Saturday, October 3, 2009


I spent the morning looking for a place that still sold film. Nothing obscure--though I'd love to have gotten a hold of a roll or two Velvia or Kodachrome 64--just some, as of now, old-fashioned 35mm film. But it was nowhere I looked. I figured there wouldn't be much of a selection, but none? Surely the turnover from out of date to retro-cool has become so quick any lag is imperceptible or at worst unappreciated. In any case, it looks like 35mil has yet to be wrapped up in the analog renaissance gestating reel to reel, 8mm, and McIntosh tube amps (as if they ever lost any coolness). My hope is for a rediscovery of Beta. You may think I'm kidding, but that would be because you don't know anything about Beta, which in my condescending opinion is on a par with video disks in vying for media supremacy.

35mm film doesn't even approach such quality, its main charm being that I've spent more time with it than anything else. Regardless, or even irregardless for that matter, I still couldn't find any. Not at 7-11, nor Royal Home Center, Japan's answer to Home Depot, nor either of the huge electronics stores out on Highway 24. I had almost resorted to cracking open one of those disposable cameras when I walked into a little corner photo lab near the station.

It looked desolate and had a tang of long unused machinery in the air: a soon to be casualty of digital. I'm surprised it hasn't succumbed already. Maybe there's a huge market for overpriced passport photos or something. In among the SD cards I finally found a dusty three pack of Fuji Film, standard fare in all respects except that the rolls were 27(?) exp. Whatever, I had some now.

This all transpired due to a rare fit of cleaning. The cat had made a mess of my box of carefully tangled audio and computer cordage, and I was then similarly possessed to pull them all out and remind myself what I had amassed over the years. At the bottom of sundry XLR's, USB's, quarter inch patches, quarter inch to mini's, RCA to mini's, Firewires, cellphone chargers, etc., I rediscovered the knockoff Halliburton containing my old camera gear. I'm extremely proud of the kit I was able to piece together on virtually zero money growing up. Opening the case, I found, all totally mold free(!), my F3 and trusty cadre of Nikkors: the barely adequate 28mm, the 135mm for showing how serious I was, the 80-200mm I probably stole during the Ms. Paxman days of Newswriting, and the 55mm f/1.2 (I love this lens--though anyone who can read the notation will know that already). All that alongside the weird bending F3 speedlight with the upside-down logo and my MD4. Fond memories. Nagging regrets.

Why this even meant anything is because I've been mulling over making a leap to a serious digital SLR. The little Nikon S6 I've got is serviceable for what it is. Some color balance issues and no anti-shake compensation, but it's worked good enough even after being dropped into a toilet (post flush). It's just that I have a stubborn delusion that I can take a real photograph and not only press a button to record a visual reminder of a moment that was something I felt warranted to be thusly recorded at the time. Not that snapshots of our lives don't count as "real." They can, I think, be almost too real, disallowing the recollection of occasions filtered through our need to have had things been more to what we'd like them to have been, instead of the naked preservation a snapshot makes of how a moment was in cold reality.

What I mean by a "photograph" is an image wherein time, events, meaning have a fluid quality that becomes fixed only when viewed, the viewer a participant in determining the what or when of the image and whether it is significant (or not) according to their sensibilities at the moment of viewing. Not a recorded happening viewed; rather an image the viewing of which is in itself a happening. This sounds like an attempt to render a definition of aesthetics, and it'd be an utterly inelegant one if it were. No, it's merely tenuous justification for buying an expensive now toy. (Don't worry. I'm perfectly aware that my rhetorical dismissal here is just my trying to escape accountability for waxing philosophical. It will happen again.)

The model I've decided on is Nikon's D90. [Interjection: there is no camera brand but Nikon. Never mind that Adam makes his living with Canon--only Nikon offers the fine tradition of snobbish affectation I find so delectable.] Having waited this long to make my all-out digital foray however, I knew I could wait a little longer till the D90x or whatever came out and the price dropped on the D90's. Right now, I was feeling the comfortable grip of the F3 and suddenly just had to go take some pictures for the first time in I don't know how many years. Anyone can go take 8 gigs of digital swill and find one or two decent shots from among the chaff. It takes true spiritual dedication to instead spend a few minutes composing every single frame while simultaneously working out exposure and lighting factors, knowing the whole time that you'll be paying for each shutter flicker and that all the pictures will be swill anyway since you forgot to set the ISO in the first place.

Tomoko had left to teach a lesson somewhere by the time I returned triumphant from my tour de film, so as I had no domestic concerns other than the chores I was ignoring, I threw some food at the cat and set out on my shite sucking fold-a-bike to catch the last half hour of sunlight.

Japan's a great place for photos. Every angle holds the possibility of a scene pregnant with Oriental exoticism at once pierced by any number of elements of Occidental intrusion ready to beat anyone looking at the picture over the head with tired irony to the extreme that even taking the picture seems crushingly trite. I ignore irony--though not, case in point, loose alliteration. I don't think we can decide to be ironic anymore. Maybe irony as a conscious act of wit/satire/cleverness died sometime after Catch-22. Died isn't the right word, though. Everything became ironic in its being, and we're left with a world the inhabiting of which is fundamentally ironic, for we are the embodiment of irony. We're just born that way. Or born stupid. (Oh, that was mean.) Thus, my venture back into the realm of silver tarnished emulsion is not an ironic act any more than it is an act of any kind. Such is the always already deconstructed existence: constant circles and layers of self-conscious, self-reflective sarcasm spiraling ad infinitum (see Gravity's Rainbow).

What yet remained decidedly and objectively un-ironic, however, was that catching crawfish is no different than catching sand crabs, only that crawfish are slower. The rice fields that grow more and more vast the further one removes from central Nara City teem with crawfish, American as purported by their Japanese name, Amerikan-zarigani, and they probably bespeak another enormity my country has imposed on some environment. I'm sure a Holocaust of native species extinction ensued with the American crawfish's introduction into the delicate balance that WAS the Japanese rice field ecosystem. Dissertation fodder if I've ever heard any.

While holding one of the ruddy prawns up to be photographed against a backing canvas of ripening rice, lushly green and wind-wavy, I also disconcertingly discovered that I can't focus manually very well anymore because I can't see very well anymore. Today's just full of wonderment. If there had been more light, depth of field would otherwise have spared me this blurry indignity, but the sun's last rays were slip-sliding away into a Paul Simon song with loathsome abandon and it was shoot now or wait for it to get even darker, my less than rock-steady grip already a concern in this light at 1/30 of a sec. I knew I should have brought the nocturnal 55mm. Curse my narrow pockets and hate of bags.


adam said...

I had that nikon 55mm 1.2. I sold it back on ebay. I still have my nikon to canon mount adapter but I don't have any nikon lenses. I was about to buy it again but then canon came out with a AF 50mm 1.2 that I haven't bought yet but I probably will. You'll love the D90. Unless you want to go over to Canon and get a used 5d for $1200 though you'll be bummed out by the small sensor. No more wide angle and no more shallow depth of field. Your 50mm 1.2 will perform like a 80mm 2.0. Your cheapest nikon full frame is the d700 which is universally loved but not cheap at $2100.

adam said...

I love the picture of the prawn. Mmmm. Reminds me of prawning up at Kahana valley.

Anonymous said...

Do you need to borrow, my new bi-focals love?
Thanks, I did not know that in english they are crayfish, I have oft wondered, when listening to the Carpenters sing of 'crawfish pie' what it is.
My fine young sons catch them over at kodomonomori,they're vile, I wont touch them.
Makoto gets film at konan HC.

Lilita said...

Mom said I should read your blog because "it's so L****" (in case you're being anonymous or are a spy or something). So far, funny. Good work. Though I will tell you that both Mom and Dad complained they couldn't read the print without much difficulty when the husband's blog was composed of white type on dark background. Something about age (the husband's mom couldn't see it very well either). They didn't complain to either of us, mind you, but eventually the word got back to us via the fam network. Just so you know.

Loren said...

Adam: I didn't mention it but I slipped and stepped into the tambo right after that shot and almost lost my slipper under a foot of mud.

MissB: Have those boys collect about 50 and then we can make Gumbo.

Lilita: hmmm...that's the second mention of reading problems. I may have to change some things.