June 29th, 2012

“One is all you need if you know how to use it.”

– Alan Ladd to Brandon deWilde in “Shane”

So here’s this guy telling me he just shot 2,000 pictures at a wedding, and all I’m thinking is, my, what a nuisance he must have been! I mean, how on earth does one shoot that many pictures of anything? I blame the digital revolution, which has given us cameras that NEVER run out of film!


Here is a camera I bought about twenty years ago in order to shoot a wedding, because there is no group so large that I can’t squeeze everyone onto a single enormous negative. It’s a Fuji 6×9, also known as “a Leica on steroids.” It has nothing in the way of metering, and you have to advance the film manually. When you get to the number 8 it means you have only ONE SHOT REMAINING! That’s right, a 6×9 affords only eight exposures on one roll of 120 film. Then you’ve got to retreat to a shady spot in order to reload, and just like a Leica, a Fuji rangefinder camera is a huge pain in the butt to reload.

So what’s the upside? Well, the camera weighs only about half as much as, say, a Nikon F3, which means it’s easy to carry. I’ve backpacked mine across Europe and Australia, shooting approximately two dozen pictures in each continent. Why so many, you ask? Well, when you really stop to think about it, what is the point of pressing the shutter button time and time again? Think of Shane walking into Grafton’s Saloon for the first time. Did he immediately whip out his pistol and commence shooting all the bad guys in Wyoming? No. He held his fire and bided his time until at last he could get a clear shot at Jack Wilson, the hired gun slinger from Cheyenne.

That’s pretty much the same way I like to operate. I keep my Fuji holstered until I come upon something that strikes me as worth shooting. Like this street scene in Rome, for instance.


I only wish I had taken more time to get the focus right. Did I mention that the Fuji doesn’t automatically focus? Hell, it doesn’t do anything automatically. And honestly, now that my eyesight isn’t quite as keen as it used to be, I should really start thinking about consigning that old camera to my little museum of ancient photographic artifacts. Last time I went to Europe, the Fuji never left my backpack. I mainly shot my shirt pocket sized little Sigma Dp1, also known as the “Honey, I shrunk your Leica!” The Sigma is a fine little camera, but, gosh, I sure do miss the excitement that would erupt whenever I whipped out the Fuji. People on the pavement always stepped aside.

“ My God, what IS that? Look, it says PROFESSIONAL right on the front. This guy is no sodbuster, that’s for sure.”

Once, in Edinburgh, I managed to document a wedding with just one shot from my Fuji. Well, I suppose the wedding was over by the time I got there. I didn’t know the couple, but the light was right and I figured it was a good opportunity to finish off the roll I’d started in Italy. I like this picture. I like the way the groom is striding resolutely toward his future as a married man, while the young boy is being dragged along by flower girls who appear to be more invested in the ceremony than he is. Later on down the road, the lad may figure out what all the fuss is about. Or maybe not.

-Richard Menzies