From the series Photographic Japanese

切現 [きりげん] (kirigen) is Japanese for clip test. It is easy to remember because kiri means ‘to cut’ and gen is the gen in genzou (development). At the lab I daringly used kurippu tesuto, thinking it is probably an imported term anyway, but far from it. There is actually a Japanese term for it, which I always note and appreciate.

So what is a clip test you ask? This procedure is often used in the case of processing somewhat important transparency/slide film, which needs rather accurate exposure. This is because there is no printing stage at which you can correct a bad exposure. If you ask your professional lab for a clip test (I doubt that consumer labs would do it, and besides it would take far too much time; a pro lab can turn around slide film in 3 hours), only a limited part of the film will be processed – according to your specification – while the rest is left untouched for later. This is for the photographer to assess whether exposure is on or not. If you’re off, then at least the rest of the film(s) can be processed with some corrective instructions (push/pull) and you get your desired results for that film or shot (in case you used several rolls of the same stock under the same conditions).

There are several trade-offs with clip tests though: first you will destroy at least one shot. Since the film is cut and it is impossible to cut precisely between two frames on undeveloped film, the scissors will split one frame – so if you were on and this was the shot of your life, you’ve ruined it and will kick yourself forever for doing it. Secondly, if you were off, you have also lost all the other frames that were developed as part of the clip, because naturally only the so far undeveloped part of the film will benefit from the correction. This lovely lady above was mutilated by a clip test. The upper part is the test clip, a little too dark. The lower part was pushed half a stop showing an optimal image. So while I feel bad for having cut her head off once, there are plenty of other nice shots in the correctly processed part of the film to make up for it.

Moral of the story: expose correctly at the first place and avoid clip tests, which are also costly (¥450 at Create), but that’s often easier said than done. Routinely shooting is the best remedy to build confidence in your abilities to meter and expose correctly. Sometimes you just need total control and confidence about how it will come out. If you get your clip back and don’t know what to do with it in terms of applying corrective processing, don’t be shy and ask lab staff for opinion and advice.

Photos from Bali

It took a while, but here they finally are: pictures taken during our one week holiday in Bali, Indonesia in January. The reason for the delay is that we simply took too many pics: 4 rolls of film and over 100 with the digital. Editing and captioning those takes longer than you think. And even after an admittedly not very stringent edit, 156 pictures are left in the album. Yes, I could edit it down even harder, but hey, is there a better way to bore family and friends?

I admit I am pleasantly surprised by the trip, it was better than I expected. It was my first trip within Asia and across the equator. While we were travelling in the wet season (there are only two seasons there, wet and dry), the climate added a lot more character to the location. The lush green vegetation, humid air and exotic smells just came out tremendously, and if it is nice and warm one doesn’t mind a few big drops of rain.

We spent 4 days in a slightly “touristised” village named Ubud, the rest in a resort in Kuta at the coast (where the bomb went off). If you ever go, don’t bother with the beach and coastal area, unless you like monstrous development inflicted using the money of rich westerners. The hinterland is where it is at.

We were extremely lucky that our visit coincided with the holidays of Galungan, which is a Hindu festival taking place every six months. People dress up and decorate their houses, it was absolutely magnificent. Looking at the gallery, you may find that the series of photos are roughly categorisable into general impressions of buildings, vegetation and landscape, sights in the village of Ubud (palace, market etc), the beautiful rice paddies, street scenes and impressions from Galungan festival and photos from a Balinese Gamelan and Legong dance performance. We hope you like the photos.

As for technical details, images were either shot on Agfa Ultra 100 colour negative film and scanned by Fuji (and sadly over-sharpened as the artifacts show, but I pass it off as film grain here) and digitally using a Canon G2. When travelling from Japan we recommend specialist operator バリ王 (Bali Oh)

From the series The Fans

These girls trawl the corridors of an underground arcade to take photos of the posters of the show Dream Boy, which they have just finished watching in the theatre above.

A passing security guard tells them “そろそろ帰ってください” – time to go home. Nobody seems to have heard him…

Online bottles/Kodak Salon

Oh, this sounds rather useful: online bottles. Who said everything has been done already on the net?

Seen on the way to the Kodak salon in Ginza, where I popped in over my lunch break. They have a Kodak club show of some decent amateur shots and an artistic series of images by Yoshie Akita. Basically they are several shots of mostly nude, tattooed or shaved women, some on the beach against the sunset, but most in the studio. There’s also a booklet called “Baby”, more or less the same stuff just featuring a baby. Lots of skin on a white studio background conveyed a real sterile image, certainly not sensual in the affectionate sense. I don’t know whether this was intentional or not, but overall I couldn’t get much out of it.

Some old stuff: The early years

I haven’t put out anything proper so far this year, mainly because I cannot think of anything. So I thought I finally organise some old pictures which have been floating around on the web server.

This is a series of portraits shot while I was living in London. I don’t know whether or not it is a best selection. It looks rather average to me, but I pretty much had a direct no-frills style at the time, and after all was a novice. For the paid work I mostly went into the subject’s homes or work place and shot in an improvised environment. The studies seem almost all studio work, and self-portraits at home. While it is dated 1995-2002, the photographs are mostly up until 1997 or so. After that I stopped taking anything worth showing publicly.

Thanks to the encouragement of friends, I have begun again to fire the shutter in anger i.e. seriously for photography’s sake and not for holiday pictures or similar snapshots. I have decided to put out this old stuff, and this little explanation around it to somehow put an end to the previous chapter of my photographic pursuit. It’s about time.

I am making a fresh start, armed with the experiences of the past and the little personal wisdom I have gained in those gap years. There is plenty more waiting to be discovered and I am looking forward to the challenges I have set myself for 2004.

From the heart: FC Tokyo

Going to a football match in Japan must be one of the most enjoyable non-mainstream family activities. There is not a sign of violence, just pure enjoyment and emotional displays of passion, pride, hope, joy, and disappointment. And many other people with kids, all enjoying the game as it should be.

While other football fans may be spoiled by the quality of play and general skill from other places of the world, you will be amazed by the truly friendly and sincere atmosphere and surprised by the passion pouring out of what we mostly see as quiet Japanese. And don’t forget to take your rubbish with you when you leave!

I was introduced to FC Tokyo by my friend Koji, pictured with the “King of Tokyo” scarf, and I would like to say thanks to him this way. Of course Koji made sure I support the right team: FC Tokyo. Their home stadium is Ajinomoto Stadium in Tobitakkyu, reachable with Keio New Line from Shinjuku in about 20 minutes. See you at Ajista!