- 365 Project August Wrap Up
- 365 Project July Wrap Up
- 365 Project June Wrap Up
- Taipei Players: The Royal Threesome at the Crown
- 365 Project May Wrap Up
- Black and White Street Portraits
- Street Portraits, May 2011, Part 2
- Excuse Me, Can I Take Your Picture?
- 365 Project April Wrap Up
- Return of the Bobble Heads
Monthly Archives: March 2011
My last blog post was about all of the dead things that I have encountered with my camera. I forgot to add my dead pig photos. They are probably worth their own post anyway.
Late one night/early one morning I was having a bowl of noodles after a live show at my favorite venue. Noticed a truck pull up and a man walked by with a pig carcass over his shoulder. Dropped my chopsticks and climbed into the back of the truck with the swine to get some closer shots. When the guy returned I’m sure he was confused as to why a foreigner was in his truck shooting pigs. I’m sure he concluded that alcohol was a factor.
I find a lot of strange things during my travels on foot around the city. Within the span of about a week I found a dead dog, rat, fish and the partial remains of about two people. The dog was the most disturbing because it was the freshest.
After I took their picture, these four guys invited me to sit down and share a pot of tea. They explained that they had lived their entire lives in this single story Japanese designed house. I commented on how quiet and peaceful this neighborhood was, and they told me that it’s only a matter of time before these old buildings are razed and modern high rise apartment buildings erected. This will turn their neighbors into strangers and put an end to their street side tea drinking sessions.
Last month I started shooting film. I started off hating it, but ended up falling in love with the process and the additional challenge. However, I never fell in love with the Canon EOS 30 that I was shooting with. I was continually missing the performance of my 7D and felt that the camera was getting in my way with it’s less than stellar viewfinder and an old autofocus system.
For March I’ve started using a pair of vintage Nikon FE2 manual film bodies. These are bloody sweet cameras. The film Canon’s automation was convenient but removed the feel from shooting while lacking the sheer performance of modern cameras. The simple Nikon puts me in control without distraction. It’s like driving a vintage car after getting out of a soulless Toyota. The mirror slap is unmuffled, the dials and levers are mechanically connected to the guts of the camera, and the zip of the film advance lever always feels like shifting gears in a car.
The large, bright viewfinder puts the joy back in manually focusing. With no auto focus points to consider I feel like I am looser with my composition. Now I compose and focus instead of focusing and recomposing. I’ll probably end up with more out of focus photos, but I’ll have more fun doing it.
The Nikon FE2 also offers aperture priority shooting, but I have yet to use it. It’s more fun to shoot manually. I feel like the exposure needle in the viewfinder gives more immediate feedback than an LED display. It also feels more intuitive to adjust exposure using the lenses aperture ring. But I can’t always read the needles in really low light so I have been guessing more at exposure. I hope the exposure latitude of Tri-X results in usable photos.
Oh, I’ll also be developing all of my own film this month. That’ll be the topic of another post.
Last month I dove into the world of film with a donated automatic film SLR. This turned out to be more challenging than I had thought, but I think I am a better photographer as a result. I learned a lot, such as how to be more selective with my shots, work without an idiot proof auto focus system, and deal with a maximum ISO of 1600.
I didn’t realize how good I have had it as a photographer in the digital age. I have enough collective memory card space for over a thousand high resolution RAW photos. A roll of film holds 36 frames. This meant there were many times I lowered the camera without taking a shot if I thought the photo would be too boring. I have never really been a spray and pray kind of shooter, but I’m even more selective now. Each shot also costs money, and I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on processing costs.
My digital body has 19 highly sensitive auto focus points and can lock focus and track a subject even in really low light. With my film body I felt that only the center point was reliable. This led to more missed shots due to the composition changing while waiting for focus lock. It also resulted in more boring compositions with a centered subject because I don’t trust the focus recompose method with human subjects.
My most used film was Kodak Tri-X. This classic black and white film is probably the best choice for low light photography. I was shooting a lot in the evening, so I had my lab push it to ISO 1600. The results were good, but I regularly shoot my digital camera at ISO 6400 and get great results and also have the option of color photos. There were simply some lower light photos that I was unable to take.
Despite these differences between and digital, the act of going out to take pictures is fundamentally the same. I still need to stay alert and keep my eyes open. I still need to find the best angle from which to compose my shot. I still need to respect my subject and thank them with a smile or nod if they notice me. My attitude towards film has changed over the month. At first, I couldn’t wait to get back to the familiarity and performance of my digital body. Now, I can’t wait to load the next roll.
Make sure you check out the full gallery below, and stay tuned for next month’s theme.