There are times when I’m creative because I’m creative, and there are times when I’m creative because I’m scrambling to fix an error or rescue an image. This photograph is one of the latter cases, and I ended up being ripped away from my comfortable dependence on the Rule of Thirds.
The 1950 Ensign Selfix 16-20 is my primary street photography camera. It is a superb little camera, hardly larger than a point-and-shoot, yet with the excellent Ross Xpres lens and a full range of shutter speeds.
I recently spent two wonderful afternoons wandering the streets of Seattle, and shot two rolls of film of street people and an itinerant street preacher with the Ensign. Receiving my film scans two weeks later, I was dismayed to find misaligned images with space above the heads and feet cut off! After many years of photography, I should be able to avoid cutting off feet!
A careful examination of the Ensign’s pop-up Albada viewfinder revealed it to be more sophisticated than I had realized. Peering through the rear window, one sees the image, together with a superimposed pale inner frame which I had ignored, taking it to be a reflection of the eyepiece. However, on examining the finder more carefully, it is clear that a white mask painted on the inner surface of the eyepiece is designed to reflect on the front finder
lens, forming the true frame for the image. Research on Albada viewfinders indicates that this is how they work – information that I should have known from the start (see References). These are the challenges in working with older cameras that make it rewarding – and frustrating!
Now that I had discovered how to use the finder, I was faced with the problem of two rolls of dramatic but misaligned images. Some were past saving, but I began cropping in an effort to use the remaining images. The sleeping street person was a problem; his
foot hit the edge of the frame, and he definitely could not be aligned according to the Rule of Thirds. I decided to see if I could use the misalignment for dramatic effect. I cropped from the top, removing the bus and as much of the upper extraneous detail as possible, while leaving in place as much of the empty space in the square as possible. I then cropped from the left, removing the base of the trash bin, and leaving the unkempt sleeping figure surrounded by the empty space, the bases of trees and a solitary lamp post. In this arrangement, the surrounding empty square emphasizes the isolation of the sleeping figure, and may be more effective than a traditionally-balanced image.
Oleson, R.A. “Looking Forward: The Development of the Eye Level Viewfinder.” http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/looking_forward.htm.
Petrakla, P. “Petrakla Classic Camera Site: Albada Viewfinders.” http://www.petrakla.com/TricksTechniques/Albadaviewfinders/Albadaviewfinders.html.
Rangefinderforum.com. “How to Get the Best Results From an Albada Viewfinder.” http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-70726.html.