Dubrovnik, Croatia {travel with film} Part 1

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I want to share the photos from my recent trip to Croatia done entirely in film. This will span several chapters and posts to complete. When my family decided on Croatia for this year’s family trip, i selected the Leica M7, some rolls of Pro400H and Superia 200s. (All images in these series are taken on M7, 35mm Zeiss ZM)

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Amsterdam Superia 200

Our flight have to stop by Amsterdam for a night before leaving for a very early flight the next day to Dubrovnik. I carried a small Crumpler sling bag and i am surprised i managed to put the M7 with the 35mm f2 Zeiss and 7 rolls all into that bag.

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Superia 200. M7

My “home ministry of tourism” decided to be thrifty and she booked a budget hotel for this overnight stay because its very near to the airport. We took the free shuttle provided by Ibis just outside the airport.

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no makeup and tired from the trip, i hope she don’t see these photos haha. Superia 200.
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IBIS budget hotel. You buy food thru the vending machine downstairs. Superia 200.

In Malaysia, if you are into photography, you will definitely lament on the fact that the “golden sun” only exist between 7.20am to 8.30 am and 6 pm to 7.20 pm. So you can see how ecstatic i was when i landed in Amsterdam around 8pm and the golden rays greeted me.

IBIS budget hotel is exactly what it is. A small room with a double decker just enough for a small family of three. We walked over to the non-budget IBIS hotel which is located just 200 meters away and had our dinner there.

The flight took 2 hours to reach Dubrovnik. We were greeted by Nikolina, a mother of 2 and had coffee with her while her father in-law prepares the apartment for us.

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The apartment. Superia 200.

Located at Grutz, it is a 20 minutes walk to the old city Dubrovnik. Our apartment is built on top of a reclining slope and leads to a beautiful harbour. It’s a beautiful sight to behold and walking by the harbour around 18 C is enjoyable.

 

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On the way down, we took some photos by one of the neighbour’s door, beautifully surrounded by flowers. Sheryll is camera shy and cant wait until we are done. Superia 200.

Dubrovnik is where the Games of Thrones was filmed for the “King’s Landing” scenario.

next, the walk Part II

Film + Digital and why LCA120 should be avoided {glance review| sharing}

 

 

LCA120
LCA120 shot from 1 meter

I going to be real blunt here even if that includes shooting myself on my feet. Having been thru several sessions and shooting both films and digital, it gives me the pleasure of filtering out the gems from the garbage.

First off let’s talk about LOMO LCA120. This is a medium format film camera that i bought after using the LCA+ for few weeks. My opinion was that if i had so much fun with LCA+, LCA120 would be worth the purchase. My opinion now is that it is a camera that should be avoided. Like many others i read phoblographer’s raving review on LCA120 but here are some reasons why i am find it off my recommendation list.

  • 4.5 is a slow for the LCA120, the problem is the shutter button, unlike the LCA+, the button on LCA120 is challenging to press. Makes me wonders what got into Phoblographer for even recommending this camera. While the LCA+ have an aperture of f2.8, its usability was decent. On a light plastic camera like the LCA120, its horrible. Don’t expect to use it anywhere except bright outdoor or tripod.

 

LCA120 auto exposure
LCA120 auto exposure (note the distortion pillar)
  • At f4.5 the autoexposure is crap when used on a medium format LCA120. Vignetting on a medium format is just silly when you have to pay over USD 400. When phoblograher says this is best for street shoot, i think what he means is this is only usable for bright, outdoor street. period.
  • Distortion everywhere. See the picture above, notice how distorted the pillar is. Unless you are shooting infinite all the time, expect all kinds of distortion on this Minigon 38 f4.5 lens.

 

LCA with f2.8
LCA+ with f2.8

So get yourself the LCA+ from the same LOMO company and ditch any idea to buy the LCA120. I have a LCA120 totally like new now with all the original box and packaging if you want to give it a go, make me an offer. But my conclusion is that LCA120 is best used as a prop not as a photographic tool, its defnitely nowhere as fun or as useful as the LCA+ .

 

digital on FZ1000 at f2.8 25mm
digital on FZ1000 at f2.8 25mm

When you own and major in shooting film, sometimes the digital itch rears its head and i digged out whatever digital camera that is left with me to bring to a shoot along with my film gears. The picture above is taken with FZ1000, took me like 2 seconds to take it and 10 minutes to post process it with a barrage of mix presets from VSCO.  You know that saying “Once you go film you can’t go back” …it’s true (though i made up this quote).  I find digital output a bit too clean and not a single picture i took ever since was released without post processing them with grain. If you like film grains, use the Color EfexPro, its not just adding grain blindly, its adding them like how a film would have them.

 

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F100 50mm 1.4 Sigma, Fuji400HPro

Film gears comes in two flavours. The Autofocus and the manual ones. The F100 that i use for this picture is autofocus and it works with any lens created for Nikon F mount as well as older autofocus lenses such as the “d” lenses. While i do enjoy shooting film manually, sometimes its a joy using autofocus when you want to lean your thoughts more towards results and yet enjoy the beautiful tones from professional grade films like Porta or Fuji Pro.

 

nikon D610, sigma 50 1.4
nikon D610, Nikon 50 1.4 D.

I have sold off my Nikon D610 too to a good friend, at a huge discount. During my ownership of the camera, i often spend way too much time processing the output into film hence i rather use F100 for my projects. Example above is a result of processing with VSCO AGFA preset .

 

noctilux f1, kodak superia 200 film
noctilux f1, kodak superia 200 film

 

Noctilux f1, Kodak Porta 160
Noctilux f1, Kodak Porta 160

 

XA2, FujiChrome, 16 f1.4
XA2, FujiChrome, 16 f1.4

These last 2 pictures are taken on the Fuji XA2 and 16 f1.4 fujinon lenses using in camera film simulation of FujiChrome. The still look digital to me, but the film simulation provides a closer gap between film and digital.

XA2 Fujichrome 16 f1.4
XA2 Fujichrome 16 f1.4

 

I will be going on a trip to Croatia soon and after much pondering, i will bring the fuji with f1.4 over. It is a family trip and travelling light is the priority. I do find myself mulling over this decision and thinking of ways to fit in one of my film gears with me, perhaps the Leica M7 with 35mm zeiss.

kim {film | portraiture | LC-A 120 | Leica M7}

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lc-a 120

I had a fantastic weekend unwinding by doing a set of portraiture using the LC-A 120 medium format film camera and my trusty Leica M7.

One of the challenge that i faced is that LC-A and the bigger LC-A 120 have exposure control. This means that if you shoot backlighting photos, you will just end up with silhouette images. But as you can see in the images here, i managed to come up with a technique to fool the camera without using any filters or add ons.

Lomo cameras should be used with a lot of common sense and thoughts to get good images. If there is one thing you should forget, is to forget the 10 rules of lomography. There is no shortcut for good images and visualization.

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lc-a 120

All these photos are shot on a Fuji 400H pro for both the LC-A 120 and the Leica M7.  You can easily differentiates the pictures of the LC-A 120 by its square format and the Leica being rectangle. These are taken at the beach and hotel called “LonePine” in Penang, an island on the northern state of Malaysia.

 

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lc-a 120

Miss Kim here is a top 10 Miss Malaysia in 2013. Though it has been years since she got involved in any beauty contest, you can see that she doesn’t require much effort to be photogenic. On the LC-A 120 camera, i took these images by standing just 1 meter apart. In lomography sites, you often see that almost all the images shown are taken on a centre subject and with light facing it else its dark, my examples here are unique because for once you get to see images taken using the LC-A 120 backlighting and yet decently exposed on the subject. 

 

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lc-a 120

The technique is very simple. PM me if you want to find out 😛

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leica m7, 35mm biogon

Now i did a complete album using the M7 and fuji 400h pro film. It’s an emotional theme that portrays the relationship between a girl, a vintage camera at a lonely room. Do enjoy the images here, the complete set could be found at my facebook, fb:marcuslowphoto.

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leica m7, 35mm biogon
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leica m7, 35mm biogon
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leica m7, 35mm biogon

Next, i be sharing some of the  candid photos i took on the LC-A 120 as well as street photos. Till then, adios.

 

Setting the intuition free

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Using a restraining camera like a film camera improved my photography almost like John’s vision in Revelation. I am paying a lot of attention of how the image would be before the shutter blinks.

I do portraiture for models and friends. I study dozens of Japanese photo albums and conducted many private workshops, often with zero monetary rewards. I want people to appreciate and take better portraits, help the community of rising models and preaches against booby shooters as pretext of art.

Some of the wedding works I have seen are bordering on shams and scams, depending hugely on hdr like post processing and cheap plastic skin tones.

Improvement comes because your are passionate about producing awesome work and pursue it relentlessly despite the common crowd. More importantly, it comes because you are not satisfied and judges your recent work mercilessly like a mindless troll.

I am being serious.

Now, concerning the image for this post, I came across a bargain for a pre loved Lomo LCA+.
While I do not like any of the plastic cameras and whatever ten commandments the capital Lomography company is selling, I do respect their efforts to keep this medium alive. If only they focus on building good solid film cameras, it would be a different story.

The LCA+ got my attention the moment I held it and saw the 4 limits it forces on its users. You cant focus the camera but you need to master 0.8, 1.5, 3 and infinite distance range levels that it provides.

I spend two rolls using this “restrain” and let’s see if the results teaches me anything.

As for the Leica M7 in this picture, it serves as a visual reminder that gears don’t matter that much, both can sit at the same table if they serve the master .

One could get 15 used LCA+ for a used M7 body alone . Big deal, it’s worth junk if you don’t learn and create better images.

Analogue vs Digital, a glance reading {film|portraiture}

 

film vs digital
film vs digital

Which one is digital and which one is film? You have 5 seconds.

There is 80% chances you will guess right. While this comparison makes no sense given the different dof and the variation of expression, I would like to draw your attention to the “feel” that you get when looking at the images on the left and the right.

There is just more “life” on the image on the left. The whiteness of the dress, the shadows and tones on the face and the overall mix lighting being captured. The one on the right was taken instantly, immediate gratification of image making. The one of the left took me 4 days to get it back. When i look at these pictures, i could feel that i recognize in a very natural way, Rachel Liu in her posed smile (she is not a model btw, just a friend joining me for a cup of coffee). While the picture on the right, though taken with a better angle for a sharper face and looking pretty, lacks that “life” that is often in digital images.

Here are more images taken casually on this “cafe moment”.

 

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side

I remember setting the speed at 1/250 for this shot, knowing that i would not get her face lighted up but preserving the natural shadows and tones as it is. A candid pose taken on film might seems to be a waste of cost and film but if photography taught me anything so far, its often that the candid shots are the best and most deserving whatever cost needed to capture it.

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bread
black and white
black and white

This image portrays Rachel in a relaxed pose. I waited for some seconds and when i noticed that she exhale and begin to be less “posed” i took the shot. The dull stare of her eyes, not fixated or rigid is exactly what how anyone would looked like if a camera is not pointing at the face.

 

not flattering but real
not flattering but real

The last image for today’s sharing. A candid smile, awkward but real.

 

The temple {street photography | film}

young generation
young generation

So i had this chance of visiting a temple near Petaling Street during this festive Chinese New Year. Brought some Fuji superia 200 with me and was curious as to how the images would turn out given that the ambiance is challenging and its background layered with vintage feel.

 

mother and daughter
mother and daughter

I am very happy with the results. It feels so analogue, so natural. All these images are taken on a 35 mm Zeiss f2.0. In the temple there are many other photographers, all trying to bring back some nice scenes. It was nearly impossible to frame any shot without capturing another fellow shutter bug in it.

canon
canon

All these images are unedited as is straight from the lab, with just some cropping done on this “canon” picture. I noticed most of the photogs here are just waiting for someone to pray at the altar so that the smoke from the incense will rise up and meet the sunlight that crept thru the side windows.

prayers
prayers

This young man happened to be wearing yellow and i got my shot taken.

beggars
beggars

As i left the temple, i noticed many beggars are sitting near an old concrete stairs almost in a line. It is not a sight i am proud off and its hard to think of the kind of lives they lived on a daily basis. These people comes from all walks of lives and some are just odd jobb workers that hope to get some “ang pao” red packet, some are hardcore beggars, no one is proud to be begging.

Hope u enjoyed my photos, no models this round.

 

the perfect camera {portraiture|film}

film portraiture
fuji 400h pro. 35mm zeiss.

Every three months, we get spammed by the release of new cameras. New features. Record breaking iso’s. Another 2 ev on dynamic range, another 2 stills on fps. If you are a hobbyist like me who paid for the gears yourself, it feels almost like an addiction, GAS they call it.

Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji and Olympus. The allies of the digital age that survived the transition of film to digital, only to be bested by digital’s natural trait, “convenience”, in the form of mobile photography.  As of this writing, Iphone 7 have a dual camera in the pipeline with the latest and greatest technology empowering its new flagship phone, the DSLR killer.  Yeah, heard that one, but coming from Apple, it warrants attention. Can a brand survives if the common folks, the hobbyist turns on mobile phones for all its images and leaves DSLR’s and compact camera for only professional pros?

They can’t.

The mobile industry is not much different from the camera industry. Each model promising something that show case the creativity of marketing at play. It becomes very obvious that cameras are what everyone is selling, even in the phone. After all, we got tired of Microsoft’s new Office Word when we were already suffice with Word 6. Some knew of this sufficiency yet the rat-race, enclosed in a circle of upgrades and peer recognition, funded the Babylon merchandise.

Stop.

It’s like waking up in the Matrix, taking the red pill. When i decided this on my photography. Suddenly, there is peace. I realized that every shot costs me. In digital they ended up costing me something more precious, my time, digital upgrades and processing, more storage, editing and figuring out the tones. In film, its a direct cost per click, no beating around the bush, no marketing shenanigans.

Every shot counts. Think about it.