Evening Shadows on Sunday

I was googling to read more about Saul Leiter when I found an article written by Jacqui Palumbo. This paragraph from her article struck me.

Leiter wasn’t interested in the human condition, like Frank or Diane Arbus; instead he understood the simple poetry of a stranger’s silhouette, or raindrops on a window pane. “I may be old-fashioned, but I believe there is such a thing as a search for beauty—a delight in the nice things in the world. And I don’t think one should have to apologize for it,” he said in In No Great Hurry.

Why Saul Leiter Kept His Colorful Street Photography Secret for Decades – Jacqui Palumbo

My photography is not documentary in nature nor does it usually tell a story. I’m still trying to find out what my photography style is or what it seeks to convey. But what I know is that it gives me joy. That’s a start.

You can also Forage in Eden Terrace

Following a week of beautiful weather, I was crossing my fingers for sun to light my photograph walk on Saturday morning. Alas, it was not to be. The light was subdued at 9am from a sky covered with cloud. On a positive note, it was not as cold and it did not look like it was going to rain. Decision made. I’m going out to continue my exploration of Eden Terrace from Thursday’s burger run. Eden Terrace is only 3km away. I could cycle. But who am I kidding? I jumped into my car and off I went.

Like the analyst that I am, I drew a 3 x 3 grid pitting lighting conditions with colour temperature. Essentially, I was trying to understand which custom setting should I use in different conditions. Based on my grid, today’s conditions is Flat Light and Neutral/Cold colour temperature. Based on my grid, I should either be using Ritchie Roesch’s Kodachrome II custom setting or Luis Costa’s Classic Negative setting. However, I decided to work with my Classic Chrome custom setting. Let’s see how it works today.

Eden Terrace is small suburb around 3km wide and 1km deep. There is a mix of residential, social and commercial properties with varying levels of modernity and grunge. Eden Terrace is gentrifying like all city fringe suburbs forced to move with the times. Here are the shots from today.

This is my favourite shot of the day.

The gem of my Saturday morning would have to be the chance encounter with a foraging uncle. In Singapore, we call anyone about 10 years old than us “uncle” even though there isn’t any blood relationship. Earlier in the morning, I had taken some photos of the urban graffiti on the empty plot of land sandwiched between buildings on three sides.

As I got into my car to leave, I saw an uncle in the same spot foraging. Going against, all my instincts, I went up to him to strike a conversation. Apparently, he is foraging for herbs that go into Chinese baos (buns). I can’t remember what the herb was as I was more focused on trying to hold a conversation in Chinese. All I remember is that it is something 香(fragrant). It looked like the fine thread like leaves of an giant bush of fennel.

Last thought, I think my custom setting managed to capture a true reflection of the scene. There was no unnatural warmth that can come from a Classic Negative based simulation or a Kodachrome II film simulation. This custom setting for my Fujifilm Xpro3 is a good base for Auckland’s winter/spring scene.

A Light Filled Chicken Burger

Today’s lunch has been planned since Monday. I’m catching up with Philip for burgers at his favourite burger place, a short distance away from where he lives. As with life in general, I find it easier to motivate myself when I have something good to look forward to. That promise of something nice could range from a meal or the potential for photography in a new place. This spring day promises both.

Eden Terrace is no more than 10 mins drive from where I live. Even though it is only a short drive away, I’ve not had much opportunity to explore the area. It is just a place I travel through. not to. What I know of the area is that it is a mix of residential and industrial developments. Overtime, new buildings squeeze between old buildings, meshing modern clean architecture with visible evidence of the passage of time.

Beautiful light and a delicious fried chicken burger. What more could I ask for? I was short of time and these were the photos from a short snap before and after my burger. I think another trip to take “photos” is necessary.

I shot these using my personal classic chrome custom setting. I’m learning to understand how well it plays and more importantly, how I should work with my camera to handle different situations.

Oh, Burger Geek has the best burgers in New Zealand. That Fried Chicken Burger? Oh my…. The next burger of theirs I’m going to try is the Sombra – Black Bean and Brown Rice Pattie with Fried Egg. Yup. That’ exactly what I will be trying.

Lockdown level 2.5

Auckland moved to lockdown level 2.5 this morning, down from level 3. The main difference is that shops are open at this level but social distancing needs to be observed.

At the start of the second round of lockdown and work from home routine, I decided that the path to positivity lay in taking a break each day and stepping out for a walk. I decided to head down old faithful, Ponsonby Road. Light was dull but it gave me a chance to test my custom setting

The following two shots need a boost in exposure. I was toying with using auto iso and buggered up the shots.

Nothing fancy. Just slowly working out my photography approach and documenting my work in progress.

Trialing my Custom Settings

Following on from Friday and Saturday’s crafting of my Classic Chrome based custom setting, I went down to Wynyard Quarter on a beautiful Sunday morning to test my custom setting recipe. The purpose of a custom setting on a Fujifilm camera is to digitally simulate a film look for the photos. The intention is to create a shooting experience akin to shooting with film where most of the work is done in camera. Similar to film photography, there will still be a small amount of post processing required in “developing” the final product. However, the effort to process is generally expected to be minimal.

My personal custom setting, which is also known as recipe to Fujifilm shooters (term coined by Ritchie Roesch), tries to mimic a modern high contrast look which is not too cool to touch.

I was quite pleased with the test. The custom setting generally produced pictures that I like straight out of camera. The conditions this morning were bright and sunny. The spring light was a little harsh this morning but I think the customer setting held up reasonably good. However, the weather conditions in Auckland can change quite quickly. Auckland is a narrow piece of land sandwiched by two large bodies of water. It does not take much for the wind to pick up and hide the sun behind clouds. When conditions change, I’ll either have to switch custom settings or do post processing. Here is an example of a shot taken with my custom setting that I feel would look better using my version of Luis Costa’s recipe (reproduced using Fujifilm’s Raw Studio back home). The photo with my custom setting is on the left.

Luis is better

Another observation of mine is that I tend to underexpose my shots. Given my tendency, I wonder if removing Colour Chrome Effect and Colour Chrome FX Blue and increasing highlights by 1 would be a good idea. Here is a comparison of my original on the left and the proposed changes on the right.

I’m very keen on my proposal. However, the proposed changes could also be achieved by simply changing the way I shot And exposing correctly. Isn’t the focus of this exercise to get it right in camera? If so, it will be a good chance for me to slow down when I shoot and learn to get my exposure triangle right. The experimentation continues.

Film Simulations

I’m pretty sure the rainy and windy Saturday evenings are not the best time to test Fujifilm jpeg settings. Anything I try is likely to suit those gloomy settings. However, procrastination like some good intentions lead to a sad, cold, wet, windy and bad place. I could go on… No time like now to get things done.

Ritchie Roesch has kindly published many custom settings aka recipes, that allow Fujifilm camera owners to replicate the look of different film stock. I’m trying to work out what appeals the most to me. I’m also very partial to the look (and story) behind Luis Costa’s Classic Negative based recipe. Kevin Mullin’s YouTube video also provided a very useful “Meyerowitz” and “Padilla” look that caught my eye.

Most of the film stock simulations that I like are variations of the Classic Chrome or Classic Negative film simulations. In good strong light, the pictures look magical. However, in Auckland’s dreary winter and overcast environment, the jpegs can look too warm for my liking.

I decided to test out how I can customise Ritchie’s Kodachrome II and Kodachrome 64, Luis’ Classic Negative setting and Kevin’s Meyerowitz. Over the course of 30-60 mins, I tried different settings and walked around downtown Auckland. It became quite clear to me that I tended to prefer Ritchie’s Kodachrome II for dark winter nights.

So here comes the dilemma. the Kodachrome II simulation is good. But I wanted a cooler look. So I tweaked it. And then I worked on the raw file at home and realised, I prefer an even cooler variation. Now I’m stumped. Here are the three files I produced.

I thought I would be confused with the three variations and bash my head against the wall. But this has been a good exercise. I’ve decided to create and store a cooler variation of Kodachrome II and identified the other 5 film settings that I’ll store in the camera. They are:

  • Luis Costa’s Classic Negative Setting
  • Kevin Mullin’s “Padilla”
  • Kevin Mullin’s “Meyerowitz”
  • Ritchie Roesch’s Porta 400
  • Plain Vanilla Classic Chrome

In addition to these settings, I’m also very comfortable editing in raw and enjoying the process. Now I’ll just wish for some good weather to test this combination out.