The location is White Sands National Monument, a sprawling place of gypsum dunes in remote southern New Mexico. I’ve been there many times and without exception, all my pictures on those occasions were taken with my wide angle 903 SWC Hasselblad. This time, I broke with tradition and shot them with a telephoto.
I also opted against the square view of my medium format Hasselblad, using instead what has now become a little-known 35 mm film camera – the Contax G2 rangefinder. Lens of choice? The 90 mm Zeiss f 2.8 Sonnar, my favorite telephoto.
As a photographer, it’s not easy to stand in a place this spectacular and choose a lens that will deny one’s sense of open space. A telephoto can have that effect on persepective depending on where you position yourself. At White Sands I noticed that by compressing space and isolating cloud formations, one could amplify the surreal – an element that I find quite pallatable and one which seems to be lacking in many landscapes photographed with wide angle lenses.
If you found your way to this post because you’re making a decision to buy the G2, I wish I could tell you it’s still around. Sadly, since I took these pictures, Contax has gone south like so many other companies who failed to stay afloat on the incoming tide of the digital era. Extinction in the camera world is occurring at its own brisk pace.
The good news is that the cameras can still be located and the lenses are still superb. I recall resolution tests in which they easily matched their sister lenses designed for Leicas. Be informed that the G2 is lacking most of the electronic features which have now become standard fare. I enjoy some of those things myself, but in spite of that the Contax still rewards me with it’s balanced feel, it’s simplicity of use, and it’s logical design. Much like my Hasselblad, I find that it lends itself to a visceral approach to picture taking. When I hold the G2 I feel like I’m holding a finely crafted musical instrument. Don’t underestimate this. There’s no clutter on this rangefinder, nor is there superfluous programming. If you’ve become addicted to that stuff, you’d better look elsewhere.
Needless to say, the little G2 requires that you feed it plenty of fresh film. This camera cannot survive on a data diet. For example, these photographs were taken with Fuji Provia F, a transparency film which (as of last week), could still be purchased and developed. The film is still the finest grain transparency film ever made. If you own a G2 I highly recommend it. These images display a very wide range of contrast which is quite easily captured with Provia. Keep in mind that the colors and contrast of the images displayed at this website will be most accurate when viewed on a calibrated MAC monitor.
Another one of my posts about the G2 can be seen here: