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I Got A Niiiikon Camera

Posted by Scott

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A lot of people have been asking about my photographic process for this trip so I thought I would break it down in a post. As Paul Simon before me, I got a Nikon Camera.  A Nikon D80 to be exact.  I don’t particularly like it, but unfortunately I didn’t realize that until after the return period had expired.  That fact aside, I have been able to coax some pretty satisfactory results out of it with a lot of post work.  I am usually shooting at around 800-1000 ISO with Aperture priority fixed at F2.8 for shallow depth of field and quicker exposures for the low light stuff.  My main gripe with this camera is the hopelessly inferior auto focus system.  It simply DOES NOT WORK.  Everyone has been raving about Canons so I think I’ll make the switch in the coming  year some time.  I have been lusting over the EOS 5D ever since my friend Simon showed me the shots he got with a borrowed one.  Really incredible stuff.

I am usually shooting in FINE JPEG as opposed to RAW just to save space.  Once in Photoshop I do a lot of color correction using the Shadows, Midrange, and Highlights sections of the color balance dialog.  I think that’s the key to really getting the pictures to pop, you have to adjust all the ranges independently.  That’s when you start to get some really nice cross processing / Lomo vibes going on.  Next I like to use dynamic lighting to bring the range out.  The dynamic range of a digital CMOS sensor is nowhere near that of film.  Using software effects like Adobe’s Shadow/Highlight or Nikon’s D-Lighting can simulate an expanded dynamic range in a digital image without crossing that thin line into the unnatural looking world of HDR imaging (a technique that intrigues me on a technical level but that can feel overdone and synthetic).  Of course, the end result of all this is a rather processed looking image, something some people don’t appreciate but I myself enjoy. People tend to bad mouth digital post processing but this has never made much sense to me. Processing is a huge part of analogue photography but people don’t seem to have much of a problem with that fact.  Needless to say, the results I have achieved on this trip have made me a convert to digital photography as an artistic medium.  Before I used my digital only for work tasks like product photography and such.  Now I feel like I could get away solely with a digital SLR and never look back. I would miss the unpredictable, organic nature of film but I wouldn’t miss the all the extra time and money that goes into analogue photography.

In case you missed the reference in the title, here’s Paul Simon’s Kodachrome, a song that always makes me lament the fact that I was born about 20 years too late.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Posted by Scott

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On our last night in Tokyo we stayed up all night to go to the Tsukiji Fish market:

"The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, commonly known as Tsukiji fish market (Japanese: 築地市場, Tsukiji shijō) is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind." Wikipedia

We got there around around 3:00, well before the actual auctions started at 5:00, so we were able to see a lot of behind the scenes work and preparations.  The people there were surprisingly accommodating, they let us pass in and out of any areas we pleased and even helped with directions.  Everyone was hustling around working so I was amazed they didn’t just tell us to get lost.  The place was like a bee hive, energy everywhere, people zipping around in these small transport carts moving the catch from the docks to the market area.  Some of it was downright gruesome, the top picture was of a guy we found way in the back. He was butchering live fish one by one using some strange method involving a spinal rod and a large knife.  I seriously can’t believe that much ocean life gets pulled out of the sea every day just in one place, sort of disconcerting to think this is going on everywhere around the world every day, can’t imagine that could go on very much longer. 

At any rate, the experience is highly recommended and free.  Your best bet is to just stay up all night and go really early to catch the more interesting stuff and beat the 5:00 rush of tourists (which actually wasn’t too bad).

It’s another rainy day in Amsterdam, been hard to get as many pictures as I would like.  Tomorrow is supposed to be clear so hopefully I can play some catch-up.

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Patong

Posted by Scott

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Patong is an absolutely crazy town in Phuket, Thailand where we had to transfer through from Bangkok to get a boat to Phi Phi island, our final destination. Patong is on the beach and people seem to swim and relax during the day, but the main point appears to be the nightlife. I am not sure what I came here expecting but nothing prepared me for the all out sensory onslaught that awaits after dark. In all my life I don’t think I have ever seen so many people concentrated in such a small area drinking and partying. There was a main strip with all of these open air bars and clubs down the side streets (known as "Sois").  This main drag was packed with droves of people wandering aimlessly absorbing the sights and sounds and basking in their vice of choice.  Incredibly, on multiple occasions I saw entire families with their young children wandering through these areas.  I say incredibly because many of these bars and clubs existence seemed to be predicated solely upon prostitution as each of them ostensibly consisted of a bartender and a pack of four or five girls just hanging around (although one couldn’t really be sure of the gender a lot of the time). Eventually some middle aged guy would stroll up and after a few drinks he and a girl would leave.

Visually, the Sois were a photographer’s dream, this was one place I really regretted not having a truly pro rig to take the whole thing in.  I lugged around my Nikon D80 the whole time snapping endless shots while trying not gape in awe of the insanity all around me.  Unfortunately the D80 only goes ISO1600 so it was sometimes difficult to get sharp shots in the lower lighting conditions, but most of the time there was enough ambient light to get away with ISO1000-1200 and avoid the higher noise associated with the 1600 setting.  Many times I had to underexpose and then use dynamic lighting to pull the information out of the low end.  I used to have VR (vibration reduction) on my 8800, I missed having that around as many of the shots came up really soft.

After dark debauchery aside, the daytime was a decidedly mellow affair, lot’s of strolling around in sandals and swimming.  I forgot my circular polarizing filter so a lot of the daylight shots came up pretty washed out, after the second day I sort of gave up on daytime shooting and proceeded to eat constantly. I can’t stress enough how good the food was; virtually everywhere we ate was a new high in culinary achievement.  Even the little run down shack restaurants with outdoor kitchens were great (many times they were even better than the more established eateries).  If you ever find yourself in Patong the first place I would recommend to eat is a spot right around the middle of the beachfront strip called "Chez Bernard". Get the whole fried fish with Thai chili and the squid fried noodles; you can’t lose. Unless, of course, you’re allergic to fish, squid, or Thai Chili sauce, in which case you could lose, in a big way…Because at least one of those things seem to make their way into pretty much every dish. 

The Thai people in general were really mellow and friendly but I know I didn’t get any true sense of Thai culture.  We rented motorcycles to ride up the coast one day and found a small town with an outdoor market.  There were only Thai people there and it was way out in the country so I think that’s as close as we got to seeing a day in the life of Thai culture but we were still very far from immersion on any level.  We spent the last few days on Koh Phi Phi Don island and diving the Nok islands, got some decent pictures there.  Phi Phi is a another world altogether, but I’ll save that for another post…this one is already excruciatingly long I am sure.  Hope everyone is well, I’ll see a lot of you soon in Stockholm.

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Bangkok

Posted by Scott

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Leaving Bangkok today for Kuala Lumpur then on to Amsterdam.   Bangkok was an exciting place to be with all manner of visual stimuli ready and waiting to be soaked in.  The food was great and the shopping was unique to say the least.  Apparently the Silom district in Bangkok is the knock-off capitol of the world; from fake Rolex’s to fake Versace sunglasses pretty much any type of designer product imaginable can be had.  The street vendors are pretty intense, jumping out shouting their sales pitch every time you pass by.  The streets are lined with these little carts and booths selling all sorts of random items.  The air is pretty bad; the whole city is enveloped in a thick veil of smog and it shows on the grimy walls and sidewalks. The juxtaposition of ultra modern western forms, decaying, dilapidated structures and traditionally ornate Thai shrines and monuments made for a very unique backdrop. We didn’t have as much time to explore the city as I would have liked, but the few days we did get to spend there were packed full of interesting things to see and do.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment, lot’s of pics from a place called Patong.  Feel free to comment on this post

Diana +

Posted by Scott

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The "Diana +": even lower-fi alternative to the Holga? Sent in by Damo.

"Back in the 1960’s, a small firm in Hong Kong — the Great Wall Plastics Factory — created a dirt-cheap 120 camera called the “Diana.” Crafted entirely of plastic, each camera cost about a dollar. As a mainstream product, the Diana was pretty much a failure — and was discontinued in the 1970’s. But like any superstar cut down in their prime, the Diana’s posthumous appeal skyrocketed. As a cult artistic tool of avant-garde and lo-fi photographers, it was a rousing success! They loved its soft & dreamy images, super-saturated colors, unpredictable blurring, and random contrast. Diana shots are raw & gritty, with a character all their own. They simply cannot be duplicated by any other camera on Earth! In short order, the Diana rose to prominence as one of the most treasured and sought-after cult analog cameras from the late 70’s onward. The Diana is now available again at Lomo Stockists around the world."

Anyone have any experience with these?

Holga vs. The World

Posted by Scott

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I’ll be leaving January 3rd for a month (Tokyo – Thailand -Amsterdam -  Stockholm – Prague – London).  I lost half my shots from this summer’s trip to a faulty Lomo LCA.  This time around I’m bringing my Nikon digital, but I still want a lofi film camera to capture the more personal stuff.  After seeing some beautiful shots like the one above by sMacshot I’ve decided to go with a Holga this time and ditch the LCA (which was my third Lomo to break).  I know the Holga is probably just as prone to breakage, but it’s only about $40 instead of whatever outrageous price they are charging now for the Lomo these days ($300?). 

Any tips for using the Holga?  Does it have a similar auto-exposure mechanism to the Lomo or is it all manual?  Any reason why I should stick with the Lomo?  I also really like the prospect of shooting in medium format with the Holga, something I’ve never done before.  Anything special about MF for beginners?  I am thinking of going all cross-process this time, excited to see the results.

Sound off in the comments >

Just stumbled on this Holga site, some nice info there.