Because I just put up a DONATE button I figured I should post new content to go along with it. Folks, I wish I could support myself wandering around making photographs with the F6 then blogging about it all. But, for now the F6 Project is just for fun. So here’s something I put together recently. This is an exact duplicate of what was posted on Blue Hour Journal a couple weeks ago.
Why do we need to say something – anything – about our images? A few weeks ago I was in Chicago looking at a display of student work at Moody Bible Institute. There were two different exhibitions: one with very nice photographs, printed on canvas and beautifully displayed. The other area featured a series of page layouts, combining words and text, printed, laminated to foam core and nicely presented, complete with registration marks from the printed page.
I found myself drawn to these images more – even without reading the text.
There’s something about the combination of images and text that resonates with my aesthetic – though it’s difficult to explain what, precisely. Maybe it’s the graphic designer in me desiring some presentation of context. While the photographer in me longs to have images stand on their own, open to interpretation by whomever, to whatever end.
I’ve found it extremely liberating, returning to wet printing in the darkroom; being freed in a sense.
Letting go of the should’s; the trap and rigidity of expectation and simply experimenting, free to fail, free to succeed. Free to create.
Photography is an interesting art form. It relies on science to work. Light, measurement, interpreting facts and figures to produce an aesthetic. But it’s so easy to disappear down the rabbit hole of numbers and figures and that same science, becoming trapped in propriety to the extent one loses sight of the aesthetic leading them to stop and appreciate the scene in the first place. We get so wrapped up in numbers we can lose sight of the art.
To be truly free to create again is to have learned the rules, thanked them, put them aside, and begin asking what if.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading again. Edward Weston’s Day Book no.1, Mexico. In it he’s having a discussion with another photographer about what the camera “should” be used for:
E.W. “Photography has certain inherent qualities which are only possible with photography – one being the delineation of detail – so why not take advantage of this attribute? Why limit yourself to what your eyes see when you have such an opportunity to extend your vision?”
Johan: “If in a certain mood, why should I not interpret that state through my picture and not merely photograph what’s before me?”
E.W.: “it would prevent you from telling the truth about the life towards which your lens is pointing – if you wish to interpret why not use a medium better suited to interpretation or subjective expression – or let someone else do it. Photography is an objective means to an end – and as such is unequaled – it comes finally to the question: for what purpose should (my emphasis) the camera be used?”
I do see his point, regarding the camera’s unique ability to precisely record detail. And facts. But what a pompous ass; suggesting a camera should only be used for one thing. It’s absurd. From this moment forward I’m removing the words “should” and “shouldn’t” from my active vocabulary.
I do realize I’m questioning Edward Weston. And I do realize the audacity of such an act.
This next post is a guest post from Michael Cox of Vancouver, B.C. Michael was gracious enough to supply the following information about the Voigtlander 58mm f1.4 Nokton Lens, with a few sample images. Take it away Michael…
After owning a Nikon F3 (which I loved for its design and size) I had realized that if I was going to continue with using a film SLR, given that I wear bifocals, I’d need an autofocus camera, so I found a near-new F6 at B&H Photo a couple of years ago. But I’d also sold many of my Nikkor lenses. After using the F6 with an old 105 Ais, and seeing how great the viewfinder was, how easy it was to manually focus with the F6, I wanted to try one of the Voigtlander Nokton lenses. I was familiar with Voigtlander from years ago, and was confident I would like their Nikon F mount Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SLII. The version I got was the earlier one with a rubber cover on the focus ring, whereas the newer, second version has a ribbed metal ring. The great advantage to either of these lenses is they have a chip that will send aperture information to the camera, and allow auto exposure with the aperture set to f/16.
It’s important to set the F6 up for the lens: Menu:Non-CPU Lens. Press the INFO button to set the correct focal length and maximum aperture.
The camera could now be used in Aperture Priority using the front dial, rather than having to adjust the aperture ring; also it can be operated in Shutter and Program priority modes.
The focus ring is smooth and well-damped, with just enough resistance. It’s difficult to describe the look: slightly creamy, I would put it: not soft, but with a filmic feel. It focuses as close as 1.5 ft (about 1/2 a meter). The results met my expectations. I’ve only shot three rolls since buying the lens and look forward to trying it out on portraits.
Given that the viewfinder doesn’t have split image or microprism focusing aids, I had thought that would be an issue, but the ground glass is so bright one can focus using any part of the screen.
Stephen Gandy’s CameraQuest site has details on the lens and the other Voigtlander Nikon F-mount lenses, some of which are unfortunately sold out (but available on eBay, or your favorite major photo store). https://cameraquest.com/Voigt_SL2.htm
These images were all shot with my F6 using a Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 Nokton, Nikon mount, on Kodak Pro 100. The processing was done by the Canadian Film Lab, in the small town of Hope, B.C., where they also scanned the negs using a Fuji SP-3000 at 4547 x 3047 pixels (their medium res scan).
Michael, thanks very much for your article and images. Anyone wishing to contribute to the F6 Project is welcome, just please let me know. I’m happy to feature new thoughts and ideas as they’re presented.
How honest do I want to be? How much of myself am I willing to reveal? I’m not a minimalist. At least not in the photographic sense of the word. While I occasionally admire the photo of a mostly empty hillside with subtle tones and a single, isolated tree positioned in the perfect rule of thirds spot – that’s not me. I’m more drawn photographically to a little bit of chaos. Attempting to identify structure within that chaos seems to be a challenge I’m constantly undertaking, and it’s besting me.
The first time I saw The Shop I paused, not quite sure how to visually digest what was before me. As chaotic as it first appeared – there was part of me that smiled – wanting to dive in and swim around; a new challenge. I loved it. The Shop satisfied something deep inside; woke it up, gave it a cup of coffee and said go for it.
Like other series, The Shop has been in progress for a while. It began as a vague idea; I knew there was something visually interesting about it, but wasn’t quite sure where it would take me. So like any curious photographer following their nose, a year or so after I started… well… here I am.
The Shop was born by my wife’s late grandfather who was a Master Mechanic during his career. It began as a collection of tools, equipment and hodgepodge of spare parts accumulated over the years at his mountain fishing cabin. After retirement he and his wife moved to the cabin full time, turning it into a year-round mountain home.
The shop grew. A pot belly stove was added for long hours spent “putzing” during winter months. Woodsmoke was added to the cacophony of old, oily smells as the shop evolved into a complete Master Mechanic’s man cave, the stuff of which legends are made of.
After he passed away, The Shop was relocated to another out building to allow expansion. Piece by piece it was carried across the property and reassembled in its new location where it would live out its days; a museum of sorts, but the epitome of function, containing every tool and part to maintain the property.
It’s cold, especially when you first enter, with a cement floor running the length. It smells like – everything old. There’s a dead mouse in the white, 5-gallon bucket near the door. Post cards of bikini-clad women in 70’s hairstyles are tactfully pinned up out of eye line of visitors. Hand written notes with phone numbers, long expired dates and vendors names frozen in time are tacked to the wall.
Coffee cans from years gone by heavily packed, their contents hand-written in marker on tape, crowd shelves above to the right. Beams and timbers strapped together are laid the length of the floor with oily chain saws hanging off keeper straps from hooks above. Old filing cabinet drawers are repurposed to hold whatever will fit.
Skulls of mostly cattle lie about. Shovels, pick axes, rakes, a post hole digger, weed wacker, sledge hammer, hoes, rakes and a crow bar lean against bare stud and peg board walls with tool after tool hooked into place. Old jackets and hip waders stand ready by the door.
An old, sturdy work bench runs nearly the whole length of the shop with ancient grinders and vices bolted to the surface. Steel shelves stored with box upon labeled box of spare parts for the cabin’s day to day operation ready to spring into service when needed – whether today or 50 years from now. It’ll still be there, still be usable.
Especially with photography, it’s important to feel something when you see a photograph. Recently on instagram I had someone pay me the highest compliment I could imagine. “There is a touch of sadness in your BNW photos I can not put into words.” That a photograph evokes any feeling at all is a win. Not being able to put it into words is exactly why a photograph needs to be made.
Much of my time at the cabin is spent in the shop for practical reasons, trying to understand and digest the mind of a Master Mechanic – of which I am certainly not. I never had the privilege of meeting him in person but am told we’d have been fast friends. It’s a fascinating place to me because of its beautiful chaos. I suppose in a way these photographs are me searching for a way to feel connected to the man behind the shop. How I’d have loved to shake his hand.
Technical Notes for the Photographer
Given the nature of ‘The Shop,’ it was a given the photographs had to be etched in black and white film. The fine grain and overall tones of Ilford PanF and Delta 100 were perfect for this project. I wanted lots of detail and good contrast. Ilford DDX developer was used to develop each roll with care in my home dark room.
In prior attempts I tried color film and found it didn’t hold up as well. Trying a blend of flash and natural environment lighting (incandescent bulbs, fluorescent overhead lighting, etc.) the color was too inconsistent. Even using different films. Though the objects shared the same space – in the photographs they didn’t appear to belong together. Removing color from the equation eliminated the disconnect.
Another element tying the series together is the F6, which was used for every shot. While nothing unique about the F6 allowed these photographs to be made (they could have been made with any camera mounted to a tripod with a competent meter, the ability to attach a cable release and Mirror Up capability) there’s something pure about the series because they were all made with the same camera.
There are certain things about using the F6 for this series that made it the logical choice. When I’m ‘really trying’ to get the most out of 35mm film the F6 is the best choice. Mirror-Up is something I talk about a lot. If you’re not using it, you’re not getting the sharpest, highest resolution image. The F6 has easy M-Up shooting, accessible via the top Film Advance Mode Selector. The second thing is Custom Setting B:5-Extended Shutter Speeds. Using the camera’s default setting (off) the shutter speed in Manual exposure mode can be selected as slow as 30 seconds. Turning Extended Shutter Speeds ‘On’ allows exposures to be extended down to 30 minutes. This is handy when working with slow ISO films and small apertures. Another handy item is the Nikon MC-30, the cable release connecting to the F6’s front 10-pin port.
And lastly, I have my F6 fitted with a Kirk L-bracket allowing easy tripod mounting in either horizontal or vertical orientation. The older F’s don’t have them and to be perfectly honest, I don’t relish the idea of scratching up the bottoms of these beautiful, old cameras by screwing and unscrewing a Arca-Swiss plate to mount it on a tripod. The Arca-Swiss L-bracket allows easy on-off tripod. Nothing to fiddle with, nothing to forget at home – simple.
Lenses varied depending on the shot. I favored my older AI-S lenses when appropriate. Tight quarters called for wide-normals, with some 85mm thrown in for the head-on, distortionless shots where straight lines and absolutely no barrel distortion was desired. Maneuvering the camera into position was difficult at times. My tripod base is fairly large and requires room to spread out for solid stance on the cluttered floor. A center column and ball head provided complete composition maneuverability once in position.
A wet print portfolio will be available sometime in 2019. Thanks for reading and keep running film through your camera – no matter what make or model it is.
This past week, after much anticipation, I received back my first rolls of the new Kodak Ektachrome 100, exposed in Chicago over the Christmas holiday (thanks to Denver Digital Imaging Center). After all the hype and fanfare surrounding Kodak releasing a new chrome film this far into the alleged afterlife of film I was excited to see the results. Spoiler alert: the wait was worth it. You’re going to love the new Ektachrome 100, as I did when I saw the first frames come on screen.
Color is what I’d consider to be fairly natural, with a definite warm bias – especially when contrasted to my (expired) rolls of the older Ektachrome 100G, which the new Ektachrome was reportedly based on. Grain is super fine – for all practical purposes, if you want to process the photograph so it’s grain free it doesn’t take much. It’s a very sharp, contrasty and punchy film but not like Velvia, or the more vivid, Ektachrome 100VS. The new Ektachrome is just right. Remembering you can always punch contrast up in Photoshop – it’s nice to have a more ‘normal’ base line starting point.
Reciprocity Failure: honestly, I didn’t do a whole lot of math here – I just bracketed. Here’s a link to Kodak Alaris data sheet for Ektachrome 100. If the frame metered at 10 seconds, I bracketed three shots. Typically the longer exposure was better – but it’s not an exact science. Exposure times and +/-EV is listed for each image. You can see the F6’s meter – once again – did an excellent job resolving the scene. Always manual, always mirror-up with cable release.
When I bought my F6 I’d already been familiar with the advantages of L-brackets, having them mounted on most of my other contemporary cameras (they’re not available for my older Nikons and consequently I find I don’t use them as much for this type of shooting). At first what I liked was the additional element of protection for the camera – against bumps and shocks, setting it down on a wet surface, etc. So outfitting the F6 with an L-bracket straight away was a natural thing to do. At the time I didn’t think, “now that I have an L-bracket I’ll shoot a lot more verticals.” But that is in fact what has happened.
Shooting verticals with an L-bracket is a snap. You simply mount the camera upright and shoot. Simple. And with a ball head and spirit level, it’s a snap getting the frame perfectly level too. There’s no contorting the stem of the mounting platform into the groove, and wondering if it’s really vertical because that’s as far as it will go.
Another thing that just occurred to me… I’ve been trying to figure out instagram (show of hands.. anyone else?) and realized something important – at least in regard to viewing social media on your smart phone. Verticals are good again – better than horizontals. For the same reason people shoot video vertically (which drives me nuts) – when you look at social media on your smart phone there’s a pretty good chance you’re holding your phone upright – instead of on its side. When you look at images on your computer screen you’re most likely looking at them horizontally. But in social media, on your phone – it’s almost always vertical. This makes vertical photographs ‘in’ again.
These images were made with the famed Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AI-S manual focus lens, shot from the Penthouse of the Wyndham Grand Chicago River Hotel. Late one night I headed up the elevator to the Penthouse hoping there wasn’t any kind of event scheduled for the large, wide open room with windows all around and stunning views of the city. With the room found empty, the next challenge was trying to compose shots that didn’t include the few, random interior lights that I couldn’t find switches to turn off. At first I was composing frames that minimized reflected distractions, but it was getting in the way. Putting on my Macgyver hat I scoured the room for a solution and spotted a black table cloth. I found that by standing on a chair behind the camera and holding up this black table cloth the reflections in the windows were eliminated – the glass reflecting only black – which of course worked for the subject matter surrounded by night sky.
Make sure when you use any non-CPU lens with the F6 you set the profile up in camera. There will be a blog post about this in the near future. There was minor barrel distortion/pincushioning with these frames, but (very) minor and easily corrected using Photoshop’s Lens Correction filter and dialing in manual settings in the 2-4 realm. So not much at all.
If you’re looking at possibly shooting some of Kodak Alaris’ new Ektachrome, you’ll be pleased. It’s a great film and I’m super excited to have fresh film stock now available. Thank you Kodak Alaris. And if you’re going to shoot in a city at night and reflections are a problem – pack a big, black table cloth in your tripod bag next to your cable release. You’ll be glad you did. And don’t worry too much about reciprocity failure unless you’re getting really crazy long exposures (longer than 2 minutes). Just use a good meter and bracket if in doubt. And get an L-bracket for your camera to make shooting verticals easier. Your social media followers will like you for it. If you’re a chrome film shooter wondering who to send your film to, look no further than Denver Digital Imaging Center. They’re friendly, reliable, fast and do great work. And finally, if you’re an F6 shooter, learn Custom Setting B5: Extended Shutter Speeds. It opens up new avenues shooting in dimly lit, long exposure situations.
This evening I received an e-mail from someone wanting to know how to use the MV-1 with the F6. At about the forth or fifth step, I wondered if a brief video might be more appropriate. So without further delay, here’s a brief how-to with the Nikon MV-1. You’ll see it’s pretty straight forward. Cheers, JBC.
A couple of finer points:
You’ll notice the odd angle (it seems odd to me at least) the MV-1’s cord connects to the camera. My digital camera’s 10-pin port connects ‘normally’ – as in, the cord flowing down the camera instead of up as shown above. Make sure you don’t try to force the cord’s plug in the wrong way. It’ll damage the pins and cause all kinds of problems.
Make sure you do this with the camera OFF. Anything that might cause problems – especially in the electrical components of the camera – can be neutralized by making sure the camera is turned off when you attach something. This includes mounting and un-mounting lenses, by the way.
You may notice I have a roll of film in the camera in the video. It’s on frame 35. This roll’s data will not be extracted from the camera during this session. Just the rolls that are complete.
When I remove the MV-1 from the camera, the only data left in the camera’s memory will be that of the still-loaded roll. You should use the MV-1 when the camera is empty – but not for any technical reasons other than you’ll get all the rolls shot until that point. You won’t hurt anything using the MV-1 mid-roll.
I leave all previous roll’s data on the CF card as a back up. They’re also copied into the computer, but having another copy of them on the CF card just makes sense to me. They’re small files and even the relatively small 128Mb CF card can last several life time’s worth of the tiny shooting data files.
As a recap, while photographing Scott Lenaway, Artist I figured Delta 100 would be my optimum film so began with it. I burned through 2 rolls pretty confidently, knowing essentially what I’d get because of the previews on the digital camera.
Moving to ISO400 Delta, I figured these images might be better, relying less on flash and more on ambient light.
After those 4 rolls were shot there were more photos to make, so I reluctantly reached into the bag and pulled out a roll of Ilford PanF ISO50 film, honestly not expecting much. My digital camera can’t mater at ISO50 so essentially I left the settings the same as for ISO100 (1/100 @ƒ2.8) film assuming the flash would kick up a notch using TTL. I’d never shot flash with PanF before and had no idea what would happen. But I knew I already had a lot of good frames so wasn’t risking anything.
When it came time to develop I did so in the same order according to my expectations: Delta100 the best, Delta400 second best and PanF, well… whatever I got was icing on the cake. All developed in Ilford DDX chemistry at 1:4 at 68°. I developed the last roll – PanF – yesterday and was shocked.
It was far and away the best of the bunch. I’m still trying to understand why – but it is, and has me re-thinking my approach to an upcoming shoot.
After years of searching to acquire one of each single-digit F-series Nikon camera has concluded, I’ve been focusing again on 35mm with the F6. The ‘total package’ the F6 offers makes it uniquely capable of super high-resolution, high-quality images using the right film, right lens, good light and of course the (creative lighting) system behind it. On top of those things its relatively small footprint allow ease of set up on location and make it easy to work with.
The F6 is creatively satisfying because it’s uniquely positioned to make unique film photographs. Now with this discovery of Ilford PanF50 and flash, I’m excited to see how far it can be pushed. Not just for bright light and landscape photography, Ilford PanF Plus ISO50 film is capable of much more.
Recently I had the privilege of photographing my friend and artist Scott Lenaway on location. Scott, a talented printmaker here in Fort Collins, wanted portraits in his studio. Photographing artists doing their thing – is really my thing.
For those who don’t know – printmaking can be messy business (Scott always has ink on his hands when I see him). Given the nature and method of printmaking I envisioned deep, rich blacks and long tones – making black and white film the perfect creative direction.
Because his studio is rather dark, bringing any light needed was required. Though the studio isn’t small – it is a little crowded with breakable objects – that are also messy and expensive if they smash on the floor. This made setting up the big Speedotron Black Lines impossible. Not enough space and too many obstacles to block the light path.
Thankfully, the Nikon designers took it upon themselves to include Creative Lighting System (CLS) circuitry in the F6, making off-camera flash a breeze. For those who don’t know – CLS is one of the most unique and powerful attributes of the F6 – but perhaps the least understood. The F6 is Nikon’s only film camera that includes this circuitry making it capable of creating unique images. This meant CLS and my suite of Nikon SB speed lights were the perfect solution for this assignment.
After conferring about goals for the session, the idea was to have Scott go through the process of making a real print and photographing him doing so along the way. There were three main stations used in his print making process, each station requiring a different lighting setup.
Using the digital camera and the SU-800 commander head as a ‘polaroid,’ I worked out light levels for each strobe, then transfered the SU-800, lens and desired settings to the F6 and confidently shot away.
When it came time for the next station we’d stop – move the lights – run a new set of digital proofs, then repeat the process. By the end of the 2+ hours we had 5 rolls and a few digitals to choose from.
Back in the darkroom I processed each film in Ilford DDX, two rolls at a time, then reviewed each frame on the computer screen as it came up from the scanner. The idea was to put together a contact sheet of selects for him to choose from, showing only the best frames. Acquiring focus was a challenge in the dark studio, as was the fact he was moving around quite a bit – but the F6 did a great job tracking and the percentage of usable shots was high.
The overall look and feel of the photographs is exactly what I had in mind when the decision was made to go with Ilford Delta 100 film (my favorite black and white film).
Ultimately we’ll print a few final images as wet silver prints on fiber paper, completing the analog process from beginning to end.
Having shot mostly film again for the past 8 years, my catalog of digitally-originated frames drops a little each year. But- using the digital camera as a tool to figure out lighting on the fly has immense value.
Something worth mentioning: the idea that a photograph is created on film doesn’t preclude the necessity of editing. The image below is a good example. We all like to ‘get it right in camera.’ For the majority of shots I focused on the subject’s head, eyes and face. There were a few shots focused on hands and what they were holding – as in the shot below. Because of the very shallow depth of field to reduce the distracting background, there wasn’t much room in the focal plane. I wanted his hands to be the point of the shot, but to stop and relight everything to reduce brightness on his face would have been a waste of time and interrupted the flow of the shoot.
Instead I opted for a good base exposure, knowing I’d re-work values during print. So shooting film in a hybrid workflow is a great blend of bringing the best attributes of both film and digital together to create something unique.
Shooting digitally does provide a bit of a safety net because you know for certain what you have when you’re done. Admittedly this is comforting. Working without that feedback again takes a little getting used to. I’ll admit a smile crossed my face upon seeing dripping wet rolls of film unwind from the reels, dense and healthy with tone. Never a doubt.
Do something different. Shoot film using Nikon’s Creative Lighting System and challenge yourself to make unique, creative photographs. Having a tool like the F6 that is able to respond to virtually any photographic situation is a true blessing.
OK, so maybe I jumped the gun a little. Maybe I still do have something to say regarding the F6. Allow me to explain.
Over the past several years I’ve enjoyed shooting with a variety of cameras, including all the Nikon single-digits F-series, as well as a few medium format Mamiyas. Anyone who has more than one or two cameras can surely identify with the conundrum of which camera to grab when you’re heading out the door. You can only carry and shoot so much in any given outing, so you need to make some decisions. Whether the decisions are made at home before heading out – or – while standing at the back of the car on site plowing through all your junk (because you wouldn’t or couldn’t make that decision at home). So in a very democratic way I decided to use them all for a while, just to spread the love.
I’ve also been shooting a good bit of black and white over the past several years – for reasons previously laid out here, and enjoying the heck out of it. Process your own film, printing in the darkroom, working with filters, the smell of fixer on your fingers… all wonderful stuff. Because of that – I’ve grown accustomed to, let’s say – alternative metering solutions to what the F6 employs. Sunny 16, early Nikon center-weighted metering heads, iPhone app’s, totally winging it see how close I can guess… anything goes. After all, with film, as long as you’re within a stop or so things are pretty flexible. And until you have comparison data points, it’s sometimes tough to evaluate just how well something else performs.
So last month I was heading home from Illinois to Colorado the long way, through South Dakota. Before leaving for this trip a few weeks prior I was disciplined enough to make decisions regarding kit. It would be all F6, with a new F3T thrown in for some black and white work. I gathered the remaining rolls of Velvia 50 from the fridge along with a smattering of C-41 and called it good. I’d always wanted to visit Badlands National Park and hoped timing allowed on the return leg. If so I’d be prepared.
As things worked out, by the time I hit Badlands Junction, South Dakota the day was shaping up nicely for some photography. Light was superb after a bit of recent rain refreshed and cleared the sky. Autumn grasses were bright green and played nicely against the ochres and crimsons of natural Badlands coloring. There was an active sky – plenty of cloud cover mixed with plenty of a beautiful cobalt blue. When the time came to shoot I loaded one of the few remaining rolls of Velvia in the F6. The reason this is important is because at nearly $17 a roll, Velvia is pretty pricey stuff, as is the new Kodak Ektachrome at $13/roll. But more importantly, the opportunity before me wasn’t something that came along every day: a beautiful location I’m visiting for the first time (there’s nothing that can match the thrill of discovering a place for the first time), perfect conditions, plenty of time to explore… rolling the dice when it comes time to make the most out of each shutter release isn’t a good approach. Here’s where the F6 really proves superior over all its (charming, old) predecessors. Specifically, it’s metering, features and reliability. No way I’d trust my (wonderful) old cameras to shoot chrome films in changing light on this rare opportunity.
I almost always use a tripod for work like this. I know some people don’t, but honestly – aside from laziness – can’t understand why one would approach shooting anything they’re really trying to get the most from any other way. Slow film in fading light at f8-f11 means shutter speeds hovering around the 1/2 second mark or slower. A tripod, Mirror-Up and the MC-30 cable release, turning off VR on your lens, even using the DR-5 to aid focusing are standard operating procedure.
I won’t drag this out – hoping you get the idea. All these other cameras are wonderful, really. Each has its own personality and allure and I’m happy to have them. But when the time comes to shoot; to really try to get the most from each frame – the Nikon F6 has no equal. As much as I appreciate my other F’s – the F6 is King of the Hill.
10 years ago when I first put up the F6 Project I was re-invigorated with passion for film photography, the camera, and this new journey I had embarked on: stepping off the digital camera merry-go-round onto solid, analogue ground once again: film, and the film way. Putting up the F6 Project felt like a good way to express and share that excitement by inviting others into it along the way.
I’m not sorry I did. The F6 Project has opened the door to connect with many other like-minded photographers around the world, many of which I’ve enjoyed regular correspondence with since. But after 10 years I’ve had enough and am ready to simplify life.
I haven’t written anything in months and honestly – am out of things to say. And for the record – I’m not stepping away from the F6 Project because I’ve stepped away from the F6. I still believe the F6 is simply the best 35mm film camera ever made. By anyone. Over the past 10 years however, I’ve added back at least one sample of all the single digit F-series cameras… kind of a bucket list thing… and truly enjoy shooting every one of them. I don’t think I could ever explain why – if the F6 is the greatest camera ever made – I still continue to reach for the other 5 F’s. The uncomplicated reason is, it pleases me to do so.
But time marches on. Though I still get questions now and again regarding the F6 from the site, the majority of contact these days is from SEO’s who want to put it on page 1 of google. So I can experience even more pressure of having nothing new to talk about. I watch activity in facebook groups of people posting pictures of their cameras and, while I remember that phase of it all, find myself clicking off to other things rather quickly, completely uninterested. I believe (but can’t prove) many of these groups are underwritten by manufacturer’s attempting to promote and create lust for their brands, and ignite a buying frenzy. Then I realize that in effect – I’m one of those people, having devoted an entire web site to it, rationalizing it by having never taken a cent of revenue for it. And don’t even get me started on the bot-infested, purchased followers, algorithmic chaos of Instagram. The marketing juggernaut the internet and social media has become is just not my thing. I don’t want to try harder. I don’t want to compete for page impressions. I just want to be left alone to shoot photographs, on film, with my F’s.
As Kodak releases its new film and the camera companies fight to stay alive with this new mirrorless initiative – it’s anybody’s guess what the next 5-10 years holds. It will come and go regardless of me and what I do. I truly hope camera manufacturers find a way to remain relevant. I’ll admit though that it’s an uphill slog, especially if they’re target marketing someone like me who’s perfectly content making photography with tools that were created anywhere from 15 to 50 years ago.
So there it is – the final post to the F6 Project. Thank you to everyone from around the world who has sent encouragement over the last 10 years. It’s impossible to describe the warmth and reward that personal contact brought each time. It has always been for and about you, and I’m grateful for that.
I pondered which photograph to end with, and decided on this image of an old, 1967 Land Rover as the perfect parting shot. VSOP is short for Very Superior Old Pale, a grade label for specially aged brandy. In many ways it (the vintage Land Rover and its demarcation as VSO – not the brandy) represents aspects of me I choose to preserve, embrace and advance. Turns out I have a thing for Very Superior Old things; things possessing something other than the transitory value of so many of today’s mass commodities. Nothing lasts forever – not even this old Land Rover. But with any luck the Very Superior Old F6 will last a good, long time and make photographs well into its senior years, following the example set by his older siblings.
Not long ago I decided to spend some focused time shooting Ilford’s PanF 50 Plus. In an effort to minimize variables the decision was made to focus on 35mm using the trusted and favored F6. The F6’s venerable meter virtually eliminates exposure error, and I really wanted to dial in +/-EV, development time, agitation, grain, scanning, wet-printing, etc. The decision was also made to use exclusively Ilford’s DDX developer. What follows are the results. The executive summary: I have ordered lots more Ilford PanF50 Plus film for an upcoming trip to Santa Fe where I’ll look forward to continuing this ‘experiment,’ though I now feel quite comfortable that PanF is all I could hope for in a 35mm film.
I’m not really a numbers guy. I mean – I am – but don’t perseverate over them. I like to use numbers as a starting point; get things figured out, then use that knowledge to extrapolate as I shoot. I’m not one of these people that tweaks and tracks every variable just to reconstruct later. Ilford made recommendations on their film based on good authority. I’m not one to second guess. My interest in numbers is really searching for a baseline – then (rather unscientifically) adjusting exposure based on the scene. If in doubt, bracket (but I hate wasting film). If I think it’s going to be an especially worthwhile shot I’ll bracket – but usually trust in the flexibility of film and the F6’s infallible meter.
Something I have been doing a lot lately is working with filters. Yellow, orange and a couple different reds. Being a Nikkor devotee (and making no apologies for it) – I have a nice assortment of vintage 52mm Nikkor filters I use use regularly – especially when shooting my old pre Ai, Ai and Ai-S lenses. More and more I’m prone to favoring these smaller, lighter primes over hauling around the big-barreled, gold-ringed f2.8 zooms with 77mm filter threads I was infatuated with with in my ‘earlier years.’ I also have a nice set of 58mm B+W F-Pro’s for the Mamiya 645 rig I’ll use with a step-up ring if needed. Usually one of the 52mm Nikkor filters does the trick though.
Where I was experiencing some interesting results was using the deep red B+W F-Pro filter. It’s super dark – darker than the Nikkor R60 Red. Here’s what Schneider says about it on their site: “Compared to the lighter 090 red filter, this one even darkens the reds near the yellow tones in the spectrum, as its transparency only begins in the orange-red region. It produces dramatic effects and extreme tonal separation for graphic effects. That accounts for the large filter factor of appr. 8.” It’s so dark, focusing is sometimes made difficult. And when you shoot a ISO50 film you’re really needing a tripod to get an aperture that’ll provide adequate Depth Of Field. But the real ‘problem’ (if you want to call it that) is, it darkens any greenish vegetation to the near black range. This isn’t something I’m typically after. Enter the Nikkor Y48 Yellow. Especially when working off the hand, I find it just right to deepen tones in the sky and increase separation, but leave other elements largely as is. A bump to deepen midtones, minimal light loss and a relatively unchanged TTL experience.
Not long ago I acquired the lovely, ancient 180mm f2,8 AI-s. I have long been a fan of shooting landscapes with telephoto lenses – but upon close inspection, anything shot with the 70-200VR has been somewhat disappointing. Not to mention its size and weight being a deterrent. The 180 f2.8 solves all those issues and then some. Mounted on the F6, this ancient lens benefits from the F6’s ability to dial in Non-CPU Lenses. Doing so while working with the lens allows the correct shooting information to be recorded in the shooting data for that frame. The 180 has no tripod socket because it doesn’t need one. The L-bracket on the camera is more than sufficient to hold its relatively light weight. The one negative is I’m not about to invest in a set of 72mm filters for it and have to carry them around too. So when I’m shooting the 180 I’m going so with the rectangular front-slide-in filters.
and a few PanF50 Plus shots from the past to show a little more diversity:
The amount of detail and resolution PanF50 holds is remarkable. Without moving to my medium format system, PanF50 provides all I need when exposed, processed and scanned properly. Like other ‘high performance’ films, it’s not as flexible as say a TriX. But getting to know and understand it is well worth the time. I’ve ordered a bunch more for an upcoming trip to New Mexico in July.