Remember the days of film photography, when you’d get your prints back from the lab and the last image (or sometimes the first) would be hopelessly out of focus? There might be some bit of recognizable imagery with a smear of sprocket holes or part of the film itself laying across it. They had a lovely atmospheric quality that seemed to transcend the other snapshots they book-ended. The modern day equivalent might be those accidental shots when the focus goes awry or the shutter lags to the point where nothing recognizable manages to hit the sensor. Most people probably delete them immediately but I process them with the rest and treasure them like I did in the film days.
I’m thankful for my friend and coworker, Aki. She sits across from me at work and we’re always chit-chatting about little things. We rarely get to collaborate on projects but tomorrow we’re photographing a work event and she’s kind of nervous about it. She decided to double-check her camera settings at the actual event location, and even though I use my camera daily and know it pretty well by now, she insisted I go with her and check my settings as well. I’d be nervous carrying around that giant flash, too. Canon’s approach to camera design has always seemed a little ham-fisted to me. I’ll stick with Fuji and fast primes.
A few weeks ago I joined eBay in order to list a couple cameras and a bunch of accessories. Within minutes one of my cameras sold to a buyer in France. I was excited but thought it was strange how quickly someone actually saw the posting and decided to click the "buy now" button. I accepted the sale and received notification that the funds were about to transfer into my PayPal account and that all I needed to do was ship the package.
I sent out the package to the address on the notification which was different than the location in France in listed on the buyer's profile. I didn't think much of it. I even rolled with the fact that the new shipment location was in Nigeria.
Once I dropped off the box at the post office I entered the tracking number into the transaction listing on my eBay dashboard. My email inbox was pinged with another notification, this time from PayPal saying funds would be sent once the package made it through several delivery checkpoints and that delayed payment was to be expected. I knew this was wrong. I checked that email on my phone but double-checked it on my Mac at home where I could see that it was so absolutely phony, so glaringly, so shamefully fake. I had caught this one but the previous emails made it straight through me.
I spent the rest of the evening and the next day trying to get the package back. Of course I sent the package express like the buyer asked me to do which made it nearly impossible to stop shipment. I watched the camera move from Ann Arbor to Detroit to Chicago and then... Dubai. None of my tactics, none of my countless phone calls to eBay, USPS, or airports prevented the package from leaving the United States.
The package quickly left Dubai and straight into Lagos State, Nigeria. It went out for local delivery in Agege, the destination city, but was returned to the local post office the same day. Missed delivery. There it sat, in that post office for days. A coworker from Cameroon helped me call the local post office but we never connected with anyone. I even emailed that post office but never heard anything back.
After multiple days of inactivity, the status of the shipment changed from "awaiting pickup at local post office" to "preparing for shipment." Within a day or two an email from a Yahoo address showed up with subject line "ITEM RETURNED TO SEND" and a message that read "The item has been stopped and return to sender."
Something had worked. Within a week, the package was back on my doorstep in Ypsilanti. The box was beat all to hell and covered in Nigerian postal tape and red marker saying "Stop Delivery." I'm not sure I'll ever know why it was returned, or rather, why it wasn't accepted, so nothing about this process is repeatable and I can't give any great advice on how to wiggle out of an eBay scam after you've fallen for it. Unsuccessful for the scammer, but somehow successful for me, other than burning $90 to expedite the damn thing to Nigeria.
Occasionally I go back through my photos from Japan and process a few that I overlooked when I was actively processing them after the trip. Here are a few I worked on last night to wind down after working on a freelance assignment.
The other night I had a couple minutes before picking up food at Siam Square, the Thai Restaurant connected to the Victory Inn Hotel across from Arbor Land, so I took a couple pictures. Certain parts of the building are quite nice looking with its long orange walls and pointed roofs... and its prominent but nearly invisible “3750.”
A few nights ago I started experimenting with slightly longer shutter lengths than you’d normally use when hand-holding a camera at night. I was only trying for soft focus or hints of movement but the most interesting parts of the images were the light trails so that’s what I tried to highlight. I kept feeling out duration versus impressions on the sensor. The images here are the result of a few night’s worth of trial-and-error. I like this style. I like the flat black backgrounds and the way they swallow up any remaining bits of detail. I might work with it for a while and see where it leads. It's not officially a series yet—at least in terms of what I like to achieve through set of images—but it’s probably leading to that. I just need to introduce some other element. Maybe another color, a type of split-toning, or an artifact of the slow shutter.