The Search For Lucille

I’ve been trying to avoid the conversation of camera gear over the past few months, while I dig deeper into the theory behind my work. But I want to share a conversation going on in my head as of late. 

Growing up I remember sitting in my room, sifting through my dads tape & record collection, listening to the smooth sounds of Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, Dire Straights & Clapton. I gravitated towards blues guitar like a fly to a flame. I would run from tape to tape, a-side to b-side, at volumes that I’m sure have effected my hearing. Still today I will put on an album and relax to the warm screech’s of the Black Keys or Joe Bonamassa. But there was no one that caught my attention more than the late legend BB King! 

First things first, if you don’t know who BB King is, I need you to stop reading right now and head to youtube for the next 4 hours to soak up some classic blues legend! Seriously… go do it!

My father and I had the great pleasure of seeing BB in concert a few years back. It was magical! There is no mistaking the signature sounds BB would pull out of his big Gibson hollow body he had named Lucille (10 points to anyone who caught the title reference before reading the article). So warm, so intentional. Here was an artist who had not only mastered his tool, but had built a relationship with it for more than 35 years and over 40 albums (studio & live included). 

What does all this mean to what I’ve been wrestling with in my head? To put it simple I envy the way Lucille was the extension of BB’s creative vision. He knew her sound and what he could make with her. I’ve heard him say in interviews that he simply brings two guitars with him on a concert travel series, his main body and a single backup. Thats a vast difference from the great deal of cameras I bring with me to shoot. 

To give you an idea, my daily carry bag alone has no less than 3 camera bodies in it at any given moment. 85-90% of the time those three cameras are my Canon F1n w/50 1.4, Minolta AFS-v point and shoot and my soviet Kiev 4 rangefinder with either the Jupiter 35mm 2.8 or whatever 54mm something or other I have for it. Thats just for my daily street shooting. I’ve also been lugging my recently acquired Pentax 67 & 105 2.4 around (which I have been falling more and more in love with!!). Then there are the other cameras that get worked into the mix. A Yashica 124g TLR, Mamiya RZ67 w/127mm, Polaroid 250 Land Camera, Polaroid One Step sx70, Holga, Canon A2, back up Canon F1 and my beloved Mamiya 645 that Emily got me as a wedding present. Thats not including the various cameras Ive picked up at thrift stores, garage sales and craigslist finds that I’m testing to resell. I think you get the point… This setup is far different than the one and done approach BB has taken for the vast duration of his career.

Film Cameras

I would equate my approach, up to this point, to be to be more along the lines of blues rockers like Joe Bonamassa or Dan Auerbach. They might have anywhere from 5-10 different guitars on stage with them at a concert, not to mention the backups that are ready to go incase one on stage gives out. I watch rig rundown videos quite often and am amazed at the vintage beauties these guys rock out on. I have no clue what the heck a humbucker pick up is, but these dudes sure do like finding vintage guitars that have them. Some songs might call for a guitar with 2 pickups, maybe 3, or a stiffer neck, etc. I follow Joe Bonamassa quite a bit on social media, and he’s always posting videos about his vintage strat’s, les paul’s, hybrid’s or whatever that he’s working into his rotation at the moment. He used to have rooms in his house just for his massive vintage guitar collection. Thats just on the guitar side, then you start talking about the various amps and pedal systems he’s working with and switching out… etc.

Lately, I’ve just been falling into the place of wondering if Im limiting my work by allowing too many technical options. I don’t know that I have come to the place where I could consolidate down to one camera, but I love the fact that BB found his sound. He zero’d in on it year after year, quite literally to the day he died. I think of guys like Henri Cartier Bresson & Elliot Erwitt who were famously know for shooting solely on Leica. Richard Avedon and the Hasselblad, Robert Capa and the Contax ii, the list goes on and on of photographers who found their “sound”. On the other hand you have Annie Lebovitz who shot a myriad of cameras, from 35mm to medium & large format. I can’t help but respect the fact that Dan Auerbach will search through guitars in used guitar shops until he hears the “right sound” for the song at hand.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here. I just enjoy asking challenging questions, and have been listening to a lot of blues rock lately haha. Am I going to sell off all of my gear in the near future.. probably not. But I am listing some of the ones that haven’t come off the shelf in a couple months. I have the cameras in mind that I will be keeping (for reference: Canon F1n, Pentax 67, Mamiya 645, Minolta Afs-v), I also want to try and get my hands on a Leica M3 within the next couple months to see how I prefer it to my F1 and minolta p&s (Specifically for my street work and lifestyle portraiture). Im sure I will keep you posted on instagram and through other blog posts. Until then, the search for Lucille continues!

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a single piece of equipment that you use, or do you bounce back and forth between different cameras? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below. Also if you found this article interesting, consider subscribing to the blog on the sidebar to your right. Im trying to keep my writings well rounded, not too lofty in theory of photography, but not too technical on the gear side of things. Either way, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

-Nick

 

18 Comments The Search For Lucille

  1. Istvan December 1, 2016 at 4:42 am

    6 month ago I sold most of my analog 35mm gear and bought a Leica M3 and a Zeiss Sonnar 50mm ZM. I’ve never regretted it. I just never used them (once or twice a year…), and now, the Leica is nearly always in my bag. I still have the Canon new F1 as you, it is just too good to sell it. πŸ™‚ For medium format I have the Pentax 67II, and I would never sell it as well, using it all the time for portrait sessions.

    Reply
    1. Nick Exposed December 1, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks for the comment Istvan! I have a big feeling my setup is going to end up looking a lot like yours. I dont know if I could ever bring myself to sell my F1n. But I do think a M3 is going to compliment my creative vision and the way I work. And the P67 w/105 2.4 setup Ive just started using… Its LEGENDARY! Excited for my wedding season to start back up so I can work it into that flow.

      Reply
  2. Bo Eder December 1, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Hi! As a professional drummer, now at 50 years old, I’ve done the same thing with both my drumming and my photography. I used to own several different sets, a bunch of different cymbals, and all the necessary knick knacks. Then as the years went on, I realized I wasn’t the first-call studio drummer I wanted to be, so I didn’t need a bunch of different cymbals, or 12 snares drums, so it all went slowly away. I’ve been a Pearl Drums Artist for the last four years now and the last kit I got was just four-pieces (think Beatles), a couple of cymbal stands and that was it. So when I go out now, it’s those 4-drums. It’s nice when I go out to a gig now – I know I have everything in the car because the drum room will be empty πŸ˜‰

    When I hobbied as a photographer 17 years ago, like new toys, I had them. I had too many of them. Although when I bought my own set of AlienBees lights, I realized how I didn’t need alot of camera gear to pull off a portrait shoot. So my minimum that I work with right now digitally, are two Canon SL-1’s with the supplied 18-55 kit lens and a 50/1.8. I wanted to keep my feet firmly in film land so I supplement those cameras with a lone EOS-1v, which I’ll either use a 50/1.4 or my 20-35L lens. And that’s it.

    But I guess I had to own the 70-200, and the 85’s, and the 105 macros, and the extra big bodies, and flashes, to find out I didn’t need them for my photography. Just like I did with the drums when I was alot younger. I encourage people to just learn how to max out those cheap kit lenses when they get a new Canon Rebel or a little Nikon D (whatever). And they’re very surprised that my advice is right. So I’m with you – cull down the museum collection and keep what you’ll use. I know my back is alot happier with both of my choices!

    Reply
    1. Nick Exposed December 1, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Hey thanks for the comment Bo!! “Cull down the museum collection and keep what you’ll use” I love that! I think it perfectly describes what needs to happen. Yea simple kits, even small digital and kit lenses can actually get you a long ways when it come to creating. I love the fact that you have that experience both in cameras and drums!

      Reply
  3. Ray Laskowitz December 1, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Oh, but there is an answer. For me. Less gear on the street. Better pictures. The whole idea is to get to a place where you don’t think. Just react. If I gotta fumble around in my bag looking for a body or lens, the pictures just walks on by. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. Nick Exposed December 1, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      Great point Ray! To be fair I tend to have picked one camera and stuck with it for the day, which was making it so easy to justify keeping them all. It wasn’t necessarily getting in the way of me taking pictures. But has gotten in the way in the sense of each time I shoot with a different camera, no matter how long I have shot it in the past, I have to adjust the way Im seeing from the previous camera to match the one in my hand. That small shift has probably left many pictures uncaptured.

      Reply
  4. Marland D Miller December 1, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Limited photography budget, since it is a hobby, and doesn’t bring in money! Unless a photo shoot for a friend, who later took us out to eat! Also, I don’t get the 10 pts. for recognizing “Lucille!” I do use my Canon 7D, since it was given to me by a friend, when he found out my 400D was stolen.

    Reply
    1. Nick Exposed December 1, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Haha its alright Marland, the 10 pts were un-redeamable anyways. lol. And yes a limited budget helps to limit gear. Somehow though, I have still managed to acquire a whole lot over the last few years. Thanks for your comment!! And the 7D is a fantastic piece of gear. I shot professionally with it for many years.

      Reply
  5. Michael December 1, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Hi Nick,
    As you know from my last post I tried tons of medium format cameras over the last couple of years and I sold all of them. The only camera which made it is my beloved Kiev 60. And yes, I got four Kiev 60 now.

    Why Kiev 60? Very simple, because it is a pure mechanic camera with – sometimes – a lot of quirks. You have to please this camera. Each one is different nd they have a soul just like guitars. You’ll have learn to know her. They are not dependable. But taht is why I love the Kiev 60. You’ll have to treat her right.

    I like different designs like different leather and different hand grips made from special wood. I have one grip made from the plum tree from my fathers garden. This grip is home and family for me when I touch the wood. I do the leathering and hand grips myself. So every of my Kiev 60 cameras is special. Special to me because they are one and only cameras. Nobody else got the same camera. My black Kiev beauty is called Natascha. The daily workhorse is named Olga. And now I look for another black body to re-leather with red leather. For the street dressed like a hooker…

    If I were you I would keep the Pentax 67 and your Canon F1n and the Minolta p&s. Why try a Leica? As long as you only scan your film and post images just on the net nobody will ever realize if the image was shoot with a Leica. But that is my personal POV. On the other hand you will not loose money when selling the Leica after checking it out. To get your peace in mind buy the Leica and see if the camera will do anything to you… You might keep the Leica and sell all your other cameras. You might find the holy grale and your peace in mind with the Leica. You will not buy to much lenses for your Leica… That is a the good part. The bad part might be that you start to hunt for Leica lenses and spend hours of your precious leisure time on the bay.

    The camera finds you!

    Cheers Michael

    Reply
    1. Nick Exposed December 2, 2016 at 1:26 am

      Hey Michael! As always your comments are so insightful and appreciated. I love that you name all of your Kiev 60’s, and that you customize them with wood and leather yourself. You’re probably right about the picture quality on the Leica when its just scanned. Im more so looking for a shooting experience that best fits my style. I may end up hating it, I may end up loving it, but right now its really the only additional camera I want to try. I did make a big step in consolidating my gear today, and sold my TLR Yashica 124g. It was more difficult than I anticipated in letting that camera go.

      Reply
  6. David December 2, 2016 at 4:04 am

    I use 1 main “carry” camera (Spotmatic ii), a flash camera (ME Super), and one play around camera (Zeiss ikon contaflex ii). I’m just starting out though.

    Reply
    1. Nick Exposed December 2, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      Simple setup! I like it. How do you like that contaflex ii?

      Reply
      1. David December 4, 2016 at 9:08 am

        I love it! I didn’t even know if it was functioning when I bought it, but the test roll came out great. That leaf shutter really makes some great pictures.

        Reply
        1. Nick Exposed December 5, 2016 at 1:38 am

          Nice! Ive been searching for one at the local thrift and flee markets, but haven’t had any luck yet.

          Reply
  7. Jeff Walin December 2, 2016 at 4:53 am

    I think for me, one who has collected far too much film gear and not shot it enough, it really boils down to the lenses. I have some lenses from each manufacturer that I don’t want to get rid of, like the Konica 50/1.7 and the 40/1.8. That means I have to have a Konica AR mount body, so I keep a few around just in case one has trouble, because they are old! Likewise I have Pentax, Nikon, Olympus, Petri, Canon, etc. lenses that I am attached to, and even some camera bodies I love…like the Pentax KX, the Canon EOS 3, etc. I usually gravitate to one for a while, and then see a picture that I want o use a Pentax 50/1.4 on, so I pull out the KX, or maybe the Spotmatic, etc, etc, etc!!! I am more ‘Lucille about which film I use…..I’m in love with Ektar 100, and Portra 400, and for mono it’s TMAX. And speaking of TMAX, if I’m shooting that, it’s likely on my Agfa Isolette III or (soon ) the Record III I just bought….

    So, I guess my outlook is: it’s the music that matters, and whatever tools you need to create it are just that…TOOLS FOR YOU TO USE for your artistic vision. Maybe everything BB had to say was said with a Lucille. Maybe Jimi spoke his truest on a Strat. Knopfler found his voice on the Strat, and now plays a les Paul. And, Les Paul AND Leo Fender created something entirely new to find their voice……

    Don’t let the tools get in the way of your music, and we’ll all be better off for it!!

    Reply
    1. Nick Exposed December 2, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Great comments Jeff! Im with you on the fact that the lenses have for the most part determined which cameras I keep in my collection. I love my 50 1.4 SSC on the F1n, and the 105 2.4 is legendary on the Pentax 67. And I definitely agree its the “music” or final product that matters. Thanks again for your comment!

      Reply
  8. Kevin Kethcart April 15, 2017 at 8:02 am

    I’m still too early in my film journey to pick one camera. I’m having too much fun trying out different 35mm cameras, and, who knows what will happen when I give a go at medium format. However, one day, I could see the allure of stripping down to 1 or 2 cameras, knowing them like the back of your hand and focusing solely on capturing what is inspired. But for now, I am going to keep trying no cameras until I know what I like, and don’t like. I already have discovered… I am not a rangefinder person.

    Reply
    1. Nick Exposed April 16, 2017 at 1:51 am

      Hey Kevin, Thanks for swinging by the blog. I don’t blame you man, give all the cameras a go that you can and find what works for you. I hated rangefinders for the longest time because I was so used to slr setups, but over time really gravitated back towards them in my personal work. And definitely give medium format a shot when you can, even if its a holga. The quality you get from the larger negatives is unreal! Thanks again for the comment. Talk soon, cheers.

      Reply

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