So a few years ago I was watching an amazing documentary about Tim Hetherington called “Which way to the front line from here“. In one section they showed B-roll of him making portraits with his Hasselblad and a lens I still haven’t identified. Then some breathtaking portraits appeared on the screen and I wanted his lens immediately.
Good photographers tend to use good cameras, this is a correlation without a causation. They use good cameras because they are good photographers, not the other way around. This is something I know cerebrally, but it can get away from me from time to time. Wherever possible I try not covet my neighbour’s lens, I try to be inspired by another’s talent, rather than their kit bag.
This can be challenging, and in this case, where my closest equivalent lens had a minimum focus distance of nearly 6 feet, I was unable to even start thinking about of replicating the work. (Mine was a Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f/4 C).
Even now I’m not sure which lens he was using, but I figured I wanted something that offered a shorter minimum focus distance and got me into or close to the portrait zone in terms of focal length. My wishlist now contained a the Zeiss 120mm Makro-Planar, and there it stayed until a few weeks ago.
I’ve written in the past about my hatred of test-rolls, and have resolved not to shoot them anymore. Instead I’m just going to use lenses, in the manner and fashion that I decide and not worry about testing them…
What follows is therefore not a test roll, but simply the first roll shot with the 120mm. I’ve included all 12 frames in the order I shot them, even though I’ve missed focus on a few shots. Depth of field is unsurprisingly shallow at f/4 on 6x6. It’s pretty unforgiving when it comes to moving targets, something I was aware of but I couldn’t help myself.
Are they as good as Tim Hetherington’s? No. He was a talented and experienced photographer, for Magnum no less. Both a remarkable war photographer and by all accounts a lovely guy. A loss to the photographic community.
There’s no reason my shots would look like his, but at least now I can follow in his footsteps.