As the aeroplane edged ever closer to its destination in Shanghai, China, I looked across a misty vista of azure blue mountains stacked liked an Appia stage set. In my somewhat dreamy state, I turned over my photography plans and choices for the trip. How was I going to shoot in China? What equipment had I chosen to bring, and were these the right choices?
That I was going to do street photography was in no doubt, and I was resoundingly set on making black and white film shots. My Leica M6TTL rangefinder was a given, and, while I could probably have made the case for other emulsions, I was set on Ilford HP5 plus as a primary 35mm film. In the past I have proclaimed the virtues of travelling with familiar equipment and working methods, and I wasn’t about to turn my back on this principle in China. It is difficult to ignore colour in China, and for this task I planned to turn to my Sony A7II mirrorless camera. A mix of film and digital was an approach that had worked well for me in India, an equally far-away place in my world.
Somewhat less clear cut was my decision to bring my Intrepid 5x4 field camera. Initially I had thought to leave it behind, my substantial Manfrotto tripod being too bulky and heavy to take (the trip wasn’t entirely about photography, and books on so forth needed to be transported). However a certain mischievious Twitter acquaintance* gave me a tempting idea: simply buy a cheap tripod when in China and leave it behind if needs be.
So it was that my Intrepid came to be sitting snugly with my other equipment and film in the overhead locker. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to move stealthily with my Leica on the streets of Shanghai; I was even less sure what it would be like to stand with my red-bellowed wooden friend on Chinese streets meeting head-on the full rigours of 5x4. My thinking started to become a little extreme: a image of a Chinese policeman telling me to pack away my tripod came into my head. I was an obstruction, a danger to Chinese citizens going about their daily business….
I’d like to present, then, a modest three-part series of travelogues recounting my experiences in China. I want to show you my work, give you some insight into my thought processes and shooting choices, and provide what insight I can into doing photography in Shanghai (although, naturally this will be limited in the sense that my trip was but one week long). As the final instalment will be about the Intrepid Field Camera, I see this as an extension to my original detailed review of the camera, a sort of mid-term report, if you will, of the camera’s performance. Early impressions are one thing, but a much more informed (and sometimes different) picture emerges when an item has been used over an extended period. I will be posting some of my images on Twitter throughout this period, so please do look out for them, and I hope you enjoy the coming instalments.
The plan is thus:
Shanghai Travelogue Part 1: Street Photography in China
Shanghai Travelogue Part 2: Enter Ilford HP5+
Shanghai Travelogue Part 3: Using my Intrepid 5x4 Field Camera
*For those of you that know him, I need only say that his true identity is something of a mystery.