Category Archives: Travel

80 Year Old Camera Explores the World Again

This Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder accompanied me on a recent business trip to Sri Lanka, and although I didn’t have much opportunity to use it there I did get to take a few frames (on an overcast day..) which is better than nothing, and then took a few more back in Japan.

These old cameras are handy for travel due to their compact size- when folded and stowed away they are slimmer than your average 35mm slr.  Of course without automatic winding stops you have to watch the number in the window for each frame, and when framing be careful not to crop things out of the top when in close range due to parallax (like I almost did in the portrait of the three friends in below), but this is all part of the experience.  A speed camera it is not.

Slave Island Fellows

These two friendly guys were enjoying the afternoon in this narrow alley in Slave Island with their beautiful cat. They jokingly offered to give me the cat to take back with me to Japan (the cat went along with it for the sake of the joke, but wasn’t that keen on it I don’t think). 

I did ruin a frame due to the bag of lychees I was carrying in my left hand contacting the shutter tensioner while taking one exposure thus slowing it from 1/100th to probably around 1/15th and causing the camera to shake slightly. This is something I like to do with my thumb on my Superb as well.  It generally takes one frame of doing this I’ve found and then I am ok for the rest of the time using the camera:-)  Then I forget again when it is put away for a few months..

slave island alley lychee dream

Doh! Darned lychees. They were delicious though (and cost only about ¥100 for 20pcs).

The Voigtlander Bessa RF was made from 1936-1951 I understand (according to Camerapedia). They were fitted with Skopar, Heliar, Heliomar, Helomar, and Color-Heliar lenses.  I like the 5 element Heliar 3.5/10.5cm, but I have heard good things about any of them.  It does get soft in the extremeties below f8, and swirly opened all the way up. This can look pretty cool for portraits etc if that is what you are going for. It has a yellow filter attached which conveniently flips up and down.  I don’t have a lens shade for it yet so have to watch the flare though haven’t noticed anything too shocking yet.

This high contrast photo of an old Japanese farm building would have benefitted from the zone system (and a tripod) in order to get more detail in the shadows and some more depth of field, although I like all the shapes, textures and shadows as it is.  Probably around 1.5 more stops exposure and then n-1 development?  Next time..

japanese rustic

Film was Arista Edu 100 (Foma 100) shot at ei200 just to get a little more speed for better handheld use. Development was HC-110 E 8 minutes/20C (recommended was 6 min at 20c at box speed).

This camera also is able to shoot square format which would give 12 frames instead of 8, and centralise the image to the area where the lens performs best.



Photo 1) Agfa Isolette/  HP5/ HC-110, Photos 2, 3, and 4) Olympus XA/ Tri-x/ HC-110

Engakuji is a beautiful Zen Temple about 10 minutes walk from Kita-Kamakura Station, which is about 25 minutes by train SW  of Yokohama Station. It was founded by a patron of the Kamakura Shogunate in 1282. There are over a dozen different buildings and the public are able to participate in zazen, lectures, and tea ceremonies among other things.  It is quite nice for a relaxing stroll around, soaking up the “zen”. If you ever have the chance to visit the Tokyo/Yokohama area definitely don’t miss Kamakura.

On the brochure it says the following:

The fact that we are living here, now, in the present- this is the true meaning of the existence of Buddha. Nothing is more precious than this. How marvelous this is! How important it is to realize from the bottom of one’s heart! This is the way in which all of us, each in our true fashion, will awaken to the truth and each live, in our own way, a cheerful and happy life. This is the teaching of Zen.

I am guessing but I think it is likely that not many read this at all, but of those that do a very small percentage might wonder what it means.

Well for anyone interested and reading this this far I will attempt to explain as I understand it.  Essentially in Zen Buddhism we are taught that each of us have Buddha nature, and are enlightened already, however the problem is that we cannot see it for ourselves.  Most of the exercises done in buddhist training such as zazen and koans (koans are kind of like riddles meant to stump you and make you think outside the box) for example, are tools which if used over time wear down illusions, ego, and other superficial obstructions we have so that we can truly see. Enlightenment, among other things, is finally seeing this and being able to live in harmony with your true self, nature, and fully appreciative of the present (since that is all there is anyway).

A well known book called The Three Pillars of Zen (by Philip Kapleau) gives an example story from a Zen Master called Yasutani Roshi called The Parable of Enyatta. It goes something like this (long story short):

A girl loved her face so much she looked at it in the mirror all the time.  One day she looked in the mirror and her head was gone. In a panic she ran around everywhere asking who took her head. Of course they told her she was mad and that her head was of course there where it had always been.  She wouldn’t believe them since she couldn’t see it so they tied her to a post before she might hurt herself. With the body bound after a time the mind becomes more tranquil (Yasutani Roshi mentions that this this is comparable to zazen practice). Eventually she came to half believe that her friends might be right. Then at just the right moment someone hit her on the head and said, “There is your head!” At that moment she realized it and ran around telling everyone, “I’m so happy, I’ve got my head after all!” This, Yasutani Roshi says is Kensho (or enlightenment).  He goes on to say that it is really kind of delusional state since you are simply going around overjoyed at having found something you’ve had all along. Eventually this “delirium of delight” subsides and you are able to live a truly natural life. Nevertheless, unless you go through the process you are unable to find what you have had all along.

Ok, well that concludes tonight’s broadcast.  Nighty night:-)



The good and the bad, the sweet and the bitter, don’t look a gift horse, in terms of photographic opportunity and business travel..

Sri Lanka is a really interesting place. I could spend days weeks walking the streets. I brought 3 cameras: my XA, Leica lll, and an old folding 6×6 (Agfa Isolette) that I’ve been dying to try and 15 rolls of film (mainly Acros)  in preparation for all the opportunity I would surely find.  Well at the end of it I found about 30 hectic minutes at dusk one day and one late afternoon, plus a couple snaps here and there.  The 6×6 didn’t get out.. That’s business travel for you:-)  Don’t complain.  It’s an opportunity- take what you can get.

I was there during Ramadan and although Sri Lanka’s population is predominantly Buddhist they declared a national holiday on the last day,and no alcohol was allowed in restaurants and in public places.  There were a lot of people down at the beach in Colombo that evening enjoying the holiday.

I ordered some HC-110 from Freestyle along with the bulk film a while back so I tried that out with these.  This was “Preparation H” which is diluted 1:63, 10″@20c. Easy with no pain.

Random stuff:

  • Sri Lanka felt safe and looked very clean:-)
  • There are a lot of tourists, particularly from Europe and China. Someone told me they expect 2.5 million visitors this year (population of Sri Lanka is about 20 million).
  • People overall seemed really happy and upbeat.  One person told me that it was because things had been really bad due to a war for so long everyone is so happy that it is finally behind them.
  • The food is delicious and there is a nice variety but it can be extremely spicy. Fire department emergency spicy.  Even when they say it is not so spicy.  Be careful.
  • The driving takes a bit to get used to. Crossing the street as well.
  • Set the price with the Tuk Tuk driver before getting in and going someplace.  This helps with “misunderstandings” and possible hurt feelings.
  • Bring your own black and white film.  I visited a couple major camera shops and there was none to be found.  “You want what sir?? Film??!” I did find some warm Kodak Colour 200 in one store.  Almost expired. Sri Lanka is firmly digital.
  • People start dinner late;  9 or 10 pm is common.
  • There is visible poverty, however Colombo doesn’t seem anything severe like Dhaka, Bangladesh or Manila, Philippines (I have been to these two places).