Thoughts on street photography with medium format

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Ostensibly, this is already perhaps not the most practical of ideas; if one is extremely masochistic, things can be compounded further into the really bad idea class by using film. And a manual focus camera. Without a meter. I think it takes a certain amount of insanity – or at least a healthy dose of optimism – to even attempt it. Street photography (the genre itself being discussed in this previous article) is the kind of thing that’s handled best with a responsive, unobtrusive camera that also has a goodly amount of depth of field for a given aperture, plus what I like to think of as being very forgiving of slightly loose shot discipline. This generally means good high-ISO ability, perhaps a stabilization system, a low-vibration shutter and decently large pixels to make the effects of camera shake less obvious.

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Film diaries: when good film goes bad

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The worst of the negatives – there’s barely any image there at all. And this after significant digital manipulation.

This might sound like something of the Girls Gone Wild genre, but sadly, it isn’t. I recently picked up a batch of expired (2006) Kodak TMAX 400 120 film for the Hasseblad; 40 rolls at a rather good price of about $3 each. I knew going into this that the results wouldn’t be 100%; but plenty of research and the opinions of film photographers I trust suggested that it should be fine; just add around an extra stop of exposure, or be prepared to push the negatives a bit more during development. Time just degrades film sensitivity, in theory. The seller assured me he’d run a roll recently and it came out fine, just a little desensitized – which was in line with what I’d heard. I knew that storage temperature also affects things, but again – ‘cool, dry warehouse’. Supposedly fine. I’d also shot one of my own rolls of Neopan from 2005 and not found any issues; then again, it had been kept in a fridge the whole time.

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Photoessay: Fukuoka without people

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What is a city without its people? What if a person from several thousand years ago were simply transported into the present day and dropped in any moderately-sized metropolis without any explanation – especially on a Sunday, when only a few brave souls are to be seen wandering the streets, purposefully running the gauntlet or perhaps acting as keepers of the strange world? Nature appears to have taken over in places, though the square rocks remain. Even the animals mostly avoid the place. Strange movable objects line every path. Did something bad happen here? Would they view the cities as strange landscapes? Or recognize them as artificial constructs? Perhaps they would wonder why anybody would leave nature to be all squashed together in square rectangular blocks…or maybe they wouldn’t even view the blocks as fit for human dwelling. To question, to wonder, to dream, to adapt, and go forth out to explore out of curiosity even if it makes us feel a little bit scared. That is what makes us human.

Or, perhaps, I just scared the Fukuokans off with the mighty clap of my Hasselblad mirror 😛 MT

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Film diaries: Watches and a Hasselblad

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Digital contact sheet of the negs.

I’ll admit that deep down, from the day I decided to buy the Hasselblad, I’d harboured a deep, masochistic desire to do this. During previous evaluations of medium format for my main commercial subjects, it didn’t really fit the bill: too difficult to achieve the degree of magnification required for watches, and digital medium format wouldn’t give me the width I needed for architectural work. It’d also be overkill for food photography in this country, given the current state of affairs*.

*I recently had a large corporate client ask for a portfolio and quote, then turn around and give the job to another photographer who quoted less and said ‘here, copy’. The results were crude because of harsh lighting and repetitively boring subject placement, but I suppose if they can’t tell the difference…perhaps I’m the one who’s got unrealistic expectations?

But hey, on film, for fun and in the spirit of creative experimentation, why not?

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Film diaries: The importance of hapatics and tactility, part two

Continued from part one.

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Some gratuitous camera p***, and one of the nicest cameras I’ve handled – the choice of materials is superb. Too bad the price puts it out of reach for all but the lucky few.

This article falls into the film diaries because historically, there have been many attempts to make cheaper versions of popular cameras – the M2, for instance, is supposed to be a cut-price and simplified version of the M3; the Nikkomats are another example. Yet none of these feel particularly poorly made or roughly finished; if anything, they still considerably exceed the perceived quality level of anything currently available new. Objectively speaking, my 1995 Hasselblad 501C is a pain to use: it’s large, heavy, only carries 12 shots, has serious mirror slap, has a reversed finder, requires a separate external meter (or very good eye), is a pain to reload, slow to shoot with, and an ergonomic disaster – yet somehow I just love making images with it because of the way it feels in the hand. The lens’ aperture and shutter rings move with distinct, clean clicks. The mirror and shutter sound feels positive and deep. The accessories detach and snap into place with solid, positive clicks and zero free play; there are no rough-feeling mechanical parts or actions, and the focusing rings (mostly) have precisely the right amount of damping.

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Film diaries: The importance of hapatics and tactility, part one

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Spot the odd one out of this bunch. (Hint, it’s not the M9-P because the image isn’t low-key, or because it’s the only Leica in a bunch of Nikons.) It’s also not the F2 Titan because it requires no electrons to operate. Let’s try another set:

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Film diaries: Postcards from Fukuoka, and thoughts on Fuji Acros 100

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On the last day of my recent trip to Fukuoka, I somehow managed to run out of film. The entire brick and both magazines of Delta 100 were depleted in a couple of hours; I was lucky enough to have magical light and the inspiration to shoot, so making the most of it, shoot I did. Let me tell you I wish they still made 220…12 frames for street work means reloading at least every half an hour or less if you’re in the thick of things.

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Photoessay: The streets of Yangon, part two: the city

In a continuation from the previous photoessay, part two covers a few vignettes of the various urban scenes I encountered in Yangon – again captured with the Ricoh GR1v on Ilford Delta 100, and scanned with the Nikon D800E and 60/2.8 G. Enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: The streets of Yangon, part one: people

For all of the camera-shy people in Yangon, there were plenty of others who were quite happy to be photographed, or were more amused to see me use a little black buzzy point and shoot that clearly still wound film instead of showed something on the back of a screen. I didn’t mind, because the GR1v is a superior photographic tool for this kind of thing – leave it in P, frame up, check the focus distance – or use snap hyperfocal mode – and off you go. Shot on Ilford Delta 100, processed in DDX and scanned with a Nikon D800E and macro lens. Enjoy! MT

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Review: The Ricoh GR1v

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Earlier at the start of this year, I was lucky enough to have not one, but two of the cameras I lusted earlier in my photographic career show up – the Contax T3, reviewed here, and the Ricoh GR1V, which is the subject of this article. My first encounter with the GR1 was in 2001, when I was a student and there was still an independent pro camera store on Oxford’s High street. I was looking for a compact point and shoot and played with just about everything they had to offer, but landed up being seduced by something small and horrible (an APS Fuji Tiara 1010i, of all things). The GR1 (or perhaps it was a GR1v) was the only one that left much of an impression due to the way it felt, and the rather stiff price tag. Later, I recall a time in late 2005 or early 2006 when I visited a local camera store – at that point I was very much in the acquisition phase (not that it ever really stopped) on the hunt for exotic old lenses; the faster the better because I was still dealing with the limitations of the D2H. They had the Ricoh GR-Digital in stock, and the GR1V too – I landed up handling both, once again very much liking the feel of the GR1V, but walking out with the GR-Digital.

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