FM2 Yoshidamachi 02

Old town, Yokohama.  Nikon FM2 50/1.8 Nikkor / Tri-x / HC-110 E (and fixer that looks like it probably should have been replaced a couple rolls back- doh!)

The wires on the side of the building look like vines to me.  I like how the shapes and patterns attract the eye amongst the jumble and worn disarray of human life- somehow more comforting to me, and definitely more interesting to look at than our new modern sterility.

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Slow, really slow

Never put off until tomorrow what can be done the day after tomorrow. -Mark Twain

My blog is finally starting to live up to its name;-) It has been a long while since making a post.  It’s not that I haven’t been taking photos, I just hadn’t gotten around to developing and scanning them.

Well we finally had some nicer weather after what seemed like endless grey, drizzly days so I took the Superb out to stretch its legs. I found a press on yellow filter and hood awhile back that fit so used that this time. I tried some Arista Edu 400 I got from Freestyle and some trusty Tri-x, and developed in HC-110 preparation “H” (1:63, or 15ml per 1l water). The Arista is about half the price of the Tri-x.

superb

At first I struggled with familiarity of the controls, which are a bit unusual even for TLR’s, having been around 6 months since I used this camera, but by the second roll it became second nature and it flowed better. Later when inspecting my drying negatives I saw that I made two double exposures. This despite what I thought was a pretty ingrained habit of always winding just before the shot.  What happens I realised is that I might compose a shot but change my mind at the last second and go look for something else. At the next shot I don’t remember and think I must have already wound it for the last shot..  Old school photography is really good practice for being in the present and remembering each thing- or not:-)  The second roll shot a couple days later was fine. I noticed also a light leak in the first half of the frames on the first roll due to not properly shutting film doors all the way (the Superb has interesting barn doors that snap closed), something I will be more careful with next time.

Loading the developing reel the Tri-x feels more substantial, thicker, and it dries flatter than the Arista (this is helpful for scanning- especially if you have a cheap scanner like mine, a Canon 9000f, whose holders don’t flatten the negatives).  I think I like the look of the Tri-x more, but the Arista works fine for the price.  I can definitely refine my exposure and development with it.

I shot them all at ei280, exposed at 140 to allow for the filter- using my phone exposure app and Sunny 16 depending.  Development for the Tri-x was 11 minutes which seemed about right to me for the lightly overcast situation on that day.  Development recommendations seem to be are really spotty since they changed the film but generally seem to have gotten shorter .  The Arista for 11 1/2 minutes (Arista recommends 6 1/2 minutes for HC-110 B at ei400 starting point on the box), which was sort of a middle of the road calculation since on that day I had both high contrast as well as low contrast scenes on the same roll. Snaps really so not to be too scientific;-)

superb flower arista400 hc110h uncompensated

Straight scan. Exposed for sunny 16 (f16/100 exposed at ei140 due to yellow filter) this would have benefitted from exposing for the shadow and N- compensation development.

Ideally what one should do of course is try to take similar contrast scenes on the same roll so that compensating development can work for all the frames and not adversely affect some. Or take two or more cameras, one for each condition requiring different development. In fact if you are “really serious” you should rewind your roll whether you are finished or not once you have “the shot”, and develop just for that one:-)

The Heart Sees Deeper Than The Eye

What do you call those little bits of paper that they attach to teabags so that you can easily grab onto the string or wrap the string around the finger handle of your teacup?  The paper doohickey?  Yes that’s the one.  Well, I have one (from Yogi Tea) that has been on my refrigerator now for around 8 or 9 years that says, “The heart sees deeper than the eye”.  That is a keeper.  All that wisdom for only around 20 cents:-)

I think this relates to photography in that we shouldn’t get too hung up on rules and should let our heart tell us what and how we photograph. In other situations, take advertising or a con artist for example, we can be distracted by flashy talk and promises, yet if you give your heart a chance it can tell you when something is not right.

Angel

Angel, Yokohama Japan.  M3 / Summaron 35 f2.8 / Tri-x (ei 1600) / Caffenol semi stand 85min@20c.

Coming home late from a function one night I almost walked past this angel standing in the cold in front of an izakaya (Japanese old style family restaurant).  The old black and white photographs of ships behind her add an interesting element, along with someone’s bag draped over her head, and the whole thing looked very peaceful to me. Well.. I only had had a couple drinks (I said as I held up 3 fingers)..

In comparison to some HP5+ I had shot also at 1600 and developed at the same time in the identical caffenol stand recipe I thought I noticed what I thought to be a bit more grain in the HP5+, however after looking a bit more closely they seem pretty similar.

Below is a frame I took with some HP5+ at 1600.

IMG_20160111_0005

Morning bullet train, somewhere between Yokohama and Nagoya. M3 / Summaron 35 f2.8 / HP5+ (ei 1600) / Caffenol semi stand 85min@20c.

These are full size crops of the scans of each (at 2400). Not much in it.  Both are good considering the two stop push and the type of film I think. I would have to scan at a higher resolution to get a definitive answer.. Technically I suppose I would have to ensure both were the same exposure and the area compared of similar density but I don’t intend to get that technical about this stuff.

Best!

Jordi

Perspective

YK Cemetary

Ilford HP5+ (ei1600) / Caffenol stand developed / Summaron f2.8 35mm / Leica M3

This shot was taken as the sun was going down over Yokohama.  Perhaps I should have saved this for Halloween, but I took it only a month or so ago so decided not to wait.  I like the similarity of the structures in this scene as well as its symbolic contrast.

My M3 had been languishing due to my preference for the smaller, lighter and simpler screw mount lllf, however I don’t have a 35mm for the screw mount and really like that focal length so have been using the M3 a bit more recently.

I guess it doesn’t need to be said, but the M3 really is a great camera in every way.  I think the large, bright view finder is its best attribute.  Like all older Leicas it is built so well and looks so nice that you just feel good using it.  Call it Leica therapy.  They may be a bit expensive but are still a lot cheaper than a therapist:-)  The M3 is so nice you could carry it around just to hold and show people (and some people do just that..).

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Perspectives on Death

The West has such a dark and dismal approach to death- cold and lonely for all eternity, the worms nibbling at our flesh, etc.  While I enjoy the gothic Edgar Allen Poe flavour of it in stories, Halloween and whatnot, I don’t subscribe to it at all in my personal philosophy.

We cling to life and fear death, which is referred to as attachment in Zen, but as I understand it they compliment each other a bit like night and day. Without night you do not have day and vice versa, like yin and yang or the tides of the ocean.  If we are not attached to living so much I think we can enjoy it more.

In the last few months 3 people in my family have passed on.  My daughter was also in the hospital for a week with bad bronchitis and asthma.  This has caused me to reflect perhaps a bit more deeply about life recently.

 

“The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die. It is not an existence, which is perishable. It is not an emptiness, which is a mere void. It has neither colour nor form. It enjoys no pleasures and suffers no pains.”

~ Tokushou Bassui (1327-1387) in a letter to a dying disciple

 

 

 

Afternoon Winter Shadows

shadow of bicycle

Shadows of a bicycle and leaves next to a canal in Yokohama. © jordi vollom

Leica M3 / Summaron f2.8 3.5cm / Tri-x / HC-110 “E” /

“It’s not the quantity of the light it’s the quality. ”  I can’t remember which photographer’s documentary I heard that but it definitely is true.

The afternoon sun in the Winter can give such a nice quality of light.  This image caught my eye while strolling near Yokohama station one afternoon last month. I like the different shapes and textures in the leaves and concrete vs the tonality in the shadows.  The combination of exposure given to the Tri-x and amount of development in HC-110 is showing nice grain I think.

Old Port 01

Ravages of time.  Wharf in Daikoku-Futo, Yokohama. © jordi vollom

I guess most people wouldn’t find beauty in this scene, but I do. This was from the same roll but taken in the harshness of the direct sun and a bit earlier in the day. On days like this it is sunny 16 to calculate exposure.  Easy!

Best!

Jordi

Wet Plate Collodion Workshop

Earlier this year I was able to take a wet plate collodion workshop with Ray Bidegain.  I got to use Ray’s 8×10 Calumet (with a 4×5 converted for wet plates).  It started at about 9 in the morning and we didn’t finish with the dried plates until around 4pm.  Ray’s darkroom was cool and we had plenty of good conversations to boot. It was great fun.

The wet plate collodion process, also commonly called Tin Type, was invented around 150 years ago and uses a metal or glass plate as the base for the emulsion to create a positive. It is capable of incredibly fine detail and I understand, from wiki:-), it was used for special applications right up through the 1960’s. Today it has become very popular again in the US, particularly with portrait photography.  In Japan almost nobody knows about it, however I did meet one photographer here named Hiroshi Homma that does brilliant work with it.

It takes a bit of skill to pour the collodion onto the plates properly, and you have to be careful not to let it run back over the plate making run lines  when you carry it and put it in the camera.  Furthermore, the chemicals can make you pass out, and they can blow up your house if you don’t take adequate precautions. If you do take the right precautions however, and aren’t in a hurry I’m sure you will have a great time doing wet plates. I really enjoyed it.  It is hard to think of anything more custom than making the “film” yourself before taking the photograph.

Here are a few plates I really like from that day. I didn’t get to do any portraits unfortunately as I didn’t have anyone available, and I didn’t think to ask Ray at the time darn it:-)

You can see some of Ray Bidegain’s amazing work here.  I think his photographs have a quiet peaceful quality. His speciality is platinum printing which is another quite involved process.  He holds large format and studio photography workshops as well. I highly recommend him!

Straw Sandals / 藁草履 (warazori) – A sustainable alternative to modern footwear?

There is a crisis happening today all around us. It is called modern footwear.  Every time I walk past a “shoe mart” I can’t help stifling a yawn.  If by modern we mean, cheap, unsustainable, and boring, then yes, “modern”.  There hasn’t been anything really modern happening with today’s shoes since Nike’s waffle iron tread in 1974.  That’s 41 years folks!  41 years of rehashing the same tired theme with the same old nylon, polyester, and plastic fantastic.  41 years of filling up the landfills and lakes, rivers and oceans, backyards and basements, with non biodegradable, petroleum derivatives. Does it matter that they are made in Indonesia, Vietnam, China, or Bangladesh in working and pay conditions that were outlawed in the United States around 100 years ago? Nope, just give me cheap and lots of it.

The solution is Waraji and Warazori.  Warawhatyousay?

Waraji and warazori are straw sandals that were commonly used in Japan from about 2,000 years ago up through the Meiji Period, or around 100 years ago, though in some rural areas people continued wearing them much later. I understand some buddhist monks continue to wear them even today.

The difference between waraji and warazori is the former has bindings securing the sandal up to the ankle/lower leg making them suitable for everyday work and travel, whereas the latter are just like flip flops, or beach sandals so are better for more casual use.

Here are a couple pictures of some wara (straw) and warazori (straw sandals), taken with the Agfa Isolette lll, Acros (at ei400), and semi stand developed in Caffenol.

IMG_3852 IMG_3873

There is a pair of 500kg (1,200 lb), 4.5 meter long Owaraji (O meaning big) hanging at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. How big would the giant that wore those be?!

Now for the upsides and downsides..

The down sides:

  • they don’t last as long as today’s plastic fantastic shoes
  • your feet will get wet when it rains
  • goats might like them and follow you around

The upsides:

  • They don’t last as long as today’s plastic fantastic shoes.  Everything is biodegradable – you won’t find them still in the soil or floating around in the Pacific Trash Vortex in 100 years time
  • They are made from 100% sustainable materials
  • Tried and tested- they have been used for nearly 2,000 years
  • They look cool

Ok, looks like the upsides win, let’s get out there and start wearing waraji!  Well, I haven’t tried them for any length of time yet so cannot hand on heart recommend them to you yet, but I will be on the lookout for some so that I can do some proper testing and report back to you:-)

You can see some being made on youtube here.  Pretty cool I think.

Best!

Jordi

PS. Anyone interested in a very good look at our use of 3rd world labour should watch this documentary by legendary journalist John Pilger.