Cameras and Sushi in Oakland

On Saturday, March 3, 2001, I drove up to the Oakland area to attend a camera show that was being held at the Scottish Rites Temple at 1547 Lakeside Drive, in Oakland, right across from Lake Merritt. The last time that I went to this camera show, which is held periodically throughout the year, was some time before May, 1999. The Phantom Menance, the prequel to the Star Wars trilogy, was about to come to the silver screen, and at the time, I was completely sucked into all the euphoria surrounding the movie. I came to the camera show looking for a Graflex flash gun handle, the same kind used to make Luke Skywalker’s lightsabre in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. I didn’t find it there, as those flash gun handles are very difficult (or expensive) to find on the market. What I did find was that there seemed to be many more dealers at the camera show then than there were in 2001. It’s possible that the Internet is squeezing the small retail shops out of business, a fact pointed out to me by an artist, Tim, who was selling filters at the show.

There’s definitely been a lot of photographic equipment built and sold over the years. Unfortunately, the majority of such equipment, useful for antique or classic film-based photography enthusiasts, wasn’t of much use to me. There were only a handful of lenses for the EOS cameras by Canon, which is what my D30 is based upon. There was a 70-200 mm lens that I was looking at for $850, but I wasn’t planning to spend that much money on a lens whose usage history I knew nothing about. There was a dealer selling a new 35 mm f/1.4, but he was a little too boorish and antagonistic for my tastes; to look up “his” price, he referred to BH Photo and Video’s price in a magazine. “$1350 for that lens. You name me your price, and we’ll talk!” Uh, I don’t think so.

In a way, I felt like I was in a junkyard not unlike Watto’s in The Phantom Menace on Saturday. There was plenty of “junk” littered across the tables at the show. What I would declare as junk might have priceless to someone else there. And, that appeared to be the case, as there was plenty of haggling and squabbling over prices and equipment.

Like with any passion or hobby, things can start to get very pricey. I look back at the interests that I have, in backpacking, photography, and cycling, not to mention technology, and just note that, man, these are expensive interests!

Walking the Streets of Oakland

Nearing the end of the camera show, I began to get ready to leave. I had just finished taking a panorama shot of the showroom floor when I was stopped by a gentleman, Mike. He asked me what kind of camera I had, to which I replied, “It’s the D30 from Canon.” Tim, the dealer from whom I purchased a 77 mm 0.6 ND filter, had the same response as Mike did, which was one of genuine curiosity and interest. Digital wasn’t exactly a big thing at this camera show, so when people realized that I had a digital SLR, their eyes lit up and the questions began. The D30, along with the Fuji S1 and the Nikon D1, are beginning to change the landscape of 35 mm photography. In a few years, expect to see the prices drop to a point where the cost-conscious consumer will have access to digital cameras with quality rivaling their film-based brethren. Film purists aren’t going away anytime soon, but they’ll have to adapt, lest they go the way of the dodo or dinosaur.

I met my friend, Judy, at 4:00 pm outside of the Scottish Rites Temple. Before we could leave, however, we were approached by a couple, Mike and Allison, who wanted to know what kind of digital camera I had, which they initially thought was a Nikon D1. Mike was interested in moving from his manual focus film camera to an autofocus one; if he were to do that, maybe he would bite the bullet and go digital. I encouraged him that this was the way to go, and I’m looking forward to hearing back from Mike after he’s purchased a new digital SLR!

Judy and I walked the streets of Oakland, eschewing the car in favor of our legs. Walking through a city, be it San Francisco, New York, Paris, or even Oakland, can be a magical experience. Some people might favor the open space of the country, but there are an equal number of people who enjoy the big buildings, the sometimes claustrophobic feel of the big city. For me personally, I enjoy Paris much more than I do San Francisco or New York. Walking in Oakland brought back some of those feelings that I had when in Paris or Hong Kong, especially when Judy and I ventured into Chinatown.

As we started our walk, we even passed by this house along Lake Merritt that belonged to the brother of Leland Stanford, the founder of Judy and my university, Stanford University! We passed by a number of Oakland landmarks, such as the main Oakland Post Office, the public library, Hotel Oakland, and Oakland’s Chinatown. Along the way, we stopped by a creperie, which was unfortunately closed at the time, and saw a number of interesting vehicles and people. Having someone accompanying me on my adventures also made picture taking a lot easier. Believe me, it’s much easier to ask someone to take a picture of than having to lug around and set up a tripod! I have to thank Judy for having the patience to deal with my constant interruptions, “Please, would you take a picture?” Unfortunately, she requested that no pictures be taken of her, a request to which I complied. Perhaps next time!

Sushi Zone

For dinner, Judy and I decided… or maybe I decided… that we would gorge ourselves on sushi. I toyed around with the idea of going to the market to buy some fresh foot-and-mouth diseased pork or some spongiform encephalitis beef, but I quickly came to the conclusion that raw fish would be a better dining choice.

We had dinner over at Sushi Zone, located at 388 9th St. Suite 268, in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza in Oakland. Sushi Zone is a hip sushi restaurant whose decor has a simple, clean and modern look. When we were seated at our table, I placed my camera on the tabletop, at which time a number of the workers crowded around and began asking me questions about the camera. What I found fascinating was that, in a Japanese restaurant, everyone was speaking Catonese Chinese! It turns out the proprietor of Sushi Zone, Dennis, was from Hong Kong; when he opened Sushi Zone about two and a half years ago, he made the decision to open a hip, Japanese restaurant in lieu of the standard traditional-fare Chinese restaurant.

Judy and I spoke with Simon, one of the workers at Sushi Zone, at length about the D30. I was able to even get some pictures taken of the restaurant and the employees there! I remember when I was in France, standing in front of the ice skating rink, when a couple of little French kids skated up to me and asked to take pictures of them. A camera, especially a digital one, can be a great conversation starter!

Talking with Simon and his co-workers, as well as the wonderful conversation with Judy made the whole dining experience one to remember. The sushi was plump and delectable, and the tempura udon soup that I had was not bad; it’s always better when they serve the tempura in a plate next to the soup, instead of dumping the pieces into the soup before serving. It helps to prevent the soggy tempura syndrome, the bane of many tempura udon lovers worldwide!

Following a scrumptious and very filling dinner, Judy and I went down to an ice cream shop to continue our feast! I had an enormous double scoop of Lychee and Coconut ice cream, on a sugar cone of course, and Judy had a single scoop of Durian, also on a sugar cone. It was, as I’m fond of saying, very yummy, yummy, for my tummy! We could barely walk afterwards, but we managed to drag ourselves back to the car, which I parked next to the Scottish Rites Temple. As I drove Judy back to her place, I managed one more minor faux-pas, turning and going up a one-way street in the wrong direction! Luckily, there wasn’t anybody around who saw our mistake, unless you count the guy on the street who was gesticulating his arms wildly at us!

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