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01.11.2019 Toshimitsu Takahashi

Different Breed: Toshimitsu Takahashi x X-Pro3

Toshimitsu Takahashi

Born on 2 February in 1963 in Komatsu JAPAN.
After working at a design production, established the TAKAHASHI TOSHIMITSU DESIGN OFFICE in 1994. Alongside being an art director, designer, and photographer, committed in photographic creativity works focused on
1983 [FACE]
2011 [SNAPS] at Kanazawa, at Tokyo
Member of JAGDA
Member of KANAZAWA Art Directors Club

Traveling Noto Peninsula with an X-Pro3

The Noto Peninsula, home to a rich and varied history and culture. Take a step past Anamizu into backwoods Noto and you’ll find the real Japan. It’s not that it’s particularly scenic, it’s that each piece of its unostentatious landscape and scenery is evocative.

In my mind, the image of the Noto is intermingled with that of Italy, particularly the island of Sicily, for many years now one of my favorite photographic haunts. Jutting into the Japan Sea, the peninsula is surrounded by water, with winds from the continent striking its seaward side, while on side facing the mainland the seas are calm and the landscape gentle.

In Suzu, on the windy seaward side, the coast is lined with salt ponds, much as they extend around Trapani, Sicily. Although the methods of production may differ, it seems that salt is made wherever there is wind and sea. Sicily even has a town called “Noto”. I don’t think there’s any particular connection beyond the name, but I can’t help but feel some kind of bond.

I first encountered the X Series in the form of the X-Pro1. And then the X-E1, X-E2, X-T1, X100…. I spent many days walking around Sicily in the company of the X Series. It is the birthplace of many memories and more photographs than I can count.

Sicilia Cefalu 2013, X-E1 / ZEISS Touit 2.8/12

Sicilia Catania 2015, X-T1 / XF35mm F2 R WR

Plocida 2017, X100F

Of the X cameras, the Pro series has a special place in my heart. Although it became more polished with each iteration from the Pro1 to the Pro2, to be honest I didn’t think it could be improved upon when it came to taking photographs. And then I got my hands on an X-Pro3. From the front it looked much the same as its predecessors, but when I turned it around I suffered a shock—it had no screen!

Whereas one usually looks for improved performance or new features in a new model, from the point of view of functionality this seemed like a step backwards. The arrow pad was also missing. It made for a very clean look but—really?
True, if you wanted a screen you just had to open the display, but it seemed there would be no advantage in leaving it closed during normal use. Thinking perhaps it represented a “back to the basics” moment for photography, I decided to reserve my decision until I had actually tried it out. Feeling strangely more hopeful than before, I headed out to Noto.

A wild Kiriko Festival, seen through X-Pro3 with two lenses

You could say that summer in Noto is a summer of festivals. There is a stirring Kiriko Festival happening somewhere virtually every week. I was at Flatt’s by the Sea—a B&B in Yanami, Noto-machi, run by Benjamin Flatt, an Australian who has fallen in love with Noto—on the very day of Yanami’s annual Kiriko Festival, a special day that brings the whole town together and on which they celebrate a custom, called “yobarë”, of treating guests with whom they are intimate to festival dishes and together carrying kiriko (lantern floats) on their shoulders.

Equipped with two lenses, an XF35mmF1.4 R and an XF16mmF2.8 R, I slid in among the kiriko and began taking photographs. In situations like these it helps to have a camera with a compact, rugged body. I had heard that X-Pro3’s autofocus could cope with some pretty poor lighting conditions, and indeed despite the dark I was able to photograph the wildly moving men without losing a second. The XF35mmF1.4 R in particular seemed like a completely different lens when mounted on the X-Pro3.

Despite the faint light

It’s 4:00 am at Sōji-ji Soïn Temple in Monzen, Wajima-shi. Outside, it’s still dark. An apprentice runs past carrying the waking bell. A feeling of tension wafts through the dimly-lit monastery. I enable the electronic shutter to silence the camera. The X-Pro3’s autofocus is about to show its stuff. The monastery is still dark, but the image in the electronic viewfinder is bright with excellent contrast. Despite the faint light, I am comfortably able to capture the expressions of concentration on the faces of the kneeling apprentices.

I travelled to a variety of locations, including a workshop where they make traditional wajima-nuri lacquerware, the Nanaö soy-sauce brewery, and the salt ponds of Suzu. What I noticed wherever I went was how kind people were. The old people I met at the Ōzawa fishing port were happy to chat with me, and indeed wouldn’t stop once we had sat down and settled in for a conversation. Addressed by first one and then another, before I knew it the sun was about to set. Somehow it reminded me of Sicily, where time passes more slowly.

Once again a visit to Noto had led to many encounters that reminded me how charming the locals are.

The respect for the viewfinder you feel from the X-Pro3

What one inevitably does when taking photos with the rear-panel monitor closed is look through the viewfinder. I myself frame almost 100% of my photos in the viewfinder. Although you may indeed be able to use a rear-panel monitor for interesting low- and high-angle shots that can’t be framed in the viewfinder at eye level, or for taking your subject unawares for surprising results that could only be achieved without a viewfinder, when taking shots for my portfolio I want the viewfinder to direct my gaze at my subject. If I may be a bit over-dramatic, I would say that this is how I honor those kind enough to let me take their picture.

My photographs do not belong solely to me—they also belong to my subjects.
Perhaps the X-Pro3 helped me realize that by closing the monitor.

Reminding us of the simple joys of taking photographs

So that was my trip to Noto, on which I embarked feeling strangely hopeful, X-Pro3 in hand. Although leaving the rear-panel monitor closed interfered to an extent with menu operations and the like, once I got used to it I didn’t find it especially troubling. On the contrary, shutting off this source of miscellaneous information allowed me to concentrate on taking on photos. The feeling of “I can’t see a preview” soon changed to one of “I don’t need a preview.” My feeling was that any time I might have available to look at a preview would be better spent with my eye to the viewfinder and my finger on the shutter button, ready for that next shot.

To be frank, I don’t think this camera is for everyone. Naturally I don’t mean that in a bad way; rather my feeling is that this a special product that I wouldn’t recommend to just anyone. The texture of the titanium body, the grip, and the overall feeling one gets from the camera strongly communicate a sense of craftsmanship. Perhaps this is a camera only for those to whom such things appeal. Many cameras take good photos, but how many cameras are there that say to you “this is the camera with which I want to take my photos”? I feel that the X-Pro3 is just such a camera.