Notes From Home

Rome. I don’t care what my Instagram followers think: This is a great photo.

I’m back from a few weeks abroad…barely. The wife’s positive COVID test less than a day before we were set to return home gave an interesting twist to the trip; luckily she re-tested negative the next morning and boarded her flight home. She’s since tested negative again once home. Major clusterf**k narrowly averted, as the States are requiring a negative COVID test for re-entry from abroad. Luckily, we were staying with friends who offered to allow us to stay at their beautiful Paris flat while they went to their country home. It’s nice to have friends like that. Fortunately, we were both able to get home without further complications.

Speaking of friends, we received the news of my wife’s positive test the evening before departure while dining with Leicaphilia reader and contributor Dr. Henry Joy McCracken and his wife at their Paris flat. (Henry, as some of you may know, is an astrophysicist currently working on a project to send the world’s most powerful [digital] camera into space. He’s also a dedicated film shooter in his private life, the irony, of course, being obvious. I love that about Henry.) We were just opening a bottle of Basil Hayden bourbon I’d brought along as a gift when my wife checked her email and saw her positive test result… which unfortunately put a crimp in the remainder of an otherwise wonderful evening. Henry and his wife were gracious enough not to call the health authorities and have us removed immediately, but the night, which to that point had been really nice – dinner, wine, great conversation – lost its mojo.

In addition to being a brilliant astrophysicist, Dr. McCracken is a great guy. We met through this website. Henry, knowing I was often in Paris, invited me to the Paris Observatory where he works the next time I was in town. I took him up on it, at which time Henry gave me a tour of the old Observatory (second oldest in the world) and brought me up onto the roof and into the original observation area. Pretty amazing. We’ve since become friends. Let this be a lesson to all you readers who live in exotic places or do exotic things: Invite me and I will happily come and eat your food and drink your whiskey. If things go well, I’ll invite myself back.

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Our trip consisted of a week in Dubrovnik with a bunch of European friends, followed by 4 days in Rome and then 4 days in Paris with Parisian friends. Dubrovnik, where I’d not been before, was marvelous. Known to be usually crawling with tourists in the manner of Venice, it was remarkably free of crowds, due, I suppose, to COVID and the travel problems associated with it. We rented a large flat overlooking the Old City and spent the week drinking Croatian wine (not bad) and beer (not bad either). I’d brought a few cameras – the M240, the MM and the Ricoh GXR – but didn’t use them much given I didn’t see much to photograph other than the usual tourist sights that’ve been photographed a million times. It certainly wasn’t a place that lent itself to any street photography, why, I can’t articulate; it just wasn’t. Frankly, the entire town was so clean and orderly it felt like a movie set. Beautiful place, nice people, but give me the grittiness of Naples any day.

The Best I Could Do in Dubrovnik. I like it (the square motif and all); Nobody else does, if my Instagram Feed is any Indication. I despise Instagram.

While in Dubrovnik I dropped my MM from a side table – the height being no more than 18 inches – immediately checked to see if it turned on (yup) and the rangefinder was still accurate (yup) and thought no more of it…until I tried to take a photo and the shutter wouldn’t work. Had it been a Nikon….or even my old ratty Ricoh GXR, it would have cranked right up and fired, no problem. But its a Leica, and now I’ve got to send it someplace far away and wait 6 months while the gnomes who work in Leica’s repair department open it up, reconnect some wire that’s loose and charge me $1000 for the privilege. To Leica’s credit, the M240 worked great throughout. Bravo Leica, a $5000 camera that actually works.

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Rome

From Dubrovnik it was off to Rome. I’ve been to Rome a few times, but never enjoyed it as much as I did this time around. The weather was perfect – sunny, warm, but not hot – and there were few tourists around, which made it perfect for seeing the touristy sites without battling a million other people. We stayed in a beautiful flat in the Monti district close to the Trevi Fountain – apparently its the flat Diane Keaton stays at while in Rome (take that, Thorsten Overgaard) – and spent the days walking and eating and drinking.

I’m a pizza fanatic. My favorite pizzerias are John’s on Bleecker Street in New York City and L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples, and I was looking forward to some authentic ‘Roman Pizza’, which a pizzeria here in Chapel Hill claims is a thing (what they claim to be ‘Roman Style’ is excellent – wood-fired crispy thin crust light on the tomato and cheese). Unfortunately, the Roman version of “Roman Style’ pizza seems to be, well, pizza. Nothing special, which didn’t, however, keep me from eating pizza each night for dinner. There are worse things in life than sitting at a streetside table in Rome eating good, not great, pizza.

Rome was a great place for the iPhone. The days of people getting pissed off at you for taking their photo in public are long gone, thanks to the iPhone. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is snapping pictures of everything with their phones. I rarely saw anyone with a dedicated camera – when I did, it was usually some old guy with a consumer grade Nikon with zoom looking all serious. As for me, I never bothered to use the Leicas out of doors, first because the damn MM wouldn’t work and second, because I didn’t feel like lugging them around, and third, because I had my iPhone, which works great on the street. Above, and below, are a few examples of photos taken in Rome with the iPhone. Super simple – aim, shoot as many times as you like, run what you like thru Snapseed and then post on Instagram.

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Marie Antionette’s Bedroom, Versailles

Ah yes, Instagram. For some reason I can’t now recalI I thought it would be fun to post a few pics from the trip to my Instagram account as the trip was happening. Unfortunately, posting on Instagram is an exercise in abject futility and personal humiliation, embodying everything wrong with photography or what’s left of it. Post something that works – the photo that opens this article being a perfect example – crickets. (The one photo I liked best from the entire trip got zero likes.) Post photos of your lunch, or pretty girls making stupid faces, and the ‘likes’ pour in. I need that like I need a hole in my head. Lesson learned: Instagram is worthless – social media monkeys chasing their tails in order to have something they post get ‘liked.’ Why anyone voluntarily submits to such indignity is beyond me.

Coming soon Part 2: Paris, Why Instagram Sucks, and Why I’m Now an ‘iPhone Photographer’

23 thoughts on “Notes From Home

  1. Henry Joy Mc Cracken

    It was great to see you Tim! And good to see you in such great form, nothing like that guy in the hospital photographs from a few months back, leicaphilia readers will be glad to know.

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      I was really looking forward to drinking that bottle of bourbon with you, Henry. Enjoy it without me.

  2. Julian

    Perhaps you’re taking Instagram too seriously! I’m happy if I get more than 5 likes. Just put your stuff up there and know it’s good. I think it is!

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Thanks Julian. But I’m done with Instagram – what could possibly be the point? Either ‘people’ like the photo, or they don’t. Why should I possibly give a shit whether they do or not?

  3. Dan Newell

    “Why should I possibly give a shit whether they do or not?”

    An excerpt from “The Older Cats Book of Zen”

  4. Bob

    Man… excellent shooting and writing – your personal style continues to be refined further and further.

    And yeah… I, too, genuinely don’t care who likes my stuff, but I sure try to get to snaps that work for me.

  5. Keith Laban

    What a turnaround. Good to see you looking well and apparently firing on all cylinders. You don’t need me or anyone to LIKE your images, but suffice to say that more often than not I do.

  6. Rob Campbell

    Happy to see you back and posting new content. It sounds kinda strange, this being your site and all, but welcome back to your site!

    I never did join facebook, twitter, instagram or any other such place. For too long I wasted days, weeks of my time and life posting snaps and words on that” luminous” website which turned into a sort of self-inflicted duty, a duty possible extant only within my own mind, but an onerous one at that, nonetheless.

    Perhaps you should consider a website, as such. At my age, I don’t think of mine as a way to attract work, but as a way to make my pix instantly available to me anywhere with a connection. Stuff on it does have its separate slot for past pro work, but the rest is mostly a chronological sequence of what I’ve done with my photography post-retirement. It’s far better an option than having to open up my computer files. It also gives me a bit of a lift when I get too depressed about lack of current photographic activity: I can tell myself that I really have shot all that there is to shoot, that I’d like to shoot, in my neck of the woods. A benign consequence of the latter is that when my mind starts to wander towards GAS, I always find the safety valve that visibly informs me that the cameras of my dreams couldn’t ever change the facts on the ground.
    Also, as tech moves along all the time, should my TIFFs become obsolete some day, I’m sure that the folks hosting the websites would be that step ahead of the curve; hell, they probably are the curve, so the website images would probably survive.

  7. Bob

    Also, good to be reminded about the limitations of serviceability of the digi M’s.
    If it was a film M either nothing would have impeded functionality, service would be significantly more available or you could get ‘er going again with a screwdriver.

    1. Rob Campbell

      I’ve read several reports of film Ms having to be returned because of light knocks throwing the rangefinder mechanism out of kilter.

      Once, working in Malta, one of my 500 Series ‘blads froze. The hotel gave me the address of a Mr Zamit who, I think, had been a watchmaker to trade. He took the camera and opened his desk, from which he took out a scalpel of sorts, and proceeded to remove the “leather” from around the winding knob. Showing a sense of humour, he asked me if I was worried… he then removed a plastic circlip from the winding mechanism and quickly fashioned a metal one of his own. The camera functioned faultlessly from then on. So even the mighty H used cheap shortcuts back in the day. In the end, it’s always all about money.

      What is surprising, however, is how good Leica is at producing and supporting its advertising amabassadors, and the amount of space it allows them on the Internet. You would be forgiven for thinking Leica was the richest camera company in the world. I wish them continued good fortune and I wish I could afford one of their toys in time.

      Had a domestic disaster yesterday afternoon: I was attempting to dismantle my defunct printer and, in the process, managed to get some heavy spots of black pigment ink onto the light-coloured carpet. I’ve tried alcohol, bleach, soapy water and when the mess dries I shall try using hydrogen peroxide that I once had to buy to loosen wax in my personal audio system prior to getting the nurse to syringe it clean. Hey ho. Life is a constant giggle.

  8. Rob Campbell

    Tim, in your Roman shot of Perseus and the Gorgon’s head, you managed to reveal two things: that sword must have chopped off part of the Perseus penis, and that the Cap of invisibility must have made him an unfairly great street photographer.

  9. Colin Templeton

    Hello Tim,

    Really like the shots you have posted here, Tim, and the accompanying words. Sorry to hear about your M Monochrom. I’m one of your Instagram followers, and I’ve not seen any of your work in my feed.

    You’re up against two problems here. The main one is that the algorithm on Intstagram is punishing you. Unless you’re a prolific poster, they seem to restrict who sees your work. Happens to me too. Some of my favourite photographers on there, I have to go looking for their work, even though I follow them. They don’t come up in my feed.

    The second problem comes down simply to numbers. At 118 followers, you will get next to no likes anyway. I reckon a lot fewer than 10% of anyone’s followers (even those with a million followers) will engage with the account they follow. Maybe even four or five percent. They might see the work, but they will scroll past.

    So really, Instagram is all about engagement, community. I’ve made actual, genuine friends from Instagram – people whom I meet now in real life. Like you do, with this blog.

    The ‘likes’ do not mean anything, and they certainly don’t denote whether or not a picture is good. It’s just numbers. Me, I post whatever pleases me. The ‘likes’ are irrelevant. Although, I’ve been across to Instagram just now and given some of your pictures a bit of well-deserved love.

    Best wishes,

    Colin

  10. Colin Templeton

    P.S. – I notice you haven’t put hashtags on any of your images. That will severely limit any audience. I’d recommend adding a few well-considered hashtags to your images. Makes a massive difference.

    All things considered, I think your Instagram is off to a pretty good start!

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Yeah. One of my first real musical memories was riding in the car with my father in Wayne, New Jersey when I was a kid. I remember it like it was yesterday, the 64 Plymouth, the AM radio on playing “Get Off of My Cloud” as we drove by Two Guys on route 3, me thinking to myself “man those are some great drums that guy is playing.”

  11. Rob Campbell

    I worry for Jerry Lee Lewis. I think he’s still with us.

    But my mother made the early nineties, and I’m still mobile and capable enough at 84, but unlike Keef, never did drugs; stopped smoking at thirty and didn’t even drink much until I hit forty-four and moved to Spain, where I made up for lost time. A couple of decades of that, two heart attacks later, the limit’s one glass of red wine a day. Strangely, that normal glass can now knock me to sleep after lunch if I’m not committed to something that has to be done. It’s precisely where I am at the moment, writing on the iPad as I sit at the lunch table on the patio, the dirty dish pushed to the side. Were I to go indoors, put on some music, I’d zonk out. I also find that I go to bed later than before, and get up at the same time.

  12. Rob Campbell

    Apropos of not a lot, it struck me that 3rd September marks two years since Peter Lindbergh checked into that crowded studio in the sky. How time flies.

    I believe he was one of those people whose work got better and better as he got older and older. Not that he got particularly old, that is, but he avoided invisibility rather well.

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