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5 Candid Portraits in Tsukiji Pushing T-Max 100 with a Leica M6J and Summicron 50mm f/2- By Steven Bleistein

January 9, 2019

Tsukiji is one of the few remaining neighborhoods in Tokyo where you can get a sense of what the city was like in the 1950s and 1960s, and a favorite street photography stomping ground of mine. Tsukiji had been to be home to Tokyo’s famous tuna auction for seventy years, which has only recently been moved to Toyosu a few kilometers away in a modern but clinicalesque facility. Fortunately, Tsukiji’s outer market remains with its myriad shops and food stalls, and is still popular with not just tourists but also local Japanese. Without the early morning tuna auction, Tsukiji is less frenetic until about 10:00 AM or so when throngs still pack its narrow streets and alleyways.

On a recent cloudy morning, I packed my Leica M6J mounted with a Summicron 50mm f/2 lens and a few rolls of Kodak TMAX-100 and set off toward Tsukiji. By the time I arrived, the place was teaming with people. It was difficult to move without bumping into someone. Being pressed in close with the crowd, I decided to see if I could take candid portraits of the people there.

I kept the camera to my eye as I walked so I could frame with precision rather than attempting to shoot from the hip. I  set the focus to infinity and as I approached my subject and/or my subject walked toward me, I brought him or her into focus, gently pushing the focus tab on the lens. I find that it is easier to nail the focus in this way while moving rather than trying to chase my subject around with the focus patch. 

Given the light, I was shooting at f/5.6 at 250. The film is TMAX 100, but I set the ISO of the M6J’s meter to about 650. I push-processed the film with TMAX Developer at 800 as per Kodak recommendations. 

The best photos in my opinion are the ones in which the subject is making direct eye contact with me. A few examples are posted below.

You can see more of my work at www.bleisteinphoto.com and on Instagram at @sbleistein

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  • Reply
    Yul Vazquez
    January 9, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    This is excellent stuff man.
    You shot the film at box speed then pushed it later?

    • Reply
      January 9, 2019 at 6:56 pm

      Glad you like it! I shot as if the TMAX 100 film were ISO 650. Push processing usually entails extending the time in the developer chemical. I used TMAX Developer. Kodak publishes guides for push processing. I followed the Kodak guidelines for TMAX 100 pushed three stops to 800, so technically speaking, each image is slightly overexposed. If you Google “Massive Dev Chart,” you will find an online database for processing times and temperatures for lots of film-developer combinations, including for push processing. You should give push processing a try. Kodak TMAX films are great for pushing. In my experience, so is Fuji Neopan Acros.

  • Reply
    Charles Higham
    January 9, 2019 at 5:34 pm

    Excellent portraits.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2019 at 1:34 am

    Wow. These are great, Steven. The eye contact is unforgiving and revealing. The push processing intensifies the effect. I wish I had the guts to do street photography like this more often.

    • Reply
      January 10, 2019 at 5:28 am

      Thanks! In my experience, street photography is far more about determination than guts. Guts are only optional!

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    January 10, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    Damn, this is like a one day workshop with you.
    If I used your technique of walking about w/the camera to my eye, I’d be the unlucky SOB that would fall into a manhole :-), but then you’d be ready and capture my inglorious end!
    I love the shots, your description of the district and your treatment of pushing & processing the film.
    My favorite pic is of the gentleman with the bandana. What a face. He experienced life.

    • Reply
      January 10, 2019 at 11:14 pm

      A workshop wouldn’t take a full day, and you wouldn’t need me or anyone else to run it! I shot a roll of 38 exposures including these in one hour, because an hour was all the time I had before having to move on. Anyone, anytime, can run a one-hour workshop for himself or herself. I try to solo workshop every day no matter what I have going on.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    Lovely street portraits!

    I’m curious why you chose to push Tmax100, rather than just using a natively faster film like Tmax400?

    • Reply
      Steven Bleistein
      January 16, 2019 at 12:36 am

      Great question! Frankly, I think TMAX-100 is a better film than TMAX-400. It has an extraordinary fineness of grain, and capatures the subtilest shades of gray better than TMAX-400 in my opinion. I do also shoot TMAX-400, but it is only when I want to push beyond 800, which TMAX-100 does not handle well. I shoot TMAX-400 at 1600, 3200, and I have managed to push to 6400, beyond Kodak’s recommendation.

      The only other film I have used that I think competes well with TMAX-100 is Fuji Neopan Acros 100. I have pushed Acros to 800 with great results, using both TMAX Developer and Rodinal.

  • Reply
    Mike Hinkleman
    February 2, 2019 at 12:28 pm


    Nice candid shots. I was at Tsukiji today at lunch. There was actually more to see at the Tower. Market area very crowded.

    Personally my preference is with slow films. Pan F, polypan f etc.

    Cheers Mike

    • Reply
      Steven Bleistein
      February 2, 2019 at 12:54 pm

      Tsukiji on the weekend is so crowded, it’s very difficult to navigate, and you can’t really chat with the shopkeepers. Try weekdays and early mornings.

      If you like slow films, definitely give TMAX100 and ACROS100 a try. Fuji has discontinued ACROS, so I don’t know how much longer it will be available. There still seems to be plenty of stock for now.

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