So much time and mileage has washed by since I was last inspired by a piece of equipment. As a professional photographer, specializing in interior architectural images, I have managed to employ many quality components in my pursuit of salient images for my clients; from the years of sheet film, from 2x3 to 8x10” to, most recently DSLR (35mm) - format, (having skirted the initial insane-asylum of digital revolution!), and settled in with some mainstay tools, I didn’t think that anything, gear-wise, could move my needle.
Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to dissect my vision and, in doing so, distill it by putting the right tools in my hands, while avoiding encumbrance. For “personal work”, I avoided my “business tools”, opting instead for either a nice little digital camera (Fujifilm X100T) or a return to film, via another excursion through Hasselblad.
However, in the last couple of years, my efforts to put the Hasselblad to use have fallen flat, while I find myself making kitchy vacation images with the Fuji.
It took a stroke of happenstance to jar me from my creative slumber. While most of my professional work involves rather somber subject matter, I’ve never lost my love and desire for compelling composition and storytelling. I still arrive at every location/assignment with several cases of lighting, that typically don’t even get used anymore;… I still interpret most of my assignments with the lens that caused me to switch from a decades-long Nikon man to a Canon guy, the 24mm TS-E LII. Plus, I have, on many assignments, rented optics on a “just in case” basis,…namely, Canon’s great 17mm TS-E and 14mm…..But, neither of those ever really guided my vision or my interpretation of the spaces presented to me.
As so many times occurs, the spark came unexpectedly. Nearing a family island vacation, I visited a local camera store, Dodd Camera (I mention them, as so few good camera stores are left!!), to purchase some 120 Tri-X (for the Hasselblad). As is my decades-old habit, I perused the used-gear showcases, I spotted a lens that caught my attention: A Carl Zeiss 21mm Distagon for Canon EF. Now, as a long-time Hasselblad user and view-camera guy, my appreciation for Zeiss optics drew me to this lens. The price tag made me take a second glance. I asked to check it out on a nearby Canon 5D MKIV. I didn’t even need to look through the finder before I knew I would be buying it! The “feel” of the lens transported me back to when quality gear had a substantial and smooth construction. Then, the “just right” angle of view sealed the deal. Yeah, I stood there for, perhaps, 20 seconds before saying, “Yep; wrap it up!”
In another instance of “happenstance”, I wound up utilizing that lens on an important view during my interior assignment that following week, …a view that I would otherwise have made with the 24mm TS-E by shifting and stitching… time-consuming work.
As the vacation ensued, I spent much of the week with either the Fujifilm X100T, or the Canon with a 24-70mm. However, on the last evening on the island, as we embarked to catch an island sunset, I committed myself to the 21mm Zeiss. Boy, was I rewarded!!!