My best friend Joe Crumley is an interesting character. He grew up on a farm in west Texas, served his country in Southeast Asia during a shooting war, studied at the University of Chicago with Aaron Siskind, founded and taught at the photography program at Florida’s Daytona State College, rode motorcycles from an early age, turned a job making screen-printed faces for oilfield gauges into a vocation as one of the USA’s premier sign craftsmen, and helped to found the Letterheads along the way. (Sidenote: The Letterheads are a group of signmakers devoted to sharing information about the craft of hand-lettering. They’ve grown in the thirty years since Joe joined, and host meetings ranging from local to international.)
He’s also a horrible, wicked enabler of my worst compulsions: my love of old things, my tendency to collect stuff, my technology fetish. A few years ago he gave me a rusting pile of parts that’s turned into a multi-year, $8000+ scooter restoration. he gave me his Hasselblad 500C with two film backs and a Distagon ƒ/4 50mm lens, along with a few rolls of 120mm film. he gave me his 1957 Leica M3.
It was an early model with the double-stroke film advance lever, in good mechanical and cosmetic condition, except for a tiny bit of vulcanite missing near the lens mount. Along with the camera came the only sub-par lens Leica ever made, a Hektor ƒ/4.5 135mm, and some 35mm film. And, like the ’blad, the Leica sat unused on a bookshelf until , frustrating me due to my (Sidenote: Since this article posted, I’ve been shooting with both cameras as well as a variety of other film cameras, including a Rolleiflex 2.8c, a Leica IIIf, a Zorki 4, a Hasselblad 500C/M, a Hasselblad 503CX, and a Wista 45DX.)
- ignorance & fear of screwing something up
- difficulty focusing the Hektor lens, even with the M3’s high viewfinder magnification
- lack of a light meter (& not knowing how to use a meter even if I had one)
Beyond that, I hadn’t used a manual film camera since a one-semester class in art school didn’t know where to start. Then Joe took a trip to Roswell …