Twenty seventeen was a year that saw me get back to enjoying film photography, trying my hand at a bit more street photography and also starting this blog. I ended up shooting next to no film in 2015 and 2016 so this was quite a dramatic turnaround. I really started to appreciate the fun in being limited to 36 exposures, the challenge of mainly manual cameras and in particular using black and white negative film. After selling quite a bit of my previous film kit in 2015, 2017 saw me get a little carried away on eBay nurturing a fair amount of gear acquisition syndrome. I decided I was going to get every Nikon F right through from the original to the F5 (as the F6 is far too pricey for a flippant eBay bid) and with an F2 purchased in December I completed the set. Whilst this may seem excessive to some, I find it really fun switching between these different bodies, which are like snapshots of peak technology for their day. I found myself using the waist level finder for my F3 and F often which gives such a difference in ergonomics when shooting out on the street.
Cameras I tried that didn’t get with me this year included an Yashica Electro GSN and Yashicamat 124G. Granted the Electro looked cool, but I realised that I prefer focusing with an SLR than a Rangefinder. The lack of a fully manual mode was also quite annoying, and so it was not a hard decision to sell after only a few rolls. As for the Yashicamat, I really wanted to like the camera. I am generally a big fan of using medium format, and the form factor of this TLR was great. However I think the focus lens was misaligned or something as many of my images were misfocussed. So again it got sold with no remorse. A camera that was purchased on a whim but ended up producing some really cool results was the AGFA Optima 335. I took it to NY and was really happy with the street shots I captured. I also picked up a FED2 and Pentax Spotmatic F pretty cheap but they haven’t been used more than looking cool on my shelf.
Processing my own B&W film again in 2017, some 4 years since I last did this, was also fun and rewarding. I still haven’t nailed the final stage in washing / drying the negatives in such as way that reduced dust and watermarks, so this is something to try and improve in 2018. I’m also having ideas that at one point in the future it’d be great to try my hand at printing again – something I only tried a couple of times in the university darkroom with mediocore results. This however seems a pipedream if I am to continue in living in an expensive city.
For some time I’d been wanting an outlet for myself to focus on publishing some images. Not because I thought I would receive any sort of external acclaim, but because I thought it would be a helpful thing to focus my mind on creating images that I could curate to some extent. I also saw it as an opportunity to go through some of my old images, sometimes appreciating them in ways I did not before, and reflecting how I want to improve my photography in the future. So I created this blog and also posted more frequently on my Instagram account. My aim initially was to post here at least once a week, and this I did not achieve, however I did find my use of these two platforms achieve my goal of becoming more focused on my photography.
The Nikon FM is a fully manual all mechanical SLR body released by Nikon in 1977 and was produced for 5 years until 1982. It takes pretty much all lenses Nikon has ever made (the AI tab has a switch so it can flip up to use non-Ai lenses) that feature an aperture ring, provides 60/40 centre weighted metering and comes with a standard K split prism focusing screen. As for other features, its pretty simple. The shutter goes upto 1/1000 and it also has a self timer.
I bought this camera around 2012 for around £50 and I still own it today 4 years later (checking eBay for recent sales I see them between £60-80 – another example of how analogue photography’s continuing popularity is keeping prices rising above inflation). At the time I was enjoying using an F3 as my main film body, but this was usually loaded with colour film and I wanted another film SLR to use for black and white. This fit the bill pretty well, especially because it was cheaper than an F2, weighted less and less bulky.
The ergonomics of the body are great in their simplicity. This is a body designed before the era of hand grips but still feels natural in the hand and despite the fact that its all made out of metal its not all that heavy at 590 grams. Thats 115 grams less than the F3 and over 200 grams less than an F2! Its easy to see why this camera was favoured by pros as their backup body. Compared to the higher spec’d Nikon F line the main drawback I find with the FM is the lack of 100% viewfinder coverage. Its actually 93% and whilst its still reasonably bright it is one of the big things I notice during use. I think once you get used to 100% finders its hard to go back.
The other thing I’m not such a big fan of is the meter and its LED displays with just – 0 + because I’d prefer to see how much I’m over or under on a continuous scale. Thats a minor gripe though and overall its been a very dependable camera on the trips to NYC, Nashville, Utah and Brazil. With modern cameras with so many different features and modes, its nice going back to the basics and having to manually focus and physically set the shutter and aperture slows you right down before pressing the shutter. The self timer is really the only other feature I need – its quite handy if I want to be in the shot. Generally when I give this camera to a friend to take my photo it comes out mis focussed so if I have a tripod with me its safer to set up the self timer.
Overall the camera comes highly recommended. Its probably the best choice if you want a full metal manual Nikon on a small budget.
The below images are from a roll of TMax 400 loaded in my Bronica SQA during my recent trip to Ireland (see trip report and colour images here). Most of the images below are from the Cliffs of Kerry near Portmagee with the final one being from the Blarney Castle. The overcast and foggy nature of most of the trip I think lent itself quite well towards monochrome photography.
Whilst portraits are not something I do often, I’ve been trying to do more of my friends and family. Medium format film captures so much detail enabling all the character of a persons face to be recorded. The 80mm f2.8 lens is also a good performer and can create a nice and shallow depth of field to make the image pop. Below are 3 generations of the Walmsley family – my Brother, Father and Grandfather.
I recently purchased Ansel Adams: In the National Parks and its a thoroughly inspirational and enjoyable book. I’ve also been reading up again on the zone exposure system he devised for B&W photography with the aim of improving my exposures for my next trip somewhere wild. For now I have revisited the series of images I captured on my Bronica SQA with Kodak TMax 400 film during my 2013 trip to Yosemite. Its an incredible landscape and the Bronica was a joy to use in capturing it.