I’m from Seattle, WA, US yet I have been overseas for the last 13 years, working, exploring, and experiencing what you see in travel vlogs. I’m now in Hai Phong, Vietnam, around 2 hours to the west of Hanoi on the coast near Ha Long Bay. I arrived from Birmingham, UK with previous stops in Chennai, India, and Shanghai, China. It’s been humbling to have immersed myself in local cultures with photography at my side.
I switched back to film from Nikon D810 and Fujifilm XT2/XPro2 as I peaked with digital overload. It was no longer about quality, just quantity. I leapfrogged my previous 35mm cameras and landed with a Mamiya M645 120 medium format SLR. The right choice at the time.
As my confidence grew with medium format, I reached out to my first Hasselblad 500CM loving the 6x6cm square format. As I shifted to a 503CXi along with a 903SWC and Flexbody, my collection was complete. I was a happy camper. Later a Shenhao 6×17 format view camera with five lenses joined the collection (given its 120 format nature). Note: I did not say 120mm format. Who would?
After experiencing the challenges of the 617 view camera given its rise/fall, front/rear tilt, and shifting movements for proper composition, perspective control and focus positioning came the urge to learn large format.
In 2019, a Chamonix F2 4×5 arrived to start a large format journey full of many learning opportunities, mostly due to my personal mistakes. Large format is unforgiving to novices and pros alike yet it’s the path we’ve taken on our journey without a destination in mind.
Finally, I landed with my dream camera, Graflex RB Tele 4×5 c.1920. An engineering marvel ahead of its time given 1/10 to 1/1000 sec. focal plane shutter speeds. Not even my Hasselblad 500 series camera can compete given their max-leaf shutter speed of 1/500 sec.
[EM: Try a 2000 series 😉 ]
I’ve developed film before, yet being on this train across multiple international stops, it’s been a challenge to take a traveling darkroom and even find 120 film, especially 4×5 film. Don’t feel sorry for me as not all is lost. I get a 120-roll developed or one 4×5 sheet with high-resolution TIFFs scans for $2.50 in Hanoi, so why would I at this point set up a home development and scanning.
For acquiring film, Chennai was impossible, Hai Phong doable with Hanoi and Birmingham/Shanghai were no problem. Many international friends often hauled back film and camera accessories for me. Thanks. Now, my local Lab (AEG Lab in Hanoi) supports me with B&H purchases on 4×5 sheet film.
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Let me share my thoughts on the five images from my every Sunday morning Temple Series shoots around Hai Phong, Vietnam.
Traditional Vietnamese Hat / Bicycle: Have always had my eye for such a composition, caught in the Temple yard.
Sculptured Bush 1: I see these wonders in every temple yet only a few catch the light just right.
Three Best Friends: A challenge to compose, expose… as everyone thinks the Graflex is a giant phone with instant pictures. Had to provide direction not ot move. Love the Heliar lens at f6.3 in foreground to back ground separation.
Joyful Cleaning Lady: As lunar new year (Tet) approaches in Vietnam, the temples are getting a makeover.
Sculptured Bush 2: Couldn’t resist showing another bush.
Shooting film for me has been therapeutically relaxing as it slows me down to stop, look and think the scene through to the exposure.
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