Tag Archives: Leica

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, 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.


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.




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..).


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!



60+ years and still going strong


This camera works so well in every way, it is hard to imagine that its original design by Oskar Barnack is more than 80 years old.  It is solid, well made, and feels good in the hand.  When you press the shutter button a beautiful sound resonates, not too loud, not too quiet, full of self assured confidence, as if to say, “This is going to be a damn fine photo.” My camera was made in the early 50’s so it has been around 60 years or so,  however I think it will easily be taking photos for someone in another 60 years.

I don’t think there is much in the camera world that came since that can beat it for what it was designed to do. Later Leica’s and slr’s were all larger.  Smaller cameras pretty well scrimped in some way or were not offered in full manual.  Oskar Barnack was apparently an outdoors enthusiast, but also an asthmatic, so he wanted to design something compact and light enough to easily carry on hikes, but with lens quality sufficient to handle enlargements to a decent size (at that time large format cameras were the standard, and a medium format size was considered a minimum requirement for quality photographs).  

If it is good enough for Henri..  This camera was a favorite of Henri Cartier-Bresson. When talking photos of people on the street, he would walk cupping it hidden in his hand so as not to bring attention to himself, bringing it up for a photo at just the right moment. The “decisive moment”.  He also used the M series Leicas later, but in one interview I saw he said he preferred he older barrack because of its perfect size.

Yeah, you have to focus, figure the exposure, wind with a knob, use a separate viewfinder for lenses other than 50mm.  Loading film does take an extra minute.  In other words you have to be a photographer. Luckily it becomes second nature with just a bit of practice.

The other day I was was enjoying a stroll through a popular park and I saw someone walking through with his “deji kame” (digital camera in Japanese) firing bursts of around 20 frames at each “subject” as he walked through, barely stopping for the time that it took to do that and a good portion of that time was looking at the screen afterwards (maybe 5 seconds?). He must have had thousands of near identical frames of “stuff” on that camera.   I could rant about this kind of person, but hey, to each their own. Well, the “Leica Barnack” (as they call them in Japan) is not for doing that kind of thing, obviously:-)

I have only 3 lenses for it, a f2.0/50 Summitar, an Elmar 4/90 and a 4/135.  Leitz glass is all you need to say. They are all great lenses, however I mainly just use the Summitar, which is collapsable making the camera more pocketable. 

Looking through what I’ve taken in the last couple years I can see that I have used this camera more than my others.

Here are a couple I took with it last weekend walking in the early morning near my house in Yokohama.  These are with Acros at ei400, semi stand developed with Caffenol (75min/20c) in my kitchen sink.



One benefit of Instagram

I have been on Instagram (note the use of “on” like a drug..) for about one year.  I don’t know why.  At first I just wanted to see what it was about, and then thought that maybe after some time I would find a reason perhaps.  While I think that it has been pretty well useless to me since I am not promoting a click farm or instant friends or various stuff for sale like t-shirts or hipsterish wallets and shaving kits, I haven’t bothered deleting the account or doing anything with it. I’m kind of letting it go, not really caring what I put up there, kind of half interested in what happens, and what doesn’t.  What does 20,000 followers and 1,000 likes on a photo really mean anyway??  There are some real rubbish photos out there getting thousands and thousands of likes.  Hmm maybe I’m doing it wrong?  I think my max is around 30 or 40 likes and nothing happened.  I didn’t get a check in the mail or a commendation from the National Institute of Instagram Photography or anything interesting like that, but that’s likely because I didn’t get enough likes. Recently I have been getting followers from the Russian speaking areas- mainly wedding type photographers.  I don’t know why.  Anyway I digress..

One thing I noticed is that when you look through your camera roll in Instagram it automatically crops them to square format and that has made me look at the composition and image differently from time to time.   I do shoot a lot of 120 film in 6×6 format but I regularly find something I like from my 35mm negatives in the square.  By the way I am not one of these negative purists.  I don’t feel the negative is sacred and the print shouldn’t be cropped.  I’m old school.  Do what you like to get what you want; whatever works.

Well there you have it: not a huge benefit, and not really a reason to keep using Instagram, but something:-)

By the way if anyone reading this, any “users” out there, have any interesting experiences or “benefits” to share I would be interested in hearing!


Bend, Daikoku-Futo. Leica lllf / Summitar / Acros / Caffenol

How a Kentmere whim, Abenomics, dismay and fear ultimately led to bulk film goodness

I like this film.

The first time I tried it I had bought it on a whim. It was a bit cheaper than Delta or FP4 so thought why not? I made a few snaps here and there, developed it in d-76 and really liked the look of it. Nice tonality I thought.  Then a few months later I tried it again and developed it in Caffenol and I thought it came out even better.  Bonus! Could be the placebo effect I suppose….Whatever the reason I’ll still take it.


Old school mechanic- Blue Groove Kamakura . Leica lllf / Summitar 5cm f2.0 / Kentmere 100 / D-76 IMG_20150207_0008 Edge of bamboo thicket (竹林), Chiba-ken. Leica lllf / Elmar 9cm f3.5 / Kentmere / Caffenol C-CL 70m20c IMG_20150207_0028 Tunnel, near Honmoku. Leica lllf / Summitar 5cm f2.0 / Kentmere / Caffenol C-CL 70m20c IMG_20150207_0030 Volkswagen with “character”, Yamate. Leica lllf / Summitar 5cm f2.0 / Kentmere / Caffenol C-CL 70m20c IMG_20150207_0025 Abandoned house, Yamate. Leica lllf / Summitar 5cm f2.0 / Kentmere / Caffenol C-CL 70m20c The negs were a slightly thicker than I like so I think I could reduce development time to 60min. Well, I was a bit dismayed when last week I went into Yodobashi Camera to stock up on film again only to discover everything except Fuji had doubled in price. What used to cost ¥520/roll is now over ¥1,000! A large part I imagine due to the devalued yen vs USD and GBP.  Thank you Abenomics.  I then resigned myself to months of using Acros, and Acros is a fine film which I like very well, but it would be a bit like eating spaghetti, or perhaps more aptly Ramen, everyday for months or years until the yen comes back. That thought spurred me onto the net where I purchased some bulk rolls of Kentmere, Arista Edu Ultra, and HP5+ from the US.  Slightly more effort but I estimate it will cut costs by 70%. Back in the game! Jordi