I shot at 50mm for two years.  It was the only M mount lens I owned so it was the only lens that mattered.  During those two years I learned to shuffle my feet, to duck and tippy-toe and bow and every other strange contortion you can make to put your camera where it needs to be.  

After a while I added a 28mm which quickly replaced my 50 for a whole slew of reasons that had little to do with composition or compression.  At the time I had become obsessed with Winogrand and his 28mm lens.  I loved how close he was getting and the way the 28 slightly distorted the perspective of his subjects.  I wanted to push past Cartier-Bresson’s compressed scenes and become more intimate with my framing.  Then, of course, there was hyperlocal on 28mm where at f22 you were in it to win it from a meter.  Oh the joys.  This was going to be the lens for me.  

Except it wasn’t.  It’s an unwieldy beast truth be known. I quickly realized that mastery was going to take me years and years and all this just when I was feeling really good about my 50.  But I pressed on, fucking up all my lines at first, jacking up my perspective all over the place for roll upon roll.  After a while my ratio was starting to get better and compositionally I was getting the hang of it.  I still wasn’t getting as close as I would have liked but it was feeling ok bordering on acceptable.  Then I tried a friend’s 35mm lux.  

That was it.  I was sold after an hour.  It was perfect—not as unwieldy as the 28 and not as compressed as the 50.   I found a nice used 35mm Summicron and from then on out we were like peas and carrots.  I couldn’t part with the 28 as we had grown so close and I secretly hadn’t given up the dream of getting closer, so I stowed it on another body, figuring I would come back to it at some point.  The 50 lux, suffered a different fate.  My once beloved was bardered away for a used Mamyiya 6MF and it’s accompanying lenses at the bargain camera show.  For me the door was closed for 50 on small canvas.  

Until recently.  Anna Maria and I were heading out at sunset to the beach.  She lives for the sea and loves taking pictures at sunset.  By the front door in our house we have a chest of nine drawers, a few of which have old film gear hidden away.  There’s a Nikon FM2F4 and F100 in there, and old Minolta (which Ester just adopted), a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, and a shit ton of old glass.  We were in a bit of a hurry so rather than run to the back of the house to grab my camera bag, I grabbed a roll of Tri-X from the top drawer, the FM2 and a 50 1.4 and away we went.   Sunset was almost over when we got to Tower 26 but before I even noticed what was happening I had burned through most of the roll.  I had forgotten how incredible a camera the FM2 is.  It’s as close to mechanical perfection as you can come with Nikon.  The hammer cocks perfect, the dials click perfect.  The shutter press is perfect.  The view finder is perfect.  The real revelation, however was the 50.  I had forgotten just how surgical it feels–how discerning the framing can be in the right hands.  I realized how much I had missed that perfect bokeh, how it compresses the frame just enough.  It felt like coming home.  I had three pictures left on the roll when I saw the image I wanted to make.      

Anna Maria was gazing out over the sea.  The pier had come to life behind her in a tinkling of multicolor lights.  I swept in behind her getting as close as I could and burned through my last three frames.  Since then I find I’m fighting the urge to take it out again.  I love the images.  What do you think?   

“Home,” shot on a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm 1.4 lens on Kodak Tri-X film pushed to 800 at the Icon.  

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