Last week, a colleague and I flew to Norway for work on a project in Stavanger. Yesterday, we finally had an opportunity to get out for a little while. For this outing, I carried only my cherished Minolta Rokkor PG 58mm f/1.2 mounted to an A7RmkII. While 58mm can be a little bit long for landscapes, it makes up for it by well-accommodating most subjects you’d come across in a busy city.
I noticed that on my last few trips for work, I strayed away from my usual approach in the simplicity of carrying one lens. I seem to have inadvertently returned to my ‘more is more’ bent. To get back away from that, all I have to do is remind myself that I shot all of my images of Brasil with only one lens; the excellent Nikon AF-D 50mm f/1.4. I massively enjoyed the challenge of shooting with one lens, and my back was pretty happy about that too. Sure I missed some shots I know could have gotten with a wider or longer lens but who cares. I’m not shooting for awards, prizes, recognition, or money. I’m shooting because I enjoy it. It’s calming, decompressing effect on me is second only to reading the Bible and talking with my wife. I think the reason I’ve gone back to carrying more gear is because of my ever-growing interest in the acquisition, restoration, and use of old, manual focus lenses. After toiling away for hours or days at breathing new life into an old, forgotten gem, you find you want to bring them all with you on your next shooting trip. After decades of sitting unused in cluttered cardboard boxes or atop the dusty shelves of a camera shop, they deserve to once again feel the light of day pass through them. Ok, to be clear here, I’m not anthropomorphizing my lenses. I just appreciate these old works of art and craftsmanship perhaps a little more than I should. Simply put, they’re nothing more than man’s skillful arrangement of glass and metal for the purpose of gathering light and re-focusing it. What makes them special to me is that each of these lenses does this in it’s own unique way. Their weathered, scratched and beaten appearance only contributes to their vulnerability in a marketplace filled with modern, computer-designed replacements. If flawlessly rendered images of brick walls and test charts is what a person is after, not many of the lenses in my collection will impress. If, however, you shoot for the enjoyment of the artform and desire to uniquely retell a moment in time, these cleaned and readjusted has-beens can paint light for you in a way their replacements have long forgotten how. The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi best explains my sentiment toward the lenses I’ve collected. Simply put, wabi is an appreciation for simplicity, while sabi attempts to describe the appreciation for distress and imperfection born out of the natural impermanence of all things. In this light, my wabi-sabi lenses, old and battered as they are, are beautiful.
WOW! I totally derailed there.. What was that, like 500 words of nothing pertaining to the title of this post? That was like a derail that went through the woods and down the side of a mountain and into a river. The funny thing is, I only have a few crappy images to share. Having company with me on this walkabout, I didn’t want to be rude by making him stop every 10 feet so I can ponder composition and wabi-sabi of an old street lamp covered in rust and seagull poop.
ONWARD TO PHOTOS!
Coffee was an absolute must after our confusing morning of trying to figure out the Kolumbus Bus System. After our trip from Sadness to Stavanger, we found a little cafe tucked back in one of the narrow, cobbled alleyways of the waterfront in Stavanger. This colorful stained-glass door caught my eye while we sat inside slurping a cup of hot coffee. Classic jazz playing over the speakers lent to the cozy atmosphere of this cafe with its walls festooned in old photos of The Greats. At the table we sat, just over my shoulder, a photo of the lovely Ella Fitzgerald clung precariously to an old, distorted nail. Ella is one of my all-time favorites. My 6th daughter’s middle name is Ella, after Mrs. Fitzgerald. Listen to ‘Embraceable You’ on her Verve Records 1959 stereo recording and tell me that is not the most genuine, soulful, gentle approach to that song you’ve ever heard. As warm as it is crystalline, her voice has the unassuming power to melt even the sourest of moods into a puddle of compliant relaxation.
An old cathedral, in fact the oldest in Norway.
Inside the cathedral, the big stained-glass windows cast their colorful light onto the dark, stony interior. The crowd of visitors made shooting uncluttered images a real challenge.
f/1.2 to the rescue! Nothing a little narrow depth-of-field can’t fix. Crowds = silky drapes in the background.
Back out on the street, wandering aimlessly to see what we could see. The colorful structures at the end of the street are part of the Norwegian Petroleum Museum. After making them safe, old oilfield equipment has been re-used to create a unique and colorful playground for the kids. No hardhat and safety boots required.
I really like the shape and texture of cobblestone streets. Much of the waterfront district of Stavanger is paved in cobblestone. It reminds me of where I lived in Germany back in the 80’s.
We closed out the evening with a little sit down outside, along the harbor. The air was cold but at least it wasn’t windy. The tables had heaters built into them to help stave off the chill.
All in all, it was a nice break from the work we’ve been doing here over the past week. I hope to have a chance to get out for another wander before I head back home.
I’m off to bed now. I hope you enjoyed the few photos.