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Monday, December 1

Nikon F100 gives me the finger!

Security fence shadow

Here I was hoping to have some graphic-looking shots to share with you when the camera gremlins struck. The Nikon F100 that I picked up in a local auction a few weeks back - and which worked perfectly with the first roll I ran through it - gave me the finger on the second roll.

It was the first roll of TMax 400 that I've used in a long time, something forced upon me by the gloominess of the weather up here in Scotland at this time of year. With the 50 ISO film I'd been using, there were very few shots that were hand-holdable without risking some camera shake. So I went for something faster.

I had thought about doing the whole "Ralph Gibson thang"and getting some Tri-X (Silverprint must have been reading my thoughts because they got my order wrong and sent me Tri-X instead of TMax 400! They very quickly remedied it after I pointed it out so full marks to them) but I don't like too much grain and the TMax was a little cheaper as well which never does anyone any harm. Armed with the latter, I ventured forth with the F100 and a few primes to see if I could spot some nice. contrasty scenes.

Factory roof

The Gibson-style of photography is quite a challenge. Everyone knows what a bonny landscape looks like and, providing the light is fine, your granny could probably make a decent fist of that type of scene with a disposal camera. But those quirky, compositional things? They're both harder to spot and to pull off successfully. They certainly keep me on my toes and I find myself really looking at what's in front of me instead of giving it a casual scan.

The first sign that something was wrong must have come around the sixth frame I'd exposed when I glanced at the frame counter and saw that it had only registered two exposures. Hmmm. I shot off another two and the counter moved up to three. I knew I'd loaded the film properly so was the frame counter just broken or was the film not winding on properly? The problem with the more modern SLRs is that many of them lack the film rewind knob which provides confirmation that the film is winding on.

Anyway, ignoring the whole situation, I went about the business of exposing some more film on Arbroath's esplanade. After about another six or eight shots, the counter had only got up to six. Bugger.  When I got home I went into the darkroom and opened up the back of the camera. Sure enough, the film had been loaded correctly and I could feel in the dark that some of it had indeed been winding on. What to do? I got a pair of scissors, cut off the exposed piece of film, unwound it from the take-up spool and popped it into a developing tank.

The F100 has the usual single shot, continuous, self timer and multiple exposure modes around the dial on the left of the top plate. Sometimes, possibly through lack of use, the contacts that are triggered when you jump between these settings can become a bit dirty and inoperative. Sure enough, the only setting which appeared to be be working was single shot. So I twirled the dial back and forth for a few minutes to see if a little friction would clear up the contacts. When I tried firing the camera again, it seemed to be working fine so I loaded the unexposed part of the TMax roll and went out again for another go.

Thankfully, my twiddling seemed to have done the trick and the remaining frames were fired off without any apparent problems. But the proof of the pudding would be in the scoffing so I got out my bottle of Firstcall film developer that the company sent me to test and developed the roll.

It turned out that all of the shots from the first half of the film were double exposures spread over six frames. This was galling to say the least. One of those photographs involved a lengthy wait for a seagull to fly into just the right position and I was chuffed when an obliging creature eventually conformed to my little compositional plan. Seagulls get a bad press: I love them. Sad to say, there's no sign of my new pal on a negative that must have at least four double exposures on it. Here it is:

The tall, dark shapes are two stone piers and I'd waited until the seagull flew right between them at the right height. All to no avail. The others on the six double-exposed frames were much the same. Occasionally, an unintentional double exposure can produce an interesting pic but not this time. Here are a few of the others:

The second half of the roll was OK, confirming that the camera is working fine again - at least for the time being. My two favourites are at the top of this post, both taken with the 85mm f1.8 AF-D Nikkor lens. It's a fine piece of glass and very sharp from f2.8 onwards.

I'll write about the Firstcall dev in future once I've had a chance to use it a bit more. It must be about the cheapest on the market but early impressions suggest it's very good. It seems to be a compensating developer judging from the way it controlled the highlights on the multiple exposure frames. They've been held well in check despite the accumulated exposure and, after scanning, the highlights were all easily recoverable.

I've since shot another roll of TMax 400 in the F100 and that one appeared to be handled perfectly by the camera so fingers crossed. I'll get it developed in a day or two and might, hopefully, have some of those quirky, graphic shots to show you.


David M said...

I really like the double exposures. A whole new continent to explore and conquer.
And I've been doing my compulsive scrolling/cropping trick again, alas.
I liked the factory roof shot too, but something in it niggled me. I thought it was the way the shadow folded itself down, somehow "resolving" the shape and losing some mystery. Even I think this account doesn't make sense.
So I scrolled across to lose the downturn. Better, tighter. Then I scrolled a smudge more to lose all of the right hand chimneys and for me it came alive. Suddenly it was all about pairs: a pair of fat central chimneys, a smaller pair with caps, one leaning over, a pair of lamp posts, both black, but one a shadow and one real, one reversed so that they might be in conversation. Very nearly a pair of boxes on the left. Even a pair of black shadows horizontally across the frame. And some interesting spidery lines, too to echo the vertical lines of the corrugated material.
Then I realised that I'd cropped to a square. Was this my inner SL66 coming out? I don't even have an SL66.
I do hope this isn't intrusive.

Bruce Robbins said...

Interesting David. I can't do that crop on my phone but I'll certainly check it out later.

MartyNL said...

Nice photo's Bruce. As much as I like the factory shot it's the security fence that intrigues me the most. It's less obvious and relies on a completely different skill-set both from a "seeing" and "reading" perspective.
It seems to me, that much about photography is about revealing but the security fence shows that obscuring is perhaps an altogether more powerful means of expression. Hope to see more...

Herman Sheephouse said...

I like the double exposures too Bruce, and the developer seems to have done a fantastic job!
If you need a 'real' Nikon, give me a shout ';0)

Nick Jardine said...

Hi Bruce,

Like the others, I really like the double exposures, especially the ones that look deliberate, ie where it looks like you've just tilted the camera slightly on a tripod to achieve a slightly different frame.

Love the roof image, great tones and shapes and as David pointed out, plenty of option to crop if you want to play around.

I can see what David means about the mystery of cropping the shot but I also feel the draw to what you've achieved by keeping the full frame to show the dark shadow area. I find those sharp, crisp, defined areas of contrasting continuous tones really satisfying.

It's the one plus of Scotland at this time of year, when the sun does come out it's low and dramatic which I think aids this type of shooting