Yashica Electro Night Photography

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.

Yashica Electro GSN, Flare, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL Volleyball Game

Yashica Electro GSN, Flare, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL Volleyball Game

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.

Yashica Electro, Chicago Metra at Night

Chicago Metra at Night

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).

  1. The light meter is a little flighty, you do need to have it working before you go shooting.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. Not too many people but just enough for shots at a distance.
  2. High intensity lights for night baseball games and solitary lights that illuminate sidewalks.
  3. I’ll probably find baseball games, soccer games, basketball games going on long after sundown.
Yashica Electro GSN, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL - Baseball at Night

Yashica Electro GSN, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL – Baseball at Night


Yashica Electro GSN, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL - Volleyball at Night

Yashica Electro GSN, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL – Soccer at Night

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.


Yashica Electro Night Photography — 8 Comments

  1. Love how the shadows are so apparent even at night with the train shot!
    I also liked the soccer shot very much–there’s a nice realism about it for me. Perhaps that is just the way the lights play on my glasses at night. Not sure.

    I had a thought that not every old thing, people included, are past use. Past prime perhaps, but useful and lovely still.

    Have you ever wondered what pictures the “cameras” have seen before you got them? Wonder what stories they would tell if they could talk in a way we can understand…. In any case I hope you continue to be undaunted and let the lenses call out to you!

    • Madeline,
      Thanks for visiting.
      I love your phrase about old cameras: Past prime perhaps, but useful and lovely still.
      I do wonder what pictures the camera has seen long before my “ownership”. I think that’s one reason I’m slowing down in purchasing cameras. I’m more interested in purchasing a camera that has a “story” to tell. Who owned it? Where has it been?
      Perhaps in the future, when I buy a camera, I’ll ask people if they will show me a picture or two the camera has taken.
      I purchased a Canon AE-1 from a nice lady solely because the camera had traveled to Borneo (study of primates), Morocco, and Peoria, IL. I had to purchase a camera that had been to Micronesia, Africa, and Peoria, IL.
      Keep on visiting. Thanks.

  2. Hi. I’m really impressed by your work and of all this website. I haven’t gone through all of the posts yet but I have marked it as a bookmark already.
    Any way, I would really need your help on Yashica cameras.
    I have one, in fact my mom’s and we’ve not been using it for a long time. I just got hold of it last week and now that I’m really interested in photography, I would want to make use of Yashica. There’s role to be put in it and other minor maintenance but what makes me feel lazy about it is that I don’t want to keep going to the studios to get the negatives and the photos developed. I just wanted to know that is there any way I can get the photos on to my PC from Yashica. As in like any modem? device?
    I might sound insane and hilarious because I’ve no bit knowledge about such cameras.
    PLEASE DO LET ME KNOW. I’d be really thankful and glad.

    God Bless You Sir.

    • You have a unique idea. Can you take an old film camera, take photos, and send the photo to a PC?

      Although you can use old SLR film camera lenses with new digital cameras, you still need to develop film the old fashioned way.

      I take my film to Costo and instruct them to develop film and burn to a CD. Then I process the photos a bit before I place them on my website.

      Thanks for commenting on What is a Film Camera today.


  3. Thank you so much for your blogs on the Yashica, I’ve found it most useful and has really allowed me to consider some important factors before shooting…..

    I have a few questions which I hope you will be able to help me with……
    Its recommended that the battery be changed if the test button doesn’t glow when pressed…. this is what happens on my camera… however when i press the shutter button the meter still works … Will this still allow me to get the correct exposure when shooting? I’ve read lots about the meters on these cameras playing up and wonder if it will allow me to shoot just as well…

    Any feedback you have will be much appreciated

    • Dean,
      Thanks for dropping by. It’s always nice to find new comments.
      As for your Yashica Electro battery questions…
      Anytime you test an old camera you need to decide if you want to give you and your camera your best chance at photographic success. I love the Yashica Electro for its ability to take metered photos in low light. So I would test it with low, available light photos.
      I suggest you put in a fresh battery and give your Yashica Electro a test roll of film. If you put in a new battery and the battery test light still doesn’t work but the over/under exposure light does work, give it a try.
      If you use an old battery on a Yashica Electro and the photos come out badly, you’ll never know if it was the old battery or the old camera. Use a new battery.
      If this were a camera that worked on manual, you could use a hand-held light meter and test the camera as I have done several times. That technique works fully for all manual cameras. But as I recall, the Yashica Electro is an aperture preferred rangefinder.
      Get a new battery Dean and give it a fresh roll of film.
      Best Wishes,

  4. Hello, just want to ask, how to shoot a picture with Yashica 35 under lowlight condition such as during the dawn and dusk?

    Usually, I’m using ISO 200 film, set to auto setting, and the aperture should be around f2.8-f1.7, and I’ll shoot once the yellow light meter is off. The picture produced was quite disappointing, as it turns a bit bluish.

    Do I have to close the meter above the lens where the light enters using my finger so that more exposure could be achieved? Or do I have to change to Bulb setting in order to get perfect exposure?

    I don’t have any problem shoot under sunny day and good lighting.

    Thanks! I hope we can sort out this problem.

    • Ashraf,

      The Yashica Electro does have a wonderful ability to shoot photographs in low light.

      You can always try a 2nd roll under similar conditions to see if the photo turns a bit bluish.

      Sometimes, depending on the artificial light in a photo, the colors may not come out as you want. All I know is that I have taken photos in near darkness and they turned out nicely.


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