Leica MP + 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH by Dewey Hammond

After nearly four years and probably a few hundred rolls, I recently sold my Leica MP rangefinder film camera and Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH lens. 

These are five of my favorite shots that I took with the Leica setup.

San Francisco, California. Kodak Tri-X 400. HH.

Arlington, Virginia. Ilford XP2 Super 400 BW C41, two or three years expired. Dragon.

Beijing, China. Kodak Ektar 100. I like this not for the photograph but for the mystery.

London, England. Kodak Ektar 100. Mei Mei.

Russian Far East. Arista 400. Dmitry dips his new passport in vodka, a tradition for important documents.

Dragon in Hollywood by Dewey Hammond

During a recent stay in Hollywood, the dude at the front desk gave me the hotel's nicest suite, presumably because it was already somewhat late, the suite was empty, he was feeling generous, and he thought I was deserving; or, more likely: Dragon's disarming and charming face, complete with its world-class underbite and admittedly questionable odors, opens doors. 

To say thanks, I served Dragon breakfast in a martini glass on the dining room table.

Training my dog to walk like a person by Dewey Hammond

Sometimes my friends bicker about where Dragon will go if he outlives me, despite the fact that I have always said, "None of you are even in the running," that Dragon will live with HH; and, if HH doesn't want Dragon, he will live his own life, independently.

Independence comes with prerequisites, like being able to go to the corner store to buy snacks and wine, or to Beanstalk for treats and lattes. As part of his training, Dragon has been learning to walk upright like a person. His current best is about one minute on his hind legs.

Dragon with Mina during one of their super-serious training sessions at Beanstalk Cafe; Nob Hill, San Francisco.

Dragon with Mina during one of their super-serious training sessions at Beanstalk Cafe; Nob Hill, San Francisco.

Dragon with Mina during one of their super-serious training sessions at Beanstalk Cafe; Nob Hill, San Francisco.

Olympia, Washington by Dewey Hammond

While digging through my film photography negatives to select a few shots for my online galleries, I came across a few digital photos that I enjoy, despite not particularly enjoying digital photography anymore. Digital photography made me lazy, more like an editor than a photographer, which is why eventually I ditched all of my digital gear except for an iPhone, upgrading first to a Leica MP and then to a Rolleiflex Automat V MX-EVS. Or maybe it was the other way around. I forget. 

DSLRs and their double-digits frames-per-second capabilities make it too easy to capture what Henri Cartier-Bresson, the godfather of street photography and photojournalism, famously described as the decisive moment, that moment that is there but then in a flash is gone. The most famous example of the decisive moment in his body of work is perhaps, "Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare."

This photo of Kelly reminds me of that iconic work; although, to be clear, I am not comparing myself to HCB: I'm a much better photographer these days, but only because Cartier-Bresson is dead. For real, though, Cartier-Bresson inspired me to quit my job, buy a Leica, and travel the world. I'll forever be grateful to my favorite photographer for the influence he has had on my life. 

I shot this frame a few years back, with a Pentax K-x, probably on burst mode. I love the negative space between Kelly's left heel and the ground, along with the negative space between her jacket and the garage door; and, of course, that trademark Pacific Northwest precipitation.

Olympia, Washington; f/2.8, 1/160; c. 2011.

Olympia, Washington; f/2.8, 1/160; c. 2011.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare (1932).

Ice diving in Russia by Dewey Hammond

I stumbled upon this photograph, which I took a few years ago in Siberia while driving across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal. We came across some ice divers. The air temperature was probably negative 30° Celsius, perhaps colder. I'd never before had any exposure to diving, but one of the guys with whom I was traveling that day was a dive instructor in Thailand. After a stretch in the banya, and over some cheap Russian beers that evening, he told me a bit more about diving and why I should give it a shot. Shortly thereafter, I traveled to Indonesia so that I could get certified.

Lake Baikal, in the heart of Siberia, one of the most beautiful places I've visited, and certainly one of the coldest. 

A few things that I learned from my Divemaster training by Dewey Hammond

PADI's prerequisites for its Divemaster training are a bit thin. All you need is 40 dives to begin, and 60 dives by completion, along with the other requirements. I completed 100+ dives before beginning, another 100+ dives during my training, and after seven weeks I still feel as though I could've benefited from another week or two underwater, especially with regard to navigation. 

I learned to pay attention to my instructors, sure; but I also learned to do your own research. On more than one occasion I heard instructors, and a majority of them, provide information that both PADI and DAN either no longer recommend, or disagree with entirely (e.g. turning back the tank valve a quarter-turn, facing the SPG away from you when you turn it on). When I questioned some of the discrepancies, the general answer was that the advice couldn't hurt (specifically with regard to turning back the tank valve a quarter-turn); however, I'm of the opinion that unncessary information just distracts from the necessary information. Keep things simple and streamlined, not just with your equipment but with the information you provide.

I also learned that the best approach is to develop your own style. Take what you like from certain instructors, and ignore other things. For example, I found most dive briefings to be too thin, and lacking emphasis on personal responsibility underwater. There is a fine line between babysitting and broad planning, and a Divemaster's role is unquestionably the latter. 

Sadly, I also learned that not all dive professionals respect underwater life at all times. Too many times I saw dive professionals touching marine life. Now that my training is complete, I'll have more of an opportunity to be a role model and not just a student. I'll have a bit more of a voice, albeit not as much as an instructor, in most cases, which is why despite my lackluster enthusiasm for instruction I'll probably consider getting certified as an instructor, if for no other reason than standing within the dive community. Like most things in life, there is a hierarchy. 

I learned that the benefits of diving trim are incredible, and that after having gone to a backplate and wing, I'd never again dive regularly with a BCD. It's just not for me. 

I learned that there is no replacement for being prepared. Diving with a backplate and wing allows you to strap more gear onto your kit, which at times might raise eyebrows. Do you really need a knife, slate, whistle, flashlight, and emergency strobe on every dive? Of course not, but if you don't bring them on every dive, you won't have them when you need them. Instructors routinely asked to borrow my equipment underwater, because they themselves weren't prepared.

Finally, I learned that there is still so much that I don't know, and still so many experiences to be had. I've dealt with panicked divers underwater, and rescued a diver from a capsized boat (only days after completing my Rescue course), but despite having managed these things successfully, there are no guarantees in these situations. With each experience, you improve. The area where I feel I need the most improvement is navigation. Some of it is confidence with a compass, and some of it is just learning the reef, but I know for sure that I'm not where I could be, or even should be.

Diving with my DIve Rite backplate, wing, and harness. Took maybe 20 dives of fiddling to get the fit right.

Cutoff at Canter's by Dewey Hammond

Canter's is an infamous Jewish deli in Los Angeles. I went there recently and was cutoff. Not cutoff at the dive bar located inside the deli, but cutoff at the deli, for eating too much. It wasn't that it was all-you-can-eat and they were concerned about profits. The dude was just concerned for, I dunno, my well-being or whatever? My next goal is to get cutoff at an Italian woman's home. If I can get an Italian woman, preferably a grandmother, to tell me that I've eaten too much, then I know I've done my job.

Canter's in Fairfax, Los Angeles, near West Hollywood.