Photography in Japan
So I'm back from Japan, now have a few hours of sleep toward the ultimate goal of not waking up in the middle of the night anymore, and would like to share a few thoughts on taking pictures while on a trip to Japan.
As you know I went with only a film camera, an old Hasselblad 500cm. Today's job is to start culling through all the pictures and scanning and whatnnot, but I can already make some conclusions:
- The Hasselblad takes really pretty pictures.
- Film and processing are getting more and more expensive.
- Slide film sucks on contrasty scenes.
- and finally, if I had it to do over again, I would shoot digital. Probably the 5DII with the 24-105IS zoom and an additional wide fast prime for night stuff.
It was really fun shooting film and certainly changes the experience of taking pictures. And even though with digital there isn't that "this piece of film was there at the location where the picture was taken" kind of like an 'moment time capsule'. In the end the cost of film, I probably spent almost $400 on film and processing, as well as the inability for me to change films quickly, led to some frustration. And yes I know I could have had multiple film backs with different films, etc, I didn't want to deal with that kind of complexity. Plus at over $1 a shot with medium format film, I was more hesitant to take more fun and silly pictures that might not work. Digital would have let me be a bit more experimental.
All of that said, for those photographers planning a trip to Japan, here are a few pointers. You really can find film over there. 120 is no problem, I even saw 11x14" sheet film. I should have brought some home for Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. The big camera stores like Bic Camera and Yodobashi have large film selections which are just out against the wall for you to peruse, and even little camera places in tourist sections of town carried a more impressive range than most pro shops here in New York. I'll agree with the person who suggested Provia 400. It's beautiful, though a little too expensive for me at $8 a roll. Yikes.
As far as processing goes, I didn't do any until I was back in Tokyo the second week. I brought most of it to a place called Kimura Camera on suggestion of an old post on photo.net. I was in Shinjuku, so it was the closest place that wasn't some huge mega store. However they sent it out and it took a few days, though it was done faster than they promised. Quality seemed good and the people there was super nice. Like if they were that nice in America, they would be being sarcastic. This place also had cases of old cool stuff to oogle, some of it at reasonable prices.
However when I picked up my last batch from them, I had a half dozen or so more rolls and not enough time to do it their way so I asked if he had any faster suggestions and he pointed me to Horiuchi Color, which is the kind of place I was looking for all along. Pro lab, overnight turn around, better prices than people who have to send it out. Their work was great, and they only took cash (which I found interesting) but the one guy in there didn't like me at all. I was trying to be polite to the girl who was helping me, and maybe he was dating her and felt threatened or something, because he was cold. A drastic 180 degree difference from everyone else we me there.
Oh and as far as film suggestions. I think sticking with negative film over slides is a good idea. The dynamic range of chromes is a little too narrow for many settings. If I were starting over on the trip, I'd grab a couple boxes of Portra 400VC and then a few rolls of 160 and 800 for certain settings.
Ok, time to get to scanning and such. If anyone has any specific questions, let me know.