These are shots done during a visit to the exhibition Ai Weiwei: Making Sense in London’s Design Museum. All pictures were done with my Leica M262 and a WWII area Summitar 50mmF2.
Ai, as he is referred to through the exhibition, is a well known global artist, advocate for freedom of speech whose constant conflict with his home country makes the background of his work.
The change from hand craft to mass production, the speed of changes in China over the last 30 years, the rush to modernisation are all themes that are exploited in his work.
A lot of the work exposed are challenging the perspective between the actual way they were made and what hey represent. The construction site protective helmet is made of glass, the cushion of which it rests is in marble not foam.
The iron reinforcing concrete made of marble, the Iphone of cut-out jade.
Some pieces refers to recent events that happened in China, the rod to the collapse of badly build buildings, the snakes made of schoolbags to lives lost in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Some pieces like the glass, wood or metal seems to be realised in a very detailed and technical manner. Some others are closer to ready made like the broken porcelain tea pots and ceramics below.
And one of the big pieces is an arrangements of Palaeolithic tools picked up on markets ( likely a single big market).
Below , the same shot with the Summitar wide open, showing the effect of selective focus.
If my memory serves me well, three selections of pictures are completing the exhibition, some of earlier works in Ai Wei Wei first atelier, some of the construction of the Nest for Beijing Olympics (Ai participated before withdrawing from the project), them a series about transforming landscape in Beijing Hutongs.
Nice show, but a bit short, worth visiting nonetheless.
Two weeks ago I took my courage in my hands and pulled the Hassie out of the box. When I say the Hassie I mean the Hassie and my second back. Because after my first outing with the Blad in London (here and here) I was so happy that I put a colour (Kodak Ektar 100 slightly expired) film in one back, and a roll of Ilford HP5+ in the other.
One back has a label “400” which is supposed to make things easier. Well anyway, back in May, and this Ektar roll, that was the Chelsea flower show and the sun was shinning and everything was perfect for a stroll in Chelsea.
I even found a Chinese artist doing whatever he was doing
and a dummy representing Vivienne Westwood close to where her iconic shop was in the 70’s.
Charles Eames plastic chairs are always a colourful delight (some of these are vintage fiberglass ones)
And then the hassie went in the cupboard for summer and went out two weeks ago. And on a beautiful autumn day, I dragged it along regents Canal, where the afternoon light was warm and beautiful.
All of this is water under the bridge. I used the Sekonic 380x as a light meter. A great piece of kit, but no so easy when switching backs.
And of course you are now expecting the catch at the end of the story. So we finish walking around Regents’ Park, went back to the Freeze open air sculpture exhibition, shot the final two frames, roll the roll .. et voila. The back labelled “400” is of course the one containing the Ektar roll. So assuming I had all my head for the first half of the roll, the second half was over exposed by one stop without visible effect on these shots.
You will also notice that there are only nine shots : apart from a portrait of my lovely wife that I keep to myself, there are two incredibly sh!t shots : the floor at my feet and a misfocused Austin mini as the beginning of the film. That’s easily 4 £ lost … errr
I hope you enjoyed the reading, get ready for the other roll soon.
This is bit back to the future as I already posted about rolls 12,13, and 15, but rest assured roll 10 will come in due time. I was complaining last week about life in Singapore being less photogenic since the Covid started last year. Man I did not knew what was coming.
For one week now we are in Heightened alert mode, basically we are back in a quite strict mode, mostly : non essential workers are asked to stay home, it is not possible to eat or drink outside (eateries can thankfully to take away), quarantine form most countries are extended to 3 weeks in selected hotels and coming into Singapore is quite difficult (even for residents).
Having enjoyed a lot more freedom than most countries since last July, we feel taken a bit aback by this new deal. So my color roll shot a couple of weeks before this soft lockdown 2.0 seems quite joyful and interesting for the place in time where I write from.
We were discussing our last holidays abroad, which were in March 2020, when we could still fly (in half empty planes though) and I remembered that I brought the Nikon F3 to Thailand and shot only two or three rolls before putting it back in the box. So it was time to pick it up again and give it another go.
I will explain a bit later this month but I am downsizing a few things, so I am shooting what’s left in the fridge rather than go and by fresh film. So I picked up my last roll of Portra 400, which is a bit overkill for just walking around, but ok I an clearing my fridge. The roll was shot over two days around Singapore.
I put the 50mmF1.4 on the F3, because my other lenses are too big for just walking around. I must say I have always been a big proponent of the 50mm, claiming the 28 / 50/ 135 were the trinity of my generation, and only young punks would walk around with a 35 as their normal lens. But I think I have moved my point of view a little bit…
The yellow Burmese girl
I have used many 35mm on the Leica system (film or digital) and I finally came quite used to it (I own 3 😦 ). The versatility of the 35mm, with a field of view larger by more than 30% is quite impressive and I think I really appreciate it on the Leica’s to the point that I find the 50mm narrow. Off course you have to step closer to your subject, but that’s not so much or a problem with a small rangefinder.
Getting closer with a SLR, even a small old fellow as the F3 is a bit less easy. Also (I am happy to be corrected) it seems the offer in term of 35mm (Vintage of course) is a bit lesser that the offer in 50mm, where Nikon has a few outstanding lenses.
So ok I feel now that the 50 is a bit narrow but at the same I don’t think I will invest in a new (even a new old) lens for the Nikon at this point) (And remember I am decluttering).
The roll was processed at Whampoa Colours, scanned by their good services, and shared on the web. Damn I still have not collected my negs. The combo F3 + 50mmF1.4 AIS + Porta did a fairly good job. I shot most of the time in Auto mode, meaning the speed is controlled automatically by the aperture I selected, quite easy with a 400 ISO film (shot at 320).
It seems the focusing of the F3 with the 50 is quite ok, I would need to try with the original 35-70 F3.5 AI Pro see if I have any problems. But that’s a heavy lens, not for casual walks.
A well deserved treat.
A final though for the road, a lot of my pictures from 25-30 years suck, I feel very bad, because souvenirs from this time are scarce, but on the upside It looks like my photography has progressed.
These two auspicious oranges offered during CNY period, here at the entrance of a restaurant in Clarke Quay. As often I make associations in my mind which are quite irrelevant, why think of Serguey Prokovief Opera The Love for Three Oranges where actually I just have two? Maybe the essence of photography : showing what’s not there.
I started this roll in Chinatown a while back, and as we were during CNY period, people came around the Buddha Tooth Relic temple to take selfies.
CNY is also about food, and the Bak Kwa (sliced barbequed port meat) shops are busy. There are queues outside some of the most famous who generally have sold all their goods by lunch time on week ends.
I was very happy / lucky a couple of weeks later when coming back to Chinatown I saw this group of youngsters dressing up in traditional Chinese costumes, for a fun photo shoot.
This is a roll of Rollei retro 80s, shot with the Leica M6 and the Summaron 35mmF3.5 ltm lens.
The film was processed in Caffenol CM recipe at 28 degrees for 5minutes. Some shots are great, but the ones with big dark areas like above are showing some marks in the dark parts. Fingers marks? Fogging ? Effect of the expired film? I don’t really know. The effect is even more noticeable below:
It is not super easy to shoot indoor with 100 ISO setting and a 3.5 lens. I quite like the result, regardless of the marks.
A big thank you to Louis Vuitton for this fashionistas playground giving opportunities for a few candid shots. Once again it was 7pm the light of the day was fading so the shots are taken at 1/60 or 1/40 and F3.5
A few random shots to finish
A pile of bar stools, the blacks and the contrast are really specific to the Rollei 80s, so I am happy this can be rendered in Caffenol.
Some sculpture in a back alley, I think it’s the entrance of a club or a bar.
A bit if tragedy to finish this is the place where 5 party goes met their fate when driving into coffee in the late night hours a couple of weeks back. You can still see the burned façade of the building. A few days (maybe 1 or two weeks) after the incidents, offerings were placed for the deceased.
So when I brought my last roll of Portra to the lab the uncle coaxed me into buying some Ektar 100, not wanting to look mean I bought not a roll but a box of 5 rolls. I must say this is a decent deal as it comes with five coupons of one dollar to be rebated of their processing. If I remember correctly this is 52 dollars for the 5 rolls and they do processing + super decent scanning at 11 dollars (Singapore Dollars).
I shot Ektar before, but mostly in 35mm, I must say it pays credit to the claim that it is the finest grain film. So I loaded the good old Hassie 500 CM with my first roll and hit the road to give it a try.
12 shots on a 120 roll is not much, but walking through overshot areas on a Sunday afternoon, it can be quite a challenge to finish a full roll.
We walked from home to Tiong Bahru, then headed to Chinatown. The Straight Clan is where the Majestic hotel used to be. I spent 5 weeks in this hotel in 2006 and have some interesting shots from the construction site period, when it was converted. Maybe I’ll share this some time.
We moved to the Buddha tooth relic temple where I notice the Buddhist flags which where not there last week ( you can check the post) and I though it was a nice opportunity for color sampling and smooth grain demonstration.
In Chinatown every year temporary stands selling goods for the occasion the Chinese New Year appear and disappear in a mater of a few weeks. Generally they close late on the eve of the New Year day. This year everybody was masked, there were less stands as the people coming from other countries could not enter Singapore. If you want to ne picky, the focus is on the cage bars, not the seller.
Exiting Chinatown, I took this shot of the Ox silk paper statue. This is not the best angle as it is quite busy with the traffic lights posts and cars. The best angle is diametrically opposite I think. But you can see here how nice and bright the colors are.
Nice mural on Substation, an art center on Armenian Street, close to the Peranakan museum. Substation used to host gigs and has a broad program, with what seems to be a focus on the street / youth culture.
The last shot in order to finish the roll : a mundane view of the Rendez-Vous Hotel at the bottom of Orchard Road. Totally uninteresting but very nice blues.
Passing my favorite photo shop the other day (Ruby Ye in Excelsior Plaza basement), I noticed a stack of an unknown (to me) boxes of film. I was told it is Kosmo Foto Mono. I heard of the brand before but never tried it. So I could not resist, parted from 14 SGD and walked home.
Next day was an unformal outing of the HUGS (Hasselblad User Group Singapore) and I brought both the Hassie (see last post) and the Leica M6 loaded with the said Kosmo Foto Mono and mounted with the 50mm Summilux v2 (My first ever Leica Lens). We met in Chinatown, to capture the Chinese New Year atmosphere.
That day was also the outing of the Urban Sketchers group, which gave us (me) plenty of pictures opportunity, I like shooting random strangers, but strangers in action is even better.
The Mono is a 100 ISO film, the weather that morning was quite ok for outdoor shots with normal speed and aperture. Except the below, inside the Chinatown complete, probably full open and 1/60 sec.
When I reached home after lunch the tricky question came : how do I process this film? Querying the Caffenol Facebook group I learned that this is some rebranded Kentmere 100, so I looked up processing time. But when I removed the label to take a nice scan of it for my collection I noticed the canister actually says Fomo.
Who to believe? Anyway checking the Massive Development Chart I noticed both the Kentmere 100 and the Foma 100 have the same development time for the same Caffenol formula. My vitamin C stock is a bit depleted but I still could find enough to process one roll with the following formula:
500 ml water. 27g Washing Soda, 8 g Vitamin C , 20g Netscafe classic
My room temperature here in Singapore is 28 Deg, so I scaled the time and processed for 6 minutes, with agitation the first 20 seconds then 3 inversions every minute. Using Ilford method to rinse, Ilford rapid fixer and dishwashing soap in the last rinse batch.
The negative is a bit over but the scams are looking good. There is a certain softness to them which is quite pleasant. 14$ is a bit expensive for a standard 100 ISO film, but I quite like the results so I may give it another try (oh yes maybe I have to finish by 100ft roll of Ilford Delta first, I probably have the equivalent of 12 rolls left in there)
Saturday morning a small outing was organized by one of my friends and we met in Chinatown to capture the atmosphere of this every special Chinese New Year.
I brought the Hasselblad 500CM with the standard lens (The only one I have), loaded with my last roll of Portra 160.
The film was processed and scanned in Whampoa Color. And I am quite happy with the results once again. I think from the roll are missing picture of the bottom of my bag and a redundant picture of the Sri Mariamman Temple.
Shooting with the Hassie is very slow, and I brought multiple films but could only shot one.
Singapore racial harmony (official term) finds a perfect example with the display of Chinese lanterns in front of this Hindu temple and the sign above the entrance wishing to all a Happy and prosperous Lunar New Year.
I waited 15 good minutes to take this shot to finally get a mopped in the middle and miss the top of the roof.
Covid or not, Chinese New Year 2021 is upon us : a lot less feisty than usual, with masks and social distancing, here we go again.
CNY 2021 will be on Friday, 12 February, but for a couple of weeks now, some stalls have open in Chinatown, and people start to go do their shopping. Yes there are less stalls than usual, and Chinatown has lost quite a few businesses these last months. Also there will be no Lion dance this year
You will see more of it surely, Chinatown is always happening and picturesque. Above some shots of an aquarellist, and in the top middle an art exhibition part of SPIF (Singapore Photography International Festival).
Shots were done on Kodak 160 slightly expired, shot with a Leica IIIc and Elmar 50mmF3.5. Filem was processed and scanned at Whampoa photo. Whampoa does an excellent job as usual, but the pictures seems a bit underexposed, maybe the roll was a bit more expired that I thought.
On a more technical note, I always wonder why people use 50mm finders for the Barnack Leicas, as its suppose to be what the viewfinder window is doing. But actually I found when shooting this roll that the I missed a few shots because of framing. In the absence of framing lines using the border of the viewfinder is quite uneasy.
I am cleaning a bit of my backlog, and found on my work-space some remaining pictures of our Taiwan trip back in Feb/March.
The only day we decided to take a tour with our friendly guide was also the only rainy day of the trip so it ends up being a no so great experience.
We took off from our hotel in Daan and headed to the North West, to visit what I believe is the Wufeng Lin Family Mansion and Garden. A historical house and garden from a rich Taiwanese family.
This is a very nicely preserved house, a quite interesting visit, not a good as the Lin Family mansion in Banqiao district but still a nice thing to see.
We then drove down to see the change of the guard at the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine, but we arrived too late, and the rain started. Continuing further west we stopped in Beitou, a suburb of Taipei known for its hot springs
The place made its living through mining and hospitality, including bath and spas.
There is a very nice museum is an old bath house, including the beautiful pool below.
At this point we headed along the Tamsui River to the fisherman’s wharf for lunch. We did not find anything much exciting, had a sandwich and then a long walk, without rain, before finding our car again.
The last stop was Tamsui old street, that we reached after visiting the interesting Fort San Domingo, showing an interesting display of the colonial times. By then the weather started to be very.
We nevertheless spent a good hour walking along the Tamsui River and through the old street with a stop at the beautiful Longshan temple, above and below.
Finally, after a nice Taiwan beer in a dry place, we happily headed back to the city and our hotel ( probably the rain stopped along the way ).
All shots Leica M262, Summicron 28/50/35, it was another day where the weather was not enticing to pull out the M6 and play with two cameras.