Now that winter weather looms, I'm putting that Leica optical viewfinder away. It's chief benefit was to provide a clear view when composing a shot in very bright sunshine, when the screen on the back of the camera goes rather dark and undistinct. But bright sunshine of the kind that justified the viewfinder will be in short supply for the next few months. So it can go back in its box until spring comes.
The camera will lose the eye-catching profile it had acquired, and an extra 'Leica' logo to impress anyone close enough to see. I don't care. I can make do with the red-dot logo on the camera itself, although half the red paint has worn off from so much use over the years. Again, I don't care.
There are advantages in having a comparatively anonymous device in one's hand, without sticky-out parts to catch in clothing, that can be quickly shoved into a pocket if need be.
As for a bag, it will be possible to use the proper LowePro camera bag again, a small thing that fits the camera-sans-viewfinder like a glove, and can itself be popped into any other bag I may be carrying, again with the intention of keeping my photo equipment out of sight.
Ease of concealment is actually a valuable attribute if you like doing Street Photography. A camera bag that acts like a holster - so that you can whip the camera out, grab the shot, and put it back into its little den with nobody the wiser. Especially where menacing people or officialdom lurk. Not that I go out of my way to secure provocative shots of controversial or emotional subjects. But I see pictures worth taking everywhere, and sometimes the act of taking a picture can excite unwanted curiosity. And sometimes it doesn't go down very well. Better to be discreet and inconspicuous, sneaky even, and avoid any argee-bargee. So a small, unnoticeable camera in my hand, with a small, unnoticeable place to stow it, is a Jolly Good Thing.
A case in point. I was in Dorchester this morning. An early-morning Dorchester, at a time when shops were opening for the day, market stalls were being set up, and workmen were doing interesting stuff in the streets. And it was raining, the same persistent misty rain I've enjoyed since arriving in Dorset four days ago. In most people's minds Rainy Weather means No Photography. It's pointless and daft when the results will obviously be rubbish. So just taking a couple of shots outside in the rain can seem, to many, a strange or even suspect thing to do. And they may be inclined to stare, and Wonder Why. Only if I'd been dressed in hi-vis clothing, with a hard hat, and using a big camera with an impressive lens on a tripod - clearly on a paid professional job - would the 'reason' for taking any picture be explained.
The only other hope is to play the silly tourist - a distinctly amateur lady who knows so little about photography that she doesn't understand that her pictures are doomed to be dull and disappointing, given the poor weather and lack of good light. Even then, the camera needs to match the image. Shooting with the latest expensive shiny model won't do at all. Nor will a camera with a fancy accessory attached (like that viewfinder). That's where the paint-worn little Leica scores. It looks old and plain and out-of-date (just like myself) and reassuringly unimportant. So no need to give it more than a passing glance, and the same for its owner, poor dear. But that's fine. I get my shots and walk on.
What they don't know is that I have software skills. Those pictures will look a lot better once I've tweaked them, back at the caravan. I won't add a sunny blue sky that was never there, but the exposure will be corrected, and unwanted things around the edges cropped away.
It's still raining. I was hoping for sunny mornings on the Purbeck heathlands, and a look at the Jurassic cliff scenery, so dramatic, so iconic. The best I can do now is get some very moody pictures of ruined Tyneham, the Purbeck village taken over by the Army in the Second World War, and never returned. Rather like Imber on Salisbury Plain. Tyneham is not far off, and normally accessible on weekends - it's out of bounds at other times, because of firing on the ranges - so I intend to go there on Sunday and get some shots. And if it's possible to walk down to Worbarrow Bay, also normally out of bounds, I will do that too. Maybe I'll have it all to myself if the weather is especially foul. But I don't mind if a few other mad photographers in wellies join me in capturing all the sombreness and decrepitude on offer, and the very soul of the place if the light is right.
And there's the Agglestone and Puckstone, out near Studland. A short while back I did a post on The Cheesewring, a weathered stack of granite slabs on Bodmin Moor. These two Purbeck rocks are of sandstone. They look impressive in illustrations. I've never visited them. It will only take a squelchy mile or two of heath walking. I shouldn't get too wet, and with luck I can come away with definitive shots of these huge rocks - definitive for bad weather, that is.
What happened to the warm weather and fine sunsets of September? Sigh.