The Lesson

(C)2003 Kevin Bjorke When we were in Japan we switched hotels, from a western-styled business hotel to a Japanese-styled urban ryokan. After settling-in I thought to run out around the corner to the local Family Mart for a soda. For the first time in days I left my camera behind with Courtney – I’d only be gone for five minutes, right?

No sooner do I turn that corner outdoors, than a lone guy comes running down the street toward me — black suit, tie, and a horse’s head. He’s shouting and waving at people in an upper-story window across the street as he runs by. Me: no camera.

Today, I think to leave the Contax at home… I’ve got my little Canonet in the desk at work anyway, right? At lunchtime, I jot down to the cafeteria — at the door there’s a guy in a giant furry Shark suit (from the local hockey team). Me: no camera.

I feel an ominous trend developing.

~1 min read

Scotopic Photo Topic

Thought problem: Would color improve or degrade this photo? Why? Defend your assertion. (20 pts) (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Debate about the application of color in photography will continue as long as there are photographs. Feature articles on the topic pop up with great regularity in the standard photo mags, and online articles and debates rage endlessly. My local bookstore carries at least two magazines, B&W and Black and White Photography, dedicated entirely to one camp (and yes, Benetton’s advertising rag Colors, too).

The language of these debates is often laughably inflammatory, raging from “anyone shooting B&W today is morally suspect” to “B/W is the true photographer’s medium.” It’s right up there with declarations like “film is dead” (and has been for many years, or so I’ve often been told in one well-meaning lecture after another since at least the early 90’s) or “digital is just craftsmanship, photography [with silver wet processes] is art.”

Can somebody open a window in here? Phew!

3 min read

Tonjoubi Omedetou

Takeshita-dori, 2003 (C) 2003 Kevin Bjorke Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 Xtol 1+1 for ISO 800. Two rolls of E-6 back from Calypso, one the new Velvia 100F (bought to try as an alternative to Ektachrome 100G). The slides look luscious but as in the past my scanner has a hard time getting detail from the shadows… though it’s in there!

The APUG turned one year old on the seventh of September — this past Sunday. To commemorate, members were to each shoot something that day and post to a shared community gallery, a little “Day in the Life” approach. While I haven’t processed or scanned everything I shot that day, I sent along the frame at right, from the first Sept 7th roll to be finished.

For the analog purist police, here’s the shot data: Shot at close range on TMax 100, Contax G2, 28mm, AE f/5.6 at around 1 in the afternoon Tokyo time.

~1 min read

Numbers Game

Three rolls TMX, 9.5 mins Xtol 1+1 @ 20C. That leaves 42 rolls of black & white unprocessed, and a color lab backlog of an additional 18 rolls — I’m guessing almost 2000 frames shot over the past couple of weeks.

Big bursts like this seem to make a compelling argument for digital. As I type this I can look over C’s shoulder and see her downloading color frame after color frame from her Elph. Fast and (once the gear is paid for) free.

By comparison, the film cost is… well, let’s run the numbers. Two and a half 100’ spools of B&W film, about $60. Two Costco special packs of Kodak color neg, $18. About $50 of film from Yodobashi Camera (Neopan Super Presto for $3 a roll… couldn’t resist!). Two five-liter bags of Xtol, about $16. I changed batteries, about $9. Some stop bath ($0.50). Sixty negative-sleeve pages, about $5. Process-only at the color lab, another $55. Total: about $165. Or to put it another way — If I shot at this rate (around 5 rolls per day) for a year, it would be about half the cost of a Canon EOD 1Ds body (and I’d need new batteries, storage, and EOS lenses from 20mm to 85mm — or 15mm to 70mm for a camera with a smaller sensor, like the EOS 1D).

Then let’s add the time: if I do a run each night, I should have the B&W done in a week and a half. The color neg of course will be done almost instantly, and the slides are due tomorrow. Konica Impresa 50 Pro I ran through a lab in Japan while testing my dropped lens (everything was fine). Then of course I have to scan everything, at which point film pix and digital pix are on more-or-less an even footing, save for the potential hassle of spotting.

So between now and maybe two weeks from now, if I had a deadline, digital wins hands down, regardless of the cost. From that point onward, however, we enter the state where a viewer, seeing a photo, has essentially no interest whatsoever in how it was made or how long it took or what it cost. All they see is the picture.

So the question is then — could I have gotten the same shots with a digicam?

I don’t think so, in the dense crowds of Tokyo. A digital compact could have gotten about 20% of the more static shots, but it wouldn’t have had the quick response of my little Contax; a DSLR would have been quicker, but at three times the size and weight — and still probably unable to spontaneously shoot in quick succession. The film camera was instant-on, low-profile, and I could leave it ready all day and night. Seen in that light, film shooting still seems like a bargain.

2 min read

No tips for cabbies

Just a couple of rolls yesterday — broke out the mini tripod and forced myself to go through a roll of TMX, indoors, on a rainy day. Mostly two-second exposures. I'm just about out of the faster films, but have hardly shot any of the sackfull of TMX that I'd anticipated using most-often.

After dinner our driver impatiently grabs the bag off my shoulder while I'm trying to get in the van, and despite my protests turns the bag sideways — smack lens on the wet pavement. Everything looks okay — focus still seems smooth. Not sure if Zeiss makes the lens shell from brass or titanium, but I sure can't find a mark on it. Will try to push a short roll through at wide apertures just to check.

Should pick up some more film later today — considering the location I may be back on Neopan for a while. Considered picking up some Centuria in the special official commemorative package — Huby, tho photo mascot cartoon character of Incheon International Airport, who adorns special film boxes and also winks at you on signs that remind passengers that photography in certain secure areas is prohibited. Decided to wait for something faster than ISO 200.

Every airport is a crap shoot — Incheon doesn't hand-inspect film, they just shove it on through the xray machine. They want your shoes, too — but at least they're nice enough to provide sandals for wearing while you walk the 3-4 meters to the other side of the security check.

I can see the summit of Fuji-yama just now from my airplane window, poking up through the clouds — probably the last I'll see of Fuji for a while, considering the wet typhoon-season weather. Next stop on the ground will probably be Yodobashi Camera, for a lens check and some more film, if I can get settled at the hotel before Shinjuku retailers close for the day.

1 min read