Wednesday, March 10, 2010


One year ago, I took my newly 'acquired' Nikon FM10 on a test drive on a shores of Cape Rachado, Port Dickson.

It was my first time using a fully manual camera, and I didn't have batteries for the meter then. I had to rely on the estimates suggested on the box of the six-year expired Kodak Elitechrome slide film I shot that day.

The results were near-abysmal, probably reflecting the bad conditions in which the film was stored over the years. However, upon conversion to black-and-white, I discovered a set of photographs boasting a range of tones hitherto unknown, and found that it wasn't quite that difficult to focus manually after all. To crown it off, every shot was perfectly exposed, and mind you, this was sans meter:

(Come to think of it actually, the slide photographs look as if they were cross-processed.)

One year ago, it was exactly what I needed to rejuvenate the rather jaded photographer within. The rest, as far as film and that FM10 is concerned, is history.

* * *

Late last month, Mich lent me her Holga. I'd wanted to see how far I could go with it.

There was no better time and place, I thought, than this year's Invertebrate Biology field trip on 28 Feb, to test the camera. And so I returned to Cape Rachado, this time with my juniors. On the trip, I was part tourist, part helper for (the now) Dr Wong Wey Lim, and part ISB support staff.

Ecology girls: Audrey, Meng Li and Joanne.

I photographed this on the Seaweed and Ecophysiology of Marine Organisms field trip to the same place last year. Am including it in this entry as I think it fits the overall mood.

(This particular photograph, however, was not taken at the Blue Lagoon bay of Cape Rachado itself, but on a stretch of shoreline in an adjacent bay.)

Back to the Holga...

Pneumatophores (breathing roots) of the Avicennia or Sonneratia mangrove trees.

Barnacles on a rock.

The legendary Pak Haji demostrates the method of chiselling open rocks to find molluscs hiding within.

This sand sculpture looks very much like a barnacle with its fanlike cirri (legs) sweeping the water for food!

* * *

It was also Chap Goh Meh (the Chinese equivalent of 'Valentine's Day'), and on my way back from buying a spare torch battery and some distilled water from Jaya One, I saw one of the most beautiful moons I'd ever seen. It was full, large and orange, and hung low over KFC as I descended the flyover leading back to campus.

Somewhat exhausted from the field trip, and night frogging ahead notwithstanding, I decided there would be scarcely a better way to finish the last frame on the roll of Fuji Pro 400H film.

I grabbed my tripod and rushed to the Varsity Lake, hoping that the view across the lake at night would be as splendid as it often is. I made a 20-second-long (thereabouts) exposure, but, due to an unreasonable (in retrospect) fear that the exposure failed, I reset the camera on the tripod and exposed it a further five to eight seconds.

As a result, the final image is actually a 'double image' of sorts, with the objects and lights somewhat out of alignment.

Nonetheless, "it was (you may say) satisfactory."

* * *

It was a decent set of 12 photos, on the whole. While I was generally satisfied with the service provided by YS Photo (SS2), I don't think the RM15 I paid for scanning to JPEG was entirely worth it. They did not remove the dust on the surface of the negatives before scanning, and now I have digital files with white strands of hairlike dust on them.

At least dust on negatives can be removed, and the pictures scanned again. Dust on digital sensors spell certain doom. Even when the dust is 'removed' using Photoshop, the area below the dust is lost forever; cloning may work for flat areas like sky, but what if the dust happened to fall on a portion of text, or a person's eye?

Digital is convenient and its potential is nearly limitless, but for photographs that really matter, film has always been the way to go. The Holga uses medium-format film, which is nearly as large as some digital cameras; imagine the kind of detail that can be captured on a 'sensor' (in digi-speak) that large!

Thanks, Mich!


Kaun said...

cannnn.. got texture also cannn

Kaun said...

was referring to photoshoping. =D

SimianD said...

Yes, but then that texture becomes, not the original texture of the subject, but the work of the touch-up artist.

It's more art than photography, per se.