A tour around Taipei

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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The place made its living through mining and hospitality, including bath and spas.

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There is a very nice museum is an old bath house, including the beautiful pool below.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A tour around Taipei

You can’t hurry love (About the VC Color Skopar 21mm F4)

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A few weeks back I was in Riceball Photography shop where our friend Leon tempted me with the new Voigtlander 21mmF3.5. This is a beautiful lens, particularly with the metal hood attached. I had a try on my M262 in the corridor of the mall (below) and also a week later on the M6 (above).

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I was very enthusiast about the test shots, very sharp, no distortion to my eyes, no color shift on the digital sensor, unlike the test I did of the old Super Angulon F4 a couple weeks before (see below).

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At a price of about 800USD, even when adding the hood (100USD) and the finder (200 USD for 21-25 metal finder), this is a steal for a bout a third of the price of the next Leica lens.

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VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder

At this point I came back to my senses and remembered that I bought a 21mmF4 Color Skopar back in 2013, to fit the Leica IIIc. This lens did not get a lot of love for the following reasons : the plastic finder is shait and was replaced once and repaired twice, the color banding on the digital bodies is awful, more subjectively I have a bit of difficulty with the 21mm : I always end up with skewed perspectives that I don’t like very much and also, yes, 21mm is very wide.

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Street shot : VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder : 21mm is wide but gives very dynamic shots

So the reasoning was that, as I have a 21mm already, why not try to address the finder issue first and if I still don’t love the 21mm then there is no point getting a new one. Of course that does not address the digital issue, but everything in its own time.

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Vertical framing checked, VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder

So lets hunt for a 21mm finder. There is a bit of  choice on the market : the plastic VC, the metal 21-25 VC, the old Leica in plastic or metal version, the Leica Universal Wide Finder. Ken Rockwell vouches for the plastic version of the Leica, but I ended up with the VC metal version that Riceball provided me in two weeks.

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More vertical framing checked, VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder

The VC metal finder is a nice piece of kit. It feels very good in the hand, (it better for about 200 USD), fits the cameras (IIIc, M6 and M262) and provide a nice view. I immediately tried it on the digital body and on two rolls of film. and I must say I am pleased with the results.

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Horizontal framing checked, VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder
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More Horizontal framing ( VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder)
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More vertical and back light( VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder)

So now what about the 21mm? Well I will probably have to shoot more before I decide, but already I think going back to my VC 21F4 by buying a new finder was a smart move : shall I love the 21mm and get the new lens, I already have a finder, shall I want to sell it I have a full kit now, or maybe I can just stick with the 21F4 for a  while.

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The 21 is very (very very) wide, the three street shots in this page were taken at about 2 to 3 meters from the subjects and they feel like I was miles away, so I will really need to step very close for my candid shots.

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I generally shoot 28, 35 and 50 Summicrons, so I must say that F4 is not mindblowing, but this is minor. On another hand the 21F4 is very tiny and pleasant to use, so I feel very comfortable when walking around that I look inconspicuous.

On a final note about the color shifting on digital bodies, some of the Leica profiles help correct it, I think one the 28mm F2.8 profile provides better results that others, have try.

  • Film color shots done on Kodak Portra 160NC with Leica M6 Classic
  • B&W shots done on Kodak TriX with Leica M6 Classic
You can’t hurry love (About the VC Color Skopar 21mm F4)

Not shooting much in Naoshima

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Kusama Iconic Pumpkin in Naoshima

Naoshima is an island town in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, it has been a long time project to go there, as it hosts several arts museum built by Tadao Ando as well as a famous hotel made by the same architect.

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This year we finally made the trip to Osaka and on the way to Hiroshima we stopped at Naoshima. Getting there seems difficult at first, but in the end it is quite easy, you take the train either to Takamatsu or to Tamano and ferry to the island.

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The Benese house hotel is full 6 months in advance so we had no chance to stay there. We then decided to sleep in Takamatsu and take a ferry for a day trip in Naoshima. Takamatsu is a secondary town, with a big hotel “JR Clement” (a bit expensive for what you get) and a few restaurants where you can manage in english. It also hosts the garden-museum of Isam Nogushi which is well worth the visit.

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A day is Naoshima is probably enough, the Chichu museum hosts some art pieces made to measure and the Benese house museum has an awesome collection of modern and contemporary art. The Lee Ufan museum is also worth the visit, although less well know if you are not into minimalist art. We took a bus to the Chichu Museum with is the furthest palace from the ferry and walked our way back from there.

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The subtle architecture of Tadao Ando is beautiful and invite to meditation. All the buildings are no photo, so you will see here no photos of the them. And I must say I did not miss being surrounded by people taking selfies, not that the place is packed though.

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The rest of the island contains minor exhibitions in some traditional houses and some outdoors installations.

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We spent a nicely filled 10 hours there and probably enjoyed most of it. Time to take the ferry back to Takamatsu

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Pictures shot with Leica M262 and Summicron 28/35 or 50.

Not shooting much in Naoshima

2018 – The year I still shot one roll of film a week.

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Camera n.1: Leica M6 with Rollei Vario

Happy  new year everybody, happy film shooting to all the film photogs. If I looks around me in Singapore it looks like more and more people are shooting film. I see young kids buying film at the shop and carrying around some analog point and shoots, SLRs or rangefinders. I met fellow film shooters in Japan, Laos and Thailand this year and at the big dismay of my family I (nearly) always go and talk to them, and take their picture sometime.

In my own opinion 2018 has been less exciting that 2017 in term of the film industry : Cinestill is now part of the landscape, Kodak Ektachrome is said to be available but I have not tried it yet, Film Ferania is still nowhere near the shelves. The only new film I tried is the Rollei variochrome positive film, which is quite gimmicky.

Camera N.2 : Leica IIIC with Kodak TMAX 100

 

Below is a breakdown of my film rolls:

Film Rolls
Ultrafine 400 17
Cinestill 50D 3
Rollei Retro 80s 3
Bergger Pancro400 3
Kodak Tmax 400 2
Rollei CR 200 2
Polypan PF50 2
Cinestill 800 2
Fuji Reala 800 2
Kodak Gold 200 2
Rollei Superpan 200 2
Kodak Colorplus 2
Kodak Portra 400 2
Kodak Ektar 100 1
Rollei Vario 1
Kodak Tmax 100 1
Kentmere 400 1
Ilford hp5 1
Kodak Portra 160 1
Kodak TMZ 3200 1
Agfa APX 400 1
Grand Total 52

And by Brand

Brand Rolls
Ultrafine 17
Kodak 12
Rollei 8
Cinestill 5
Bergger 3
Fuji 2
Polypan 2
Agfa 1
Ilford 1
Kentmere 1
Grand Total 52
A tough one
Camera n.3: Leica M4 with Kentmere 400

The first thing to notice is that I shot a bit less that last year (I did 63 rolls then), I think I also shot less digital, I spend some time in a couple other projects. But still I am holding the one roll per week rate.

I shot 17 rolls of Ultrafine that I hand-rolled myself : this is a first for me. This is a quite good film : I told the lab it is Kentmere 400 and had no problem. I liked the experience of hand rolling shorter rolls, but as I don’t process myself there is a balance to reach between the cost of processing and not having to throw away the last shots of a roll (or shoot meaningless pics with them).

Kodak is a mix bag of black and white and the cheap color films like Colorplus and Gold 200. I tried the new TMZ 3200 once again this year and I think a good performer.  I am a Kodak fanboy.

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Camera N.4 : Hasselblad 500CM with Cinestill 50D

 

On the disappointment side are the Bergger Panchro and the Rollei Superpan, they lack contrast and have too much grain to my taste (or maybe I lack the skills to make them shine). I cannot make them out of my fridge fast enough, so I will still have some to shoot this year. I finally finished my two years expired Fuji reala 800, both shot with the Leica IIIc, I don’t really like this film (but it was so cheap) and also I have problem measuring for 800 Iso in daylight, so results were not great.

Finally the Rollei Vario ( you can read the full review here ) : it is very gimmicky so one roll is enough. I think if you are a pro and shoot a wedding, you can have a nice couple of pictures with a very different look, but apart from this the tint makes its usage very limited.

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Camera N.5 : Agfa Isolette with Bergger Panchro 400

Now let’s look at the gear.

Camera Rolls
Leica M6 21
Leica IIIc 11
Leica M4 10
Hasselblad 500CM 4
Agfa Isolette III 2
EOS 1N 2
Kodak Autographic Jr 1
Minolta Himatic 7s 1
Grand Total 52

Once again Leica’s are on top of the ladder, I am still investing in my Leica Kit, so the M system is set to shine for a while. My travel kit now is the M262, the M6 and 3 or 4 lenses in the shoulder bag.

The Leica IIIc paired with the 35mm F3.5 Summaron is my walk around camera, as a consequence the M4 lags a bit behind.

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Camera N.6 : Canon EOS 1N Kodak Portra 160

I only shot 7 rolls of medium format, the Hasselblad has a problem now and only takes 11 shots per roll, and stays at home during holidays; the Agfa still cannot focus but I like taking it out a couple of times a year (exactly two times)

I kept on my decluttering habit this year, so I got rid of my broken Olympus Mju1, the EOS 1N, the Kiev and some Nikon Zoom lenses.

 

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Camera N.7 : Minolta Hi matic with Ultrafine Xtreme 400

 

Finally my v500 scanner died in the first week on 2018, so I upgraded to an Epson v800. Frankly the difference is not that visible but it is a lot faster and the Silverfast software is quite better than the Epson one, although I must say I still have some work to master it.

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Camera N. 8 : Kodak Autographic Jr 6×9 with Rollei retro 80s.

 

If you are curious you can check the past reviews : 2015, 2016, 2017.

Happy shooting in 2019 !

2018 – The year I still shot one roll of film a week.

The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

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The alms ceremony in Luang Prabang is a unique ritual that makes the charm of this small city. It is a also a well know one and pictures of the monks lining the streets of Luang Prabang at 5am are famous worldwide. I could not attend it the first time I was there 10 years ago, but I made sure to see it this time.

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The little lady above lives on the other side of the street, where I am shooting from. The people on her right on the first picture are tourists (Korean, Thai, Chinese?) renting a stool, and buying alms from the merchants. So this has become a real touristic attraction, many stools are ready for Buddhist tourists or anybody who want to participate, and the non participating are legion.

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I try to keep a safe distance and show respects for the monks but as usual this is not the case for everybody. This is a bit frustrating, but I generally prefer to miss a shot than to fight or be a nuisance. All of this spoils a bit the ceremony for me, but it can be that I am just a tad difficult.

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I may stand corrected but what make it unique is the fact that monks from the 7 or so monasteries in town go out in the street to collect alms in procession, rather that visiting houses of people who will donate food.

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If you are out in the street at 5h30 you can assist roughly to one hour of procession, and i f you follow the rules you can approach the monks up to 3 meters.

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We were sitting on the pavement of the main street and it is quite busy. I think there may be many “spots”, like places  where the procession turns who may offer better photo opportunities, same from the exits of the monasteries of the path along the river.

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Outside of the center you will see random people waiting for monks from place to place, which surely would enable a closer encounter with this local customs.

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Regardless of the crowd it is a great experience.

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We enjoyed very much sitting opposite the lady-from-across-the-street as we regarded her devotion more authentic. But this is quite subjective and I don’t want to be judgmental.

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Flash photography is forbidden or course, so high end DSLR will probably have the upper hand here.

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For this lady renting stools and selling alms this is time to ring the end of the show.

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Color shots taken on Leica M262 with 50mm F2 Summicron v5, Black and white taken with Leica M6 classic and Summicron 28mm F2 Asph on Ultrafine Xtreme 400ISO film.

 

The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

A wet day in chinatown

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A small write up today, and I will avoid the temptation to make another complete roll review (although in fairness I was tempted).

The flea market that use to seat in Sungei Road east of the city center has been closed for building a MRT (the local term for underground). What used to be coined as the “thieves market” has slowly moved to Chinatown in the heard of the city.

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I am not sure what the authorities think of it, but here is another attraction in one of the tourist hubs of the Lion-city. These guys sell mostly old junk, and it’s rare you will find anything you might want to bargain for … actually as odd as it seems I bought for 2$ a record of Industrial Music, and one of the sellers (not sure how to call them) actually has a few interesting cameras.

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You will find old watches and Buddhist artifacts and amulets, and for the rest … you’ll see for yourself.

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Sure this will come a popular spot for street photography.

The 4 shots above were taken in a rainy afternoon,  with Ultrafine Xtreme 400 iso with the Leica IIIc and the Summaron 35mmF3.5, probably 1/60 second and f3.5.

As I am here I also add as a bonus three earlier shots done on the same film with the Leica M4 and teh modern Summicron 50mm v5.

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I hope you enjoyed the visit

A wet day in chinatown

Anandpur Sahib

The city is one of the most sacred places in Sikhism, it is a big hour drive from Chandigarh.

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The main Gurudwara is situated on a hill, you walk up from the parking.

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It is quite beautiful and offers a great view on the surrounding area.

This place receives a lot of pilgrims as it is the place where the last two Sikh Gurus lived, so it is quite interesting to see the infrastructure. Below a hall were pilgrims can rest.

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And below a young Sikh guarding the guesthouse for pilgrims (we unfortunately could not visit one).

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The communal kitchen of this Gurudwara is also hudge. They have big pots.L1000515

In the kitchen he lady below started singing while making chapatis.

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Finally a good shot of the chapati making machine:L1000527

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Next we walked to a nearby temple with a sacred well a hundred stairs below ground.

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From the outside there is a beautiful view on the Virasat-e-Khalsa, the museum of Punjab and Sikhism.L1000561

This museum is very well done, interesting and didactic, although it may sound a bit propagandist or proselyte , it gives a lot of information on the history of Punjab and Sikhism. I think it is a must do, to help memorize or clarify the things we learned through our trip.

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