I’ve extensively revised my review of the Nikon F2AS, one of the finest, if not the finest, mechanical 35mm SLR ever made. This is a go-to camera for me; I’ve put a lot of film through it. It’s a truly great camera. See my review here.
The old barn in the city
Nikon F2AS, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Foma Fomapan 100
Every time I’ve used it, Fomapan 100 has been good enough as a general-purpose black-and-white film. On bright days I underexpose it a little to avoid blown highlights. But in even light, it really delivers.
I remember the farms of Pike Township in Indianapolis. Some of them, anyway; by the time I moved there in 1994 many farms had already given way to suburban subdivisions.
I used to go to church with a fellow who grew up near this old barn, and he spoke of being able to stand by this barn and see nothing but farmland for miles.
You’ll still find farmland here and there in Pike Township, if you know where to look. But from anywhere you might stand there, you’re far more likely to see rows of vinyl-sided homes or low light-industrial buildings today.
If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.
I don’t know why I thought an ISO 100 film made sense during the gray days of an Indiana winter. I need to tattoo it on my film-loading hand: fast film in poor light, you kook!
But I liked the results I got on original-emulsion Agfa APX 100 (expired 7/1998) so much the last time that when I came upon another roll in my film fridge I let impulse rule.
It had been an age since I shot my Nikon F2AS. A 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens was already attached so I just went with it. It was good to catch up with my old friend, even if I was relegated to slow shutter speeds and wide apertures and the resulting need to stand stock still or brace myself against fixed objects to avoid camera shake.
I shot these images just before Christmas, during the loose-ends phase of my recent unemployment. I took a lot of walks on the two-mile main-road loop of our neighborhood. It was something to do and it burned the extra calories I was taking in thanks to always being near my refrigerator.
Much of December was white around the edges, but a warm spell the week before Christmas erased all that.
The bare trees are the only clue to these photos’ time of year. But even they can’t narrow it down all the way.
I’m getting to the point in my photography where I almost don’t care what my subject is, as long as I can arrange an interesting composition or capture interesting light. That’s a good thing, because this vinyl village subdivision I live in is anything but interesting.
On one walk I got a little direct sun. APX 100 goes all silvery in direct sun — it’s this film’s endearing charm. The soil in this flowerbed reminds me of those old TV commercials for Folger’s Crystals, all sparkling and rich.
One more from before the snow melted. This road near our subdivision is an old alignment of a decommissioned state highway. It dead ends just behind me.
To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!
My first wife made brilliant portraits. Through wit and charm, and sometimes even a little flirting, she was very good at drawing spark and life out of her subjects as she worked the shutter. She made many portraits of our young sons with her Pentax K1000, several of which were framed around our home. Two black-and-white portraits of Garrett, aged about five, somehow found their way into my hands and are framed in my living room. His eyes are full of light and joy.
I shied away from photographing people for a long time. I didn’t think I could ever be as good as my ex, so I wouldn’t even try. What a logical fallacy. But I let it be for years.
I wanted annual portraits of the boys, so we’d go to the Target portrait studio. They did reasonable work for the money. But after several years the photographer moved on, and the new one wasn’t very good. I figured I could do at least that well. So I started trying.
I bested the new Target photographer right out of the gate.
I don’t own any lighting gear, so I photographed my sons outside. Broad daylight turns out to be challenging for good skin tones. I relied on my cameras’ meters; I see I should have underexposed by at least a half stop.
I used slower films for the finer grain, but found the in-focus patch could be mighty narrow even in blazing sunlight. I got lots of soft-focus photos, and even some that were clearly out of focus. I shoot handheld; perhaps portraiture calls for a tripod. Or faster film.
I even started dabbling with 135mm lenses, because portraits are supposed to be taken with long lenses, right?
I could really fill the frame without having to put my lens right in my son’s face, which they liked. But I think a 100mm, or maybe even an 85mm, lens would be more useful.
And soon I busted out some medium-format equipment, and even started experimenting with poses, trying to do something artistic.
I still haven’t mastered the art of posed portraits. I just don’t have that ability to be engaging and charming with my subject as my ex did. She had a gift. I’m too buttoned down, too unsure of myself yet. My sons frequently look like they’re trying too hard to smile. Damion usually doesn’t bother.
But now and then I do nail it, usually at a more candid moment. Garrett was just watching YouTube videos in my easy chair when I asked him to look up. He was relaxed and content, and it shows in his eyes.
Now that the boys are moving on into their own lives, they’ll be around less for portraits. Maybe now I need to put Margaret in my lens more!
© 2013-2017 Jim Grey. All rights reserved.
Your humble photographer
Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
When I took my son to Crown Hill Cemetery for some portraits, I asked him to shoot mine, too. He’s always been my official photographer. Pretty much every photo of me I have from the last dozen years, he took. I was trying to look serious here, but I think I managed only to look bored.
James Richard Bradford
Nikon F2, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
A break from the Irish photos for a minute for this quick snap I made in Crown Hill Cemetery in August.