Film Photography, Photography

Family Christmas photographs

I shot my family’s 2020 Christmas celebration on film. I decided to do it when I stumbled across a roll of Kodak T-Max P3200 I forgot I had. I shot it in my Nikon N90s with the 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor lens attached. I developed it in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B, but I misread the Massive Dev Chart and developed it for a few minutes less time than specified. The negatives looked plenty dense, but when I scanned them on my flatbed, the grain was pronounced.

I decided to print them. I don’t have a darkroom; I just sent the scans to my nearby CVS pharmacy’s photo department. The paper they use in their machines is thin, nowhere near as sturdy as the stuff they used as recently as 10 years ago. But the prints looked all right. I laid them on the dining table with the Christmas tablecloth still on and photographed a few of them with my Canon PowerShot S95. Even rendered this way, you can see the huge, ugly grain in these photos.

These scans are straight off the scanner. No amount of Photoshopping made them look any better, so I quickly gave up. I did tweak VueScan’s settings to bring out shadow detail, however.

When that roll was done I wanted to keep going, but I was out of P3200. Then it hit me: I develop my own film now and can easily push process it. I had some Ilford Delta 400 in the freezer, so I thawed a roll, loaded it into the N90s, mounted my 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens, and set the camera to ISO 1600. I knew this stuff would push well because fellow photoblogger Alyssa Chiarello did it recently and got great results.

Ilford still prints developing instructions inside their film boxes. They listed a developing time in Ilfotec HC (their HC-110 equivalent, also equivalent to the L110 I use) for the film at 1600! I followed their instructions and got gorgeous negatives and the best scans my flatbed can deliver (which still aren’t great). They look better than the P3200 photos — the grain is smaller and much more pleasing. Delta 400 is a darn sight less expensive than T-Max P3200, too. I think I need never buy P3200 again — I’ll push an ISO 400 black-and-white film to 1600 instead. I had CVS print these scans, too.

This was fun, but I don’t see this experience leading me to print my work more often. I get it that a photograph is meant to be printed, a physical object. But I’m an online kind of guy and that’s the way I show 99% of my work. My wife prints family photographs all the time, and I figured she’d like to add these to her collection, so I gave them to her.

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Film Photography, Travel

The Chicago River at night, on Kodak T-Max P3200

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

It is such fun to make photographs well after nightfall, holding my film SLR in my hands, with only building and street lights shining on the scene. As I walked along the river in Chicago, Kodak T-Max P3200 let me make photographs as if it were 9 a.m., not 9 p.m.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

It was cold that night, being the first weekend in January. My Nikon F3 can handle that kind of treatment, which is why I chose it. I mounted my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens so I could fit more of the city in each frame.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

My wife and I had just come from Navy Pier, where we photographed the Chicago skyline from the Ferris wheel. We had plenty of time for a leisurely walk along the Chicago River before our dinner reservations within the Loop. We walked on both sides of the river, crossing the bridges wherever we felt like it.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

Chicago at night is a perfect subject for Kodak T-Max P3200. The built environment generates plenty of light to render subjects beautifully.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

I forget exactly what apertures and shutter speeds I used to make these photos, but they let me shoot easily and comfortably. My lens wasn’t wide open, and I didn’t have to worry about camera shake.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

As you can see, the P3200 does return noticeable grain. A couple of these photos do show slight underexposure. My F3’s meter did the best it could to read this light but didn’t always nail it. A few of these images looked a little foggy, but a little tweaking in Photoshop cleared that right up.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

I remain amazed by how well this film works. I know some people push other films, such as Tri-X, to 3200 and get good results. But you have to push your processing accordingly. That’s not a huge deal when you process your own. But I send my 35mm black-and-white film to a pro lab. It’s nice not to have to pay extra for the push processing on P3200.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

My wife and I had a lovely walk along the Chicago River as I shot this roll of Kodak T-Max P3200. I look forward to doing it again someday — and to finding other subjects that this film can make sing.

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Film Photography, Travel

The Wrigley Building in Chicago on Kodak T-Max P3200

Chicago’s Wrigley Building was built from 1920 to 1924 as the first skyscraper north of the Chicago River. It’s a stunner at any time of the day, but I especially like it at night. Its white facade, beautifully lit, stands in contrast to the dark buildings all around it.

Wrigley Building

The building’s south tower is the taller of the two, 30 stories vs. 21.


The building is covered head to toe in terra cotta, providing no end of interesting detail to study.

Wrigley Building

I focused my lens on the south tower far more than the north, but here’s one good shot of the north tower, its entrance.

Wrigley Building

The north tower is 410 N. Michigan Ave., the south is 400.

Wrigley Building

The two towers are separated by a little alley, with a third-floor bridge connecting the two buildings and framing the scene.

Wrigley Building

There are no shortage of wonderful angles from which to compose interesting photographs.

Wrigley Building

Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max P3200.

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Film Photography, Travel

The Chicago skyline on Kodak T-Max P3200

“I want to get a good view of the Chicago skyline at dusk,” my wife said. “I’d like to photograph it.”

Instantly I thought of Navy Pier and its Ferris wheel. I’d ridden it before, years ago, and remembered its commanding view of the city. So we made our way over. The view was as commanding as I remembered.

Chicago as night falls

It was only about 5:30 pm, but it was already dark on this early January day. Interestingly, the Kodak T-Max P3200 saw through the night right to the overcast sky, and that’s what it rendered.

Chicago as night falls

The Ferris wheel cars are enclosed and heated, making it comfortable to make these photographs on a 25-degree evening. However, the glass is tinted, which robbed me of a stop or two of exposure. I shot these with my Nikon F3 and 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens wide open, which gave me shutter speeds of 1/15 and 1/30 sec. I’m glad I have a steady hand.

Chicago as night falls

This is the same Nikon F3 that has developed a light leak thanks to a failed light seal. But at night, there’s too little light to sneak past that seal and leave streaks on the film. So this whole roll turned out fine.

Chicago as night falls

The ride moved slowly and went around several times, giving us plenty of time to make these photographs. I arranged them here as if I made them in one pass, but in reality I shot one or two photos on each pass.

Chicago as night falls

I forgot one key thing: my wife’s tendency to motion sickness. She found the gently swaying car to be a little challenging. But she got some fun shots with her DSLR, in color.

Navy Pier Ferris wheel

I bought this roll of P3200 that morning, at Chicago’s famous Central Camera. I stepped in the front door and there behind the counter was Johnny Sisson, of the Classic Lenses Podcast. He looks just like the photo he uses in social media, so he was easy to spot. I introduced myself and we chatted for a couple minutes. Affable fellow.

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Window in our room at Hotel Allegro

Morning light, hotel window
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max P3200

Just one more shot from the F3 on that remarkable T-Max P3200. It did a wonderful job rendering both the light and dark areas of this scene. As I shot this, through my viewfinder I could clearly see a television on top of the cabinet at right. The P3200 does have its limits.

Film Photography

single frame: Morning light, hotel window


Collecting Cameras

If I could own only one camera it would be the Nikon F3

It’s a bold statement, I know: if I could own only one camera, it would be the Nikon F3.


My camera collecting has been, in part, a journey toward finding the cameras that work best for me. I think I’ve tried enough cameras now to make this judgment. 

I’d miss my other SLRs, especially my Pentaxes ME and KM. Once in a while I’d pine for my autofocus, autoexposure Nikon N90s. There would be times I wished I could slip my Olympus XA into my pocket, or enjoy a Kodak Retina.

But if I owned only my Nikon F3, I’d make wonderful images for the rest of my life, and be perfectly happy doing it.

The rugged Nikon F3 can withstand any conditions I might subject it to, including my own considerable klutziness. After I send it out for a CLA, it should work beautifully for me for the rest of my life. I own a good range of capable Nikkor lenses. I’m ready for pretty much anything I might want to shoot.

The F3 offers aperture-priority exposure, my favorite way to shoot. It also offers full manual exposure.

The F3 is heavy. One could argue that I might enjoy one of Nikon’s lighter semi-pro bodies more. I own one, an FA, and it’s a good camera — and less fatiguing at the end of a long day slung over the shoulder.

But it took me no time to adapt to the F3’s ways, and now whenever I shoot it I feel one with it. That kind of bonding has happened for me with only a few cameras, my FA not included.

This was going to be my Operation Thin the Herd writeup on the F3. But it is silly to keep you in suspense through a long post when I’ve always known there was no way I would get rid of this camera. So here now, the photos that would have graced that Operation Thin the Herd post. The lens is the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, and the film is Kodak T-Max P3200.

Chicago River at night

These are from our December trip to Chicago. I really enjoyed being able to capture the city at night on that fast, fast film.

Chicago River at night

I just can’t get over how good these night photos are. That P3200 really performs.

State Street at night

Heavy cloud cover made for poor light during the day. The P3200 let me shoot at comfortable apertures for plenty of depth of field.

Hotel Allegro

The F3 hung off my shoulder nonstop for three days. By the third day I was beginning to wish for relief. That’s my only beef with the camera.

State and Lake

I love Chicago as a photographic destination. I haven’t even begun to exhaust the obvious subjects yet.


The F3 is quiet for an SLR perfect for shooting inside a museum like the Chicago Art Institute.

Inside the Art Institute

I managed one photo inside the Merchandise Mart before security sternly warned us that photography was prohibited.

Elevators in the Merchandise Mart

I made a portrait of Margaret at our Sunday lunch, at a restaurant called The Dearborn. We shared a bottle of delicious Spanish wine.


All was not perfect with the F3 on this outing. I didn’t know it until the images came back from the processor, but the shutter was acting up a little. On my first roll it affected about a dozen shots, but did not occur at all on the second roll. It’s possible that the shutter was just a little crabby from disuse. I had been using my F3 regularly until about a year ago, when Operation Thin the Herd began. It’s kept me busy with my other cameras!

I’m going to shoot a few more rolls through my F3 to see if the problem recurs. This is a good reason to use up some ten-year-expired Kodak Max 400 I have in the fridge. If I see more of this, I’ll move the camera up in the CLA queue and include a repair to the shutter.

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