Festival Setup

An Afternoon with the Leica MP

As I often do, I was walking around Main Street in Old Town, Rock Hill, South Carolina with my camera. That particular day I was met with a group of guys running around, dragging extension cords and rubber packages through a section of Main Street. Hooking up the cords to small boxes and connecting them to the crumpled masses spread around the curbs, things began to take shape.

While the older gentleman did not own the company, he had been working for over 20 years setting up inflatable rides for festivals and carnivals throughout the area. The younger boys had not more than a couple of years each with the crew, but all seemed to know what to do. The group looked like a well orchestrated play weaving in and out and around the lumps as they started to grow like rising yeast bread.

I was glad I had my Leica MP loaded with Ilford FP4. I just walked up and started shooting images. Further at first, creeping closer and starting conversation. The 35mm Summilux was not the most current version, but I knew it would perform great with film. I prefer the yellow filter on my lenses with black and white film to help provide a little contrast into the camera.

Bright streets from the sun and shady curbs from the building shadows gave me essentially two exposures. The challenge was to get into positions where only one type of light was visible and the backgrounds were clean. My focus has been moving to get better images of the same subject, rather than just approaching and pressing the shutter. I also like sunlit subjects with shade behind – a concept I call perfect light.

The lack of delay from the shutter push to exposure is exciting. I still have trouble with a digital camera hanging by my side and raising it for an instant image only to miss the opportunity while waiting for the camera to boot and get ready. Film does not have that trouble.

At the end of the roll, I was finished. I thanked the group and wished them luck setting up and then tearing down at the end. The festival started late that afternoon and early in the evening. Behind the scenes, getting ready, was more rewarding than the festival would have been. I was glad I had my camera.

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