My wife and I went to Taiwan for 10 days in the run-up to Christmas 2019. It was our first time visiting this incredibly photogenic country, so I took a fairly ridiculous collection of films, my Leica M4-P, and my latest love – a Pentax 6×7 (the 2nd version with mirror lockup). I usually shoot B&W, largely because I can develop it at home, but for this beautiful country I felt I needed to go colour. This gave me a great opportunity to experiment with some unfamiliar stocks, perhaps the most exotic of which was CineStill 800T.
For those who don’t know, CineStill 800T is actually Kodak Vision 3 5219 500T motion picture film modified so it can be used for stills and developed using the common C-41 process. The “T” stands for tungsten as this stock is designed for use in artificially (tungsten) lit low-light scenes. If you want to know more, there are plenty of great articles online.
We started our trip with 4 nights in Taipei, staying very close to the famous “Camera Street” in Zhongzheng District where I managed to pick up an immaculate copy of the wonderful 105mm 2.4 lens for my Pentax 6×7. Taipei is heaven to explore, with very different feeling neighborhoods and incredible food absolutely everywhere. It strikes me as a complex mix of Japanese and Chinese cultures, looking like Tokyo one minute and Beijing the next, but always with it’s own unique Taiwanese character. This isn’t that surprising considering Taiwan spent 50 years under Japanese rule. We found the people to be very polite, but warm and friendly, and the streets manage to be almost as clean as Singapore while still retaining a rich Asian feel. We got by fine speaking English – most places have an English menu although sometimes you have to order by pointing at it.
Taipei (and Taiwan in general) is famous for its night markets, so I grabbed the 6×7, the new lens and a roll of CineStill when we set off to visit the one in Shilin district. It reminded me of Asia in the 80s – a delightful sensory onslaught of sights, sounds and smells. It felt like we’d stepped into Blade Runner’s Los Angeles at times, and I think the film captured this beautifully. The food was as delicious as it was exotic!
I guess this is a Marmite kind of film – you either love or hate it. Personally I really enjoy the other-worldly cinematic Matrix kind of feel it can give, and I’m looking forward to trying it again. I imagine it might sing in a cold, snowy, misty environment. I might even invest in a Pro-mist filter to accentuate the halation.
Taiwan is a stunning country with wonderful people, exciting cities, and incredible natural beauty too. I highly recommend visiting, just make sure you pack some comfortable shoes and a lot of film.