An editor once told me there are no bad assignments, only bad attitudes. Most small newspaper photographers would disagree. After your umpteenth dedication assignment or check passing, your view changes. Still, you just never know when something extraordinary might happen, so you have to stay alert, stay focused, stay on the game. One bright and sunny day in Muncie, Indiana that something special dropped in my lap.
Unlike most other assignments, this one is fuzzy in my memory. Details of exactly what was going on are unclear. What I remember is the city was honoring local Native Americans and this tribal elder in particular. The event was downtown, and all participants were sheltered from the glaring mid-day sun by a covered stage.
All was going along the typical path of such events with politicians pontificating from the podium while the rest of us strained not to nod off from boredom. Finally, someone began reciting a Native American prayer; the elder leaned forward into the sunshine, put his hand to his forehead and looked down to pray and reflect on the speaker’s words.
Pulling my Leica R4 to my eye, I squeezed off three frames as quietly as possible, trying hard not to disturb the moment. Only one had the expression of reflection I wanted. The negative has an extreme contrast range from overexposure to underexposure. If it was not for the optical quality of the Leica R 180mm f/2.8 lens, I believe this negative would be unprintable. The sharpness of this photograph is utterly fantastic. The amount of detail in the most extreme areas, both under and over, is nothing short of mindblowing.
People ask why I shot with Leica for so much of my career. This. Image quality that consistently exceeded expectations.