Tokyo: Shinjuku and Ginza

It’s busy…acros_tokyo_shinjuku_shopping

Compared to Northern Ireland, Tokyo is an assault on the senses – the crowds, the skyline, the neon – and I love it. Another major difference is the abundance of camera stores and the availability of second hand kit and film. I stocked up on Fuji Acros 35mm – at about 60% of the UK price. (as news arrives of its imminent disappearance..)

Shinjuku and Ginza are districts that don’t seem to stop and are probably most like the image many people have of Tokyo before visiting.  There’s the architecture…

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Curvy Tokyo
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braided Tokyo

The taxis are classy looking 80’s styled Toyotas. They are however bloody expensive, so it was exterior shots only.

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Tokyo Taxis, Ginza

There are many eating options – local as well as global burgers

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stand up for the sushi, Shinjuku

And claw grabbing is a local pastime..

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restocking the minions

Of course, at some point Godzilla was going to make an appearance

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Cinema and Godzilla, Shinjuku

Kit was Fuji Acros 100 and the ever reliable Nikon F60.

Tokyo: Taiko

Taiko is traditional Japanese ensemble drumming – a full-on percussion experience with visuals to match.  These were shot in Ueno Park, Tokyo on a Sunday afternoon but there are all sorts of shows, classes and competitions to go and watch and take part in Taiko.

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A wee hand held drum
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Traditionally a male dominated art – not any longer.
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A  chū-daiko. 

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Calm before the storm

These shots were taken on Kentmere 400 film – cheap and cheerful but very grainy on scanning (they do sit nice and flat though..).

It does however do a much nicer darkroom print.

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very ungrainy darkroom print – Ilford Multigrade RC Matt

And of course, when in Tokyo – give it a go yourself.

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Me and Taiko teacher Oskar.  He’s the one on the right…

Kit: Nikon F60 with Kentmere 400.
Me and Oskar shot on a Huawei phone

Tokyo: Street Portraits

Candid street portraits are one thing – asking to take a picture is another.  And there’s no harm in asking, especially if the subject is willing or doing something to attract attention.

The Noodle King
The Noodle King.  Shinjuku, Tokyo

Or if you’ve just had the third consecutive lunch in his restaurant.  The Shinjuku district of Tokyo is coming down with cafes and restaurants – many at inflated tourist prices.  There are however plenty of cheap noodle bars – often without any English menus or signage.  This particular place had a vending machine to select from a picture which then printed out a ticket.  You give the ticket to the guy in the photo and he’s cooks up some noodles.  No need to speak – just some positive body language, a smile and a thumbs-up.  After the third day, I asked to take the photo.  He obliged.

Free Gag.  Gag is innocent
Free Gag.  Gag is innocent

Then there are those who are on public display.  The guy above hangs around Shibuya station with his signs.  Other than that I’ve no idea what he’s about, but he likes his photo taken.

The girl below was intent on selling me a t shirt.  I resisted.  I’m a bit old for Mickey Mouse which she seemed to eventually agree.

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she sells T shirts by Shibuya

All above shot on the Nikon F60 and Fuji Acros 100.  Having an old film camera also seems to help with street portraits

Tokyo: Shibuya

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The Crossing:  Nikon F60, Acros100

There aren’t many places you visit just to cross a road.  We’ve loads of crossings in Northern Ireland  – press a button, wait until a green man appears then dander across the road.  Occasionally this will involve a car or two stopping and perhaps a few other pedestrians.  Certainly nothing for tourists.

The Shibuya district in Tokyo has one of the biggest crossings in the world.  Roads from all directions get a red light and then it’s a pedestrian free for all.

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Crossing the crossing.  Nikon F60, Acros 100

It is of course best seen from above  – there is a ridiculously packed Starbucks overlooking the crossing  – the phone is best to record this this.

There is of course more to the Shibuya district than a pelican crossing no matter how big assed and busy it is.  It’s a vibrant shopping, eating and socialising area making it great for street shots.

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Marlboro Men of Shibuya. Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Queueing for a traditional Japanese Wendy burger. Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Signage. Nikon F60, Acros 100
aCROS TOKYO SHIBUYA BUNTING
Bunting. Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Shibuya street scene and a Barcelona FC fan shop…    Olympus Trip 35 / Fomapan 100
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Tokyo Taxi . Olympus Trip 35 / Fomapan 100
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Shopping Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Night shopping Nikon F60, Acros 100
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Struggling handheld at night on 100 ISO.  Nikon F60, Acros 100
no music
True.  Olympus Trip 35 / Fomapan 100

 

Queens

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Queen’s Quarter, Belfast

I’ve always had mixed feelings towards the Queen’s area in Belfast.  I grew up around this part of Belfast and it’s got an undoubted charm, but as a graduate of the University, studying there was nothing special – dull and uninspiring, even.  Maybe it’s an age thing but I’ve had much more productive learning through part time study and of course, through life experience.

Still, it’s one of the city’s nicest areas for a walk with the camera.  These were shot on a Canon T70 (underrated and not the slightest bit ugly) and Ilford HP5+, not too grainy and a pleasure to scan.

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Welcome to Queens
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Inside the Lanyon building
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Along the quadrangle

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Queen’s has Belfast’s leading Art House Cinema and while there’s always an eclectic mix of films on show, the seating is most uncomfortable and at my last visit, I surprisingly witnessed numerous Wittertainment Code Violations.

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QFT
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Elmwood Hall
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Theological College for non-factual study…
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The ever popular city bikes
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But is it art..
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Play School windows
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Tree-lined University Road
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Quadrangle archway

The Home of GAA

Croke Park, Dublin

For those born into a particular community in Northern Ireland, one tends to follow a certain ‘conditioning’ in what’s ‘ours’ and what’s ‘theirs’. If the community is the British facing one, then in my experience there’s a lot to miss out on during one’s formative years and beyond.

One large cultural gap in my life experience was that of the world of Gaelic sports – the GAA and its components of football, hurling and camogie. Thankfully that has been rectified and I enjoy going to a gaelic football or hurling game almost as much as going to a (proper) football match.  (‘Soccer’ is not a word I care for…)

A must-see on any visit to Dublin is a guided tour of Croke Park and the GAA museum.  The sport itself is dynamic, athletic and with an admirable amateur ethos at its core –  and a history and culture inextricably linked with the evolution of the Irish state.

I took a visit out of season with a roll of Tri-X loaded in that neglected design icon of the 1980s, the Canon T70.

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St Joseph’s Avenue, Dublin – arriving at Croke Park
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the other Gaelic sport
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Welcome to Croke Park

The GAA has a presence throughout Irish society where the sports are at the heart of community.  The role of the clubs can be seen throughout the ground and museum.

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the county clubs

Michael Cusack, the GAA founder – marked by statue and stand.

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Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA

Hill 16  – once named Hill 60 based on an Irish regiment of the British Army – renamed to reflect the legacy of 1916.   No  large stand at this end – it’s in a residential area after all.

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Hill 16

Croke Park holds over 82,000  It’s an Irish Nou Camp

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the Davin stand meets the Hogan stand
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The Iconic County Shirts – colour slide film may have been better

The museum itself is one of the best presented sports museums I’ve visited.

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Museum entrance
Croke Park, Dublin
GAA Museum
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from the Hall of Fame to Government.  Former Irish Prime Minister, Jack Lynch

Many stadia and clubs have tours and a museum although perhaps only Nou Camp in Barcelona  compares with Croke Park in having a historical context and cultural significance beyond the sport itself.

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Replica trophies for the selfies – Hogan stand
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that was Croke Park

The Ricoh KR-5: SLR Minimalism.

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feel the love for the KR5

The resurgence in film photography, especially with younger photographers has led to a sharp increase in the price of old film cameras.   In 2008 I bought a mint Nikon L35AF for a measly £3 . With the ascendancy of DSLRs and Mirrorless systems, people couldn’t get rid of their film gear quickly enough.

10 years on and classic compacts, SLRs, rangefinders and medium format cameras go for premium prices, although only for certain cameras with a certain cachet.  Cameras like the Canon AE1, Olympus MjuII, Pentax 67, Mamiya 7, anything Contax or Leica all seem to be a costly camera of choice for the affluent young blogger or YouTuber.

I however grew up on a Praktica MTL3 and whatever cheap M42 lenses I could get, and even though I progressed to the heights of Praktica B mount and aperture priority exposure, I still have a fondness for a more budget approach to film photography.

So while looking on the EBay for a 28mm lens to go with a battered but working Pentax K1000 rescued from impending landfill, I managed to obtain for the princely sum of a tenner:

  • A mint Ricoh KR-5 with 50mm  f2 Riconar lens
  • A Sirius 28mm lens
  • A Sirius 135mm lens
  • An olive green Miranda bag
  • A wee sync cable
  • A blower brush (essential for negative scanning)
    I don’t think I’ve ever felt as pleased with myself.

The KR5 it should be said is a basic beginners camera of the most utilitarian order. But my god it’s beautiful.  A solid mix of metal body and plastic casing  – the name and model is cut into the plastic, none of your sticker nonsense here – it has a solid, unfussy design.

It’s jet black – front, back and top with minimal controls.  You get a shutter dial, film speed dial, lever advance and shutter release button (threaded for cable release).  A self-timer on the front and that’s your lot.   Even the shutter speed dial keeps it basic.  No wide range of speeds either..

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Complex state of the Art controls

A modest fastest speed of 1/500th is complemented by a slowest of 1/8th with B the only setting below this. So any milky water shots, you’re on B and counting.  In reality of course if you’re street shooting or doing a photo-walk, this is going to cover most situations unless you’re using Ilford Delta 3200 on a bright summer day.  Equally in the studio under flash – sync of 1/60th, lens at f8 and set the lights accordingly.

Exposure is measured through a simple CdS exposure meter powered by two G13/SR44 batteries.  A useful feature is that the meter only works when the lever is half-cocked to show the red dot as seen above.  Unlike the Pentax K1000 whose meter is always on and needs a lens cap on to stop battery drain, the exposure is only read when the lever is in this position.

Simplicity is extended through to the viewfinder screen.

Ricoh viewfinder
Underexposed Rhein and bridge

It’s big, bright and has a needle that moves up and down.  No LED’s or even +/-  indicators.  When it’s in the middle you’re good to go.  Even the focussing circle in the centre is unfussy and is clear to see when you’re in focus.

And that’s the KR-5.  Next step is to load film and shoot.

 

Thomas
Kentmere 100 using studio flash.  50mm lens
Drummer, Grafton Street. Dublin
Grafton Street, Dublin.  Tri-X 400.  135mm lens
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O’Connell Street, Dublin.  Tri-X 400.  28mm lens
Keiserwerth
Kaiserswerth, Germany.  Kentmere 400.  50mm lens

And that’s the Ricoh KR-5 in all its wonderful simplicity.  You may ask what’s the difference between it and any of the numerous other manual SLR’s of the 1970’s and 80’s and there’s undoubtedly more sophisticated, desirable cameras out there, cameras with greater versatility and even ones with more than 7 shutter speeds.

It’s strength is in the simplicity of use and its limited options and functionality which puts the onus on the photographer.  It combines Eastern Bloc utilitarianism with a bit of Japanese reliability and sleeker design.  It’s not too heavy, the shutter’s not too loud and the solid black look and stripped back functionality make it the Johnny Cash of cameras.

And you can pick them up for next to nothing.