Mercury Monterey

Mercury Monterey, Point Grey, 1985

Lest the recent post on my Point Grey days leaves the impression that all was, well, grey and dreary, this image should set the record straight.

I had lived in the neighbourhood for a year or so, when this scene — just outside my apartment on W. 10th Avenue — presented itself. It seemed to me to epitomize the “Happy Days” ethos popularized at restaurants and bars, like Earl’s Place right across the street, where I stopped in for a beer and burger … if I’d had a good month. More often, I opted for the $2.50 burger and fries or soup (see below) at the adjacent Varsity Grill Chinese restaurant.

Varsity Cycles is partially visible on the left margin. I bought many a brake and gear cable there for the bike that carried me on photographic explorations of the city.

Car enthusiasts will identify the Mercury Monterey as an early ’60s model (’63?), making it just 22-years-old at the time.

Summer put a different face on the street. Local merchants displayed their wares outdoors, as you can see in the contact sheet below, Pacific Spirit Park, just a few blocks south, provided trails to hike and cycle, and when my schedule allowed, I fled to nearby clothing optional Wreck Beach to work on an all-over tan.

Happy contact sheet

Technical: Camera: Mamiyaflex C series medium format. Film: Ilford FP4 120. Development not recorded but likely Ilford ID 11.

See the Point Grey postscript.

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Camera acquisition syndrome (CAS)

Last April, I purchased a Fujifilm X-Pro2 mirrorless camera system. I made an unboxing video and a gallery of stills, which I posted shortly afterwards. In the fall, I took the system (with the addition of Fujinon 10-24 and 50-140 zooms) on a trip to England, where I fell further in love with the relatively compact, lightweight kit.

But how does the X-Pro2 fare in the video department?

I put the most recent addition to my camera bag up against my Nikon D-800 DSLR and, for good measure, the iPhone 6s.

I made these comparison clips last May, but then The Move interceded and many things took a back seat to renos and reorganization. Now that my workspace is beginning to be workable, I’m trying to catch up.

The shoot

On a beautiful, late spring day (I’m so ready for it’s return!) I took the three devices to Beacon Hill Park and adjacent beaches, some of the finest locations in Victoria, British Columbia.

The first 2:10 of the video review consists of clips made with the X-Pro2, combined with the 23mm f1.4, a lens I’ve come to treasure for its sharpness and superb contrast. Then I alternated between the Fuji and the Nikon, with a couple of clips from the iPhone 6s thrown in for good measure.

The Nikon was fitted with 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8 zooms.

The results by no means constitute an exhaustive technical assessment, but I think they provide a fair idea of what can be achieved with minimal editing. All clips are right out of the cameras — no post-processing adjustments.

I ran through a few of the Fuji’s most popular “film simulation” settings, such as “Chrome,” “ACROS” (B&W), “Sepia,” and “Velvia.” (full options: Std., Provia, Velvia, Astia, Classic Chrome, Pro Neg. Hi/Pro Neg., Acros/Monochrome, Sepia)

The camera has received accolades for its jpeg images, so it was no great surprise that the X-Pro2’s jpeg engine did a fine job on video output. By comparison, the D800 clips appear somewhat soft and low-contrast. Then again, the D800, with its 36MPX full-frame sensor, albeit with anti-aliasing filter, displays excellent dynamic range.

All clips but one (the “scarecrow”) were shot mounted on a Gitzo carbon fibre tripod with Manfrotto 050 Photo Movie head. The iPhone was attached to this rig with a Joby GorillaPod.

Functional considerations

Let’s be clear, none of these can be considered professional video cameras. Other reviews (since this one is late to the game) have made note of the X-Pro-2’s Moire and aliasing issues. The D800 suffers to a lesser degree from the same defects.

Settings on the X-Pro2 are minimalist, shall we say. There is no dedicated video button; you press the top fn button to begin recording. You can reprogram other buttons to take up this function. Once you’ve chosen your settings, that’s what you’re stuck with; no changing mid-record. You’re also stuck with auto-exposure (see tree pan at in video). There’s no override that I can find. This is the most vexing oversight as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully, this can be addressed with a future firmware update.

I made all clips from the Nikon and Fuji 1080p and 60fps.

This test didn’t examine low-light performance, but I know from previous experience that the D800 does not shy away from shady places. The X-Pro 2 is also impressive, producing useable “footage” down to ISO 1600. Here’s where the iPhone is better left in one’s pocket, unless its flashlight function is needed to find something in the camera bag.

None of these cameras capture 4K video — we’re talking 1080p as the highest resolution. (The Fujifilm X-T2 recently stepped into that arena and the new iPhone 7/7 Plus feature 4K video recording at 30 fps)

Final thoughts

I’ll let the results speak for themselves. For my purpose (I don’t consider myself a videographer), both the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and Nikon D800 work well — even the iPhone clips look decent if stabilized and ambient light is sufficient — but I have to say, the X-Pro2 comes out on top if you’re looking for high quality clips right out of the camera. Again, the excellent Fuji jpeg engine sees to that.

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Epson Legacy vs Canson Infinity

Outside the Box

When I began printing my archive of Eighties Vancouver photographs, after making some test prints on various papers, including Epson’s beautiful-to-look-at “Exhibition Fiber,” I settled on Canson’s equally exquisite Platine Fibre Rag, despite the slightly warmer paper base.

My decision was partially based on avoiding optical brightening agents, which lend beautiful density and vibrance to Exhibition Fiber but (short of engaging in one of those endless photographic debates — I did title this a “brief review”), OPAs have a limited lifespan. More importantly, I couldn’t seem to get the heavyweight (325 g/m₂) Exhibition Fiber to transit my Epson 4900 printer without microscopic scratches running the length of prints — a problem, I discovered via Google search, not limited to my studio.

Last year, in a treatise on archival printing, matting, and framing, I mentioned the impending release of a new line of inkjet papers from Epson. “Legacy” they were calling them, and expectations were high, not least based on preliminary assessments from Wilhelm Imaging Research. The go-to source for photographic print permanence info, Wilhelm estimates “print permanence ratings of up to 200 years for color prints, and likely in excess of 400 years for black and white prints when printed with Epson’s ‘Advanced Black and White Print Mode’,” which I use for my B&W prints. I was excited.

In that post, I wondered if it was merely coincidence that the Legacy papers were to be named the same as Infinity papers by Canson: Platine, Baryta, Etching, and Fibre, a matte surface paper they spelled correctly this time 🙂  The announcement mentioned that these new fine art photographic papers were to be made by an acclaimed European paper mill. Sounded to me like Canson, who boast a legacy of papermaking reaching back nearly 500 years. June 2016 Wilhelm update.

The Proof is in the paper

Epson Legacy papers have been available in Canada for a few months now. I bought some: Platine in a couple of sizes and a sample pack containing 2 sheets each of Platine, Baryta, Fibre and Etching, in 8.5˝X11˝.

Epson Legacy, Canson Infinity

More Choice

At first glance, indeed the papers do look identical, and, as you can see below, inside the box, packaging is identical, but for Epson’s extra styrofoam padding in larger sized papers (below left) — a nice, practical touch to complement the luxurious packaging/branding on the outside. Even the colour variance in slip paper — green versus blue — is merely box dependant: my 17˝X22˝ Canson papers use the green. The “print face up“ tag most certainly comes from the same factory.

Now on to the actual papers.

Like the Canson Infinity papers, all of the Legacy line, except Baryta, are 100% cotton fibre and contain no OBAs.

My tests were not so technical (as these) but they were based on careful  visual evaluation. I made black and white and colour prints from my portfolio, as well as popular standardized printer test files from Bill Atkinson. Maximum density, for instance,  was not not compared with densitometer, though I do have one somewhere in a box containing my stored darkroom gear. Rather, finished prints were submitted to my critical eye — compared for sharpness, contrast and general wonderfulness or visual offence.

Really, there were no instances of the latter. Both Canson and Epson papers are wonderful.

The Epson papers seem a tad heavier — indeed they claim to be, with the Epson papers labeled 314 g/m₂, the comparable Canson products at 310 g/m₂ (see table below). The difference is very subtle but noticeable in the hand.

Surfaces, where they can be perceived without microscopy, look identical. That is, I can see no difference in the Baryta or Platine papers.

Epson and Canson packaging

Inside the Box

The Prints

I have printed both brands using proprietary/vendor specific ICC profiles and I have switched profiles, printing the Epson papers with Canson profiles, and vice versa. There is very little difference to be seen. But a difference there is. The Legacy papers print marginally better with Epson profiles. To my eye, I see a slight but noticeable increase in contrast, for instance, in the Epson Platine, printed with the intended profile, over the Canson Platine, printed with either the appropriate Canson or Epson profile.

Images on Epson Platine therefore have the appearance of slightly better sharpness, in subtle details, like repeated patterns. This has been noted by other photographers. It is very subtle, but that’s what printers obsess over — that minuscule degree of extra detail in the shadows under a tree or a fence line in a distant, misty, snow-covered field. We struggle to make good exposures (whether on film or CCD) so that we can exploit the captured details in the final print.

I suspect (as opposed to “have deduced by scientific methods”) that any perceived difference may well be due to Epson profiles rather than paper coatings. Make what you will of Wilhelm’s comments whether or not “latest technological advancements in inkjet coating” apply only to the Epson Legacy papers. To my knowledge, whether or not there are any proprietary differences, coatings for both Canson and Epson branded papers were developed by the award-winning Felix Schoeller Group.

As a result of early research on Luminous Landscape, another printmaker sent me some custom profiles which I haven’t had time to include in my tests. I also own a ColorMunki spectrophotometer to make my own profiles … again without the time to do so and with confidence that Canson and Epson have sophisticated hardware and expertise which assure the best possible results with their combination of papers and profiles optimized for respective printers.

Cost/benefit analysis

The Epson papers (notwithstanding discounts) are still notably more expensive than their Canson equivalents. Twenty-five sheets of 17X22 Epson Legacy Fibre will set you back $279.99CA — That’s over $11 per sheet, not counting taxes and shipping costs. At that price, test prints certainly must be optimized using cheaper paper!

Are Legacy papers worth the premium price? I’ll leave that decision up to you. I would encourage you to do as I did and try them out. Even the sample pack will give you a good idea of their relevance to your work.

I will certainly make use, where appropriate, of Legacy’s aforementioned virtues. Incidentally, my limited edition prints are available here.

After crunching numbers, considering border fees and exchange rate, despite free shipping over $100 from B&H in the US, it made more sense to be a loyal Canadian … besides, due to some “free trade” limitation or agreement with Epson, B&H doesn’t ship Legacy papers over the border.

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  • Peter Sullivan - Raymond, this was EXACTLY the review that I was looking for. Thanks for taking the time to compare the papers, Canadian prices and share the information.March 8, 2017 – 5:26 pmReplyCancel

    • Raymond Parker - You are welcome. Glad it served its purpose, Peter. I should add here that there have been some discount deals on the Legacy papers with orders over a certain amount. That makes them competitive.

      I’m liking the Epson papers for reasons mentioned in the review, but I’m not sure I’ll buy more unless prices come down. There just isn’t enough difference to rationalize the extra cost.March 8, 2017 – 5:46 pmReplyCancel

Bank of Montreal, Main and Prior Streets

Bank of Montreal Building, Main and Prior, Vancouver, 1984

Aside from Vancouver’s version of San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury on hip West Fourth Avenue, the northern reaches of Main Street and adjacent Chinatown were the first areas of the city I really got to know, after immigrating to Canada with my parents in 1965.

The familiarity was due to the fact that my father, Ray Parker, an entertainer in the Vaudevillian tradition, played the neighbourhood’s nightclubs.

Within a few square blocks lay the Shanghai Junk, run by Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame, at 205 Pender Street; The Smilin’ Buddha, at 109 E. Hastings Street, between Main and Columbia, (later, the incubator for Vancouver’s punk rock scene); Harlem Nocturne, 343 E. Hastings; and the Club New Delhi, 544 Main (at Keefer).

The main menu

Miss Lovie at the Club New Delhi

New Delhi newspaper ad, with my dad’s name misspelled

The attractions of the New Delhi were typical. Variety shows featured the best blues and jazz musicians of the day, burlesque artists like Miss Lovie Eli (who went on to a singing career, staring in such classics as Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Arts Club Theatre), my girlfriend Sunny Daye (a popular burlesque stage name), and comics and singers, like my dad.

Acts moved up and down the Pacific coast, with stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Reno, Seattle, and finally, Vancouver. Sunny became a star of the “west coast circuit.”

Patrons of West Side venues, like Issy’s Supper Club and The Penthouse, regarded the clubs of Chinatown as “dives.” The latter attracted more police attention, targeted by the vice squad under laws against “immoral acts,” liquor law infractions, and admitting underage patrons, like myself and Sunny.

All the clubs were frequented by gangsters, drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes, but East End cabarets were “colour blind” as well as safe havens for people referred to collectively today as the LGBTQ community.

Dad’s stand-up routine was risqué … and risky.

“The first time I worked here, I went out on Main Street and hailed a cop.”

“Do you know there’s men in there, dressed as women?”

… a few raised eyebrows in the audience.

“The cop looked at me and said, (Dad cocked his hip and raised a limp wrist) ‘If you don’t like our club, you don’t have to go in it!’”

That joke introduced Dad’s most outrageously camp act, performed in British pantomime tradition, lip-syncing in drag to such hits as Shirley Bassey’s “Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me.”

Slow blues in G

I was there for the music, of course. A pretty good blues harp player, I was thrilled to jam with top-drawer bands. The dancers didn’t mind much what was played, as long as it had a groove — a slow, 12-bar blues was perfect — and didn’t go on longer than the 15-minutes it took to strip down to g-string and pasties.

In the years since, I’ve run into a few fellow denizens of the East End club scene — from jazz musicians to servers and dancers, all of whom look back on those days, in the sixties and early seventies, as the high point of Vancouver’s independent club scene. Nothing remotely close to it exists today.

Main & E. Georgia

Main & E. Georgia, Vancouver, 1984

Voodoo Child

Running between Union and Prior Streets from Main Street to Jackson Avenue, Hogan’s Alley (Park Lane) had for sixty years formed the nucleus of Vancouver’s African-Canadian community. The area was known for its booze cans, gambling dens and brothels.

The construction of the Georgia Viaduct in 1972 (now slated for demolition) ploughed aside Vancouver’s only black neighbourhood.

A few blocks off Main Street, at 810 E. Georgia Street, lived Nora Hendrix, former Vaudeville dancer and grandmother of guitar god Jimi. She was in the audience when Jimi played the Pacific Coliseum, on September 7, 1968. So were my girlfriend and I.

Compared to today’s mega-arena shows, the atmosphere was positively intimate. Holding hands, we pushed our way through the frenzied crowd, grabbing a stage front spot, at Hendrix’s feet.

Sunny’s uninhibited dancing — she had removed her blouse — caught Jimi’s eye. He perched on the edge of the stage and played Foxy Lady, just for her.

A brick hut on the corner of Union and Main, believed to be the former kitchen of Vie’s Chicken Inn, where Nora Hendrix once worked as a cook, housed a Jimi Hendrix shrine for a few years. It has moved to a temporary home on Howe Street, but owner Vincent Fodera has big plans for the Union Street building. It remains to be seen if those plans will survive a new condominium proposal.

The party’s over

At 32, I returned to document the scene of my misspent youth. The intervening 15-years or so had erased from memory the exact locations of those clubs where I’d made my debut as a young disciple of the blues. Stripped of its vibrant nightlife, erotic dance having moved into pubs, accompanied by canned music, the neighbourhood was in decline.

My negative and contact sheet archive record that, in December, 1983, I tried to photograph the Bank of Montreal at 905 Main Street, but, unsatisfied with the result, I returned on a frigid day in January to try my luck again.

I set up the tripod, extending the centre column as high as possible, and shot the first half of the 12-exposure roll of Ilford FP4 120 film, with #2, including traffic lined up at the Prior Street light, now my favourite photograph of the six.

In 1984, the building (a Classical Revival style temple bank, designed by Honeyman & Curtis) was used as a clinic for mental health patients. Recently it has been integrated into the front of a new condominium.

I made a single exposure at the T-intersection of Main and East Georgia (see above) in an empty lot that still exists north of Murrin Substation at 721 Main. The derelict building on the left has been replaced, most recently, by a mixed-use development, as have all the buildings on the north side of E. Georgia.

Just a block short of Keefer Street and the building that had once housed the New Delhi Cabaret, I turned south again and set up in front of the substation grounds, where I ran into my neighbour, Dulcie, a young First Nations woman. The low winter sun projected long shadows of the property’s wrought iron fence, myself and my camera gear across the sidewalk and onto the frosty asphalt of Main Street.

Main Street, Vancouver

Pacific Hotel, Main Street, Vancouver, 1984

Prints available from the shop, in the “Eighties Vancouver” collection

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  • Gordon Bertram - When I was 19 in 1972 I played saxophone at Franks Cabaret on Hastings St. And the New Dehli.Bands would play five sets a night six nights a week.I still feel that my experience was very educational. Not only was I playing a lot of music I witnessed a subculture that no longer exists in the same fashion.January 21, 2017 – 8:36 pmReplyCancel

    • Raymond Parker - We’re very close in age, Gordon. Maybe we crossed paths. The scene was very much an education in so many ways that is just not available today, as far as I know.January 21, 2017 – 11:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Marko - Great amount of detail on the history of Vancouver.January 20, 2017 – 12:37 pmReplyCancel

    • Raymond Parker - Thanks Marko.January 22, 2017 – 8:56 amReplyCancel

  • Al Pirie - Lasseters Den, Vancouver Tonight, Copacabana, Spunkys, Traffic Jam, Baccetas, Diamond Lil’s, Smiling BuddhaJanuary 17, 2017 – 12:13 pmReplyCancel

    • Raymond Parker - Those too. January 22, 2017 – 8:56 amReplyCancel

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