Nothing to say.
Sometimes we forget and speak.
Like the door is not shut.
The ground is hard.
Nothing to say.
Sometimes we forget and speak.
Like the door is not shut.
The ground is hard.
What a year.
We’re waiting for it to be over but it’s still happening.
We seek consolation.
A broken path is still a path.
There’s a waiting boat.
When will we be children again.
Or do we bend to wisdom of our age.
According to the serial numbers, my Leica M6 was made in 1987 and lens in 1957.
The lens has its distance scale in feet only. It’s a bit annoying for me as I think in metres. Oh well. This teaches me to check before buying. But there’s a broad depth of field to work with when zone focusing at f16 so that’s fine.
The lens and camera were a good combined bargain way back in 2011. I remember walking into a shop in Singapore. It’s either at Peninsula Plaza or Peninsula Shopping Centre – my favorite place for vintage cameras and electric guitars. I asked for the lowest-priced Leica M6 and 50mm lens. Didn’t like the first option and so I went with the second. They came with a 6-month shop warranty.
The prices for both the camera and lens had increased over the years. Could you say the same for digital cameras? A digital camera is like a smartphone these days – there’s built-in obsolescence at work.
There’s no such thing as a purely analog process anymore, especially if one is scanning the negatives and displaying the images on the Internet. I can’t help but tweak a little bit for contrast.
Film photography is about slowing down and understanding the light. The Leica M6 has a meter I can check to ascertain the range I can work with.
Zone focus, decide between f8, f11 or f16 depending on whether the scene is in the sun or shade and snap. It’s pure poetry – camera and lens and the mind are one.
We all need to find a sense of calm in a time of Covid-19. (My second-hand Washburn HB35, a semi-hollow guitar, is also getting a regular workout: “Mama take this badge off of me … I can’t use it anymore … it’s getting dark, too dark to see…” )
Zone focusing is actually faster than auto focusing with my digital camera. I missed a few shots with the Canon M50 as the lens hesitates once in a while and takes a little too long to decide.
In the midst of things.
I aimed at the wall and waited for someone to walk past.
Selfie on glass display. This was outside my go-to place for film development, lenses and cameras, where I got the film (Ilford XP2 400) processed right after this shot. It’s sunrisephotohk. You could find it on FB.
There’s a Leica M3 in there for a nice price. The ground rule is you put down the cash and go for a spin with the camera and develop the film right there to check for issues. If you don’t like what you see, you get your cash back.
There’re other pricier places in Hong Kong you could go to in Mongkok and Tsimshatsui and they generally give you a 6-month or 1-year shop warranty. But a Leica M is a simple mechanical thing, relatively speaking, and generally serviceable. They are built to last.
I could pair the current lens with the Leica M3, and the M6 will be a permanent home for my Voigtlander 35mm Nokton Classic. Hmm…
The nifty fifty with an APS-C camera is useful for street photography because it’s either a short 80mm tele with a regular EF-EOSM adapter (useful if you’re a shy street shooter) or a 56mm (50 x 1.6 x 0.71) with the Viltrox speed booster.
56mm is not too near but near enough to be noticed.
I’m with the speed booster with 56mm today.
I did try to establish eye contact. Some smiled. Some glared.
Many are unconcerned.
He sits there often. Today he smiled at me and asked if he’s better looking with or without the mask.
A bit creepy. It’s a plumber’s advert.
Given an ISO 400 film, if the light is good, I’d simply set the aperture to f/16 and shutter to between 1/60, 1/125, or 1/250 depending on whether I’m in the shade.
The f/16 aperture would allow for a broad depth of field, which allows me to zone focus with a wide latitude.
The whole procedure sounds complicated, but it’s for me the mid-point between going fully auto with a point and shoot camera, and going fully manual and getting all finicky and missing the moment.
It allows me to work intuitively and be disciplined at the same time – that’s the flow state I look for, whether I’m teaching, writing or on the streets with my camera.
I’m at Wu Kai Sha beach – yet again.
All images are from the same roll of film, all taken within an hour or so.
I like the word “take”. To take a photograph is to take something from the world you see.
There’s a contemplative and leisurely mood here I’d like to immerse myself in.
It’s nice to see people relax and do nothing in particular.
Like a frame with nothing at the centre, because the image is the frame.
My favourite street photography trick is to start whistling – people will look at me for a bit while my camera is pointing elsewhere and then ignore me after that.
They’ll think I’m a normal person… though the guy above wasn’t quite convinced…
At other times, they’re too involved with their own thing to notice.
I’d like to think that every photograph I take is an image of myself.
Sometimes there’s no need for explanations – it just is.
It’s a way of life – this awesome village house faces the beach.
We all have our journeys to make.
I wish I understand jogging.
I’m learning to look for patterns.
Looking for moments of insight.
We’re on the lookout.
We look at ourselves.
We think some more.
Our pigeon thoughts will lead the way.
The pigeons are lining up in my mind.
Thanks for reading!
Camera: Leica M6
Lens: Summicron Type II 50mm
Film: Ilford XP2 400
So, here’re some memories of Mong Kok.
They were trying to create a better community.
The streets announced their will.
The exhibits were playful: this looked like an umbrella carousel.
There were thoughtful moments like this at Mong Kok.
There were hard hats with a tough message.
There was a clear intention.
There was energy.
There were tents.
There were floating umbrellas.
The streets belonged to its people.
The signs and umbrellas were there.
There were ominous moments.
The graduates were there.
They were preparing for an eventuality.
Yellow and blue went well together.
There were selfie moments.
He told me to take a picture and share it.
Goodbye tents, goodbye Occupy Mong Kok.
Camera: Canon 600D
Legacy Lens: Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Oreston 50mm f 1.8
Street photography is to some extent about the art of making do.
I tend to think that street photographers are in the same category as street musicians, street performers and street hawkers.
There is technique but it’s the kind of technique shaped by being immersed in a specific environment, rather than one accrued by looking at charts, manuals, and pixels on computer screens.
I am in many ways reassured by David Gibson’s comments in his book The Street Photographer’s Manual, in which he says: “My technique is to get technique out of the way so that I can take pictures” (pg. 36).
He talks about respected street photographers who use the P mode (and cracked a photographer’s joke about “P” being the professional mode).
This is the view from my office window – what I like about it is the contrast between nature (the hill) and the man-made (the air-conditioning whatchamacallit box-thing sticking out).
I pay attention to composition, once I get the thing with the aperture/shutter speed and focus out of the way.
So, buying a new lens for my Leica M6 provokes a crucial question about technique: what could a 35mm lens do that my 50mm Summicron couldn’t?
If you have a 50mm lens, take 2 steps back and you have a 35mm lens… that’s street wisdom.
But a 50mm lens gives me that reach, as when I’m trying to capture part of a building, as in above.
Or when I’m taking a picture like the one above. (Could you guess where I was?)
All photos above are taken with my 50mm Summicron Type II lens.
The rest below are with my newly acquired used Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic SC, which I think of as a budget (relatively speaking in Leica land) “old-school” lens for Leica film shooters.
All images from this post are from the same roll of film: Fuji Neopan 400CN.
Was it money well spent?
Well … I couldn’t have taken the above shot otherwise, unless I take 2 steps back, which would have placed me in the path of traffic at Nathan Road at Tsim Sha Tsui during rush hour.
I would have captured a smaller portion of the building above.
Ditto at Shamshuipo.
There’s a hard-edged feel to the above that I like.
I was trying to capture both people and buildings. The light wasn’t so good that day.
This was on another day, with better light.
Hmm… this brings me back to 1960s newsprint…
Somehow the composition looks complete.
The f 1.4 aperture means I could do some indoors street photography…
Can you guess how the above was done?
Hint: it’s not double-exposure, and I don’t use Photoshop.
So anyway, I hope I’ve convinced you (and myself) why that 35mm Voigtlander lens was necessary.
Now that I have 2 lenses, what’s missing of course is another Leica body.
Perhaps a Leica M4 body might be a good backup/variant for the M6… which means I could do a double Leica combo on the streets…
Thanks for reading, and check out my Saatchi Art page!
So … I’m back from Shanghai, having tasted the power of a 50mm lens (80mm with a 1.6 crop factor).
What would that 40mm pancake lens I’ve been reading about do? Hmm…
That 600D has been hiding away in my closet for a long time, and now I’m beginning to think that with a small-sized lens, it might be a good street camera.
A 40mm would be a bit extravagant if you already have a 50mm lens.
Just zoom with your feet, I’d say.
But given the crop factor, it would mean 64 mm, a justifiable difference from 80mm.
So, yes, I headed off to Tsim Sha Tsui with the intention of not buying that Canon 40mm F2.8 pancake lens.
According to the Canon HK site, it goes for HK$1480.
I inquired about the price at Suning and the staff whispered HK$1380 conspiratorially.
I crossed the road and went into a small shop called Echo Audio and it’s HK$1100.
Yes! I made some money! A yummy pancake!
Roland Lim has a lot to say about buying cameras in Hong Kong.
Beware of those shops with “Tax Free” signs. Consumer goods are tax free everywhere in Hong Kong.
I’ve always been mindful of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).
Every time something fascinating appears, I remind myself it’ll be old news a year later.
First there’s Sony RX100, followed by RX100 MII, and now it’s RX100 MIII.
Ditto Fuji X100 and X100S. You can’t keep up.
I’m mindful of planned obsolescence when it comes to digital cameras – that’s partly why I’m into film cameras.
A Leica M6 would still be majestic 10 years later and hold its value at least on EBay.
You can’t quite say the same with digital cameras.
So anyway, a 64mm would fit between my Leica 50mm Summicron and that 80mm (50mm Canon nifty fifty).
I could be indoors and still be unnoticed despite the loud flipping of the slr mirror, given the distance.
This person spotted me but carried on as before.
The pancake is not as intimidating, compared to if I had my 18-135mm lens.
The fact is, no one noticed me.
The 600D with the pancake looks really small. (Though it is a bit loud).
He didn’t even look up.
Maybe I look like a tourist with a camera, in a tourist area.
He spotted me, but went on walking past me.
I’m in the MTR (subway) and no one stopped me.
I am invisible…
My camera looks like a toy.
Do I exist?
If I take a picture and no one sees me … do I exist?
People are too immersed in themselves…
Too immersed in their phones…
Finally – someone noticed!
Thanks for reading!
And if you like this post, you’ll like my portfolio.
I was in Singapore recently and of course, I brought along my Leica M6 fixed with a 50mm Summicron.
I was paranoid at first about the film going through airport x-rays. But I could see no fogging to my beloved Ilford XP2 films on a previous trip despite them having gone through 4 x-ray cabin baggage scanners at the airport at HK airport, then at Dubai where I transited, and back again.
I took a walk around my neighbourhood and walked past him, circled around, and took this:
This was at the National Library. I simply love this particular angle of the architecture:
This was in Hans, the café at the library. I like the rectangular grid:
And yes, the kacang puteh man:
You might say there’s a statement here waiting to be made about the life of a kacang puteh seller, as our attention is drawn to the newspaper headline the seller has put up.
And then I had my Singapore-style chicken rice here. They do it very differently in Hong Kong…
The photograph below sums up my ambivalent attitude towards my country of birth, in which I’ve spent 3/4 of my life before moving to Hong Kong. About 80-85% of the people live in public housing, and the facades of these HDB flats are often used as symbols of conformity, depicting the cookie-cutter and pigeonholed lifestyle and aspirations of middle-class Singaporeans. I have in mind those haunting images at the beginning of Eric Khoo’s 12 Storeys.
I think of the photograph below as saying something opposite.
I like the tree here because it symbolizes something else, that perhaps there is life, rejuvenation and fresh insights that might arise. I sense a poem coming …
Finally, since some of my friends have been asking about my street photography and the point of it all, here’s an essay by Nick Turpin that says it.
I especially like this quote from Nick’s essay:
“As a Street Photographer you are different, you are not like the others, you are an oddity both in society and in photography. In society you are odd because you are just standing their [sic] looking whilst everyone rushes past to their next shopping experience or intake of salty, sugary, fatty food. In photography you are odd because your motivation is not financial and you don’t go to photo trade shows unless it’s to people watch. You are really not part of either world, it can be lonely not talking about equipment and bags and not oiling the wheels of retail….if it weren’t for online street photography forums you could feel isolated like some lonely eccentric.”
Sometimes I stop and look around and wonder where everyone is rushing off to…