30 Questions With Photographer Chris Aragon Etzel

If you’ve caught the first installment of my “30 Questions with…” project, you remember that I’m asking photographers I admire to answer 30 questions about themselves and their photography. I also ask them to share some of their work. I’m hoping you find their answers and their photography as interesting as I do.

In this installment, I would like to introduce you to Chris Aragon Etzel (or simply Aragon, as he’s know in our household).

I first met Chris in August 2018 at the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop in Findlay Ohio. We were staying in the same hotel and met up with each other at the bar after the Friday meet and greet at the Jones Mansion. While grabbing a late bite to eat, Chris and I, along with some other photographers staying at the same hotel, discussed cameras, film photography, and the gear we brought to shoot at the weekend workshop.

Chris and I met up the next morning and hung out most of the day at the Walking Workshop.

Chris visiting the Film Photography Project’s merchandise table (you always need more film). (Photo by Sam Warner)

Chris visiting the Film Photography Project’s merchandise table (you always need more film). (Photo by Sam Warner)

After the Saturday workshops concluded, Chris and I joined some other photographers for a “short” (a “15 minute walk” turned into an hour long trek) photowalk to the fairgrounds, where a steam equipment show was taking place.

Chris (second from the right) and I (second from the left) met at the Film Photography Walking Workshop. (Photo courtesy of Mark O’Brien)

Chris (second from the right) and I (second from the left) met at the Film Photography Walking Workshop. (Photo courtesy of Mark O’Brien)

After the Film Photography Walking Workshop, Chris and I stayed in touch and became great friends. We talk on an almost daily basis about photography, music, and life in general. Chris introduced me to the joys of good rangefinders, proper beard care, the various ways to greet a friend using “bro” (e.g., “Bro-nica”, “Brocycle”, “Brotholomew”, etc) and bulk rolling Kentmere 400 film.

Here’s what Chris has to say about his photography.

Q: What is your name and where do you live?

A: Chris Aragon Etzel. Memphis, Tennessee.

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

Q: How can people contact you?

A: The best way to contact me is through my website at www.aragonseye.com. I’m also on Instagram at @aragons_eye.

Q: If we’ve met, how do we know each other?

A: Sam and I met in Findlay, Ohio in August of 2018 at the Film Photography Project’s Walking Workshop.

Q: What is your earliest memory of taking a photograph?

A: When I was in my early twenties, my dad gave me his Sears T.L.S. with a 55mm lens and a roll of Kodak color 200. I quickly found out there was $0.99 Black and White film and bought a few rolls. I used it a few times and put it down. I didn’t pick it back up again until 2014 – like 20 years later.

Q: Of the cameras you currently own, what is your favorite (you may choose one of each format if applicable?

A: 35mm: Canon F1n 120mm: Holga 120 (Although my Bronica ETRS is a close second)

Q: Is there a camera you’ve always lusted after and hope to acquire someday? What makes you desire this camera?

A: Well, I really want an Epson R-D1 as it was the first digital rangefinder, but for film cameras, I want a Nikon 28Ti. It has such a beautiful Bauhaus look and the analog dials on the top are just sexy. It gets mixed reviews because it’s slow and has a tiny viewfinder, but who cares. It just looks so cool.

Q: Is there a camera you no longer have that you miss?

A: Yes, my Fujifilm Klasse. It was a fantastic camera and instead of really using it, I kept it as a “backup” camera. That was my mistake. It was a perfectly capable point-and-shoot that had a decent set of manual control dials, a quiet operation, and the amazing Fujinon coated lens. I still regret selling it.

Q: What type of photographs do you most enjoy taking (portraits, landscapes, street, etc) and why?

A: If you view my website, you’ll see I’m kind of all over the place, but I do like to shoot photos of textures and signs. I work in Downtown Memphis, so I like taking pictures of the aging buildings and other interesting street objects. Sometimes I do some street photography, but mostly it’s “parts” of buildings or lamps, signs, letters, numbers. I also enjoy statues and cemeteries.

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

Q: While most of us shoot both digital and film, I believe we all have a tendency to prefer one over the other. What do you prefer and why?

A: This is a fantastic question! I prefer the process of film photography. I like being part of my images; loading, shooting, developing, scanning, sharing. This is a very tactile experience for me. I also enjoy the softer look I get from film. When I shoot digital, I’m usually ISO 1600-3200 auto so I get the softness, although it’s not totally the same. But I really, really love my Fujifilm digital cameras. I’ve had an X-Pro1, X100T, and now an X-T20. I love the Fujinon glass and the Fujifilm in-camera emulations.

Q: How often/much do you shoot photographs (rolls per week, month, etc)?

A: I tend to shoot in batches and then I don’t shoot for a while. I’ll decide to go somewhere and make photos and take 3-5 rolls with me fully intending to stay until I’ve shot all the rolls. I have a lot of cameras, so I also take them out to shoot them and review them, which lends to this burst-mode of shooting. I also load my own film, so when I run out, I’ll shoot digital until the new stuff comes in.

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

Q: Do you prefer to photograph with other people, or would you rather shoot alone? Please explain.

A: I really enjoy shooting with others because I like to interact. I’m really introverted unless I’m out with a group of like-minded photographers. When they come across something they think is interesting, I may not agree, but it’s really cool that others see beauty or interest where I don’t. A group also sees things that I would miss on my own. Plus, I love cameras! Groups have lots of cameras to lust after.

Q: What is your favorite black and white film right now and why?

A: Kentmere 400. It’s cheap, has decent latitude which is good for me because I am way too lazy with my metering. It’s also got a nice tone to it. It works well with Rodinal stand development and D-76, it has no curl so it fits in my scanner trays properly, and did I mention it’s cheap ?

Q: What is your favorite color film right now and why?

A: I might sound like a broken record, or a fanboy with an endorsement contract, but I really love Fujifilm, and for film it’s Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400. I am in love with the cooler blues and greens and the subdued reds and browns. My favorite color photos in my collection were all shot on Superia X-TRA 400.

Q: Complete the following sentence: “I am a photographer because…”. What do YOU get from photography?

A: …”I love the mechanical beauty of a camera.” I often look at my collection and I am amazed at the innovation that went on during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. The steampunk look of the Argus C3 or the Ricoh-35, the Flash Gordon look of the Kodak Retinette IA, the “Leather and Metal” look of the 1970’s SLR’s from Canon and Nikon, and the marriage of manual and automatic with the 1990’s premium point-and-shoot cameras. There was just so much going on and so many companies experimenting.

Q: Best experience while taking photographs?

A: When I first started shooting street photography in 2015, I had a Zorki 4K with a Jupiter 8 50mm f/2 lens and some Kentmere 400. I was walking around downtown on a gloomy, chilly day and I’d decided I wanted to try my hand at shooting wide-open. Right as I’d set my lens to f/2 and adjusted my shutter speed, a guy in a hoodie walked right toward me and I snapped a portrait of him. He even smiled and kept walking.

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

Q: Most emotional experience while taking photographs?

A: After the FPP workshop was over last August, I drove from Findlay to Niagra Falls. At the falls I was totally in awe over the power of the water, the sounds of the falls and the overall beauty. I couldn’t shoot enough rolls. I had the Bronica ETRS and 9 rolls of Fujifilm Velvia and Provia 100, and my Fujifilm Klasse with Superia X-TRA 400. I used up every roll I had and was so excited to get back home and develop the film, only to realize in my eagerness to start snapping away, I’d left my darkslide partially engaged. All 9 rolls from the session were blank.

Q: Worst experience while taking photographs.

A: This spring I took my family to the Memphis Zoo and my 8 year old son wanted to shoot film. I lent him my Minolta AF-2. The counter was at 12 and I remembered using color film in it, so I told him to use it and shoot the remaining 24 shots. While we walked the zoo, he would snap shots and tell me how many were used. “Thirty three, dad.” “Thirty five…, thirty six… thirty seven.” I thought he’d gotten a an extra frame out of it due to my frugal loading. When he said “Thirty nine…” I knew in my heart his camera was empty. I popped the back on it and sure enough there was nothing in it. He started to cry and said “All those shots I took,” paused between tears and sternly demanded “Next time we come to the zoo I want a digital camera.” I felt so bad for him, but totally understood.

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

Q: Tell me about something related to photography you want to learn.

A: I really want to learn how to properly meter. I am way too guilty of leaning on exposure latitude to cover my butt when I’m out shooting. Most of the time it works out in my favor, but some of the neutral grey black and white photos I’ve taken remind me that I have a deficiency. I’m getting better, but I would love to get great at it.

Q: Tell me about something NOT related to photography you want to learn.

A: I want to learn to speak Spanish fluently. I live in the United States, the second largest Spanishspeaking country in the world. I know that sounds weird, but really it’s true. We are blessed that we’re not only bordered by two different countries and cultures, but that we’re not at war with either. The Mexican people have a beautiful culture and are beautiful people, and I think it’s only fair that I speak their language – they’re willing to speak mine.

Q: What does your family/loved ones think/feel about your photography?

A: My family is very supportive of my hobby. My kids love jumping in the car to go out on photographic adventures. I recently bought my wife an underwater camera, my daughter has one of our older digital cameras, and my son, well, he still likes film. If he sees me heading out the door with a camera, he’s running to the camera shelves to pick on so he can go with me.

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

Q: What is the last photography related book you’ve acquired?

A: The most recent photography book I’ve acquired is 2 ¼ by William Eggleston. Bill is, by far, my favorite color photographer. I love his work for its style, it’s color tone, and the fact that he can take the “mundane” and make it “interesting.” The book cover has a half of a 1960s Ford Mustang on it. He was just in a parking lot and took a photo of cars. Regular cars, not exotic cars. Yet the photo drew me to the book and what is inside is just as fascinating.

Q: Name one of your favorite accounts on Instagram and explain what draws you to this photographer.

A: Photographer Colten Allen, a.k.a. “daiku_san” is an amazing photographer. He suffers from ALS, and is in a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop him from making the most amazing photos. His style very much reminds me of William Eggleston, and I have yet to see a photo I didn’t just love. His perspective is from a seated position and it’s another thing that makes it stand out among the IG crowd. If there was a photographer I would love to go shooting with, it would be Colten Allen.

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

Q: Have you ever sold or have thought about selling any of your photographs? Would you do it again? Any advice for others thinking of selling their photographs?

A: have not sold any of my work because it seems like such a hassle. If I had a darkroom, maybe I’d make some prints and throw up an Etsy page, but I like Eric Kim’s old “Open Source Photography” philosophy and I share that ideal. If people like my work, just ask for a copy to print. If you want to share it on a website, give me a shout out. Just don’t steal it. As for advice, remember there are a million other photographers out there doing the same thing, so the field is saturated. Don’t expect to make it a full-time job.

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

(Photo by Chris Etzel)

Q: Are there any photography related projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?

A: I am not really on any projects right now. I’d love suggestions! I really enjoy the work of the Frugal Film Photography project and hope to get my name in the hat for that one year. They have amazing work on cheap cameras.

Q: Are there any non-photographic related projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?

A: Nope. I’m pretty basic.

Q: Where is your favorite location to shoot (specific place or type of place)?

A: .Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis (https://dixongallery.org). It’s an old private residence that was converted to an impressionist art gallery and public gardens. Last fall/winter they planted over 100,000 tulip bulbs that bloomed in May this year. It was a beautiful sight.

Q: Is there a specific object you’ve found yourself photographing over and over again? If so, why?

A: There is, actually, an object I have photographed with nearly every camera I own. It's a little sign above my stove in the kitchen that reads "this house runs on love, laughter and lots of strong coffee".

It is in a place that is lit by a florescent bulb but also a place that doesn't have great lighting, so I use it to test the low light abilities of new lenses, and the white balance of my digital cameras. I also know it's exactly 2.5m from the kitchen sink, so I can test the close focus accuracy of my old rangefinder cameras.

Q: Favorite thing about the photographic community?

A: I like the film photography community. They tend to be low-key folks willing to share, swap, teach, learn and keep in touch. I haven’t had much luck with digital photography groups. For those, a camera is a camera. It’s Nikon or Canon. I got bullied by a retired photographer for shooting a film Leica in the group!

Q: What do you think the photographic community is missing?

A: More daylight.

Q: Biggest photography related pet peeve?

A: Watermarks. You’re not as famous as you think, and if you were you’d know you don’t need a watermark. They ruin a beautiful image.

Q: What do you hope your photographic legacy will be?

A: I’d love for folks to look back and say, “He was a great photographer and shared his talent and love freely with others.”

Q: Who is the one person (living or dead) that you’d like to photograph and why? Describe the type of portrait you’d shoot, and the message you’d want this portrait to communicate about this person.

A: I think I’d like to get a good portrait session with my dad. He doesn’t like getting his photo taken, but he has great facial lines that are accentuated as he ages. He looks like he’s hardened even though he’s a gentle man. I would take his portrait against a black backdrop while he’s sitting in behind a big wooden ship’s wheel. He’d be in jeans, Sperry topsiders, and a white t-shirt. I’d use my Bronica ETRS and a couple rolls of Tri-X, pushed.

As you can see from the photos Chris has shared, he’s a very talented photographer. I’m very excited to see the photos Chris shares with us in the future.

Head on over to www.aragonseye.com or @aragons_eye on Instagram and connect with Chris.

30 Questions With Photographer Shawn Augustson

I know a lot of photographers. Some I’ve met in person. Some I only know through their online presence. Some are well known throughout the film photography community, but most are not. They aren’t “professional photographers” if you define a professional as someone who earns their living from the photos they produce. That’s not to say they haven’t sold photographs or haven’t been paid to photograph. It just means photography isn’t their primary source of income. If you asked them if they considered themselves professionals, many would laugh at the idea and would say they don’t even consider themselves artists or photographers at all. They’d suggest they’re merely hobbyists who enjoy taking photos.

Well, I disagree. I look at the work these photographers produce and feel like it should have a bigger audience. I feel like there’s a story as to why they photograph what they do, in the way that they do, when they do. I wanted to know what inspires them, what motivates them, and what makes them choose the cameras they use.

To do this, I thought I’d start a new project. For this project, I’d ask them to answer 30 questions about themselves and their photography, and I’d ask them to share some of their work. I’m hoping you find their answers and their photography as interesting as I do.

The first person I want to introduce you to is Shawn Augustson.

Self portrait. (Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Self portrait. (Photo by Shawn Augustson)

I first met Shawn in August 2018 at the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop. I had really just gotten back into shooting film myself a short time before attending the workshop and didn’t really know a lot of other film photographers. I hear quite often how many film photographers happen upon the Film Photography Project Podcast and suddenly have this eureka moment of discovering they’re not alone in their desire to shoot film. That was me. I suddenly found myself surrounded by people who had the same passion as I. Some of us even went on a photowalk one evening after the workshop had concluded for the day. I had found my tribe. I met so many people that weekend and exchanged contact information with many of them. Unfortunately, Shawn wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t until later the next month that our paths would cross again.

Shawn (back row, on the left) and I (front row, on the left) at the Film Photography Walking Workshop, August 2018. (Photo courtesy of Robert Hamm)

Shawn (back row, on the left) and I (front row, on the left) at the Film Photography Walking Workshop, August 2018. (Photo courtesy of Robert Hamm)

After returning home from the workshop, I quickly realized it wasn’t as fun going on photowalks when I was the only photogrpaher. I missed seeing what other photographers were shooting (camera and film) and missed comparing the results they got with my own on similar subjects. I decided I wanted to organize a film photowalk of my own. I posted an invitation on Instagram for an afternoon of photography in Cincinnati for the following weekend. It was short notice, but I ended up getting a few takers. One of them was Shawn.

The first photowalk crew: starting from the left, Edmund, Myself, Shawn, and Austin. (Photo by Sam Warner)

The first photowalk crew: starting from the left, Edmund, Myself, Shawn, and Austin. (Photo by Sam Warner)

Shawn, scoping out his next shot in Cincinnati. (Photo by Sam Warner)

Shawn, scoping out his next shot in Cincinnati. (Photo by Sam Warner)

Shawn Augustson (Photo by Sam Warner)

Shawn Augustson (Photo by Sam Warner)

After the Cincinnati photowalk, Shawn and I stayed in touch and became great friends. We’ve continued to meet up for additional photowalks and even some one-on-one shoots. I’m honored that Shawn accepted my invitation (badgering, really) to talk about photography with me and was willing to let me share some of his work on this blog.

Shawn and his Minolta. (Photo by Sam Warner)

Shawn and his Minolta. (Photo by Sam Warner)

Q: What is your name and where do you live?

A: Shawn Augustson. Columbus Ohio.

Q: How can people contact you?

A: The best way to contact me is through Instagram at @bestoftheroll.

Q: If we’ve met, how do we know each other?

Shawn Augustson (Photo by Sam Warner)

Shawn Augustson (Photo by Sam Warner)

A: FPP Walking Workshop.

Q: What is your earliest memory of taking a photography?

A: My dad taking me to Disney World when I was 12 with a disposable camera.

Q: Of the cameras you currently own, what is your favorite (you may choose one of each format if applicable?

A: Medium Format: Bronica S2, 35mm: Nikon N70, Point & Shoot: Leica Minilux Zoom.

Q: Is there a camera you’ve always lusted after and hope to acquire someday? What makes you desire this camera?

A: I finally got it with my Bronica S2. I like medium format and I also like that there are no electronics with it. It gives me good vibes when I use it and I feel creative. I have always wanted a Leica M6.

Q: Is there a camera you no longer have that you miss?

A: Leica M4-P.

Q: What type of photographs do you most enjoy taking (portraits, landscapes, street, etc) and why?

A: I like doing street photography, mostly because I like to wander around and see people. I am interested in portraits but never have anyone to pose for me.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: While most of us shoot both digital and film, I believe we all have a tendency to prefer one over the other. What do you prefer and why?

A: shoot film only. I don't really enjoy doing digital photography.

Q: How often/much do you shoot photographs (rolls per week, month, etc)?

A: I pretty much find a way to shoot at least a roll every day.

Q: Do you prefer to photograph with other people, or would you rather shoot alone? Please explain.

A: I wish I could photograph with others as I enjoy being out somewhere with another person. About 99% of the time I am by myself and it feels like a lonely planet. This might also be a reason why I like photographing people.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: What is your favorite black and white film right now and why?

A: I like HP5 400. I like to shoot it at box speed as well as it pushes and pulls nicely. If I was only allowed one film it would be this one.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: What is your favorite color film right now and why?

A: I haven’t really settled on a favorite as of yet. I do like Ektar 100. In 35mm format I tend to shoot a lot of Kodak ColorPlus because its so cheap.

Q: Complete the following sentence: “I am a photographer because…”. What do YOU get from photography?

A: I don’t see myself as a photographer. I am mostly documenting my existence I guess. It is more

of a form of therapy for me to help me deal with my mental health issues. My photos are just

stuff I interact with throughout the day.

Q: Best experience while taking photographs?

A: Capturing firefighters that were responding to a building fire in downtown Columbus, OH.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: Most emotional experience while taking photographs?

A: I photographed a little girl, her baby sister and an older man with them in Iraq using a walking around picking up spent ammo casings that they would then turn the brass in for payment. It made me cry. I pictured kids back home on an Easter egg hunt laughing and having fun while they had to do this in order to survive. The sight of me standing there in full battle rattle with a weapon had to be terrifying to her. I wanted to just hug them and keep them safe. I can hear her little voice in my head to this day saying to her sister “Soldier. Camera Click-Click” explaining that I was not going to hurt them and was taking a photo. I often wonder about them and how their lives turned out. When looking for these photos I had a certain photo in my mind and discovered it was not there. I dream about this family a lot at night and I think what I was picturing was actually just a photograph that was in my mind.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: Worst experience while taking photographs.

A: Accidentally photographing a drug deal and being noticed, then having my life threatened.

Q: Tell me about something related to photography you want to learn.

A: I would like to learn more about night photography. I tend to be out in the daylight more often.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: Tell me about something NOT related to photography you want to learn.

A: How to play the violin.

Q: What does your family/loved ones think/feel about your photography?

A: They are probably the ones who know most about why I photograph certain things and how much it helps me. They fully support me.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: What is the last photography related book you’ve acquired?

A: I don’t have any.

Shawn Augustson in action. (Photo by Sam Warner)

Shawn Augustson in action. (Photo by Sam Warner)

Q: Name one of your favorite accounts on Instagram and explain what draws you to this photographer.

A: I don’t have a favorite photographer but I do like to see all the various works from around the world that Ilford Photo post.

Q: Have you ever sold or have thought about selling any of your photographs? Would you do it again? Any advice for others thinking of selling their photographs?

A: I have sold photos in my various solo gallery shows at local art galleries museums here in Columbus, OH. It’s something that maybe I should pursue more but always falls to the back burner. I haven't really taken a lot of photos that I feel are worthy of selling. Most of what I photograph are things I see throughout my day and they appeal to me, not really something that someone wants to hang on their wall.

Q: Are there any photography related projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?

A: I am starting a series of works called “Living After War”, it is photographs of my fellow veterans and how they are dealing with ways to continue living after experiencing the horrors of war. I want to highlight positive ways of coping with negative thoughts we have. When I returned home from serving in Iraq I attempted suicide several times. Eventually art and photography gave me a way to express my thoughts and emotions and have been one of the best forms of therapy for me. I saw first hand with other veterans that I shared with the hope that it gave them. I would like the series to be something that someone veteran or not who may be dealing with issues be able to see something positive that they can also do to help them continue their mission and live on.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: Are there any non-photographic related projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?

A: None at the moment.

Q: Where is your favorite location to shoot (specific place or type of place)?

A: Somewhere with people. I would love someday to go to NYC and photograph on the streets.

Q: Is there a specific object you’ve found yourself photographing over and over again? If so, why?

A: I have photographed a lot of exit signs, mostly because I am always looking for the best way out of a place and I found that taking a photo of it then settled down my anxiety.

Q: Favorite thing about the photographic community?

A: Those that I have interacted with tend to share knowledge more.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: What do you think the photographic community is missing?

A: Someplace better to share photographs than Instagram.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: Biggest photography related pet peeve?

A: That all film photos should have light leaks, be under exposed and poorly focused.

Q: What do you hope your photographic legacy will be?

A: That I had fun doing it.

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

(Photo by Shawn Augustson)

Q: Who is the one person (living or dead) that you’d like to photograph and why? Describe the type of portrait you’d shoot, and the message you’d want this portrait to communicate about this person.

A: I guess I would have liked to photograph my dad before he passed away. I have often thought that had I been interested in photography then that maybe doing some portraits would have helped me understand him better. I would have most likely photographed him playing guitar as well as with his Harley Davidson Motorcycle. I would have to set up some sort of moody dark shot to highlight all his tattoos and biker patches. I guess I would just convey the message that “I am your father and I loved you the best way that I knew how.”.

Shawn Augustson (Photo by Sam Warner)

Shawn Augustson (Photo by Sam Warner)

As you can see from the photos Shawn has shared, he’s a very talented photographer. I’m very excited to see the photos Shawn shares in the future.

Head on over @bestoftheroll on Instagram and show Shawn some love.

A Stroll With A Roll (And A Half): My Take On Shooting the Nikon F

The camera of for this stroll was an easy choice.  Not only is it a beautiful camera, but it has a reputation of being quite the workhorse.  The Nikon F.  A good friend of mine, Chris Etzel, and I were discussing this camera recently and he suggested we should each put a roll of film through ours and share our thoughts on what it’s like to shoot this classic beauty.  You can see what Chris has to say about it here.  

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The Nikon F is an iconic camera and one I’ve been wanting to add to my collection for quite a while. A little over a year ago, I was lucky enough to get a great deal on a clean 1966 model with a working Photomic meter. Just two days ago, I picked up another. This one is an even cleaner 1969 model with a working ftn meter.  But before we look at the results from my shoot, let’s take a closer look at the camera.

The Nikon F was produced from 1959-1973 and was Nikon’s first SLR camera and was the weapon of choice for many of the professional photographers of that time.  It has interchangeable focusing screens, allowing the shooter to tailor the shooting experience to their preference.  It also has interchangeable prisms.  The camera itself is purely mechanical, meaning it does not require a battery to shoot.  The only batteries needed are for the metered prisms, which can be used either on or off.  This means shooting is still possible even if the meter battery were to die. 

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Film is loaded into the camera by removing the entire back covering of the camera.  This is done by turning a small lever on the bottom of the camera.  Once the film is loaded, the film speed is set by lifting and turning the small ring on the shutter speed dial.  Again, this is only necessary if the meter in the prism is going to be used. 

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A step that might be missed by those new to the Nikon F is the film direction knob.  Turn it to “A” to shoot the camera and advance the film.  Turn it to “R”, and the film can now be rewound by turning the rewind knob on the top left of the camera.  Those unfamiliar with this might mistake a camera in working condition for a broken camera, and the film advance lever will not work correctly when this “R” is selected.  Embarrassingly enough, I learned this the hard way when I couldn’t figure out how to rewind the film once I completed my roll.  A quick search of the interwebs was all it took to make me realize I should have reviewed the camera manual before shooting my first roll. 

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Changing lenses on the Nikon F is nothing new if you’re already familiar with the “Nikon Twist”.  If you’re like me and this is your first time shooting an older Nikon SLR, do yourself a favor and watch a few YouTube videos before attempting to change the lens.  It will save you a world of frustration.  I shot the images for this article using the Nikkor-S Auto 1:1.4 50mm lens, my favorite manual focus Nikon lens to date.

Once you hold a Nikon F, you understand why people say you can always use it as a weapon if it were to ever stop working.  It’s a hefty beast of a SLR.  I personally like this.  I’m not the steadiest of shooters and find the weight of the camera actually helps me out here.  I find it’s heavy enough to provide some stability without being so heavy that it’s a burden to hold. 

For my stroll, I chose the small town where I live, Franklin Ohio.  It’s a quiet little town with parts that appear as if time has forgotten them. It’s located on the Great Miami River in SW Ohio and was one of the canal towns.    

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Franklin is full of beautiful old houses and interesting architecture.

Franklin is full of beautiful old houses and interesting architecture.

The iron train bridge is a favorite subject of mine to shoot.

The iron train bridge is a favorite subject of mine to shoot.

When modes of transportation evolve.

When modes of transportation evolve.

“Church”.

“Church”.

Canals and river travel heritage.

Canals and river travel heritage.

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Main St.

Main St.

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Small town life.

Small town life.

I’ve recently started rolling my own 35mm film cardtridges from a 100’ bulk roll.  The first film I’ve tried is Kentmere 400.  The photos below were taken from this roll.

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So how did I like shooting the Nikon F?  I loved it!  I love the solid all mechanical feel of the body. I’ve always used the metered prism when shooting the F, but would feel just as comfortable shooting it Sunny 16, and just having the ability to do so will make it a more frequent shooter for me. Nothing annoys me more than having a photography outing cut short because of a dead battery. You can bet this camera will be finding its way into my camera bag more often.

2018 Was A Great Year For Film Photography For Me

It’s here. 2019. Twenty. Nineteen.  It just doesn’t seem possible. I’ll turn 49 years old this year. And as I’m peeking over the edge of my first fifty years of existence, there are going to be some first time experiences for me...and I’m excited as hell about it.  

First things first. I have some goals from 2018 that didn’t quite come to fruition. Don’t get me wrong. It was a great year, but there were some goals that I had set for myself that I never totally achieved. But before we discuss those, I want to talk about some of the good things that happened.

2018 was the year I dove head first into film photography. I’ve shot film in the past, but never at this magnitude. I shot more film in 2018 than I ever had in any other decade, much less any other year. 

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2018 was also the year I attended the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop in Findlay Ohio. In addition to the awesome folks at FPP, I also met some really cool fellow film shooters, some of which I still talk to on a regular basis.

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I hosted my first photo walks in 2018. There were two. Some of the attendees were people I met in Findlay. Others were either friends of theirs, or had seen photos from the first photo walk and wanted to be a part of the second one. Much film was shot and great friends were made. The communal aspect of film photography is one of the things I love about being a part of this culture. There’s just nothing else like it.

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I also made my first darkroom prints in 2018. I took a black and white darkroom class at my local community college, where I met some great people and definitely grew as a photographer. I loved that time in the darkroom creating images that can never be duplicated. It was a magical experience.

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And last but definitely not least, I launched this blog. I haven’t given it nearly enough attention, but that’s one of my goals for 2019. I really hope to post at least once a month. I quite possibly pick up a film camera every single day. Surely I have enough material related to film photography that I could share, whether it’s new developments, a new camera, or something stupid I did that’s funny enough to share in a way that I can hopefully prevent someone from making the same silly mistake.

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Case in point.  I did something so stupid that I can’t help but tell people about, even if it’s just so I can tell them that no mistake they may make can be any worse than what I did. Let’s go back to Findlay Ohio, August 2018  I’m on a photowalk with other films photographers, snapping away like crazy. I knew we were going to be out shooting for a while, so I was sure to bring extra film. I’m paying attention to the frame count on my Minolta X-370, and notice I’m at 34 frames. I snap off another picture. Click, wind. I see another shot. I compose the image and shoot. Click, wind. This should be my last shot. Click, wind. Ooh!  Extra frames!  Everyone loves extra frames!  Click, wind. There’s no tension on the wind lever. Click, wind?  Two extra frames??  Really??? Click, wind. Click, wind. Click, wind. Still no tension. I think you’ve probably figured out where this is going. I had certainly figured it out by this time, but alas, it was too late. I gave it one more “click, wind” just for confirmation. Only this time, I did something I should have been doing all along. I watched for the rewind knob to turn. Only it didn’t. You see, the X-370 is a manual camera. It won’t wind the film for you. It doesn’t have a fancy beep to tell you something is wrong. It’s so simple, in fact, that it doesn’t even have a little window in the back to let you know there’s film in the camera. But somehow, while standing shoulder to shoulder in a group of film photographers, I didn’t need that little window to confirm what I had just figured out; that there wasn’t going to be anything behind the door when I opened the camera. I had been walking around the better part of the afternoon shooting blanks. This is where you laugh. Hysterically. Because that’s what I did. It’s all I COULD do.  Laugh, I did. Then I quietly loaded the camera, watching for the film rewind knob to turn before carrying on with the group.  It was months before I told any of them, but it’s a story I now share regularly. 

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Goals from 2018 that I hope to improve upon this year?  Write more, and do less stupid stuff ( like forgetting to load my camera).  I think we can do tgat  

So. Back to 2019. What does this year have on the agenda?  There are going to be some firsts. 

I will shoot large format photography this year for the first time. I purchased a Crown Graphic 4x5 camera last year, but never shot it. That baby is going to see some action this year. It’s far too pretty of a camera to be a shelf queen. 

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I’m also building a 4x5 rail camera this year. I start another film photography class in less than a week, where we will be using the same type of equipment. I figured I might as well get one of my own so that I can fully immerse myself into it. 

The previously mentioned class is going to revolve around studio photography, another first for me. I don’t mind taking photos of people, but I’ve never considered myself a portrait photographer, nor did I ever think I’d be interested in becoming one. But there’s just something amazing about portraits taken on large format film. They have a special look to them. A look I seem to have fallen in love with. I want to learn to achieve that look. Hopefully, 2019 is my start down that path. 

And last but certainly not least, 2019 will be the first year that I’ll take part in a year long group photography project. I’ll discuss the details and possibly some photos in my next post, but what I will say about it is that it’s a monthly obligation to shoot the same kind of film in the same camera. That’s 12 rolls for the year, all in the same camera. Should be fun!

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So, what’s on your agenda for 2019?  A new camera?  A new format of film?  Maybe even a new shooting style?  One thing is for sure..  It’s your year.  It’s your opportunity to try something new and different. Or, you could just do what you did last year. But where’s the fun in that?!?!  Now, get out there and shoot!!