Shutter-Chatter #2 – A Journey to Rajasthan with vintage German lenses
Shutter-Chatter is back with this great piece by Robert Ryan. Robert takes us on a journey through Rajasthan, India. He brings some of his favorite vintage lenses with him. Enjoy!
As a long time lover of India I decided in Feb. 2015 to travel again to Rajasthan to explore some new places and find some inspiration for my passion: photography.
Lenses and cameras for this trip
Since I am a very individualistic lightweight traveler I go very minimalistic: two Lumix G1 and three German vintage lenses:
- Pentacon 30/3.5 (based on the Meyer-Optik Lydith 30/3.5)
- Carl Zeiss Biotar 58/2
- Carl Zeiss Tessar 50/2.8
All small and light! According to the situation I just grab the camera with the suitable lens, many times I do the same scenes with two different lenses.
Because of the flexibility and easy handling the Pentacon 30 has become one of my favorite lenses, good for street, architecture, very good for people, I do mainly black and white photography.
Shooting with the Pentacon 30 is very easy and precise, the aperture ring in front of the lens moves without stops, which I like very much and focusing is easy with the EVF ( I never use the monitor) and the magnifying function and exposure control. About the technical aspects of these lenses I cannot comment that much. For me it is just a tool, which I like to handle and it gives me the results I want.
After all what makes a picture look great: First of all the motive, and very important the light and the perspective, all these aspects are created by the photographer himself no matter which equipment is used. The real assets of a photographer are his eyes, his personal way to read the light and get the right perspective. Manual lenses train us to take a bit more time for the composition and be more creative instead of pressing the button in continuous mode and auto-focus and hoping one of the shots will be good.
For portraits I prefer the Carl Zeiss Biotar 58/2.0 because of its awesome sharpness and strength in low light conditions.
The optical properties of this lens are very good, however the handling is not smooth at all, the problem is the aperture ring which has to be pressed to change the aperture. That means I mainly can do portraits only if the subject agrees to spend some time with me, willing to wait until I get the setting right.
In order to get nice portraits I often have to establish some contact with the people first and then they let me take the picture.
The results can be great and I have no other lens with such a specific character, but this is definitely NOT for fast action shooting!
Winter time is pleasant in the desert, the air is clean, the light perfect and travelling less strain than in 45* in summer. In Delhi I broke my record and got out of town within 3 hours, straight from the airport to the ISBT bus terminal. After one night of travelling I arrived early in Pushkar, the magic little temple town.
For a long time I had in mind to visit Jaisalmer, one of the last outposts in the Indian desert famous for its architecture and desert lifestyle.
The more than 1200 years old city wall with many towers, the beautifully carved houses, palaces and temples are in such good condition, I felt like doing some time travelling into the past of the Rajas and caravan travel. The nice thing is that there is some good guesthouses within these old walls, I got a lovely room in a tower with a view of the desert and thousands of tiny mirrors covering the walls.
The narrow alleys and high buildings are challenging for photography, unfortunately I do not have a really good wide angle lens, so the Pentacon 30 will have to do. Because of the precise focusing we can determine which part of the architectural details we want to have sharp, which makes this lens very good for architecture. The color rendition is also very natural, sometimes color is the essential part of a picture.
As for architecture, Jaisalmer is something as unique as Venice, but the lifestyle is more basic and there is definitely a different type of tourists. Unfortunately too many package tour groups flood the city and then there is a few hours of continuous shooting going on for a few hours, but most of them do not stay there.
The early hours in the morning are still perfect for the individual traveler and photographer and for me Jaisalmer is a very unique and original place, absolutely recommended.
The next place I visited was Jodhpur, which was another Rajput kingdom with an impressive fortress and a bustling city life, still not overcrowded with tourists and full of traditional lifestyle.50D
We become the favorite target of all the people, especially the kids. They enjoy to rub the color in your hair and you have to endure it with a smile. It goes on the whole day wherever you walk . I spent some good time at a rooftop party in a guesthouse on the slopes beneath the fortress. It was definitely good fun and one good advice : don’t wear any good clothes and think how to protect your cameras. Many times I could not even use them because the buckets of water come from everywhere!
Here are some pics of this colorful event, not so easy with the manual shooting, for this purpose a DSLR with fast auto-focus lens would be better…
After this wonderful experience I took a long train trip back to Delhi to catch a flight home but I wished I could stay a few more months in this incredible country. One thing is sure: I will be back!!
This is just some experience I want to share with my fellow travelers and photographers and I guess the pictures I took will provide some much different perspective than my words.
Copyright for pictures and text by Robert M. Ryan, please contact me if you want to use them.
I have a few other Shutter-Chatter posts in the pipeline. In order to keep the website and Shutter-Chatter going I need your input! Contact me directly if you want to present your gear, your photos, your technique or that awesome camera you inherited from your grandpa! Let’s do this!