“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”– Henri Cartier-Bresson
at night can be one of the most difficult tests of not only a
photographer but also a camera. There are limited sources of light and
even when there is, it is a fickle mistress. I couldn’t think of a
better way to test out one of the camera’s we have on offer, the Contax
G1. This camera is famous for its ease of use, being that it’s the only
autofocus rangefinder ever made (bar the later iteration of the G
camera), but also its fantastic quality. So I couldn’t think of a better
camera to try out my film shooting skills, especially because I have
never shot on film before.
5:50pm on Friday night - 10 minutes before George’s
Cameras closes. The shopkeeper is digging through their ‘spares’ tub for
stray film stock, looking for the highest ISO (light sensitivity), high
quality film stock he could find for me; Portra 400 it is. This film is
widely known as a sharp, fine grain, beautifully coloured,
‘professional level’ film. No pressure.
Living in Sydney all my life it’s hard to be excited about seeing the
sights of Sydney, but I was excited to see what Sydney had to offer
through a lens, specifically the Zeiss 45mm f2. Since the day was gone,
and night had well and truly come, I set the aperture wide open at f2
and it didn’t move from there, I needed as much light as I could get. I
started at town hall and made my way along George Street looking for
every, and all opportunities to fire the shutter. Even though I had
never been brave enough to try it until now, I personally find shooting
people the most interesting, I am definitely no Vivian Maier, but the
spontaneity and the character is my favourite part; trying to be
inconspicuous while pointing a camera towards someone, not so much. But
the fantastic thing about the G1 is its autofocus, its ‘non-threatening’
friendly exterior, and its quiet shutter, which makes taking candid
shots really easy. All you had to do was fire the shutter and the camera
figures everything else out. It’s the most automated experience you’ll
find in a rangefinder.
I looked for wherever there was obvious light; shop windows, lamp posts, trams, walkways, you name it.
“Light makes photography. Embrace light.
Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are
worth, and you will know the key to photography.” - George Eastman, Co-founder of Kodak
I had managed to make my way all the way
down to Circular Quay, and still hadn’t used up a roll of 36 exposures. I
noticed an ice cream shop I’d usually pass was ‘throwing out’ some
really nice light, but there was only one problem, there were no
customers. So I parked myself opposite the shop and waited for someone
brave enough to spend $10 on one scoop of ice cream. It took 10 minutes
but finally, a father and daughter arrived to treat themselves. I only
had one condition before firing the shutter; I wanted someone pointing
at the cabinet, which without knowing, the subject delivered.
Not too long after, I had ended up at the
Opera House; I had finally run out of film. It took me about an hour and
a half to take 36 photos which I was quite surprised with.
So for someone who grew up in the digital age and was never exposed to
film, what did I learn? Firstly, it is not as daunting as it seems. I
think a lot of that is because the camera I chose to use for my first
time was really a no fuss, easy to use, but professional camera. It was
also a great thing to be able to disassociate from technology from a bit
and not be distracted by a screen, I was much more meticulous and
thoughtful because of the finite number of shots available, but also I
had to pre-empt and compose in a way I hadn’t done before. The adventure
of it all was really the best part and the photos were really just a
The next day I took the negatives to Rewind
Photo Lab in Glebe for developing. They processed, scanned and uploaded
my photos the same day for only $15 - even though I took it in 15
minutes before closing. Fantastic service.
The above photos were taken by Michael using the 1994 Contax G1 with a 45mm f2 Zeiss Planar lens shown here.