The Bridal Veil
Leica M3, 50mm f2 Summicron
An amazing number of the world’s greatest photographers have been Leica rangefinder shooters. The question is, were they Leica shooters because they were great, or were they great because they were Leica shooters?
Neither proposition is entirely correct, yet I suspect it may be closer to the truth to say they were great because they were Leica shooters.
The average well-equipped photographer who sallies forth laden with a pair of DSLRs and a battery of zoom lenses covering a range of 12 to 300mm or more is ready for anything. The problem is that the photographer who is ready for anything is really ready for nothing. In contemplating any subject, he must decide whether he should use a wide angle to encompass the entire scene or move in close for dramatic impact. Should he back off with a telephoto for flattened perspective and/or shallow depth of field, or should he zoom in to concentrate on a specific detail? The options are overwhelming and invite a terminal case of paralysis by analysis.
I once read an article about the travel photographer Gerald Brimacombe, who at that time was working with a pair of digital cameras that most professionals and advanced amateurs would consider too limited for serious work. Yet, he chose to work within the limitations of those cameras and concentrate on what they could do, rather than what they couldn’t do.
Although he happened not to be using Leicas, that concentration is nonetheless the essence of the Leica approach to photography. As Picasso said“Forcing yourself to use restricted means is the sort of restraint that liberates invention. It obliges you to make a kind of progress that you can’t even imagine in advance.”
Poverty in Rural Tennessee
Leica M3, 35mm f2.8 Summaron
I think it is something like this that made so many Leica shooters great: since using a Leica and one or two or three lenses doesn’t make for a lot of options, they learned to photograph the things that could be photographed with their limited equipment and let the rest of the world go by.
Obviously, you don't have to shoot with Leicas (I don't) to practice the principal of limited means. The standard advice for budding photographers used to be to shoot with only one camera, one lens, and one film for a solid year before adding anything else to the kit.
Of course, all this makes me a voice crying in the wilderness of this gearhead world where some people actually list their photographic arsenals as part of their signatures on internet forums. To them, I would say, "Your cameras are great. Now could I please see your pictures?"