The Yashica Electro is meant for night photography. I think it’s better than even my digital cameras. Here’s volleyball at night in Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL. I know there’s flare in the photo (too wide an aperture?). But my gosh, you can see the cloud in the upper right. Photo taken with ASA 200 color print film at 10 PM.
I’m excited again about film photography, thanks to my Yashica Electro camera and a discussion on Flickr titled Show off your Yashi night shots. Years ago when I was near penniless in Seattle about 1980 I sat in my taxi cab in downtown Seattle at night with 400 ASA speed film and my Nikon EM camera, hoping that something exciting would happen. I’ve always been fascinated with night photography.
One of the reasons I enjoy film photography more than digital photography are the elements of craft, serendipity, and surprise. Let me explain.
Craft, Serendipity, and Surprise in Film Photography
Digital photography has 2 of these elements: craft and serendipity. But only film photography owns the element of surprise.
Craft in Film Photography
Both film and digital photography have craft as an element. You learn how to use the camera, you read your instruction manuals, you experiment with test rolls in preparation for important shots at a future time.
On my 45 year old Yashica Electro I had to send away for a battery contraption to make the light meter work. I’ve had to do the same thing with my 3 digital cameras (nothing worse than losing battery power) that are a half century newer than my Yashica Electro.
If you’re interested in night photography (somewhere Brassai and Weegee are smiling) you learn more craft in preparation for a night time stroll in Chicago, IL around Kilbourn Park. (Not to disrespect Kilbourn Park, but it hardly occurred to me that some young gangbangers might harm a bald 60 year old guy that looks like a retired cop.)
Craft means carrying your Yashica Electro already screwed to a height adjusted tripod as you walk to, through, and around Kilbourn Park in Chicago, IL. Hand held night photography with a Yashica Electro might be possible braced against a building or pole, but carrying a tripod with the Yashica Electro set at infinity for distance, 1.8 for maximum aperture, and automatic exposure setting is my craft for August 11, 2011 and my nightly stroll.
Serendipity in Film Photography
Again, both film and digital photographers are blessed with or without the element of serendipity.
I had just finished photographing a sidewalk path in Kilbourn Park lit by one park light. I hear the rumble of the Metra trains carrying people to and from downtown Chicago and the northwest suburbs.
I pivot with the tripod, point literally into the darkest part of the park looking eastward to the train tracks, verify shutter and infinity focus are set, and I set the time delay switch.
Then I press the shutter, hoping the train will still be rolling past when the 8 second time delay finishes and the shutter itself goes click.
Then I see it, serendipity. There isn’t one train, but actually two trains going both north and south. And I believe, just as the northbound train was slowly passing, all of its interior lights were on in a greenish glow that I can see even now in my mind, rolling slowly right to left, and northward.
That my friends is photographic serendipity.
Surprise in Film Photography
Film photography owns the element of surprise compared to digital photography. I’m not being a film snob, it’s just what I believe (yes, I do shoot with digital).
But here I am on Thursday morning writing about film serendipity and trains when I have no clue if my northbound train photo of last night will ever come out.
With digital, there are fewer surprises. WYSIWYGK. What you shoot is what you get, kindof. The feedback on your craft and serendipity comes much quicker with digital, a second or less.
With film, every undeveloped cannister of film may yield a surprise.
To paraphrase Forest Gump: “Undeveloped film is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
But the joy in film photography is your ability to envision a photograph before it’s developed. Your craft and your serendipity reduces your element of surprise in your film photography. The better you become at envisioning photos from snap to development is an affirmation of your craft and serendipity.
The only light in this photo came from the train whizzing by with its green interior lights. Although not perfect, this is why I shoot film with old cameras. Here is my Metra Night Train photo from Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL. Preparation met serendipity, and the surprise is this photo.
My Love/Hate Affair with my Yashica Electro
The Yashica Electro was one of the first cameras I read about and acquired. Both of my Electros came from Craigslist: one from Denver and one from Baltimore.
I’ve shot two rolls with my Yashica Electro. Neither roll was impressive. But there was something about the overexposed photos and the warmth of the lens that kept calling to me: Try me again, try me again.
I know what I don’t like about the Yashica Electro (at least the one I own).
- The light meter is a little flighty, you do need to have it working before you go shooting.
- Focusing isn’t fun. Somehow I can’t quite get it to focus. I’d rather set it to infinity for distance and fire away.
- And the photos seems overexposed. Was this the battery or an old light meter?
But I know I’m supposed to like a Yashica Electro. Isn’t that what Karen Nakamura said when I first started reading about the Yashica Electro?
So I theoretically loved the Yashica Electro and then disliked it (hate is too strong a word). But then one day I decided it was perhaps the photographer who was at fault, not the Yashica Electro.
These cameras are made for low light photography. Let’s see if the Yashica Electro can actually take a photo in the near darkness of Chicago’s northwest side Kilbourn Park in summertime. It’s a perfect environment for low light photography.
- Not too many people but just enough for shots at a distance.
- High intensity lights for night baseball games and solitary lights that illuminate sidewalks.
- I’ll probably find baseball games, soccer games, basketball games going on long after sundown.
Excited and Disappointed about Night Photography and the Yashica Electro 35 GSN
I began this blog post being excited about the prospects of using a Yashica Electro GSN for what it was designed for: low light photography.
My photos were imperfect, with a few keepers. I’m a little disappointed but undaunted. Obviously some of my night photos have flare (how can I have flare at 10 PM?). What is a Film Camera is about a journey into film photography, with all its successes and problems.
I hope you enjoyed both my successes and mistakes in Yashica Electro 35 GSN night photography.