In the video below, I give you a brief tour of my live-work home studio. See how I organize my space, what things I think are helpful to have in a photography setup, and a few niche tips based on my own experiences running my own solo photography business.
The Yashica A is a TLR (twin lens reflex) camera produced during a 10-year run from 1959 to 1969. I recently bought myself one of these antique cameras, and am excited to share with you how they work, and how to have some fun with them!
This camera is physically quite different from most cameras people are used to seeing. As opposed to being a horizontal configuration, this device is actually taller than it is wide. Additionally, there are two lenses on its front (hence the name: Twin Lens Reflex). This is because one acts as your viewfinder while the other is the one that actually lets light onto your film when you click the shutter. (One nice thing is that the lens cap covers both the viewing lens and the picture taking lens, so you’ll see only black if you’ve left it on, a nice reminder!) With such an unusual appearance, you might get some curious head turns when you’re using a TLR out and about, it’s definitely a conversation starter!
One of the first things you’ll likely notice that’s unique/different about operating this style of camera is that you hold the camera to your chest and look down into the viewfinder from above, instead of bringing the camera to your face and looking out in front of you. This kind of viewfinder takes some getting used to, as things in the viewfinder are mirrored and therefore might feel like they’re moving backwards from what you're "telling" it to do based on your movements. So it’s a little counter intuitive for those of us used to more modern cameras, but you’ll get used to it quickly!
This camera uses 120mm medium-format film (like the Holga we talked about a few months ago). However, unlike the Holga, the images I took with the Yashica were very crisp, honestly surprisingly so. The manual film advance means you can do double exposures and other things that I do love about the Holga. However unlike the Holga the film advance is very solid and tight. Definitely good if you want to be precise when lining up your exposures. One more difference between the two is that the Yashica has a much wider range of aperture and shutter speed options, making this a real nice upgrade for people who want to take their medium-format film photography a bit more seriously.
To start you lift up the top to access the viewfinder, which is you’ll see on the floor of the little chamber created by the metal wings you’ve just lifted up. If you need a little help focusing, you can press on the "Y" on the front of the top hatch you lifted to pop out a magnifying glass! To return the magnifying glass to its place, simply push it back. Focus and film advance are controlled with knobs on the side of the camera body, while shutter speed is adjusted by twisting the wheel surrounding the lens. Lastly, aperture is set by moving the small onion-shaped pointer to the desired f/stop, indicated by the numbers on the black band to the right (when looking at the camera) of the lens. To click your picture, press the silver button at the bottom-left (again, when looking at the camera).
I go over all of these settings/functions, and how to load the camera with film, in the video below. BONUS: while adding the film I accidentally rolled past the first few exposures because I couldn’t see the tiny numbers through the video screen haha. So an unplanned lesson on an alternative way to achieve double exposures! Shoot your roll, roll it up, then re-load it into the camera and shoot it again! You’ll likely be very surprised by the results unless you’ve kept a very accurate log of your shots. But that’s part of the fun!
If you do get your hands on a TLR camera, I’d love to see what you shoot with it! Get in touch with me here, on Instagram, or on facebook and share some of your pics! Here are some I’ve taken with my Yashica A below:
If you find yourself struggling with a case of “photographer’s block”–not knowing what to shoot next, or even how to get started–a great way to get your creative juices pumping is to go on a photo hike!
A photo hike is when you set out with your camera with the simple intention of exploring and taking photos. You walk through the door with no specific ideas in mind, no shot list, just letting the wind–and your camera–take you on a journey.
There are many ways to do this. You can set out with the goal of taking a specific number of photos, or just plan to travel between point A+B, camera in hand, snapping along the way. Personally, I’m a fan of the latter option. I just pick a point on the map, go there, and make my way back.
Last year I spent a few months in Taipei, Taiwan. An awesome city with so much to shoot to be sure, but often what I ended up photographing on my own photo hikes were the mundane, everyday things. A lamppost, building facades, motorbikes, flowers, etc. So really, you can do this anywhere.
In Taipei, I had an easy way to gamify things. You see, each Taipei Metro (MRT) station has a unique stamp, which they have set up by the info booth with a pad of ink colored to correspond with the line (black for transfer stations). And I made it my mission to catch ‘em all! So during my time there, I did indeed visit every one of the city's 111 stations (the yellow line wasn’t running yet) and get my stamp. An unnecessary completionist task to be sure, but it was more about the journey than the destination.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” - Bruce Lee
My strategy was this: ride the MRT to the terminus of a given line, pick up a ubike, then cycle my way along the line. I’d pop into stations to collect the stamp as I passed them, and photograph the city all along the way. Setting out just before sunrise each morning with a mission in mind was pretty magical. It was so much fun and such a great format for exploring the city. And the result was THOUSANDS of photos, about 60 of which I ended up turning into a solo exhibition featuring photos from my time there.
Want to plan your own photo hike? Here’s how to do it! Grab your camera, pick a place, and go! I recommend doing so on bike or by foot versus by car. It’s fun to choose far-off destinations, just make sure you have a return plan. Keeping your route along public transit lines is good for this. Once you’re tired out you can just hop on the train/bus home! Otherwise if you do set out on a bike just be sure not to exhaust yourself going one way. Because remember, you still have to get back!
Here in NYC, I’ve just picked places that looked cool on google maps. Just find your spot, drop a pin, and set your navigation to go.
Make sure you keep your camera handy, either in your hand or slung around your neck/shoulder. If you’re using your phone, keep it in a readily accessible pocket. You don’t want to give yourself any reason to say “nah” when deciding to take a shot. If your camera is zipped away, that hestation could mean the difference between spontaneously snapping away, and deciding that the shot isn’t with it and you’ll wait for the next one. That’s what we want to avoid! Make it easy for yourself to shoot any and every shot that piques your interest. If you decide you don’t like it when you’re reviewing your shots at home, you don’t have to post/publish/share it anywhere. It’s that simple! For every shot I share there are dozens I left alone.
It’s also fun to give yourself a reward/incentive at your destination. In Taipei it was the stamps and an iced latte once I got to my starting spot. It can be anything. But whatever it is, make it fun!