The plan was simple, spend a year in Japan photographing the Olympics, the events, and the famous Japanese festivals, but something happened along the way… The world got sick.
Covid-19 put an end to all my intentions. John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” That’s pretty much spot on for me in 2020 and continuing in 2021.
The Olympics were postponed and all the festivals and events that I was going to capture with my cameras were canceled. I have spent more days than I care to count inside my apartment due to the recurring states of emergency issued by the Japanese government. I’ve had my moments during this pandemic, but I’ve adjusted. However, many of my friends and acquaintances have struggled and are still struggling. I have been lucky. Photography has been my sanctuary and my escape.
The only silver lining in all of this has been that many of the tourist attractions have been comparatively empty due to the lack of international visitors and many Japanese choosing to stay home. I have used these moments of relative tranquility for walking meditation and to practice my photography.
So, on a sunny spring morning, I donned my N95 mask and took the early train to Odawara Castle in Kanagawa prefecture. I wanted to capture the annual return of the cherry blossoms before they disappeared. This year, the cherry blossoms peaked at their earliest date since records began (Likely as a result of climate change).
I arrived at the castle before the surge of people eager to experience the waning days of the cherry blossom season and craving to feel the warmth of the sun. As stated earlier, I missed its peak due to its historic early arrival, but fortunately many of the trees were still covered with their pink harbingers of spring.
I brought a CONTAX NX paired with the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 3.5–5.6/28mm-80mm lens. The NX was part of CONTAX’s auto-focusing N series of 35mm cameras. Their last series of cameras produced before the brand was retired by Kyocera in 2005. The Vario-Sonnar 28-80mm is rather good for being a kit lens. It has a convenient macro feature that I use often. The zoom range is excellent for a general-purpose walk around lens.
The film that I used was Fujifilm Provia 100F. I was a bit hesitant to use slide film but I wanted to capture the vivid colors of Spring with a fine grain film. Positive film has a reputation for being unforgiving if not metered correctly, and I was only using the camera’s built-in light meter.
When I received the film back, I was pleasantly surprised. The meter did an admirable job of metering each scene. Highlights and shadows were well controlled. The colors were vivid but lifelike.
The Carl Zeiss lens and the Provia slide film complemented each other well. Fuji’s colors were accurate and Zeiss’ reputation for rendering contrasty images with its T* coating did not disappoint. Images were sharp and clean. Some images even had that famous Zeiss 3D like pop.
What does the future hold? Who knows, for now, I’m still in Japan. I’m still hoping I get to photograph the aspects of this country as planned. It might never happen before I eventually leave. I’m content with that. This pandemic has taught me that nothing in this life is granted, and to make the best with what life presents to you. As long as I have a camera, I’ll continue to document this beautiful, crazy and unpredictable world.
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