The irrational story of why I bought a Leica M3 by Deen Schroeder

I started shooting film in March of 2016 and when I fell into it I wanted a Leica as my first film camera. That naive hope soon faded away when I saw the prices that they sell for and the overwhelming variety of bodies and lenses to choose from.

The last year has been filled with lots of film exploration, experimentation and learning but I had a serious case of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). You may laugh, but every photographer has been afflicted by GAS at some point. I would buy new cameras whenever I got the chance, I would hunt for bargains, buy new formats just to give it a go and before long I had collected about 20 cameras.

Having a collection of cameras may sound appealing but it can be the complete opposite. You end up  spoilt for choice and indecisive about what to shoot and when to shoot it. Choice, in this case, was detrimental to me taking photos.

In April of this year, a year after receiving my first roll of film back from the lab, I made the decision to stop chasing my dream camera and commit to it. The dream camera was the double stroke Leica M3 – the quintessential Leica in my opinion. It is a fully mechanical rangefinder and the first M-Mount Leica. The Germany engineering and brass construction make for one seriously beautiful piece of kit. I have always described as “Sex in brass and glass.”

Buying a 60-year-old camera is completely irrational in 2017 when there are better, more convenient options but if we did everything for the sake of convenience we would not pursue the things that we love most. Practicality goes out the window when emotions are involved.

We love with our hearts and our souls. It is not rational and it never will be, but fuck it, I love making photos with my Leica. 

 Images shot on my Double Stroke Leica M3 with the Leica 50mm Summicron Dual-Range

THE BAND FROM MONTREAL by Deen Schroeder

When I was growing up, I was taught to never speak to strangers. It's funny how much the world has changed, especially with the connections that are fostered on Social Media. 

A few weeks ago, I was tagged in a post on a Film Photography Facebook page.  A Canadian was on his way to Johannesburg and was looking for anyone that may be keen to shoot some film and check out the streets of Jozi. I am always keen to show people the city and I love telling people from far away lands that Johannesburg is the largest man-made forest in the world. 

Jonathan, who initially messaged me actually plays the bass for Samito and he asked me if I had some free time on the weekend to shoot the performances. Initially, there was hesitation, but I thought it might be fun. It turned out to be a truly epic experience and I followed the band around from one gig to the next on Saturday and became a tour guide on Sunday. 

What started as a random comment on a Facebook group led to a great weekend with a bunch of awesome French Canadians from Montreal. We spoke about music, culture, photography and everything in between. Check out some of the photos from the gig, as well as the film photos from the weekend - and before you leave, have a listen to one of Samito's tracks at the end of this post. 

I also managed to capture some moments on film, because film is great! This was my first time shooting with Cinestil 50D and I am incredibly pleased with the results. 

Have a listen to Samito before you leave :) 

THE GOLIATH COMEDY EXPERIENCE by Deen Schroeder

I have been watching live stand up comedy for over 10 years. Over the past decade, I have been lucky enough to spend time with the country's best comedians and made a few great friends along the way. The amount of time I've spent in comedy clubs around the country, hanging  with comedians, roaming around festivals and actually performing on stage has given me a deep appreciation for the craft of Comedy. 

When Kate Goliath contacted me and asked if I would be willing to shoot 6 nights of comedy at The Goliath & Goliath Comedy Experience, I said that I would absolutely love to do it. The Goliath's gave me a fairly open brief and encouraged me to shoot what I want to in the way that I best suits my style of photography.

During the week I gravitated towards candid shots of the performers in the backstage area. The moments just before they got on stage and faced the crowds, the time when you actually see the craft behind the laughter, the silliness between the comedians and the human side of these performers. 

These are some of my favorite moments from the Goliath Comedy Experience.

The Camera Chronicles: My Dad's Yashica by Deen Schroeder

After shooting for less than 2 months, I was completely overwhelmed by GAS (gear Acquisition Syndrome). I was frantically researching new cameras every day and watching everything I could find on YouTube that related to film photography. Mild obsession was setting in and taking hold. This is the story about how I got my hands on my Dad's Yashica.

When I was a kid, my Dad had film cameras and would often take photos in and around the house. The memories aren’t very clear because I must have been 3 or 4 at the time but there definitely were cameras around the house and I was curious to find out if those cameras were still in the family.

I had been chatting to my Dad about the film cameras that I had bought and shared photos of the cameras and examples of my early film photographs. My Dad then sent me a couple of snaps of his old cameras and asked me if I would like any of them. My G.A.S. kicked in and I said, “Hell yeah!”

The only problem was that I live in Johannesburg and my Dad stays in Cape Town.

Luckily, I ended up in Cape Town a few weeks later for some Instagram work and spent time with my Dad catching up and talking about film photography. At my dad’s place, he rummaged through his cupboards and pulled out a box of old cameras and long expired film. I remember seeing the leather case of the Yashica and thinking that this camera must have seen so much in its time. I slowly took the camera out of the case and the worn-out leather gave way to a beautiful little Yashica Minister D. The chrome metal and black exterior of the camera looked to be in great condition considering its age and the fact that it had been hidden in a box for about 20 years. My Dad had bought this little rangefinder second hand in the late 60s for only R20.

The big question was, as it always is with film cameras, does it work?

The Yashica Minister D is a rangefinder. This tiny little camera also has a simplistic light metering system that seemed to work perfectly, a mechanical shutter priority type system and all of the manual controls are housed on the lens itself. The camera also has a leaf shutter system which makes for one stealthy little camera system.

I found a roll of expired Fuijifilm Superia in the camera box and decided to load it into the camera and start shooting. The roll stayed in the camera for a month or two and when the counter hit 36, I started rewinding the film, as one should, and as I opened the camera I was confronted with the most horrible sight for any film shooter. I opened the camera in daylight and saw the spool on one side of the camera and the entire roll of film on the take-up spool. The film had been exposed to light and there was no way of recovering any of the pictures I had taken during the previous months. Unfortunately, the film tore off the actual spool and I was completely unaware of that. Sigh…

This was a harsh but necessary lesson about film and one that I am glad that I have learned. Nothing is perfect and there are no guarantees;  hope for the worst and be surprised by anything better. I was disappointed but I realised that all the disappointment in the world would not bring those photos back. The only way to get over it was to load up another roll of film and make some new photos.

The results of my first roll were interesting, to say the least. The 50-year-old camera did have a few quirks that were only revealed by shooting with it. Major light leaks, problems with the film advance mechanism and the sticky shutter were not obvious until seeing those negatives for the first time.

I have decided not to fix up the camera and rather to use it as is for future little experiments with film. These are the results from my first roll on my Dad’s Yashica Minister D.

 

 

The Camera Chronicles: My Nikon from Prague by Deen Schroeder

Not all of my cameras are from far-flung parts of the world but there are a few that have made their way through customs in the suitcases of friends and family. This is the story about my all-time favorite 35mm camera, the beautiful Nikon FE2.

In May last year, my mom attended a conference in Prague and I asked if she could try to find me a cool old camera if she had time between her busy work schedule. She said she would try, provided that I find the store, find the camera and give her directions from her hotel to the camera store.

This seems like a relatively easy task but it really wasn’t and at that time I didn’t know that much about the variety of cameras that might be available in Europe. I cracked my knuckles and started sifting through the Google search results and before long I found a camera store, FotoSkoda.

As my luck would have it, the entire website was in Czech and Google translate really didn’t help that much. I went through the site and at first, it really didn’t look like they carried any vintage cameras. (When looking for film cameras always search for Vintage Cameras, that search term always seems to deliver better results). I did a little more research on forums and figured that FotoSkoda is the best bet, but there would be no guarantees that there would be any decent vintage cameras there.

This store was in the heart of Prague and roughly 3km from the hotel that my mother was staying at, it was perfect. I promptly sent my mom a screenshot of the directions from her hotel to the store and my wishlist of a Nikon F3 or FM. The internet told me that these were classic cameras with real street cred.

I remember when this all happened because it was on a Friday afternoon, I was driving from work in Sandton to visit a friend and I was stuck in traffic on Rivonia road. My mom started sending me WhatsApp messages to say that she was at the store. The fact that she sent me a WhatsApp is key, because she did not have international roaming and the only way for her to communicate with me was when she was in a WIFI area. Somehow, she convinced the store owners to let her use their WIFI to get in contact with me and find out what I wanted.

I was still stuck in traffic and I didn’t know anything about any cameras other than the Nikon F3 and FM2. My mom let me know that they do not have any of the ones I wanted but would I be keen on a Nikon FE2 or a few other options (I honestly can’t remember which ones she had seen). This was stressful for me and I’m pretty sure it was annoying for my mom. I started doing some online research and replying to my mom whilst I was driving.

My mother sent me a photo of the Nikon FE2 and it looked to be in such amazing condition. Before I accidentally drove into someone’s bumper, I took a leap of faith and said, “Get the Fe2.”

I could not have expected to fall in love with a camera as much as I have with this one. It is, without a doubt, my favourite 35mm camera. The camera came with a simple, but wonderful 50mm f1.8 lens and the setup just looks so damn sexy. This simple little film camera from the late 70s works like a charm and everything feels so intuitive.

The FE2 is my go to 35mm camera and I have even taken it with me to the heart of the Namibian desert. I have shot more rolls of film on this camera than any other, and I can’t wait to shoot many more.

My mother was a super trooper and brought back an absolute gem of a camera and even scored a free roll of Fomopan 200. Have a look at the results from my very first roll.

The Camera Chronicles: Asahi Pentax SP1000 by Deen Schroeder

I believe that every film camera has its own story and this series will be a telling of how my love of film cameras started and how each camera found its way into my possession. The weird and wonderful world of film photography is not easy to get into and understand but hopefully, through the telling of these stories, you will gain insight into this world, my many random adventures, the wonderful people that have crossed my path and the reasons why I love film.

In March 2016, I was lucky enough to travel to Madrid but this is not a post about my travels but more about how I found my very first film camera.

Unlike many other photographers, I was not born into a family that had a history of photographers. My grandfather never shot on Hasselblad’s and no one handed me a beautiful old camera after learning that I had a keen interest in photography. My journey was a little different and it was a path I started on by myself.

I remember landing in Madrid and arranging to meet with two people that I had met through Instagram for a local tour through the heart of Madrid. We walked from street to street, stopping at interesting landmarks and I my Spanish tour guides bombarded with loads of interesting facts about this the city. One of them noticed my wrist strap for my digital camera and thought he should get a similar one for himself from one of the local camera stores. We found a tiny little store and went in with the hopes of finding a writs strap for my new Spanish friend. At that time, I was not a gear fanatic and I had no intentions of buying anything, but the store did have a selection film cameras on display. It was in this tiny little store in an even smaller alley near Plaza Major that the film bug bit. I needed to get myself a camera before leaving Madrid. 

I didn’t buy a camera immediately because we were on a mission and I wanted to do a little more research on film cameras and their prices.

A couple of days later I decided to go back to the same store and attempt to buy the Minolta X-700 that I had eyed on the shelf. To my complete dismay, I could not find the store and I did not take note of the store's name. I walked up and down the tiny little streets in the hopes of finding the obscure little camera store. After about an hour of wandering, I found an old faded Kodak sign on a wall, but it was dark and nothing looked familiar. This had to be the shop but it was definitely closed and hidden behind a complexly opaque security door.

It was the night before my flight back home and it was looking like I would not be leaving Spain with a film camera. I was despondent but I could not give up. I would find myself a film camera for a decent price somewhere in Madrid.

On the last morning in Madrid I decided to test out my skills with Google and found two camera stores that might sell film cameras. It needs to be said that all of the sites were in Spanish and not very user-friendly. The two stores that I did eventually find were underwhelming, to say the least. The first was touristy camera shop with a couple of cheap digital cameras on display and the second had a few old cameras but the combination of a tiny range and terrible customer service lead me to walk out without a camera.


Completely disappointed by this failed mission we started making our way back to Plaza Del Sol to catch a train back to the hotel and by what can only be described as divine intervention we decided to take a new path back to Plaza del Sol and we stumbled across the B&H of Madrid, Fotocasion. This was the mother of all camera stores and bigger than any store in South Africa. They had a wide range of modern gear and more importantly, they had an entire section dedicated to analogue photography. The cabinets were filled with Leica, Hassleblad, Nikon, Canon, Pentax and a whole lot of other brands that I had never heard of before.

I was overwhelmed.

In the first 2 minutes in front of the cabinet, I realised that I was ill-equipped to make an informed decision about what camera to get. It didn’t help that no one in the store spoke a word of English and my Spanish doesn’t go further than “Ola!”

I must have spent about an hour in from of the cabinets drooling over the incredible cameras and the hundreds of classic lenses. Eventually, I decided the best way is to start with a budget. 200 Euros would be my budget and I would try to get something easy to use and completely manual. This seemed to be an easy enough formula to convey to one of the clerks and he handed me a few options and  I settled on an Asahi Pentax. The clerk even threw in a free roll of black and white film.

It’s not fancy and rather basic, but I finally had my first film camera. The Asahi Pentax SP1000 with the Super Takumar 55mm f2.

Buying my first film camera was an exhilarating experience but as soon as I got back to the hotel I realised that I don’t know how the camera works, I don’t know how to load film and I have no idea how the light meter worked. I knew absolutely nothing about film photography.

When in doubt, do some research. I started reading and searching for YouTube tutorials on the camera. There are tonnes of videos about film cameras online but only for the popular brands and well-known models. I managed to find a 30-minute video that explained every part of the Asahi Pentax SP1000 and before long, I loaded up my first roll of film.

The first shot on film was not easy because we had no time to spare and had to catch a taxi to the airport. Whilst waiting outside our hotel, I took the camera and tried to get something that felt like Madrid. I had no idea what I was doing but I hoped that I followed the instructions laid out in that video correctly and snapped my first and only film photo from Madrid.

That single click of the shutter in the streets of Madrid started a passion for photography that I had never felt before using digital. I had loved photography before that click, but in those moments I fell in love with photography in a whole new way.

This is every shot from my first roll on my first camera.