Who Loves Ya, Baby?: The Leica Hektor, My Salad and A Baby Portrait Session

I am not a baby photographer. I am sure that all photographers say that until the world tells them otherwise. Still, a friend from work has used my services twice in the last year to chronicle the first few months of her son, D. He is a cute, little guy, and my two dogs would love to slobber all over him, but for this recent session we set up a mini-studio for me to shoot him over my lunch break. For the portrait his mom wanted an image to match one she had done of his sister, so with digital snapshot in hand we went to work. I decided to use the Canon EOS Mk.III with a Canon 50mm f.1.2. L series lens. I needed to shoot quickly, without lights and on a black background that would soak up whatever light there was available. The images would have to be wide open and soft, but the eyes would become the focal point.

So how does one take a baby portrait? I do not know; I aim to have them look into the lens and smile before they become self-conscious. Fortunately for me, a family member [or V.] has always been more than willing to bounce a stuffed toy on my head while I focus and shoot. Is there any more degrading act for a photographer than to have a dinosaur or dog toy squeaked on his head: missing the shot, the moment and the point. My job is not to look cool, be cooler than the models on set, and talk about what Madonna said to Bieber at the club last night after our work together. I am the guy who takes a photograph that matters enough for a mom to drag her child across town and pays me in the hope that I am better than the kid at Wal-Mart. I am.

First shot was the best shot, but in the end we came away with a fun selection of faces that the little guy can enjoy when he takes home his first date to meet mom. While I am not ever going to branch out and photograph newborns dressed like flowers, pumpkins or fairies, I was happy with the quality of the work I did and felt it matched nicely with his newborn photograph.

Salads are key to winter survival. I am still working on improving my health – despite being out weight-lossed by the Mayor Who Ate Toronto – but it is a struggle in Febtober to do anything except hibernating from the dark and cold. My current strategy is to remain consistent in my exercise by doing short routines on a nightly basis. Twenty minutes after work is much easier to convince yourself into that a 2 hour yoga or P90X class. If I can survive the next month without gaining weight, then I will be happy with that, because weight gain in this climate is biologically designed to happen this time of year. The lettuce was kissed by a dijon vinagrette I made from scratch, and I topped it with a know of goat cheese and a few mignon artichoke hearts. On the artichoke hearts – I bought a bottle for $14.99 on the weekend and they have to be the nicest treat ever. Made by Jesse Tree, I think, they brought a wee bit o’spring into the week’s meals.

From Atlanta I received my latest shipment of photographic tools: a Leica Hektor f.4.5 lens, 6 Riteway film holders for the 4×5 Linhof camera, and two Really Right Stuff arca-style plates. For our March visit to Thunder Bay, V. wanted me to bring the Linhof 4×5 camera, and that meant I needed to track down a load of holders to make it worthwhile to haul the gear as my carry-on. Keh.com had a few holders in stock, so I bought them all because these are not the easiest thing to track down, especially if you want them all to be of the same manufacturing. In the dark I want to be confident loading the film without worrying about which holder I have in my hands.

The camera plates were a steal, and I needed one for the Linhof to be used on the Arca-Swiss ball head. These appear to be old-school plates that had seen use, but I am totally cool with that, as these are really just blocks of machined metal.

Lastly…the dark horse of the shipment: a Hektor lens in UG grade for $45. Yep, a Leica lens for $45. To be fair, this is reportedly Leica’s worst lens ever, and it is far from being a sexy 35mm Summilux f.1.4, but I just had to take a chance that it was UG because it was ugly and not it terrible shape. I am overjoyed at its condition, and am looking forward to trying it out tomorrow for fun. I think that at the end of the day the point of a lens purchase like this is to just get one out taking photographs when you might otherwise not bother.

Why buy a 135mm lens for a camera built to optimally use 21-50mm? Curiousity, queerness and continuity. The 135mm Hektor is soft, entry-level lens from the best lens manufacturer in the world. Cool. I just want to see what I can make it do, and with EVIL mirrorless cameras on the loose one can be just a lens adapter away from using such a lens for great artistic efforts in the digital realm. The lens is still an all-metal, precision tool that is just quirky enough to possibly take that unexpected great portrait. Cool. My Leica M3 was a gift. I love it dearly for how it makes me feel when I go out with it on the street. I feel like a real photographer who wears black, drinks coffee and captures people’s essences while no one watches: Herr Anton Khandler. My other two lenses are also chrome, vintage and have 39mm filters; the Hektor fits nicely into the aesthetic, and $45 is the best game in town. I bet you paid more for at least one lens you own that is plastic un-fantastic. Oh…and while it looks odd, the Hektor actually feels brilliant on the M3. Let’s roll…

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