Ka Wing Falkena: Street Photography with Kodak Tri-X

All images by Ka Wing Falkena. Used with permission.

Ka Wing Falkena is a Dutch photographer from Amsterdam who got into the art form by befriending a number of professional photographers who did a lot of street photography. “It was a bit scary in the beginning, but when that feeling was gone, I actually felt quite good.” he says in an email to the Phoblographer. “Walking on the street, only having to concentrate on light, composition and the subjects surrounding me, made me really relaxed. When I noticed that, I started doing it more and more.”

He’s been shooting for four years now, and tries to dedicate some time each day to the craft.

Like many of you, Ka Wing is a lover of Kodak Tri-X. But he tends to push his film quite a bit as he finds that it suits his creative vision.

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Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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Ka Wing: During high school the thought never came to me that I maybe interested in photography. I was into fashion and making clothes at that time. And for a while I really wanted to go to a school where they have a fashion program. But after some thinking and looking into those schools, I made the decision to go a different way and study Media & Culture at the University of Amsterdam.

In my second year, which is six years ago, me and five others where running a student organization. We would organize many parties and events. And of course someone had to take photos during these events to put on the website and Facebook. And because I often had a simple compact camera with me, I became the person who would take those photos.

During that year I became more interested in photography, because I had fun doing it and I thought that I was doing alright. So I bought myself a more serious camera, i.e. instead of a Panasonic FS6 I bought myself a Panasonic GF-1 with a 20mm lens. And from that point on I had the feeling that I wanted to do more with photography.

And four years ago, being inspired by friends who also do a lot of street photography, I started walking in my own neighbourhood and in the centre of town, with my camera. Trying to capture the moments that peak my interest.

Phoblographer: What made you get into street photography?

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Ka Wing: About five years ago I became friends with a photographer, Maarten van der Kamp, and he really inspired me to get into street photography. I already knew I liked portraying people, in a natural way, without them posing (i.e. without asking). But Maarten’s photos showed me what it could really look like in a photo, the tension between the subject and the photographer. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, but it inspired me to go out and shoot whatever I thought could be a great photo.

Phoblographer: What methods do you typically use when shooting? Zone focusing? Waiting?

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Ka Wing: Sometimes I wait, but usually I use scale focusing.

I normally use a Leica M4-2 and a simple Sekonic light meter. And when I say that I’m walking through the city centre, then I’m really walking. I rarely stop and take my time to take a photo.
My eyes are concentrating on everything about ten metres in front of me and when I spot something or someone I immediately start zone focusing. Because I’m using a 50mm I try to think beforehand from what distance I want to take the photo. I know it’s usually at least within 3 metres, so I turn the focus to 3 metres. I just walk straight at the subject, look through the viewfinder and then quickly turn the dial to nail the focus.

Phoblographer: What do you feel typically inspires you to capture a moment on film?

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Ka Wing: It can be anything really. I can be someone’s look on their face, it can be a certain type of lighting, it can be a scene which I think is funny or interesting.

Phoblographer: You’re all about Kodak Tri-X 400 and pushing it to 1600. Why? How do you feel this helps you get the creative vision you want?

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Ka Wing: In the beginning I pretty much tried everything that I could get my hands on. But after a while I settled on the Tri-X 400 film, because I wanted to have consistency with how most of my photos look. That’s also why I never have changed the lens on my camera. Because of that consistency and knowing what the film is going to do with a certain type of lighting, I’m always sure that the photos will come out the way I want.

And besides that, a more practical reason is that using 1600 in the daytime makes it way easier to nail the focus. Most of my photos have been shot between f/5.6 and f/11, and usually more leaning towards f/8 and f/11. Because capturing that certain type of moment can be a matter of seconds, I didn’t wanted to risk not having that photo. Now that I’m faster with the focusing I could probably just push it to 800 or leave it at 400, but I want all of the photos that I take in the centre of Amsterdam to have the same look.

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Phoblographer: What gear do you use?

Ka Wing: My main camera for the street is a Leica M4-2 with a Konica M-Hexanon 50mm f/2. Sadly, at this moment, the camera is not functioning properly, but it’s probably getting fixed soon. As backup cameras I have a Contax T2 and a Yashicamat 124G. And very rarely I take out my digital camera: the Fuji XT-10.

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Phoblographer: How important is gear to you when doing street photography?

Ka Wing: When doing street photography I’m not particularly worried what kind of camera I have in my hand. It just has to be able to create that look that I want. I noticed that I’m so used to having a rangefinder, that using a SLR on the street feels kind of awkward to me.

But besides having to worry what I use for doing street photography, I really love cameras and I probably do suffer a little from GAS. Especially polaroid cameras and interesting compact cameras always catch my eye.

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