I was out and about at midnight, a time when most sane people would be fast asleep, trying my hardest not to choke on the fishy stench and skipping over puddles of melted ice and fish scales, dodging the many pallet jacks loaded with Styrofoam boxes filled with the freshest catch from the boats.
Yes, I was documenting a day’s (or night’s) work at the Jurong Fishery Port.
This project is actually part of a larger project, an effort to document 24 hours in Singapore, but I am a little too impatient to wait till that is properly released, so here is my own small contribution.
The Selection of Kit
Before I could trapeze off on my little adventure, I first had to pick my kit.
The main camera would be a no brainer: my venerable Leica M3 Double Stroke. She was upgraded by her previous owner to have the best parts of both the Single and Double Stroke models. She retained the stronger “Buddha ears” strap lugs and the quite useful double wind action, allowing me to have a shorter stroke per wind and hence maintaining roughly the same grip on the camera without having to overextend my thumb. The new goodies given to her were the depth of field preview markings on the rangefinder patch, and a minimum focusing distance of 0.7m.
I’ve shot with the M3 for a fair amount of time, and it has proven to be by far the most reliable camera I’ve owned. A bright and very accurate rangefinder, combined with the wonderful 50mm framelines – I am a big 50mm user – makes the M3 the numero uno camera for me, cementing its place in my camera bag as a daily driver.
Of course, it would not do to go without mentioning the lens of choice, the Voigtlander 50mm 1.5 Nokton. It renders with sharpness slightly stopped down and with pleasing bokeh from wide open all the way to f4, and to top it off has a beautiful tonality for black and white. A truly superb lens at any price point, it just had to be mounted that morning.
The other half of the duo was the Nikon 28Ti. bThe 28Ti is a compact that does not handle like one. It has beautiful and informative dials on the top giving information on exposure compensation, focusing distance and aperture selected, and you have complete freedom to change any of these settings at will. With a binary sort of coded system, you can also change metering modes, from centre-weighted to matrix metering (yes!). On the outside, a solid titanium chassis rounds up the feeling of a solid image-making machine, almost as if they shrunk the Nikon F5!
A little bit of information: the Jurong Fishery Port is a wholesale market which opens from 12 midnight to about 6am, with it being the busiest between 1am to 4am. Foreign fishing vessels dock and offload their fishy goodies to be marketed and distributed wholesale to supermarkets, restaurants and private clients.
The whole experience was somewhat of a sensory overload, resulting in me having to shoot fast and move after the shot or a dock worker would run me over with his cart. I was frankly being pushed to my limit at this point, running on dregs of coffee from my thermos flask, trying to focus through a splitting headache and getting frankly quite fed up with the slow shutter speeds my Nikon 28Ti’s matrix metering was telling me. I was shooting HP5 at ISO 1600, and even then the f2.8 lens of the 28Ti could not keep up with the bustle of the port, although it did make up for it with the convenience of autofocus. My M3 shot like a charm though, never let me down throughout the night and was an absolute pleasure.
At one point, things got so hectic that I was having to dual wield the cameras, keeping the 28Ti dangling from its wrist strap, ready to replace the M3 for a wider shot when things got a little cramped. I think I managed to capture the liveliness, the seafood and most importantly, the people running the show. Worth the sleep deprivation after? I have no doubts about that.
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