All My Children (i.e. Cameras)
My daughter, Anna, accuses me of treating my cameras like my children. I suspect there’s more than a kernel of truth in that. It's a good thing they're not though, as we'd be in the poorhouse given the number of them.
The gallery below includes all the film cameras that I regularly shoot. As camera collections go, mine is on the small side. True collectors often have dozens of cameras. I am at the point with my collection where if I add a camera I feel the need to move another one out. I’m not looking to increase the number of cameras.
Originally I started accumulating 35mm film SLRs to use for a film workshop I was leading with the youth of our church. Well, let’s just say that was the spark that lit the fire. I honestly don't consider myself a collector, in the sense that I shoot every one of these cameras on a regular basis. I don't keep them for show and don't have them in a fancy display case. I don't get all excited about what serial number the camera is or whether it came with the original box. I just want them to work. They sit on a shelf in my office, and when I'm set to load a new roll of film I take a look at the negative sleeves to see which camera hasn't seen much love lately.
I thought it would be fun to quickly run down how these cameras came to me and what I think of them. By the way, the cameras are shown below by the vintage of the camera within make, with the oldest being mid-1930s vintage and the newest being 2002. Most are from the 70s and 80s.
Kodak Duo Six-20 Art Deco: This was the camera I first learned photography on back in 1969. The one I used then was given to me by my Dad. I picked this copy up last year, looking to get back to my film roots. The Art Deco version came out in the mid-1930s. As the name would suggest, this camera has beautiful art deco styling. It was made at Kodak's plant in Stuttgart, Germany. It is manual everything. There is no meter or focusing aid. You guess the distance to your subject and then let depth of field handle the rest. I use a small, handheld external meter. The Six-20 in the name refers to an obsolete format of Kodak film that this camera used. Fortunately, there are options to shoot readily available 120 medium-format film in this camera. I still have the original camera I used in 1969, but, sadly, it's not in working condition.
Rolleiflex 2.8c: The Rolleiflex is an iconic film camera…perhaps the iconic film camera. Last year, I was looking to get a medium format camera that didn’t break the bank or my shoulder when carrying it. A twin lens reflex (TLR) like the Rolleiflex seemed to fit the bill. National Camera had one available in decent condition at a fair price, so I bought it. TLRs have a nice compact size and typically come with a fixed lens, so there is no need to invest in an entirely new set of lenses. The Rolleiflex 2.8c is all manual and has no meter. It does provide the ability to focus the lens though. The 2.8c model of the Rolleiflex TLR came out in the mid-1950s. I'm getting more accustomed to shooting with a TLR. The photos this camera produces have a distinct quality to them I quite like.
Nikon F Photomic FTn: This camera was gifted to me by my Dad. The Nikon F was a landmark 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) camera system that launched in 1959. Prior to that, rangefinders ruled the market for 35mm cameras. The Nikon F changed all that. The Nikon F is all manual, in that it works without a battery (except the meter). This is a fun camera to shoot...so simple and elegant. My copy of the Nikon F was made in 1972, toward the end of the Nikon F's long production run.
Nikkormat FT2: This Nikkormat was also gifted to me by my Dad. Now do you see where I get my Nikon fanboy genes from? Yet another fully manual camera, the Nikkormat FT2 was actually my first Nikon. I used this all throughout the 90s. It still works well. It's built like a tank. The FT2 was made in the mid-70s.
Nikon F3 HP: The sexiest camera ever made...that's my claim and you'll never convince me otherwise! My purchase of this camera in 2017 marked the beginning of my return to film. The Nikon F3 was the camera that cemented my return to film. The F3 is one of my absolute favorite cameras. It is incredibly well built and is a delight to shoot. This is definitely geeking out, but the film advance lever on the F3 is a mechanical marvel, and the shutter sound from this camera is pure camera porn. The F3 is an automatic camera, offering aperture preferred metering, which is one of the key reasons I purchased it. I wanted some level of automation when I first returned to film. My copy of the F3 was made in 1981.
Nikon FE2: I picked this camera up in 2019 once I was fully committed to film. The FE2 is another automatic camera, but has much lighter weight than the previously listed Nikons. I've got to say that the FE2 has the best viewfinder of any of my film cameras. All the information you need is right there in the viewfinder, and it is nice and big and bright. This camera ranks up there with the F3 as a favorite. My FE2 was made somewhere in the 1983 - 1987 time period.
Nikon FM2n: This is the latest addition to my camera collection, serving to replace a recently sold Nikon F2. The FM2n is another manual camera that will function perfectly well without a battery. It does have a meter though, with a readout in the viewfinder that is simply wonderful...so easy to use. I'm really enjoying shooting the FM2n. I had held out for a long time on buying this camera, since it is priced a bit higher on the used market, but once I sold my F2, another manual camera, I wanted to replace it with a manual Nikon camera that I'd enjoy shooting. In terms of how it feels in the hands, it's much like the FE2. Both are light and compact, and are easy to carry on long hikes. Surprisingly for its styling and features, my copy of the FM2n was made in around 2001.
Nikon N80: This was the first Nikon camera I actually bought new with my own money back in 2002. This was at the tail end of the film era and the beginning of digital overtaking film. This is the only film camera I own that has auto focus. One nice thing about it is that I can use all my Nikon DSLR lenses on it.
Olympus OM-1n: The Olympus OM-1 was another breakthrough 35mm SLR, representing a dramatic downsizing of the traditional bulky 35mm SLR. The OM-1n is an upgrade to the OM-1 that came out in 1979. Like the OM-1, it is a fully manual camera that is beautifully built. It is a delight to shoot, so simple and intuitive. All the OM cameras have amazing viewfinders...among the biggest and brightest out there. I picked up my first OM-1n with the objective of adding a fully manual Olympus OM camera to my collection. I purchased my second OM-1n because I just couldn't stand to see it sitting there listed at a bargain price of seventy bucks at National Camera. I tried to interest others in buying it in the online film community at Twitter, and when that didn't work, I just couldn't let this deal pass me by. I sold a Nikon F2 to make room for this camera in my collection.
Olympus OM-2n: When I was looking to buy my first 35mm SLR back in the 1970s, what I really wanted was the Olympus OM-2, but I couldn't afford one with the money I'd saved working at the lumberyard. The OM-2n was an upgrade to the OM-2 that came out in 1979. This particular camera is my first Olympus. I picked it up in 2020 at KEH. Built just like the OM-1n, it is an automatic camera that offers aperture-preferred metering. Like the OM-1n, this camera is wonderful to shoot. It ranks up there with my F3 and FE2 as one of my favorite cameras.
Olympus OM-4T: The OM-4T represents the pinnacle of Olympus' achievements in 35mm SLRs. That is what served as my impetus to get an OM-4T, to have the best that Olympus had to offer in the OM line. The problem was that the OM-4T carries a hefty premium on the used market. I was able to find an OM-4T in "shooter condition" at KEH at a reasonable price. I sold an Olympus OM-2S to make room for this camera. The OM-4T has a sophisticated spot metering capability that I'm just beginning to get my arms wrapped around. The OM-4 and OM-4T had a long production run, ranging from 1987 to 2002. I don't know when mine was made during that time period.
Interestingly enough, I'm poised to lead another film photography workshop with the high schoolers at our church during Arts Month in March. I'm hoping it all goes ahead. The youth will be using my 35mm SLRs for this workshop and we'll be shooting HP5+ black & white film from Ilford. It should be fun. I'll write about it here.
A Circumscribed Life
During COVID, getting out for long walks with a film camera in hand has been my way of refreshing my body and mind. Most times I walk the trails in our neighborhood. Sometimes I walk in the woods. Other times I walk in Minneapolis. And on the coldest of days, I walk the mall. Wherever I'm walking, I have my camera in hand. The images I make on my walks reflect a circumscribed life...the constrained lives we've all experienced during COVID.
Film photography is my photographic journal. As this body of work has grown and evolved, I get a sense that these are lonely images. There is only one person in all these photographs...a solitary photographer out walking. When I make a photograph, more than anything I'm hoping it evokes an emotion...any emotion. It's not that I'm seeking the emotion I was feeling at the time I made the photograph. Those are mine. I'm hoping they evoke an emotional response in the viewer.
I've told you what emotion I sense in these photographs. I'd love to read what emotions you sense when viewing these photographs in the comments below.
Top Ten Photos from France 2021
Now that we've been back a few weeks from Paris, I thought it'd be a good idea to go through all my photos and pick my top ten. First let's run the numbers. I have 1,735 photos in my Paris 2021 Lightroom album. That may sound like a lot, but when you figure that we were there for two months, that only works out to about 30 photos a day. Of those photos, 451 rated two stars or above, which means I'll put them the Apple Photos photo stream that I share with family. Only 152 photos made it into my selects album that we use for our screensaver on our Apple TV. Getting down to that number was hard enough. Getting down to ten? That was almost impossible, but I got there.
I needed some criteria to help out. The first is that I selected only photos that I might sell as a print if someone were to ask. That leaves out photos of family and friends. The next criteria is that I freed myself from worrying about needing to include photos from trip highlights. Certainly I photographed those things, but the photos might not be what I considered my best. After that, I applied a super critical eye to every remaining photo. It had to be evocative of a feeling, place, or time. Finally, I looked at the photos to hone in on those with the strongest compositions.
I haven't bothered to rank order these ten photos, although I will say that the lead photo (Vertigo) is my favorite from the trip at this point. I will show each of the remaining nine photos below.
A Bientôt Paris
The past few days, Priscilla and I have been going through an extended series of goodbyes (a bientôt). On Saturday we met up with our friends Ellen and Jean-Pierre to walk the Coulée Verte one last time and then have lunch at a neighborhood bistro, Le Square Trousseau. On Sunday, we took in the service at the American Church in Paris, meeting up with Ellen and Jean-Pierre one last time. Priscilla went back to the ACP later on Sunday to attend a concert with Ellen…“A Night at the Opera”, At the same time I was doing one last photo walk. On Monday, Priscilla and I revisited some of the areas I had walked to the day before.
Late this afternoon Priscilla and I walked to the Seine to say goodbye to Paris with a glass of wine. It is a cool, cloudy day here, so there were no crowds. We had the place to ourselves. Well, all except for a rat that decided he wanted to get by where we were seated.
For lunch, we stopped in at Mokonuts and said our goodbyes to Moko and Omar. We had a “marvelous” time. Marvelous is Moko’s new favorite word.
Tonight we are doing final packing. Tomorrow we will head off in the wee dark hours on Uber to get to the airport with plenty of time. It will feel strange to close the door of this apartment one last time, but this time leaving the keys behind.
We have had a wonderful time in Paris. I hope you’ve enjoyed traveling along with us.
We are nearing the end of our Paris adventure. I find myself with a bit of melancholy, thinking back on all the wonderful experiences we have had and all the beautiful people we have met. I want to soak up as much of the Paris atmosphere as I can, knowing that we will soon be gone from this city we love so much.
None of this is to say that we aren't happy to be heading home to Minnesota. Priscilla and I are dyed in the wool Minnesotans, of that let there be no doubt. But Paris is a magical place for us. Not our home, mind you, but magical nonetheless.
Tonight I went on a photowalk to a neighborhood in the 11th arrondissement that is on the other side of one of the major streets in our neighborhood, Rue Fauborg Saint-Antoine. To date, I hadn't walked much in this area. It seems that in Paris, around every corner and down every quiet street there is a scene wanting to be captured. I walked slowly tonight, taking it all in, again, knowing that this was one of my last photowalks on this trip.
This feeling of sadness that I have in leaving Paris tells me that we have had a wonderful two months in the City of Light. We have lived as Parisians. We have come to love our neighborhood in the 12th. Tonight I stopped at Le Square Trousseau just to watch and listen to all the children out playing in the park on a Sunday evening. I was mesmerized. I leave you with a short video clip from the park. (Sorry for the bad audio. I'm having a problem with the microphone on my iPhone.)
Odds and Ends
I've saved up a few experiences that on their own don't warrant an entire post, but strung together just might make a cohesive post. You will have to be the judge of that. First up is my visit to the Buttes Chaumont Park of a week ago.
Buttes Chaumont Park
Buttes Chaumont Park is located in the 19th arrondissement, which is north of us here in the 12th. Since Priscilla was helping Claudia out in her food stall, I decided to take the Metro up to Buttes Chaumont and get some hiking and photography in. Buttes Chaumont is an extremely hilly park, so I definitely got my stair steps in that day. My iPhone says I climbed 34 flights that day while walking nearly 7 miles. The vertical nature of this park yields some fascinating views to photograph. It was a cool, crisp fall day, so I had no trouble walking most of the trails in the park.
Afterward I came upon the neighborhood pétanque courts in full use. This is the French version of bocce ball. They take their pétanque seriously here. The woman shown pitching the ball in this photo had a unique pitching form, and based on the intensity of the conversations when judging whose ball was the closest, she plays for keeps.
The French love a good protest. Lately, a certain faction have been protesting the vaccine mandate. The way it works in France, you need a Pass Sanitaire to get into restaurants, theaters, museums, and public transport (although they rarely check at the train stations). To get a Pass Sanitaire you need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. You can get a temporary one if you present a negative COVID test, but that only lasts for three days. The good news is that France has a high vaccination percentage, with 68% fully vaccinated, and 76% having at least one dose. France also still has a mask mandate in place. It is quite rare to see someone unmasked in an indoor setting, unless they are eating or drinking. Consequently, the case count has come way down in France.
There are folks, though, who don't like the perceived loss of their liberty. Sound familiar? So they protest. Fortunately, the protests we have witnessed have been peaceful. On the day I made this photograph, I was going out for a late afternoon walk before dinner when I came across this protest. There was a significant police presence escorting the protesters, with lots of sirens blaring and chants coming from bullhorns. Soon the protest passed and I went on with my walk.
One of the things I've taken to doing on this trip is to make scouting runs to locations we might be interested in going to but aren't sure whether they warrant the effort. When we get back to Minnesota, Priscilla is due for knee replacement surgery, so we are trying to ensure that when we go out on expeditions, it's worth it. This past week I made two such runs, one to the Bercy neighborhood in Paris and the other to the village of Crécy la Chapelle, which is about 1-1/2 hours away from Paris by regional train.
Crécy La Chapelle is known to have a nice market that runs on Thursday and Sunday mornings. While it is a quaint and picturesque village, the sidewalks weren't terribly pedestrian friendly, so unless the market was a sure thing, I came away thinking we could pass this one by. We tried hard to locate information online about whether the market was currently operating. With COVID, many of the markets have cut back their hours. One website said the Crécy market was running, another said no, and the town's official website didn't have anything about the market, so we opted not to go.
The other scouting mission this past week was to the Bercy neighborhood, which isn't too far from us but isn't terribly easy to get to because of train lines. I read one blog that listed Bercy as one of the highlights worth seeing in the 12th. After making my scouting run there, I have to disagree. To me it was a big meh. Yes, there's an upscale shopping district, but that doesn't excite us. Paris has plenty of upscale shopping districts. So we are not going to make a return visit to Bercy.
I think one of the things that spoils us in Paris is just how many fascinating sights there are all around you. It seems that around every corner there's something of interest. The quaint alleyway in the photo on the left below is practically right next door to the Monoprix store in our neighborhood. The beautiful doorway in the middle photo is the home of local artisans who run some wonderful shops in Paris, called Petit Pan. As it turns out, I traipsed down this same alleyway in 2019 and made one of my favorite photos from that trip (far right below).
And then on my walks on the Coulée Verte, I might pop up or down one of the stairways to see what's street side in that neighborhood. The other day I came across this cool Bel-Air sign on one of those up periscope moments.
So for someone who proudly calls himself a walking fool, Paris is a fabulous city to call home for two months. Of course, I almost always have a camera in hand when I go on these walks. The funny thing is, I don't walk to photograph. If anything, the reverse is true, I photograph to walk. Walking is my favorite way to experience a city or an area. I just start walking.
This is one of my photowalk blog posts, short on text and long on photos. Since it was a beautiful, overcast fall day here and we had nothing else planned, I decided to take a walk to the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery while Priscilla relaxed back at the flat. It's just over a one mile walk from our flat, taking you through the 12th & 11th arrondissements and into the 20th, where the cemetery is located.
The fall colors at Père Lachaise were gorgeous. We'd experienced a morning rain shower, so the colors were super saturated. As I walked through the cemetery, it dawned on me that the feeling I had walking around Père Lachaise was much the same as when I walk through the Big Woods of Minnesota. When I'm in the woods I'm keenly aware of the cycle of life, just as I was when walking Père Lachaise. I don't mean this in any kind of a morbid sense. Really it's more of a peaceful feeling.
The parallels between Père Lachaise and the Big Woods carried forward into my photography. In the woods you have to pay close attention to how your image is playing out in the third dimension. The same holds true for photographing at Père Lachaise. The image unfolds as you move from foreground to background.
Père Lachaise is the eternal home to some notable people, including Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf. I managed to find both of their graves. The crowds were light today, so I didn't have to jockey for position to make these photos. There was a small group at Jim Morrison's grave and only a couple folks at Edith Piaf's.
I enjoyed everything about my photowalk today. Priscilla and I plan to go back another day, taking advantage of the Metro to reduce the walking to and from, leaving us plenty of time and energy to walk the huge cemetery.
P.S. As a side benefit of my walk today to Père Lachaise, I happened upon a wonderful looking Kurdish restaurant that is situated on one of the tiny alleyways that Paris is known for. We plan to go check it out some night.
The Luxembourg Gardens At Golden Hour
Yesterday Priscilla and I decided to take in the Vivian Maier photography exhibit at the Musée de Luxembourg. We are both great admirers of her photography. The exhibit is quite extensive and the quality of the prints is exceptional.
Afterward, on a whim, we decided to take a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens. This was our first time there. We had no idea how amazing this place is.
We entered the park right at the beginning of the golden hour. The late day fall sunlight gave an otherworldly glow to everyone and everything it touched. It seemed that all of Paris was in the Luxembourg Gardens this day, perhaps playing chess, or engaging in a tennis match, or simply soaking up the sun.
As a photographer who loves photographing people, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I had great light and fantastic subjects who weren’t paying any attention to me. I’m guessing we’re about a week or two away from peak fall color here, so we will definitely be back to the Luxembourg Gardens. Today we are off on the train to Nantes to visit Anna for the weekend. More on that later.
Our Neighborhood: Marché d'Aligre
Right around the corner from our flat is the Aligre Market, an open air street market that runs for about three city blocks on rue d'Aligre. The market is open every day but Monday. Near as I can tell this is strictly a produce market. Meat, seafood, and poultry stalls can be found in the adjacent covered market, Marché Beauvau. This is where our friend, Claudia, has her stall, Babbaluscio, where she serves up marvelous vegetarian fare. There is also a large flea market on the plaza just to the east of Marché Beauvau.
The covered market, built in 1779, is one of the oldest in Paris and one of the few still in operation. The street market has its roots in the early 20th century when the nearby Gare de Lyon train station opened. I've read that many people from North Africa living in Marseilles took the train up to Paris at that time, getting off at the new Gare de Lyon station and settling in the area. They opened up street food stalls to make a living. The stalls and permits are passed down through the generations, with many of the stalls now owned and operated by third and fourth generations. This explains the sounds of Arabic being spoken throughout the market.
The Aligre Market is a locals market with zero sense of tourism. The produce is incredibly fresh. On my first visit there I picked up a couple melons, a mango, and some strawberries. They were all out of this world! We've been enjoying fresh fruit with every breakfast and lunch, and sometimes with our afternoon wine and cheese. Today we picked up bananas and apples. Payment is in cash at the street market. They weigh things out on a scale, which shows the amount in Euros. Since I can never understand the amount they are quoting me, I've learned to look at the amount on the scale. In Marché Beauvau, the covered market, you can pay with plastic or contactless payment, as we do with our Apple Watches. It's interesting that it seems more places over here accept Apple Pay than in the States, by my observation. But, if you're buying at the Marché d'Aligre, you'd better bring cash money.
Having a market right around the corner is a marvelous thing. There's no need to drive anywhere for your basic needs. When you factor in the Monoprix a few blocks away (think a shrunken Target), everything you need is available within a short walk. Of course, the market is also a street photographer's paradise. I can walk through the market making photographs of things of interest and nobody pays any attention to me.
As most of you know, photography is my thing. I've been into photography since fifth grade, so that adds up to over 50 years of making photographs. I agonize over what camera gear to bring more than any other packing decision I have to make.
In 2019, the last time we went to Paris, I brought just over nine pounds of photo gear...one DSLR and two film cameras along with four lenses. While I certainly didn't carry all that gear with me on the streets of Paris, I did have to schlep it there and back on the airplane. I'm cutting that weight in about half this time, only bringing my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera and three lenses. That's right, no film cameras this time.
Since early 2019, I've been shooting film almost entirely for my personal work. I've been developing my own film at home, and as of this year, I've also been printing in my own darkroom. It's a fair question to ask why I'm not bringing film cameras to Paris this time. Well, here is my answer to that question. A large part of the enjoyment I get from shooting film is doing my own processing, scanning, and printing. I can't realistically do any of that when we're in Paris. Plus, with more cameras and formats comes more decisions. Which camera do I bring today? What film should I shoot today, black and white or color? Do I shoot digital or film today? While I enjoyed shooting film in Paris in 2019, it did come with a certain amount of handwringing. I plan to avoid that angst this time.
Case in point. When I happened upon the scene of the Notre Dame fire in 2019, the only dedicated camera I had with me was an Olympus film camera loaded with black and white film and fitted with a moderately wide angle 35mm lens. The only digital camera I had on me was my iPhone X. The images I captured that day that ended up in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper were captured on my iPhone X. I didn't get my film back from processing for a number of days. I do wish I had taken my Nikon digital camera with me that day when I set out for a short walk down to the Seine before dinner. As it was, I ran out of film and my iPhone battery ran quite low, forcing me to ration my shots.
It's true that many of my favorite photographs from our 2019 trip to Paris were made on film. While I know that part of that is the unique way that film renders an image, I also know that in large measure it was due to the fact that when I was simply walking around with no special destination in mind, I took a film camera with me. Those images of everyday life in Paris are the ones that are most evocative for me. I'm hoping that those everyday scenes captured on my digital Nikon Z6 will be every bit as evocative. As readers of this blog, you will get to judge for yourselves.