Arizona Mini Photo Essay

Over the holidays I spent a week back home with family in Arizona. This was the first time I was back home since I started shooting film, you could say I was pretty excited to get shooting in a new landscape and soak up some sun – Vancouver is so grey in the winter.

For this trip I brought down my trusty Olympus OM10 and my Olympus Stylus. I’ve recently gotten into a habit of exclusively loading black and white in my SLR and color in my point and shoot. I’m finding more and more that when I shoot on my SLR I’m challenging myself as a photographer and on the other hand when I’m using my point and shoot I’m capturing a moment with less worry on the shot itself. Not reinventing the wheel at all, just something I’ve done recently.

In the Olympus OM10 I had some Delta 400 and was shooting at 200. I’ve never overexposed black and white before but I thought it’d be fun to capitalize on the sunny weather and shoot for the mid-tones. I was shooting the desert so I didn’t want the contrast you might look for when you’re doing street photography. Next time I’m in that setting I’d go for a contrast look to experiment but I couldn’t get out much over this holiday so I had to stick with one plan.

I can’t give Delta 400 the justice it deserves but I did some reading on it before the purchase and wanted to give Casual Photophile a shoutout because this blog is very well written and gave me a good context before going with this stock of film. It’s a softer stock than what I normally shoot, HP5 or TriX but I like the look and I think it performed well at 200.

As for the Stylus I had a roll of Portra 400 loaded in there. It’s my go to when I want to get the best results with a point and shoot. This little guy never really fails me and as I get more comfortable with how it fires I can get good results in a variety of settings.

All the black and white shots were developed (Ilfosol 3) and scanned by me, color shots were developed my Kerrisdale Cameras in Vancouver.

Cheers.

Tokyo Mini Photo Essay #2: A Weekend for Compact Cameras

The weekend after my Fukuoka trip, I found myself in the nation’s capital again. This was my third time in Tokyo (not counting when I first flew into Narita from Canada). As usual, I brought my Leica M2, some bulk-rolled Tri-X 400, and some rolls of Superia and Portra. I was mainly there to see some old friends from Canada and elsewhere around the world.

Nikon Lite Touch - Portra 400-2
Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, Portra 400

I did, however, have a specific goal of finding a compact camera to replace my Konica Big Mini-301. The Big Mini’s ribbon cable finally crapped out on me (it was only a matter of time), so I was left compact-less yet again. I had my eyes on either an Olympus XA2 or a Nikon AF600/Lite Touch. I was hoping to do some hunting in Shinjuku to find either one at a decent price. I ended up leaving Tokyo with both.

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I found the Olympus XA2 during my first day in Tokyo at a shop in Ginza first. It was up for a pretty decent price so I grabbed it. Later that day I was walking around Shinjuku and found a store that had a Nikon AF600/Lite Touch for a pretty decent price as well. I almost left without it but I couldn’t help myself. The first couple hours of the weekend trip had already yielded not one, but two compact camera purchases.

Nikon Lite Touch - Portra 400
Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, Portra 400

For the entire weekend, I only shot with these two compacts. My Leica M2 was safely stored in a locker at my hostel and it never saw the streets for the entire trip. These two compacts yield two very different shooting experiences, I’m very glad I ended up with both. The Olympus XA2 is a zone-focusing rangefinder with no on-board flash, sporting a Zuiko 35mm f/3.5 lens. I considered the XA but wanted a bit more automation and wasn’t looking for a true rangefinder (I have my Leica M2 for that).

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Olympus XA2, Superia 400

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Olympus XA2, Superia 400

The Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, on the other hand, is a whole other beast. It’s a fully-automatic point & shoot compact, sporting a 28mm f/3.5 lens. I thoroughly enjoyed the 28mm focal length experience. It’s been a while since I’ve used a 28 and I really enjoyed the wider experience. It’s a small body with excellent autofocus and sharp glass.

Nikon Lite Touch - Superia 800
Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, Superia 800

Nikon Lite Touch - Portra 400-3
Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, Superia 800

This weekend was all about compact cameras. I came looking to buy one, ended up with two, and shot with both of them the entire weekend, leaving my Leica behind every time I left the hostel. Both of these compacts are very different and each have their own quirks. I’m very satisfied with the experience of these two compacts so far. A full review of each camera may be in the works for the future.

Here are some additional images from the weekend:

 

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Fukuoka Mini Photo Essay

A couple weeks ago I had the chance to visit Fukuoka for a weekend. Fukuoka isn’t a place that’s talked about a whole lot when people think about Japan, but it’s got its own charm that is worth checking out.

FukFor this quick weekend trip I took just my Leica M2 and my new Summicron 35mm f/2. For film, I brought several rolls of bulk-rolled Tri-X 400, and a couple rolls of Portra 400. It wasn’t the most eventful trip but I did get to do a bit of shooting. I was mainly there to meet up with a couple dear old friends from back home in Canada who were travelling through the country.

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After seeing places like Seoul, Tokyo and the tourist-hive of Kyoto, it was nice to get a glimpse at a smaller city like Fukuoka. There’s definitely less tourists around and it doesn’t have the crazy hustle-and-bustle feel that Tokyo does. A certain charm in its own right. The evenings are calm, at night the streets are quiet and people go about their business at a slower pace.

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Fukuoka is known for being the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen, which I certainly indulged in. One of the places I went to, Hakata Ramen Zen, was absolutely fantastic. Their main attraction is their dirt cheap (only ¥320!!) basic tonkotsu ramen. To this day I still think it’s the best ramen I’ve ever had in Japan (and I’ve had a fair bit of ramen here). Fukuoka is also known for their yatai (outdoor food stalls). I had some ramen here too. Seeing these tiny outdoor food stands packed with patrons along the river was something else. The first time I’ve seen ramen served outdoors in Japan.

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While overall it was a pretty uneventful trip, Fukuoka was a welcome change of pace. Walking around the town without anywhere to be anytime soon was enjoyable. Sitting in a park by the port with the sun greeting the horizon, watching fisherman pack up for the day and couples out for an evening stroll was a welcome shift in mood.

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Shooting 16-year expired Ektachrome P1600

About 3 months ago I won an auction for 2 rolls of very expired Ektachrome P1600. I’m not too sure why I bought the stuff. I didn’t even know Ektachrome existed in a 1600 speed variant. I’m not a huge slide film user (I’ve actually only shot it once before on 120). Nevertheless, I was browsing the film section of Yahoo Auctions and it looked interesting so I thought I’d give it a go.

ektachrome box

Couple of days later it arrived. Expired in 2002, the ad made no mention of any sort of storage conditions. I assumed the worst. As a relatively inexperienced slide film user, I foolishly applied the general rule of thumb for expired color negative film to the expired Ektachrome. It was expired 16 years ago, so I overexposed the film 1.5 stops. I’ve since learned that this rule shouldn’t be applied to slide film, as the latitude differs greatly. Nevertheless, I was still able to get some usable results, albeit the slides look terrible.

Ektachrome 1600 (2002)

I shot this roll in my Nikon F3 and 50mm f/1.4. I used the Nikon F3 for its metering system. I shoot 90% of my work on my Leica M2 and meter by eye, but this was a very unfamiliar scenario for me. I almost never work with slide film and certainly not slide film that was this expired, stored in unknown conditions.  So I took the Nikon F3 out and shot the roll around Tō-ji temple and on the Skyway of Kyoto Station.

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As expected, there was a heavy amount of grain, plus some base fog and color shift. I was still quite impressed with the performance given the conditions. I tried to shoot both a mixture of soft, even light and harshly contrasty scenes to test the film’s capabilities.

 

The magenta cast and the severe grain is apparent in both the above pictures. I’m actually a big fan of harsh grain and I don’t mind it at all given my expectations of the film (1600 speed film, 16 years expired), but the magenta cast was a bit less desirable.

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Overall I definitely enjoyed a handful of images the film yielded. I’m a sucker for grain and it was oddly enjoyable shooting a roll without much guarantee of what the results would look like. I have 1 roll of this stuff left so next time I’ll probably overexpose by less and try to shoot scenes with more forgiving light.

Shooting Film in the Lonely South

I started shooting film around the time I was 22 or 23, so about 10 years ago. I had taken photos before that with Polaroid cameras and the Kodak Ektralite 110 camera my mother had when I was a kid, but as a young adult it was the early days of the Lomography style that got my wheels turning.

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Growing up poor in rural Alabama (mama worked hard to make sure I had Nikes), one thing you learn to do is make the most of what you have. As a kid I would mow the yard for $5 and get to choose what to spend it on at the flea market. I could choose between two new comic books or a stack of older issues from the quarter box. This attitude towards money and material possessions stayed with me and has never left. So when I starting getting into shooting film, cheap cameras and cheap film were the logical choice and it’s been my style ever since. I’ve rarely ever bought a camera brand new. Almost all have been from thrift stores or yard sales.

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There’s plenty to disagree with about the American South. Religion, politics, you name it. Being a liberal / progressive leaning person, living here puts you in a tough position on a daily basis. Photography has always been my way of reconciling that for myself. When I take photos of old gas stations or beat up cars or whatever, I’m really saying a couple of different things with the image. I identify with the loneliness and isolation of the scene while at the same time I’m telling it “Hey, you did this to yourself. You refused to keep up with the times, and you got left behind.” For me the subject matter becomes so much more than inanimate objects; they represent someones’ dreams or accomplishments or lack thereof, and now they just seem like props in a particular scene and that’s what draws me to it.

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Every Saturday I try to get out and take photos. I wake up around 8 or 9 and make coffee and gather all my film and cameras and hit the road. I usually carry 2 or 3 cameras max. For awhile now a Minolta Hi-Matic AF 2 has been my main camera. I generally keep it loaded with expired Fuji Superia 200 or Kodak Gold 200. I’ve been shooting some really expired Ilford HP 5 that I’ve had for years as well. I go through phases of shooting with my old Instax 7s. It’s usually a matter of money and I have to choose between buying Instax film or getting 35mm rolls developed.

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There’s a couple of thrift stores that I hit up every week to check for new cameras or CD’s to listen to in the car. A cool thing about where I live in Birmingham, Alabama is that from the middle of the city you can drive 30 minutes in any direction and be out in the country. It makes exploring easy and there’s always some new small town with one traffic light to check out and take photos of. I’ll usually leave the thrift store and just keep driving until I don’t recognize anything or I’ll take the interstate and start getting off random exits.

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I’m usually pretty careful when I’m out in rural areas by myself driving around and shooting. I have a $5 pocket knife that I always have on me and that’s the extent of weaponry that I own. I’m naturally prone to anxiety anyway but shooting in these unknown areas can bring on the paranoia when you’re creepin’ around some little town and the locals are looking at you with suspicion. It’s a funny contrast to how my family is scared of coming to the city for fear of getting robbed. I try to practice getting closer to subjects but a chunk of my photos are taken from a bit of a distance out of anxiety. Luckily I’m not really interested in taking photos of people or I’d really be in trouble. Something that I encounter a lot when I’m shooting around new areas and talking to people is that there’s a lot of fear of folks they don’t recognize. They’re weary that I’m some sort of VICE reporter there to mock or exploit their little slice of heaven and let’s be real, in certain ways I kind of am (not the VICE part obviously.) So to me it’s important to be respectful of people while still doing my thing. Personally I’ve never been enticed by the whole street photography method of sticking your camera in strangers’ faces but that’s just me. My mission is to document as many artifacts both big and small before they’re gone forever. I guess you could say I’m a hoarder of scenes and places in time.

I intend to keep exploring the South and wherever else my camera and curiosity take me. You can follow me on the ‘gram at @casualsceneryzine if you’d like to tag along.

Dirty Sheets Never Made for Comfortable Rest

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Following a conversation with a friend, I realised that I kept painting myself as the victim and didn’t take any responsibility for my own well-being. This body of work mirrors the way I began to hold myself accountable in order to aid my own mental health recovery. The phrase ‘you’ve made your bed, now lie in it’ is one that has echoed in my mind throughout the creation of this project, and I feel that these images rebel against that. We are able to take autonomy over our own actions and we do not have to lie in our own mess. 

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I have used my own mental health as a muse in my photography before. Documenting the bad days. The ones where doing the simplest of tasks felt impossible. This time, I wanted things to be different. This project was the result of a change of mindset, an epiphany if you will.

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One major source of inspiration for this project was a painting by Sir John Everett Millais named Ophelia. It depicts Ophelia, a character from Shakespeare’s Hamlet who was driven mad when her lover, Hamlet, murders her father. As Ophelia was picking flowers, she falls into the river and slowly drowns, singing all the while. Her face looks hopeless as she lets herself sink into the river. I could see myself reflected in the painting, which shocked me a little. It acted as a wakeup call that I didn’t have to let myself slip, that I could help myself.

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Recovery is a long and tiresome process. It requires you to constantly challenge negative thought patterns and behaviours. Therefore, I wanted to use a method of photography that I felt gave this process justice, one that would require me to slow right down and think about each composition in detail. Hence the choice of medium format analog film. I had never successfully used medium format prior to this project, so the prospect of doing so conjured feelings of both excitement and anticipation. The weeks building up to my planned shoot date, I spent time getting to know my camera, a Bronica ETRSi that I had borrowed from college. It was a small, lightweight and easy to use. A nice introduction to the world of medium format. Then came the time to shoot, a warm early evening in June. The act of setting up the tri-pod in various locations, getting a light meter reading and composing each frame felt cathartic, as if the very process of photographing mirrored what I was trying to portray in the photographs themselves.

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I wanted these photographs to be a reminder to myself that I am in control of my own recovery. It’s strange to look back on in retrospect, as a few months have passed since the creation of this project and I still find myself dipping into old habits and ways of thinking. But I am still a strong advocate that the process of making photographs can act as a form of therapy, a way to ground yourself and connect with the world around you.

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To keep up to date with my work, you can find me over on my instagram page.

 

 

My First Time Developing Film

A couple weeks ago I developed my first roll of film. This is something that has been a goal of mine since I started shooting back in February, I just never committed to it before now and for those on the fence I would highly recommend it. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on getting into developing as well as results from my first session.

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To back track a bit, like I said I did my first at home development session a couple weeks ago. I souped up some HP5 pushed one stop with Ilfosol 3. I’m lucky to have a bathroom with no windows to act as my darkroom, and let me tell you those few minutes in my “darkroom” trying to get my negatives onto the SPOOL? were extremely stressful. But that’s not the focus of this short writeup.

I actually think at home development isn’t that hard. I get this sentiment from a how to video I stumbled upon while doing some research. This video more or less portrays developing like this:

  1. Just like learning photography you can pick up the basics pretty quick.
  2. But to become a pro it takes a long time.

That first point was what I connected to because what I’d heard before this video was that developing was this whole ordeal that required precision and instruments and experience, while that has merit, it’s also a skill that like anything else can be grasped quickly and should be honed over time.  I’ve felt that developing was always a logical next step from just shooting and that video is spot on – it’s not that hard to develop at home. Sure it’s stressful working in the dark but everything with the chemicals is just following some instructions.

I don’t mean to take away from the skills required to master a darkroom. Like the second point above, becoming a pro takes a lot of time, energy, and experience. I know I have so much to learn but really for those on the fence, I’d recommend giving it a shot.

The biggest reason why I think you should try it? I can say with confidence you will feel a connection to that first roll you’ve developed more so than most of your previous work. Just like the first roll you’ve ever shot, the first roll you shoot and develop is new, it’s a fresh feeling and you’ve been the one to get it into a medium you can view, share, and love. The next step for me is to get better at printing my work, which is a whole other beast. Let me know if you’ve developed, would love to chat about what you’ve learned in the process.

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All these shots were taken on my Olympus OM10.

Much love,