Yashica 635

What’s your reaction to this one? Cool or creepy?

What’s your reaction to this one? I was walking St. James Court shooting houses and this young woman came walking up the sidewalk toward me. The shot was a classic surreptitious “shoot from the hip” shot. I just tripped the shutter on the 635 as it hung against my stomach. I was set for f16 and had the focal point set to about 20 feet, so I didn’t have to focus. I really like the shot, but it also strikes me as kind of creepy, almost like a stalker or something. Maybe if the girl was 80 years old, or a male, it would be different, but a young, fairly attractive female being photographed without her knowledge or permission bothers me. On the other hand, I really like the shot. What do you think? (Click on image for larger view.)



Louisville Waterfront

Water and photography are a natural pairing. The openness and reflective properties of water make for interesting textures and the activities of people on and around water provide us with great subject matter. I have been exploring the waterfront in Louisville – the park, the docks and trails. I never seem to fail to fill up my memory cards and expose all the film I carry when I go down to the river. (Click on images for larger view).

Reading-on-the-Dock This lady was definitely getting her inner Zen going. She was just reading at the end of the dock. I think her serene vibes helped to make the picture. I wanted to know what book she was reading, but I decided not to disturb her. It was probably The Diamond Sutra or something like that.


I was carrying my Yashica 635 TLR (a 120 film camera) when we walked past this guy. He yelled, “I got something!” and I turned and shot the picture without focusing or even aiming the camera because I thought a big fish was about to explode out of the water. It turned out to be an unfortunate box turtle. The fisherman cut the hook with some wire cutters so it could slip out of the turtle’s mouth and let him go. He said, “I’m strictly ‘catch and release.’ I don’t like killing things.” (The vignette is a Photoshop effect, not the lens.)

The-Belle-of-Louisville-2 The Belle of Louisville is the oldest operating steam ship in the United States. She’s coming in to dock after a cruise up the river. I love this boat.


Another guy fishing with bridges in the background. This is looking upstream on the Ohio River toward Cincinnati. We talked to this guy and he wasn’t catching anything. He said he’d never fished the river before and didn’t know what he was doing wrong. My hunch is that it was so hot that the fish were deep in the channel, out past where you could cast a line.

Three-Ducks Gotta’ luv the ducks. I think ducks are natural comedians.


Here’s the crew tying up the Belle at the Third Street dock. That foggy stuff is real live steam from the engine. I particularly enjoyed catching the rope in mid air (and yes, this was done with a digital DSLR).

Barbecue-under-the-Bridge This is the southern end of the Kennedy Bridge where Interstate 65 crosses the Ohio. The massive expressway makes a perfect canopy for a cookout when the sun is beating down.


See also “Cooling Off in Waterfront Park”


My New Camera: Yashica 635

This is my new camera, a Yashica 635. A friend of mine found it in a shop in Florida. It cost me $75.


According Kar Yan Mak

In 1958, Yashica manufactured a one and only dual format TLR, the Yashica 635. It takes 6×6 on 120 roll film and 24x36mm on 35mm film (with a special adapter kit). It has a Copal MVX shutter and a Yashikor 80mm f/3.5 lens. The 635 looks similar to the Yashica D, except for the additional knobs for 35mm film operation.

And from Martin Taylor

So, how does the 635 perform? The 635 lacks the film crank and the auto-shutter cocking of my Mat. More importantly it sports the 3 element Yashikor lens rather than the Mat’s more refined 4 element Yashikon. Truth be told, the lens difference makes less of a difference than you might think. Below f8 the 635 is certainly softer than the Mat but you can use that to your advantage for portraits. At f8 and above it is very hard to tell them apart.

Less professionally featured than the Mat, the 635 is a little slower to use but, when I need speed, I am more likely to pick up a digital camera anyway. Using a TLR is all about slowing down and considering everything that you’re doing. The 635 helps me in that endeavor and is, as such, a useful arrow to have in my quiver.

I bought this camera to do 6×6 cm medium format. I could have bought a Mamiya 645 for about $300 but that was more than I wanted to invest in the medium format project for now – maybe later. I have a long-time connection with this particular model. I was able to borrow one for an extended period when I lived in Colorado. Recently, I rediscovered some of the negatives I shot with it and scanned them. I fell in love with it all over again. Those large, lush negatives are more than twice the size of a 35mm negative, and, with the right film and subject, it’s a “suitable for framing” kind of image right out of the soup. When my friend, Jim, told me he had a found a really clean one which had been checked over by a technician and guaranteed, and for a very attractive price, I told him I had to have it.

The Yashica 635 is a completely manual camera. Those accustomed to contemporary automatic digital cameras would be totally lost with this thing. There is no onboard light meter. You have to provide a hand-held light meter or be good enough to guess your exposures. The film advances with a knob, and there is a separate lever to the right of the shooting lens which cocks the shutter. The focus is also completely manual, and to keep life interesting, the image in the viewfinder is reversed left to right, but I find that it helps with checking your composition. I spent the first twenty years of my photographic life shooting on manual film cameras, so these issues are no big deal to me. I have a Gossen Pilot 2 light meter, and like the Yashica 635, it doesn’t use a battery either. My biggest challenge with the camera is finding 120 film for it. Murphey’s has some. B&H has a lot more that is easily ordered on the web and delivered to my front door.

The “experts” on these twin lens reflex cameras make a big deal about the 3-element 80mm lens on this camera. They point out that the focus is kind of soft on it below f8. Later models had a 4-element lens that was sharper at the larger aperture settings. To me, this is part of its charm – if you want it sharp you can stop it to f8 or better, but below f8 it gives you a slightly soft focus. It can create a dreamy antique effect that is wonderful. For those of us who have the roadmap of our lives etched into the crows’ feet around our eyes, the below f8 softness can be quite flattering. I don’t care, but when you’re doing portraits of women who have crossed forty, f3.5 can be a magic wand.

When dealing with a camera like this, one that is basically an antique and an anachronism, the question of “why” always comes up. It’s the same reason you make your own pasta, brew your own beer, or grown your own oregano in the garden. It’s the difference between playing your own guitar and listening to the radio. You do it because you want want to, because there’s a flavor you’re looking for that you can’t buy in the store. There’s a thrill to pulling those wet negative out of the water, and holding them up to the light to see that you have pictures. The skill, history and time came together in one place and left an imprint on the silver and acetate.

Here’s a photo done on the Yashica 635 with Plus-X film developed in Microdol (from Kodak, and unfortunately discontinued). I shot the picture and developed the film in my bathroom:

Marian-at-the-Rathke-Ranch Marian at the Rathke Ranch (click on picture for larger image)