On The Road To Gardner

I recently took a road trip through Hubbardston, en route to a flea market, which, as it turns out, is only open on Sunday mornings. My plan was to drive through Hubbardston, hit the flea market, grab something to eat, and then shoot a couple of rolls in Gardner, the furniture capital of the U.S. As the flea market would have to wait another day, I decided to look for something, anything, on the way to Gardner, that was worthy of burning a few frames. I hit the mother lode.

Vintage rubber- old BF Goodrich tires, with lots of meat still on them.

Vintage rubber- old BF Goodrich tires, with lots of meat still on them.

These old, destroyed trucks, were parked in front of an old, seemingly abandoned shack. As the F2 was loaded up with a fresh roll of FP4 Plus, and mounted with the fast 50 and Hoya yellow filter, the timing and serendipity could not be any better. I almost left the house intending to shoot Portra 160 and 400.Beautiful emulsions, but the results just would not have turned out the same.

Industrial decay at its very best.

Industrial decay at its very best.

How these beautiful machines could be sitting here, seemingly untouched for decades, boggles the mind.

This is thick, thick glass.

This is thick, thick glass.

Looking closer through the cracked glass, what is left of a once beautiful interior starts to become visible.

Imagine what it must have been like to be behind this steering wheel.

Imagine what it must have been like to be behind this steering wheel.

I was a bit hesitant coming into such scenery to photograph, as the F2 meter is, well, decades old, It proved itself more than capable, and handled the high contrast infinitely better than expected.

Despite being stripped of its vinyl and wood, paneling and seats, the interior truly was a breathtaking site.

Despite being stripped of its vinyl and wood, paneling and seats, the interior truly was a breathtaking site.

These two vehicles almost seemed like they were posing, begging to be photographed. Somehow, color C41 or E6 film would not have worked nearly as well. The scene was readily made for B&W film. Maybe Portra would have been nice to capture the reddish hues of the rust. But FP4 really brings the tonality of the scene to life.

Bed loaded with fenders and panels.

Bed loaded with fenders and panels.

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Hard to believe wiring of this thick gauge even existed back then.

Reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, before Caracticus  Potts did his magical restoration.

Reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, before Caracticus Potts did his magical restoration.

The grill metal almost looked like prison bars up close…

Decades of New England weather will do this. But these trucks will likely be out here, and continue to age beautifully, for decades to come.

Decades of New England weather will do this. But these trucks will likely be out here, and continue to age beautifully, for decades to come.

If I was not so hesitant to keep a camera, film, and a lens in the trunk, I’d keep a camera with me wherever I went. Just for moments like this. You never know what you can find along the road.

Albanian Festival

I had left the metering at ISO125. Despite this, Delta 400 overexposed wonderfully.

I had left the metering at ISO125. Despite this, Delta 400 exposed this scene wonderfully.

I made several mistakes getting ready for this festival. As it was a somewhat overcast day, I had planned on taking the 50mm f/1.4. As clouds were rolling in, a solid light meter I thought would be an advantage. So I had planned on taking the FE2. I had left the 50 on the F3, and when I grabbed the camera, what I thought was the FE2 in one Eveready case was, in fact, the FM, in an identical Eveready! No worries, as that camera as of late has been really nailing exposures accurately, And, as it turned out, the 135mm was in the lend bag, and, a better choice for getting up close at this type of event.

Yet another mistake, I was maybe 6 frames into the roll of Delta 400, before realizing the ISO had been still set at 125, accommodating the roll of FP4 that was in the camera before. As the violin player was heavily backlit, in a high contract lighting situation, it worked out really nicely, as seen above.

Taking in the sights and the sounds of the festival.

Taking in the sights and the sounds of the festival.

This turned out to be a fun combination of camera and lens. The only regret was not taking the MD-12 motor drive, to balance the extra weight of the 135mm glass. But the exposures might have rivaled those that the F3 or FE2’s excellent meters might have calculated. But without aperture priority, and completely manual, twisting the FM’s shutter speed dial while trying to zero the LED’s was a bit fiddly.

Great conversations to be found all day.

Great conversations to be found all day.

The centerpiece of the festival was the stunning Saint Mary’s Assumption Albanian Orthodox Church. Located on historic Salisbury Street, across from Assumption College, it was consecrated in 1983. It truly is an incredible, beautiful house of worship, which must be seen to be believed.

Aside from a couple of raindrops, an otherwise dry day.

Aside from a couple of raindrops, an otherwise dry day.

Inside the church- holding the 135mm Nikkor, at an exposure of 1/30th/sec. Still insanely sharp wide open at f/2.8.

Inside the church- holding the 135mm Nikkor, at an exposure of 1/30th/sec. Still insanely sharp wide open at f/2.8.

Left the yellow Hoya filter at home!

Left the yellow Hoya filter at home!

One more “oops”- when you leave the Hoya yellow filter on the 50mm lens you leave at home, you don’t have a yellow filter with you. Even still, adequately stopped down, the metering of the FM did a great job of not rendering blown out skies.

These events are a blast to photograph. And with a film camera around your neck, you are guaranteed to start conversations. I had some great ones on this Saturday. Worcester, Massachusetts has one of the largest Albanian populations in the United States. But this was a festival for people of all backgrounds to have a lot of fun.

Wide Reflections

A popular photographic trend, similar in tone to the “Camera of the month”, or “365” projects, has been “one camera, one lens”. As my widest Nikkor lens for 35mm full frame is a 28mm, and I do not shoot with it that often, I decided to get it onto the F3 and walk around Clinton, MA for a day. I do a lot of urban landscape, so thought that this lens might make for an interesting tool. It certainly did. The lighting was contrasty, and there were a lot of fair weather clouds. I scored a batch of beautiful cold stored Kodak Plus X online. Yes, it has the characteristic Kodak film curl, making scanning a challenge. But the grain and tone of this film is so gorgeous. Well, it is still a favorite, even though it’s gone forever. Also put on a yellow filter.

For Sale

For Sale

Window displays, and reflections, can be a lot of fun to photograph, and can give the light meter a lot to do. The heavily center weighted F3 metering system was more than up to it.

Notice how the buildings on the other side of the street got metered so nicely in the reflection.

Notice how the buildings on the other side of the street got metered so nicely in the reflection.

I have never fully bought into these types of self governed photographic assignments. They can be somewhat rigid, or restrictive, in nature. But, I did find that it improved how I see with wide angle. And it shattered my misconception of a wide angle lens solely as a “get everything in” sweeping landscape lens. It is capable of doing so much more.

Love how even the reflected bright blue sky of the day got properly metered and exposed.

Love how even the reflected bright blue sky of the day got properly metered and exposed.

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This might be my favorite shot from the roll.

I am posting these to my Flickr feed, along with some great urban landscape of an old building where a consignment occupies part of the space. But these reflections shots, in wide angle? Can’t get enough of them. And yes, Kodak Plus X is not coming back. But so happy I have plenty more in cold storage. It’s great stuff.

80-200 Zoom Nikkor- The Lens That Changed How Photographers Looked At Zooms

80-200 on the FM

80-200 on the FM

I have never been a huge fan of zooms. The convenience of a bunch of focal lengths usually comes at a price, most notably, aperture speed. There are a lot of other compromises as well. Size, convenience of use, moving parts, more elements, and sometimes, inferior glass. These were some of the issues Nikon photographers wrestled well into the 60’s. in 1969, Nikon introduced the first version of their 80-200 f/4.5 Zoom Nikkor. It single handedly changed the 35mm world , and perception of zoom lenses, maybe forever.

This lens was scooped up at this Spring’s Photographica for a whopping $15.00. It has the original user’s name engraved on it, and like virtually all “push pull” Nikkor zooms of this vintage, it suffers from all out, full blown, lens creep. The same grip you use to zoom in and out is also used to focus, and there is an internal piece of felt that almost always broke down. If held upside down, the lens barrel will slide right down to 80mm, with virtually no resistance at all. I rectified that with a couple of pieces of gaffers tape. And, sorry Richard, I painted out your name. A little bit of cleaning of the front and rear element, and a yellow Hoya filter, and ready to fly. This version is the “C” version, indicating additional coatings of the glass. And, it was originally pre-Ai, but factory Ai converted, as evident by the second smaller aperture scale to accommodate ADR (Aperture Direct Readout), and the Ai coupling. Richard broke off the rabbit ears, so no metering on the F or F2. But F3, FE2, FM, and yes, D300? Meters and indexes perfectly.

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Mounts, indexes, and meters on the D300.

The lens is insanely sharp, almost too much so. The maximum aperture of f/4.5 really turned out not at all to be as bad as I thought it would be. Even at f/4.5, it is crisp and punchy. And, 400 speed film almost seems made for it. It is built like a tank externally. All metal, decades before plastic invaded the consumer Nikon zooms, and photographers had to pay a hefty premium for successors, such as the 70-200 f/2.8 VR. This was certainly the lens that kicked the more professional zooms off, and back in the day, this was the one photographers lusted for. Easy to see why. A few samples from last month, in historic Concord, MA, with the F3. Semi-stand developed in Rodinal-

Minuteman Statue, Concord, MA The lens aperture was stopped down to a fairly small aperture here.

Minuteman Statue, Concord, MA The lens aperture was stopped down to a fairly small aperture here.

Beautiful tree in historic Concord graveyard downtown, wide open aperture.

Beautiful tree in historic Concord graveyard downtown, wide open aperture.

The sharpness and speed of Ilford HP5 is a real nice match for this lens.

The sharpness and speed of Ilford HP5 is a real nice match for this lens. Old North Bridge.

Get one of these lenses, get one that is cheap. Like all older lenses, check for fungus, element separation, scratches, rubbing and cleaning marks, and general condition. But I don’t think I’d pay more than $20-30 for one. And have a blast with it. Not all zooms are bad.

Nikon FM- No Static At All…

Buying anything from your favorite auction site can be an adventure, or, torture. Cameras certainly are no exception. Some of the tag lines sellers use when posting vintage film bodies  usually include some of the following-

“Minty fresh!”

“I don’t have access to film, so I cannot test it.”

“I know nothing about cameras.”

“Shutter fires, but I don’t know if it works.”

“It was my grandfather’s. I never saw him use it, but I’m sure it works. No Returns Accepted”

Common sense should prevail here- when you see these taglines, either run, or do not hesitate to challenge the seller. You can, and should, email the seller through eBay, and ask questions. This is what I did recently when I bought my beautiful Nikon FM. You should be able to summarize pretty quickly if the seller is trying to make a fast buck, or genuinely knows nothing about cameras. Bargaining time.

You paid HOW much for that beautiful Nikon FM?

You paid HOW much for that beautiful Nikon FM?

For the body? $35.99, including shipping. The seller said that the light meter apparently was not working. I guided him how to test it. He did not listen. “It doesn’t work!” More bargaining. When the camera arrived, there was one battery in the chamber, and it was in the wrong way. Two fresh silver oxide batteries, and the light meter booted right up. Yes, as noted everywhere, the camera itself does not require batteries to fire the shutter. Regardless, it is very nice to have a functioning coupled light meter.

I asked about the light seals. He had no idea what they ever were. Before the camera was even shipped, I ordered a new light seal kit from John Hawley at http://www.nikonusedcameras.com I have done business with John before, he is a true gentleman, and his prices are very reasonable for his services and light seal kits. Easy. Yes, it is a messy job, but well worth doing. Sure enough, the original seals were gooey and gummy. This was a no-brainer.

I tricked the camera out with one of my extra MD-12 motor drives, an extra Nikon strap, a new flash cable cover, and the great screw-in eyepiece with the rubber gasket, that makes using the camera with eyeglasses or sunglasses a breeze. These bits and pieces total are probably valued more than what was paid for the body.

What lenses WON'T this camera take?

What lenses WON’T this camera take?

The FM was introduced at the tail end of the Nikkormat FT-3 run, the camera I previously blogged about. It takes pre-Ai, Ai, and Ai-S lenses. Pre-Ai lenses are used by first moving the little meter coupling tab inward. Also a fully mechanical body, the FM is a significantly smaller form factor, one that would enjoy popularity in many different variations, for decades. It is indeed all metal, but much lighter and more compact. Like its older brother, the FT-3, it is a tank. And, like it’s older ancestor, the Nikon F2, it allows the choice of intermittent shutter speeds. In other words, a speed between 1/500th, and 1/1000th, can be used if the light meter thinks that is the speed necessary for proper exposure.

I did some research on the FM, and how to buy one, before scooping this one up. One of the innovative features of the camera was an internal mirror dampening system. In typical Nikon spin, they claimed this was why the camera did not offer mirror lock-up. In reality, I am sure it was to either keep cost, or size, down. Whatever it is, it works. This shot was taken in Worcester’s Cromptive Collective, a curated boutique with lots of cool old things, hand held at 1/15th of a second!

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1/15th of a sec exposure, Nikkor 35mm Ai, Crompton Collective, Worcester.

Otherwise, and maybe it was due to 400 speed film outdoors, or, to semi-stand developing with Rodinal, but the light meter seems to me to shoot a bit “hot”. I have done rudimentary tests since, with my F2, D300, and Luna Pro F, that seem to indicate that it is indeed accurate.

The white door is a bit

The white door is a bit “hot”.

This might be even more evident here, the outside portal at the entrance to the collective-

Slightly hot- I seem to recall photographing this same scene with the F3, or the Hasselblad, a few years ago, with not as hot an exposure.

Slightly hot- I seem to recall photographing this same scene with the F3, or the Hasselblad, a few years ago, with not as hot an exposure. Maybe the lighting conditions were different, but the sun did eventually come out here, at about 11AM.

A fun camera, a great form factor, at a bargain basement price. Speaking of bargain basement prices? I will be writing soon about a classic vintage Zoom Nikkor that feels as though I stole, based on the prices. There truly are deals out there- keep haggling! Once again, great times to be a photographer.

More From The Nikkormat

From Last November, Elm Park, Kodak 400 BW CN film (now extinct).

From Last November, Elm Park, Kodak 400 BW CN film (now extinct).

A couple of rolls into the Nikkormat FT3, and I truly believe there is some kind of magic to the way it exposes. Yes, it is a tried and true 60/40 (60% weighted to the center of the frame)  classic Nikon metering system. But what I shot, at midday, was metered with such accuracy and precision. Much more so than I expected. It was indeed a very pleasant surprise.

Leaves in water, starting to ice over, before this year's historic winter.

Leaves in water, starting to ice over, before this year’s historic winter.

I shot this roll with Kodak BW400 CN, their truly gorgeous C-41 chromogenic black and white film, which is no longer made. Not sure how missed this film is, but for sharpness, fineness of grain, contrast, and tonal range, I really loved this stuff.

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The humble beginnings of the 2014-2015 ice age.

As for the Nikkormat FT-3, it has a home, and a fondness in my collection, right up there with the very best of the manual focus Nikons. Even if the Nikon name is indeed in small print on the back.

FT3- The Last Of The Nikkormats

I have always been curious about owning a Nikkormat. Always, since I can remember. To me, they represented a great “entry point” into the line of Nikkor lenses, and like the professional F-series, built like tanks, and all metal. One can only assume that “Nikkor”, and “Automatic” were the inspiration for the line, even though there is little to nothing that is automatic about them. In the dawn of SLR photography, “Automatic” meant an automatic diaphragm, and/or automatic mirror return. Otherwise, the camera is completely mechanical, manual exposure, manual focus, manual everything.

The earlier models (FT, FTN, etc) used mercury batteries for the light meter. Yes, of course there are workarounds and options, but I wanted something “easier”, without having to become another science project. The FT3 takes easily purchased silver oxide cells. And, the last of the line, the FT3 offer Automatic Indexing (Ai) coupling to the light meter. Very cool!

The first FT3 I received from KEH, a chrome model, had a few issues with it. The camera looked gorgeous. But, the back would not stay closed. And, the protective eyepiece, which keeps dust out of the prism optics, and makes photographing with glasses or sunglasses easier, was missing. Back to KEH it went for exchange. They replaced it with the less common black model.

FT-3, with accompanying everready case.

FT-3, with accompanying everready case, and mounted with an Ai 50 f/4. No rabbit ears necessary! 

From what I have read, this body had a rather brief run, and while not “rare” by any means, is a lot less common than the beautiful FM which quickly replaced it. A few quirks. The highly accurate, and easy to use light meter, is “upside down”. When you think you are over exposing, you are under exposing. and vice versa. it takes getting used to. The frame counter is gorgeous, and encased in a glass window which magnifies it, and makes it very easy to read. My guess is that Nikon took some cues from companies such as Leica, and used smaller, lighter torque, and less expensive gears for the counter, and gave it this to add a touch of class, while keeping costs down. The camera is indeed a lot of fun. and may have one of the most accurate 35mm light meters I have used, behind maybe only the F3 and FE2.

Here are a few results, Kodak Tri-X, developed in Rodinal 1:35. I love the exposures this camera can produce. Getting the needle to center, at what the camera calculates or guesses to be an accurate exposure, uses the tried and true center-weighted system. It still works, quite nicely. Amazingly, the Nikkormat line was designed for advanced amateurs who could not spring for the large upfront premium to purchase an F, or F2, and as a “backup” body to those two cameras. It was considered a “less expensive” entry to use Nikkor glass. Trust me, there is nothing “cheap” to this camera.

Taken last November in Melrose, MA, across from Hunt's Photo.

Taken last November in Melrose, MA, across from Hunt’s Photo.


Park

Ensign Thomas Lynde plaque, at the entrance to the park. 


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Old Water Fountain

I recently had surgery on my right hand, so left handed typing and working the mouse is indeed a challenge. But really want to start blogging again, and sharing more of what I love to do. I will.