Monday, October 5, 2015

夕方と夕暮れの立川駅辺り 2015年10月 - 2015 Tachikawa Via 1999 Camera (Olympus C-2000Z)

Back in... 2001 and 2002 (I think) I got a lot of use out of an Olympus C-4040Z camera and then an Olympus C-5050Z.  I wore both of them out and went on to other cameras, but I have fond memories of both of those cameras and so - when I saw an Olympus C-2000Z in a "junk" box in Akihabara on Saturday for Y500 (about $4), I had a hard look at the old camera wrapped in plastic and - since it looked clean, and I knew it ran on regular batteries and I had a "Smart Media" card I could use in it, I just had to buy it.
The man at the register reminded me that there was no guarantee of any kind. and asked if I was okay with that.  I said "Yes, I understand the conditions" and paid the Y500 for the nostalgia machine.  I'm  not sure why, but I had faith it would work, and indeed it did - all of the pictures used in this post were taken earlier this evening in Tachikawa (立川) with that very camera.
I remembered/remember my C-4040Z and C-5050Z cameras very well, but didn't know about the C-2000Z camera other than it was obviously an older version of that series of cameras, so when I got home, I looked it up via Google and discovered that it's a 1999 camera.  Time-wise, it could have been my first digital camera, but I first bought a Kodak DC-215, which was just one-megapixel, and then my second camera was the four-megapixel C-4040Z.
The reason the old 1999 camera was being sold in a box labeled "junk" for $4 is pretty much as you would imagine - old electronics quickly lose their value and are considered almost completely useless at a certain point.  The thing about this camera though, is that it has a pretty good lens, and while people now think a two-megapixel image sensor is pretty funny, it's actually more than large enough for posting pictures on-line, making prints, etc.  Naturally, there's not much leeway, so you can't crop things much.
But back to the nostalgia of the experience.  It was good to have that shape in my hands again, and good to take pictures with a glass rangefinder (not via the back panel display).  Of course that brings up the old issue of parallax error that I'd nearly forgotten about.  Depending on the distance to what you're looking at, etc., there's some loss of compositional accuracy for some pictures.  I'm wondering if that's what happened to the picture above... which should have been a little bit lower (the camera view that is), but might just have been me not quite fully back in the groove with how to handle that format of camera.
And there's an issue with the shutter release.  I remember well how it's supposed to work, but this 16-year-old camera has obviously seen some serious use over the past decade-and-a-half, and the first step for a preview and locking the exposure, etc. is pretty much gone, and sometimes you have to use a bit of pressure to get the shutter to work.  All of which requires a different camera holding technique than I ever had to do with the 4040 and 5050.
Bicycles - you used to see more large bicyble parking lots like this next to stations, but they've moved a lot of this underground or into multi-story indoor parking.
The monorail stretching off into the distance (this one the same rubber tire on concrete design as the monorail running out to Hanada Airport).
This station area layout - where everything is built over the roads - is quite nice when there are a lot of roads around a station.  Pedestrians can shop and move about without having to waste a lot of time waiting for internal combustion engine machines at traffic lights and without having to worry about getting run over, etc.
Regarding using a glass optical finder instead of a monitor when taking pictures - I'd forgotten about this aspect of taking pictures, since I've been using monitors for taking pictures for so long, but when you hold a camera up to your face and concentrate on that camera window view of the world, it provides more focus (pun unintended) on what you're looking at, since the rest of the world is blocked from view while you're looking only at the rectangle in the viewfinder... and that focused view probably results in slightly different pictures than when using a monitor?
With such a large area elevated - on stretches like this, you almost forget that you're walking around on bridges.  It's so nice to be able to walk from building to building with no thought about cars at all - other than the background noise of the machinery down out-of-sight below the bridges.
Ah!  Another aspect of using an early rangefinder digital camera in the year 2015 that I had not thought about at all until going through the experience this evening, is the relationship between the number of pictures that you can take (film in the old days, memory space with electronic cameras), and the number of pictures that you actually do take.
Back when I was using film, I would typically go out for a day's worth of picture-taking with three rolls of 36-exposure film (to limit development costs more than the cost of the film itself, although that was also a factor) and when I was nearing my day's limit of 111 pictures (3x37, since I could get one extra picture on each roll of 36-exposure film by loading it carefully), I would look around at all the things I wanted to take pictures of and think "Only five more frames to go... I need to be very careful now!", but generally, when I took the 111th picture, there was also a kind of relief, as I then put the camera away and could suddenly just look at the world without thinking about angles to record, etc.
Still, how often did I look around and wish I could take a limitless number of pictures!  For years and years I had this dream of being able to take as many pictures as I liked.  I would look at pictures of 300-frame film packs used by studio photographers and think "That must be nice - being able to take 300 pictures without reloading!".  And so, when I got my first digital camera, suddenly I could very easily take more pictures more easily, but there was still a limit, since early memory cards were quite small (my first card was only 4MB..., the second one 16MB... when I got a 512MB card, I thought it was mind-bendingly amazing!).  And so, the thrill of taking pictures was enhanced without being diminished.
I think it was when I first started using a 32GB card (32,000MB!!!) I first reached the point where I could take pictures like a maniac all day long and never run out of space, and so I would take 2,000 pictures in a day and then discover that it was quite time-consuming just to look at them!  Never mind select, edit, and use them.  And thus began the decline in numbers.  Kind of how having a cell phone at hand and the ability to call anyone, anytime, leads to *less* time on the phone, not more, I slipped into taking fewer pictures as the old thrill of being able to take any at all disappeared under the reality of limitless picture-taking ability.
And so - I think this evening was the very first time in my life where I had a grand total of only around 150 pictures (using the camera's 64MB card) and it (initially) felt like a chore to have to take that many pictures!  I set out to fill up the card at the outset and I actually had to force myself to get started.  Once I started taking pictures though, the limit actually led to my eagerly taking more....  I'm probably not explaining this very well, but it was a very strange experience for me.  And once again - the old dual feeling of relief and disappointment when the limit was reached and the camera was put away.
I've never stopped taking pictures (other than a few years where I would go somewhere, look around, and without taking a single picture, take out a notebook and try to record what I saw, heard and felt with words), but aside from bursts of 100 pictures or so when I run into something I really want to record, I have gotten used to not taking very many pictures (but then there's video - at 30 frames per second - but that's... well... I've also been taking less video recently, so...).
Now here's (above) an example of something that would have turned out better with a more modern camera.  Older image sensors and electronics didn't handle high contrast situations very well (but neither did positive film, for that matter).
Although... for this street view, I like the dramatic (melodramatic?) feel to the high contrast rending of the scene.  It makes me want to be down on that sidewalk walking along beside the cars I was just writing about being happy to be away from!
I don't like this picture (as a picture, disregarding content) very much, but it does show how the other side of Tachikawa Station has an elevated plaza that is a pedestrian paradise for shoppers, commuters etc.  On a nice autumn evening like this, it's a nice twilight atmosphere with students, office workers, etc. in-between not only day and night, but between the daily daytime routine and the evening routine at home.  I would love to have taken more pictures of the plaza, but there were so many people, and the modern sensitivity to faces in pictures kind of ruled it out....
Okay, in this picture it's very clear that everyone is walking up on a bridge - almost frighteningly so!  That long suspension is kind of scary to contemplate.  I've never really thought about it before, but that's what a frozen moment in time in a photograph can do for something you've often seen only in motion.
Now this (above) is a picture I would have preferred to take with a modern camera's large rear monitor.  I was looking for a precise spot and kept missing it - due to parallax error mainly, but the size of a large real monitor can be great for placement too - kind of like holding up an empty frame around something.  Actually, scrolling up, I can see that several of the pictures are a little off composition-wise.  It makes me appreciate my more modern cameras!
But... on the other hand, while the more advanced technology enables more precise composition, the ease-of-recording leads to hastily taken pictures that would have been better with more concentration.  Which leads us back to the combination of a limited number of images that can can be recorded and the focus (composition-wise) of an optical viewfinder that helps you to block out everything but that one rectangular image while you are taking/recording a picture....
The width of a bridge is everything - on a narrow bridge you very much realize you're on a bridge, but the wider it is, the easier it is to forget - and to think you're on solid ground.
Stepping back from the plaza, it's very clear it's a bridge.  The dark tower on the far right is a new building currently under construction.
Looking at this photo - I find myself pondering how differently this would look taken with a modern camera.  I suppose it would be a good idea to take some comparative pictures of the same scenes at the same time to see just how different they really are.  A 1999 camera probably records a more honest image, in that it doesn't selectively boost dark areas and dial down bright areas.  Some modern digital pictures are so perfect they're downright irritating - like a plastic chair of perfect shape on the one hand and an imperfectly shaped wooden chair on the other?
This one's a little bit of a mind-bender.  I was there, I took this just hours ago, and I still had to stare at the picture for several seconds to remember/realize that this is not on the ground.  This is on the elevated plaza - looking towards the stairs going up to the still higher elevated monorail station.
Typical for older digital cameras - florescent lighting would really overpower the automatic exposure system and lead to very dark pictures like this.  I would have hated this picture back in 1999, but I like it now, simply because it's so different from how a modern camera would handle this, so the uniqueness (in the year 2015) of it is appealing.
A newer camera would take a much more appealing picture of this scene, but for nostalgic reasons, I kind of like this dark... brooding?... picture of 2015 - as seen through the eye of 1999 technology.
And I'll wrap this up with this one.  When I took this, I was excited by the way the bright light in the background flared out.  I thought "Now that's cool!   A modern camera would be more accurate, but that blue flare seems really... artistic?"  For all the other pictures, I think I have a good idea of how they would look with a newer camera, but this one I'm not so sure.  That sign was abnormally bright, so it might do something strange to a new(er) camera as well.  I'll have to try taking this scene with newer technology if I get a chance.  That was a strange sign - I don't recall seeing one quite like it ever before.  Basically neon (actually neon?), but incredibly bright.

Well - that's it.  I look at the clock and see that it's 4:00 a.m.!  I need to get some sleep folks!  Looking at my last post on this blog... I see it was slightly over a year ago!  And so I'm glad I took the time to take some pictures, and then post them and write about them, but it cost me a night's sleep!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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