Over the last few years I have had long discussions about the use of Fomapan film on several occasions with different people as I do use a fair few rolls of Fomapan film. These discussion typically start of with specific questions about developer dilutions and times and sometimes agitation. Often the problem is that people have excessive grain and want to make sure to avoid that in the future.
I don’t claim to be a specialist but I know from experience that when exposed correctly and developed via the standard methods, Fomapan 100, 200 and 400 does not have excessive grain at all. I think the problem is in the first part of that statement; indeed when you expose Fomapan film incorrectly, the latitude of the film is not very great and this will result in heaps of grain no matter how you develop it. I’m surprised how little attention many people pay to correct exposure, blindly following rules of thumb or their TTL light meters. If you are using the ‘sunny 16 rule’ or similar as one of the people asking me was using, you are better off using Fuji Neopan Acros 100 in my opinion as its latitude is impressive and this rule of thumb is not very accurate. But even if you are using the TTL meter of your camera you must be aware at all times how the light meter works and when it can get fooled in either over- or underexposing the photo. And it does get it wrong! I recommend to use your camera’s spot meter function and exposure locking feature or use an external spot meter and the manual mode of your camera for best possible results on Fomapan.
The pages describing my experience of walking the Chichibu 34 Kannon temple pilgrimage on this blog remain popular and this makes me happy as that means that a lot of people are looking to get more out of their trips to Japan, decided to get out of the big cities and get a taste of the real Japan. I’m therefore happy to announce that I’ve written a free Android App that works as the perfect travel assistant specific for the Chichibu 34 Kannon Temples pilgrimage.
The Henro App is based on my own experience walking the pilgrimage and it is what I would have liked to have with me when I was doing the pilgrimage. Some of the temples are difficult to find. Even though there are some signs and stone markers guiding the pilgrim, especially in the Yokoze area, I found myself walking with both the books in my hand constantly looking at hand-drawn maps that were put together a long time ago and not always accurate or reading descriptions that were a bit confusing at times. I really felt like I wanted to have all the details of a temple and up-to-date maps easily accessible on my phone or tablet and even have the possibility to use GPS to indicate your current location or use for navigation to a temple.
Well, here it is is, a perfect pilgrim’s assistant and I have packed it with loads of details about other tourist attractions in Chichibu as well; so even if you don’t use it to do the pilgrimage, you’ll get plenty out of it when you visit Chichibu and it comes at a price you cannot beat. Available now in both English and Japanese (日本語版). 🙂
Check out the video on YouTube to see what to expect.
Redscale film is easy to make if you have a dark room or a change bag: Simply take all of a C-41 film out of the canister, cut it off and tape it back, back to front, and spool it back into the canister so the film will be exposed on the wrong side. All layers of C-41 film are sensitive to blue light, so the blue layer is positioned on the top normally absorbing the blue light. The result of using redscale film is a clear colour shift to red due to the red-sensitive layer of the film being exposed first as it is now on top.
You would need to overexpose a few stops to avoid having just everything in red as overexposure allows light to reach the less sensitive green and blue layers of the film. And if you are using expired film for this, you would need to overexpose even more. It is a bit trial and error.
With departures to Europe leaving Narita airport late morning or early afternoon, this means that a last night in Tokyo always results in getting up very early to catch the first Narita Express trains to be in time at the airport to make the flight. Of course it is not unthinkable in Tokyo that an earthquake or a typhoon knocks out the train traffic for a few hours, so that is why we typically stay the last night in Japan in Narita town rather than Tokyo and lately this has become the last two nights as Narita with Naritasan in its centre is actually a very nice place to visit!
Of course this is not a new idea and loads of tourists are doing this, profiting from the relatively cheap hotels and the convenience of a free shuttle bus to the airport that most, if not all, Narita hotels provide.
Narita town is as nice as any Japanese town but with some very good restaurants, especially the unagi restaurants are famous. At the heart of Narita town lies the big temple complex of Naritasan which makes a visit to Narita worthwhile from a touristic point of view too.
One thing the pamphlet only hints at is the unique chance Naritasan offers to join the devotees and visitors in the Goma ritual. Normally if you want to join in at a Buddhist temple in the morning ceremony, you need to get up pretty early. I would still recommend that you do this to give extra substance to your visit to Japan, but the great thing with the Goma ritual is that it is held every hour from early morning to late afternoon. I see so many tourists watch the ritual from beyond the glass wall, but it is just a matter of taking your shoes off, putting them in a plastic bag and sitting down inside to be part of it. When they hit that enormous taiko drum, you’ll jump like everybody else!
And when the ceremony is done, make sure to hand your wallet or camera or anything you would like to be blessed to the monks who will hold it in the smoke of the ritual for a second.
It is so easy to come back from a trip to Japan and have only stood at the window glimpsing in. Like a visit to an onsen, joining in at a temple ceremony should be high up on your lists of things to do for a successful trip to Japan. It is not difficult to join in and I can assure you that it gives a great feeling of satisfaction. Typically there are no thresholds other than our own hesitation and insecurity and I haven’t seen the tourist guide yet that explains any of this, they’re always just going on about who build this and when, but leave out so much practical information. We had a great experience at Zenkō-ji temple in Nagano and lots of other places but with so many foreign tourists and visitors at these places, I’m always the only foreigner joining in, and I’m telling you, you guys are missing out! 😀
Make sure to pick up one of the business card sized note that contains the mantra to the Fudo Myo-o deity that is chanted during the Goma ritual, see above for the text in Roman characters and translation.
Over a week ago we visited Clervaux Castle to see the Edward Steichen collection of The Family of Man, 503 photos by 273 photographers from 68 countries consisting of 37 themes. Steichen brought the collection together for the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) first in 1955 and it has travelled the world and been exposed in over 150 museums before the final integral version was installed in Clervaux Castle in the North of Luxembourg.
Photos by artists such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Robert Doisneau, W. Eugene Smith, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank and Ansel Adams and many more. I loved it! The day we visited it was relatively quiet and photography is allowed as long as you don’t use a flash. Duh!
The last photo in the collection is A Walk To The Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith, to close on an optimistic note, I guess. I’m a big fan of the photos of W. Eugene Smith, if you do not know his work make sure to check him out today, but although this photo is well executed it also contains little truth to me and the photos of W. Eugene Smith are usually bursting with truth. I’m sure most people would disagree, but I would not have ended the Family of Man exhibition with this photo…
The fun part of pinhole photography is that it is so low-tech: No real lens involved, no focussing, great results without any hassle. Or so you might think. For me, pinhole photography means that I need to bring my Android tablet, a grey-card and Sekonic 758D lightmeter to get the job done and get a predictable exposure. It is probably as hi-tech as I need to get for all of my photography. 🙂
My technique with which I have now been able to get decent and reproducible results, comes down the following steps:
Use the Film Crop Assistant app to get the location of the tripod and the composition right as you cannot look through the lens, of course.
Use the grey-card and the lightmeter to get a reading.
Use the Pinhole Camera Calculator app to convert that reading into an basic exposure time that matches the f-stop of my pinhole lens.
Use reciprocity failure correction tables specific to the film that I use the Reciprocity app that calculates the exposure time to use for a given film and metered exposure time.
Use the Timer option of the Android Clock to time the exposure.
No doubt you can find similar or better tools for the Apple world.
A few weeks ago, just after Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, I picked up a Skink Pinhole Pancake Retro Pro Pentax 67 for my Pentax 67II camera. It has the standard mount so it will fit on the Pentax 6×7, 67 and 67II cameras no doubt and with the proper adapter, I expect that it can be used on a whole host of other cameras; I intend to try it out on my Pentax 645NII later this year.
Over a few weekends I have had the chance to experiment with it. I’m happy with the results, of course the images are soft but attractive in their softness. Before I started I was expecting a bit of vignetting but there was no sign of it.
A video compilation I made of the videos that my wife and I recorded during our trip to Japan last December/January. We need to get a camera with shake-reduction, but somehow the shakiest parts are the most fun to watch 🙂
We had some great time and I’m glad that we spent a lot of our time in new areas for us like Nagano and Hokkaido, those areas were so rewarding! I’m getting pretty bored with the touristy areas of Tokyo like Shibuya, Ginza or Shinjuku and the crowds at Ikebukuro were overwhelming, but Ueno, the busiest area by far, always stays fresh for me as you can tell from the video. 🙂
If you are a fan of the work of Michael Kenna, like I am, you recognize the scene in the photo below from his photo books or from the very inspiring video that he put up on his website. If you haven’t watched it yet, take a few minutes and watch it now and you’ll love it. This photo is taken around Biei in Hokkaido and this is an amazing area, especially in the snow, and a very popular area for photographers these days.
For me the most remarkable thing in the video is that Michael and his assistant enter the field and plough through the snow to find the right spot to take the photo. When I visited in January, the fields at several of the famous locations around Biei were roped off and large signs in Japanese, Chinese and English every 20 meters indicated that it was forbidden to enter the fields, including the area around this copse. But as you can see in my photo, people do enter the field nevertheless; damaging the seedlings, spoiling the shots with their tracks for us who decide the follow the rules and triggering investigations by the forestry ministry. We ran into a car of the ministry and a guy was taking eyewitness reports about the people who had entered the field that morning.
I’m not saying that Michael Kenna behaved incorrectly, it is clear from the video that the field was not roped off and no signs were visible at the time. But I’m saying that if it is roped off and if signs are indicating that it would hurt crops to enter the field, people should follow the rules. You might have your shots, but what if the farmer is fed up with the constant damage and decides to level the copse and end this great location for everybody forever? You probably don’t care about that, as I said, you have your shots… 🙁
Normally I never hesitate to shoot first and ask questions later, but the reason for the ban was explained and I would hate to leave tracks that would impact all the other photographers that would come after me as is obvious from my photo. Thanks for nothing!
Aoi-ike or Blue pond is a relatively new tourist attraction around Biei, Hokkaido; very beautiful with dead trees in a blue pond. Of course the pond wasn’t blue frozen over, so the choice for black & white film was no issue.
The scenery was lit up at night making it a magnet for photographers who, probably because they wanted to catch snowflakes in the foreground, couldn’t stop using their flashes resulting in images of walls of white in the heavy snowfall with no trees visible. I guess you need to know what you’re doing to get the effect right and probably using your flash in automatic mode wasn’t the correct way as it was pretty much pitch dark even with the lights so the flashes were bright like nuclear explosions. (A “feature” of a DSLR on a tripod is that everybody standing behind you gets to see the result on the tiny screen and I checked out the results of quite a few of my fellow photographers — it didn’t look like any of them had any “keepers.”) 🙂
Anyway, a lot of my long exposures were ruined by the flashes and I tried to out-wait them for an hour or so, but in the end I gave up and returned at another night which turned out to be exactly the same. In the end I returned during the day time as the pond was just a couple of kilometers from our hotel at Shirogane Onsen on the way to Biei.
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