Tuesday, November 17, 2009

日本での写真撮影 (Photography in Japan for the rest of us)

I've been meaning to do this for awhile. I spent a few weeks in Japan in March of 2009, and I did a lot of what I do...photo taking. I'm not going to post a bunch of random shots from the trip, though. Instead, I thought I would post some shots of a couple camera stores I visited, and some of the photographers I met!
The first shop is the famous Camera Cabaret.

Focused on toy cameras, and carrying Superheadz stock, this store in Shibuya is porn for camera lovers.
The storefront is hidden on a backstreet in Shibuya, a short walk from the famous crossing. On the second floor, it is very unassuming from the outside.

Inside, we see a small shop, resembling an art studio...with a lot of cameras! I was the only customer, and the clerk working that day was Go. His name was Go, not Thunderbirds style.

A wall of Superheadz products, Holgas, and vintage Dianas above.

Some Polaroid cameras...

And a stockpile of Smenas (Smenii?).

And, just because, some blurry Agfa boxes.

Lots of free flyers by the front door, a few shown here.

Next up we have a little shop in Kochi on the island of Shikoku, Arew Watch & Sundries Co. The blog is a bit more interesting and updated more frequently. This place was super tiny, but it appeared in the Kochi guide book. We still had to ask for directions, though we were right across the street from it.

The tiny shop was run by a very nice gentleman and loaded with very cool, if pricey, cameras.

And a couple shots of the camera. Looking at these now, I see cameras I wished I'd taken a closer look at while I was there.

This was taken at Oosawa Camera in Tokyo.

I visited some other small shops, and spent quite a bit of money at Bic Camera in Shibuya. Mostly on Fuji instant film, which costs twice as much as it does in the US, oddly enough.
I also visited with a group of photographers that live in Japan. Riding on the back of Skorj's scooter, along with Brian on his motorcyle, we spent much time trying to navigate around the Tokyo Marathon to find this little pastry shop for a meetup. Here is the gang...

From left to right: Skorj, Dairou Koga, Brian Scott Peterson, Jim O'Connell, Clemens Schwaighofer, and Eiichi Miyamoto. Here is the shot Eiichi was taking while I was shooting. And a few more shots of the brunch, shot with my Natura Classica.

I also met a few random photographers on the street. In Tomigaya, this French guy, Eric, thought I was Skorj. White guy with a Polaroid camera...why not? We all look alike.

I met this photographer in Akibahara. I started to speak Japanese, turns out he was a tourist from Taiwan. He spoke some English (I don't know Taiwanese!). I took a photo of him and he took a photo of me...wish I had written his name down.

And this was in Yoyogi on a rainy day, Shingo Tsuruzono.

And this is Brian, in a little restaurant in Shimokitazawa.

In Akibahara, I found this spot with a bunch of Polaroids in the window. Looked like a radio station. Later I was walking by and they had someone famous, I assume, in there with a crowd around the window. I tried to take a photo but was told not to. Not sure if it was specifically part of Ameba, which is a lot of things...blog, videos, search engine, etc.

So, I spent a few days with Skorj and Artsyken on Shikoku, where we explored some haikyo, or abandoned spaces. We drove from the the southern tip to the north coast in a day (my birthday! Perfect!). These are some shots of the two doing what we do...

And Skorj's famous 600SE, at rest outside of a semi-abandoned ropeway station.

I could go on and on about the trip, and I may talk about it some more in the future, about Ashio and Shikoku and all the haikyo, but this post is getting a bit long. I have a bunch of shots of myself from the trip, of course, but here is an accidental self portrait to finish this post.

I still have a list of stuff to write posts about, including the Kowa Super 66, Fuji film in instant Kodak cameras, and this! Until then...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Aries Polaroid coin stage: Why not?

This is one of those things I bid on and then thought, geez I hope someone outbids me! Someone else actually bid on it, but $2 short of my bid. Oh well. So here it is (deep breath): The Aries Model 195 Coin Stage/Model 4000 Coin Camera.
Okay, so sure I have a lot of coins in boxes and drawers...but I have little to no desire to take photos of them. Sure, we all know coins are cool.

But I just bid because it looked interesting. Other than being odd, there aren't many reasons to own one of these. But now I do. So now I'm sharing a little bit of my madness with you.
This "thing" had no instructions with it; just a brochure. Which helped a little bit. Not much, but a little bit.

My favorite part: lightweight and portable. Okay, it is actually much lighter than I would have expected. But at 18" tall and 12" long...not exactly a compact camera. I guess you could throw it in the back of your van...

...and head off to the coin show with it. Impress your friends with instant coin photos.
Ha...I just noticed that's the wrong brochure. Here's the right one for this camera. Very important, I know. But mine has adjustable magnification, the other doesn't. Obviously better.

Anyway, so I had to use this in my kitchen, because it isn't small, and I don't have any outlets left in my office-type area. It's more authentic, anyway, to photograph your coins in the kitchen. Your mom doesn't want it on the dining room table. So, here is the beast.

Yes, I agree. Unnecessary purchase. I sacrificed a pack of Fuji FP-100C to figure out how this thing works. It probably was meant to be used with 3000 film, but I didn't want to waste a pack of 667. This is basically how it works.
There is a light table that you put your coin on...

It is supposed to light up the coin face and provide a white background. The black slide allows you to position the coin and expose one side and then the other, so you have both sides of the coin on a Polaroid.

It is also supposed to have different magnifications, adjustable via a bunch of pegs and the bellows. I couldn't really get this part to work.

So I thought I should just jump right in and take a shot as a baseline. I set the magnification at 1:1, or actual coin size.

Okay. Too dark. Let's open the aperture and increase exposure time.

Okay. Too light. And out of focus. Which is odd for a fixed-focus camera.
Sooo...to check that focus. I have a focusing screen for my 600SE. Let's see if we can fix this.

It seems to only be in focus at maximum magnification. I have no idea how to make it stay in focus for the different magnifications. The lens doesn't focus; it's all the bellows' work. Maybe with 3000 film? Not sure what difference that would make. But, whatever, I got it into focus. Looking at the brochure, maybe the base is adjustable...too much trouble to figure that out, though. I prefer to view my coins close up. Let's take a couple more shots.
Oh, I forgot to mention...this thing is awkward as hell to use. You have to reach in the narrow area where the lens is to adjust speed and aperture, and cock and fire the shutter.

And when you take the shot, you have to press on the light button and hold it down. In doing so, the entire unit moves, so you have to brace it with your hand while pushing, and then reach around and fire the shutter. Kinky.
Moving on. I try a few more shots, guessing at the exposure settings.

Ha. Okay...so maybe let's try a smaller coin. And a brighter coin. Uno mas...

Success! Wow! I'm going to take Polaroids of all of my coins now! Not. This is probably my very last coin shot. Ever. But...what else can I do with this thing? It's basically a slight macro camera. Anything flat will work. Let's try a couple shots of old stereoscope photos.

"Red Rock from Below, Grand Canon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone Park. 1903."

"Doing the Chores."

Kind of cool, I guess. How about a couple of photo scraps of mine from around 1988?

Yeah, I like that. But that's the end of this pack.
Okay, so it's cool for what it is...a strange piece of photographic equipment. It has a few issues. Use is limited by the small stage, about the size of an actual Polaroid. The bulbs are very yellow, so everything photographs brown with color film. And they are super hot. When I was working on focusing, the coin was practically glowing red. What are my future plans for the coin beast? Not sure. I might take it apart. I can't imagine using it more than a couple times as it is. I'd like to separate the camera from the base, see what I can do with it. How awesome would it be to carry this around on the street? Might be a neat portrait camera, as the focus can be a foot or more away from the lens.


I have couple things I'm working on for future posts. The Kowa Super 66 is sweet. And I've got the Fuji film in a Kodak instant camera thing figured out. Until then...