfect light patch which can be used to focus with fairly decent accuracy.  slrs are bigger cameras.  they have bigger lenses which must be placed slightly further away from the film plane so as not to interfear with the mirror which must be flipped up to allow light to reach the film (or in the case of digital cameras, the sensor).  this design makes the images of an slr camera slightly less sharp than a rangefinder.  also, the mirrors of slrs move at lightening fast speeds which can cause blurring at slower shutter speeds, even with the use of a tripod.

but there are some serious focus issues with the rangefinder, especially at longer focal lengths, telephoto etc.  some of these issues can be resolved with special viewfinders but in the field, it's a bit akin to asking a pap to shoot jeffery daumer emerging from a jailhouse and then handing him a 20 X 24 poloroid camera.  if you don't get the message, just google the camera and all will be revealed.

i'm not knocking rangefinders...really, i'm not.  i own three myself;  a leica m3, an m6 and of course the leica m9, all of which can utilize the same brilliant leica glass.  i am on occassion that wandering victorian gentleman wielding an aged leather camera strap persusing the back streets of north hollywood...  here's the official line and you would do well to memorize it...