Seeing Things From Behind A 40 Year Old Lens

“The camera doesn’t matter – the eye does,” says the anonymous, blurred person who speaks only in my hazy memory. This is a quote heard by millions of photographers, possibly in a million, different, often misquoted ways. They all seem to drive a point, however: that the camera is only a tool that is as good as you are able to project your visual ideas and images with.

To test that ubiquitous theory, I recently purchased a 40-year-old lens, after a convincing demonstration from a friend and coworker. This one cost a fraction of what newer lenses charge, thanks to age and time working in my favor. I immediately bought the lens from a second-hand online store, along with a cheap adapter for my Canon 60D (which in itself, is an aging camera, according to every photographer ever).

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The Setup

I had to admire the lens for a while as it came out the box a few days after. Here was a creation that stood the wear and tear of 40 years, through time and space, that landed on my pale, white desk of mine. I will never know the story it went through, or how many hands have grasped and pulled its aging handles, or how beautiful the pictures that were taken by many eyes and clicks of the shutter. These things, it seems, I can only wonder.

So to stop wondering, I decided to test this gizmo of mine on a trip to Bandung, in West Java.

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A visit to a limestone processing factory in Bandung

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Before lifting heavy rocks

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Empty

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On standby, without workers

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A local-favorite. Kue ape

I immediately noticed a few things: how sharp the images were, how different the colors appeared, and how hard the lens was to operate! Here was a photographer, so used to modern marvels such as auto-focus and exposure compensation, receiving a vintage welcome from his own camera. It was a bare-bones experience, having to manually set the aperture and the focus ring every time I had a subject in frame. But it was eye-opening, as it was unfamiliar

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Visiting the night street market

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Look at all those chickens (y’know, that one vine)

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Famous Martabak Andir

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Coincidentally, the man behind the stall has been making Martabak for 40 years

The lens worked wonders in night time, thanks to its wide 1.4 aperture. The images managed to stay crisp as well. It was hard to focus, though, without the automatic function I was so used to having.

And then there was this certain dreamy character to the bokeh, as the blurred edges of the images never seem to stay symmetrical and perfectly round. Yet the depth of the areas that were in focus almost seemed that they can pop out, like a cutout character from a story book. This lens, and its images, are a trippy piece of work.

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A self-portrait that ‘pops’ out (taken by a good friend of mine, Moses – @moosesronaldo)

I felt responsible to show what an old, jaded lens can do, since this is my first lens I bought with my own savings. And it to see how much it has gone through, it’s an honor, in a strange kind of way, to own something that has its own mysterious story.

So, I do think to dismiss a cheap and aging piece of technology would be a tragic story to tell. I think something like this offers a portal to see the peculiarities of imperfect items of yesteryear; a sort of back-to-your-roots experience. With all the new technology coming to our screens and doors in 2018, it would be nice to step back and recall on older things that we haven’t explored. Here’s me just starting out into that journey, and with good intentions, I ask that you come along too.

Jeloy. (@je.loy)

 

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Be Dora the Explorer!

There is so much to explore when you put in the effort.

Whoever said “traveling is easy” is wrong, IMHO. Traveling requires you to work to save money, arrange your itinerary, prepare your passport, etc. To me, one of the toughest parts in traveling is the exploration itself. I hate similarities. That is why I try my best to gain new experience in each of my journeys. Otherwise, I would definitely be bored and uninspired.

With that thinking in my head, HG and I set out to explore Singapore in ways we would never had done before. I’ve been to Singapore a few times before and all I could remember was Merlion, Clark Quay, Sentosa Island and a few other touristy spots. As my love to photography and Instagram grew, HG and I decided to search for Singapore’s most “Instagram-able” spots.

Since everything is just a Google away, we quickly found our first exploration spot. Just a few hours after HG’s arrival in Singapore, we quickly checked in to our hostel, dropped our bags and headed to the Sports Hub.

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Once you put in the effort to explore, the next step is to open your eyes wide for things that are out of the ordinary. We found a lot of that nearby the Sports Hub area. Right at train station stop, we were already holding our cameras eager to explore the station.

It didn’t take long for us to finally reached Sports Hub and took more photos!

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HG was wearing a denim shirt and socks from Topman, plain white tee (read: his signature style) and shorts from H&M, and white BNV sneakers.

On the other hand, I wasn’t really prepared for any OOTD shots. Since I just finished 2 weeks of being a nomad in Australia, I was only prepared with a few t-shirts and winter jackets. After the cold and windy days in Melbourne and Sydney, my body temperature couldn’t take the humidity in Singapore. That was why I ditched my outers and decided to travel comfortably wearing all black. You can never go wrong with black anyways.

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I guess my point is, there is always something to explore even in the most touristy spots. Do your research. If you are a foodie, Google for something new. If you are a fashionista, explore new possibilities of shopping. Be “Dora the explorer” in whatever areas you’re interested in! Dora was never shy to ask questions over and over again, she never let swiper or crocodiles held her back. Let nothing holds you back from exploring.

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There is so much more reward in exploring the unknown!

PS: When I was a kid, I might have watched Dora just a little too much.

Keep exploring!

DR. (@demasryan)

Singapore Day 2: Such Great Heights

Yeap, the title was inspired by the Postal Service song.

We’re back from holidays! As you are reading this post, which I wrote in a small coffee shop in Singapore, DR & I are on our way flying back home to Jakarta. How was your holiday? Hopefully yours was as great as ours. Well, whatever your definition of great is.

If you asked me, this holiday has been pretty uncommon. I spent an entire week off from the Instagram world as I chose to have more quality time with my parents at home. That includes taking naps at my parents’ bed (yeap, I felt like a 7 year old boy all over again), laughing at Dad’s jokes and having my Mom taught me how to use a washing machine since we were maid-less. It was indeed a pretty simple holiday, yet definitely a heart-filling one. The perks of doing nothing and lazying around got me all refreshed and probably gained me some weights.

I thought that was the best part of my holiday, but then I realized that something better was actually waiting for me around the corner. As the holiday was ending for most people in Jakarta and some of my friends were flying back to Indonesia, I, on the contrary, had the privilege to fly to Singapore for another week of holiday.

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Honestly, I was a bit clueless on what to do within this 5 days trip. I mean, shopping used to be one of the top things that I look forward to do whenever I visited  Singapore. But, that is before Ikea, H&M, Uniqlo and some other brands can be found in Jakarta. Cafe-hopping or “hipsterish-kinda-place-hopping” was also scratched off of my list as I had tried almost every “happening” place that Google could recommend to you. From Pasarbella to Maxwell Food Center, from Wheels Yard to Plain Vanilla Bakery, from Books Actually to Littered with Books. Trust me, this is not a humble brag.

Gratefully, a friend of mine, a young rising architect in Jakarta, told me to go on an architectural trip in Singapore. He gave me a complete list (I can share it with you if you just leave your e-mail address at the comment box below) to all the architectural gems in Singapore. Once I checked out the itinerary and Googled the images, I was wow-ed. It never occurred to me that Singapore would be filled with some of the best buildings in the world. I always thought that their buildings are just nondescript and unassuming.

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DR & I didn’t get to visit all the buildings, but we managed to visit at least one of the best. It was The Pinnacle flats, which turned out to be the best flats in the world. If you’ve been reading our posts, you would know how much we love climbing to high places just to take good photos. The Pinnacle offered us just exactly what we love. By paying 5 SGD, we got to climb to the Sky Bridge, located at the 50th floor. I personally think that it is such a brilliant move by the building management to open the Sky Bridge as a touristy spot.

The best part of being up there, besides the fact that we got to see an uncommon view of Singapore, was that we had the whole wooden-decked sky bridge just for us. I cruised from one spot to another using my penny board. If you have limited budget to stay at the Marina Bay Sands and swim at the Infinity Pool, this one would be perfect for you. I have experienced both, and I personally think each place has its own perks, but if you’re looking for something that is more “wallet-friendly” then The Pinnacle it is.

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Once we were done with The Pinnacle, I was so hungry I decided to walk blithely to Maxwell Food Center and have the famous Gordon Ramsey-Approved, Tian Tian Chicken Rice. Sadly, it was closed when we got there. On our way to find the next good meal to satisfy our craving, we stumbled upon this one alley around the area that was just too good for a photo opp. Our backpacks were immediately put down on the pavement as we rushed to take some photos.

Well, don’t worry about finding this particular alley, because you could find PLENTY of them in Singapore. Go explore around Tiong Bahru and Ann Siang Hill on foot, and you’ll find some Instagram-worth ootd spots.

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Chinatown was the closest place that we could find to have a nice lunch. After a plate of chicken and pork rice, we continued our exploration by strolling around until we find ourselves at the People’s Park Complex. It was a complex of flats and market with interesting color that pops out a culturally-rich yet conservative vibe. The kind of vibe that you would normally spot on Hypebeast’s feed. No kidding.

There was a car-park building just behind the People’s Park Complex, and of course, our instinct automatically took us to the highest level. We were not sure whether we can go to its rooftop or not, but voila the door to the rooftop wasn’t locked. Luck was definitely on our side.

So there we were, having another empty and open wide rooftop just for us.

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A little traveling tips from me: pick your travel buddy wisely. I prefer to travel solo than to travel with the wrong companion. Gratefully, DR is not in the later category. We had some of the best talk about life, dreams and purpose out of this trip. Some of them involved a long conversation until 4 am in the morning.

More stories from this trip are still queuing on the line in our drafts, which we will share to you in the upcoming weeks. But in the meantime, as our holiday has officially ended, wish us luck so that we could come back stronger and sharper to deal with the reality that could sometimes be quite a punch in the face.

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So when weakness turns my ego up
I know you’ll count on the me from yesterday
If I turn into another
Dig me up from under what is covering
The better part of me (Incubus – Dig)

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)