5 Frames - A Tele Rolleiflex 135mm f/4 In New York Central Park

Whenever I have a chance to visit New York, I take the time to walk around for a bit. Each time I try to take a different camera (feel free to expect more posts involving the city that never sleeps). The first time I visited the big apple, I was overjoyed to find that it is all that movies, TV, documentaries, stereotypes, etc., told me it would be. That in itself was unexpected. Never before did I go anywhere and though “Yeah… this is totally like in those Hollywood blockbusters!”.

There is a lot to shoot (with a camera, of course) around Manhatten (which is where I spent my time during my visits): Architecture, people, advertisement, the High Line, the Hudson River, and of course Central Park. The NYC Horse Carriage Rides are usually one of the first sights at Central Park that I point my camera at. From paths through the park, you have a nice perspective of the various skyscrapers that line the border. A selection of lakes, topical buildings, large grass fields (e.g. for sports activities) and paths snaking through a few small hills, attract all kinds of people. A decent way to find relief from tedious “street” photography between all those tall buildings and the hectic crowds (especially around broadway). And with a bit of luck, you can find some people in costumes LARPing away.

This time I took the Tele Rolleiflex 135mm f/4 with me. For those who do not know the camera: It is a Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera with a focal length of 135mm and a maximum aperture opening of f/4. On a TLR, you frame the picture through one lens, while the negative is exposed through another lens. My Tele Rolleiflex includes a light meter (which seems to be optional) with an additional “low light” toggle. This allows to switch sensitivity, extending the range in which the light meter may be used.

Operation of the camera is easy if you know what you need to do: The tricky part here is the crank that is used to wind the shutter and advance the film to the next picture. If you load film and do not follow the procedure exactly as described in the manual, the crank will not lock when the film has been advanced to the first frame. In essence, you wind, and wind, and wind, and wind… and finish winding the whole film onto the takeup-spool, without every snapping a picture. Given that I do not take this camera out as often as I should, I tend to forget about the correct procedure and ruin at least one roll of film. (It is difficult to rescue the roll by rolling it back onto the source-spool.)

If you manage to do everything right, though, taking pictures with this TLR camera is just plain awesome. The camera hanging at waist-height seems to make you nearly invisible to the people passing by. Looking down into the image of the waist-lever viewfinder, framing, focusing, snapping, winding, probably smiling, you look like you are enveloped in your little world, oblivious to what is going on around you. To others, you are mostly harmless.

Footnote: The film used (I think) is a Fuji NPS 160.

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