My father taught me to bulk roll film, develop and print back in the ’80s. Today I shoot mostly using digital cameras but I’ve recently acquired a Nikon F3, a Pentax Spotmatic and a Minolta Autocord 75mm f/3.5 TLR. In the spirit of “use it or lose it”, I have lost all of my old school darkroom skills and need to go back to the woodshed. In the meantime, I’m using a local lab for my B&W processing which I then scan and process in Lightroom.
Of the three, the Nikon F3 is the camera that takes me back to my roots. My first camera was a Nikon, or to be technical a Nikkormat FT. I also still have some of dad’s original AI lenses, a 35 and a 50 f/1.8. So when I got a chance at getting a gently used F3 I jumped at the chance. It was a GAS from when I first saw the glossy adds in the photo mags in the ’80s. Getting the camera did not disappoint. Even the simple sound is the shutter firing off took me back thirty years.
When I was shooting film in high school, ILFORD was always my go-to stock (Dad was a big influence, plus he bought the film). In retrospect, I think we always had Delta 400 Professional. He shot a lot of side work for the small local newspaper, including a lot of high school sports, and Delta had the versatility to carry him through. For the F3’s inaugural roll I ended up with HP5 PLUS. I’m glad I did. I recall the Delta being much lower in overall contrast. HP5 PLUS delivered on the more contrasty look I work towards with my digital photography. Not that either is right or wrong, just my personal preference.
I tried to really put the camera and the film through their paces, shooting from harsh noon-time conditions to poorly-lit bars. The entire roll was shot on the 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens at box speed and scanned on my Epson Pefection V600 scanner.
I’m primarily a street shooter for my personal work. My style is one of quiet observation, waiting for the scene to come to me. I find that using a film camera becomes more of a disarming device when people do approach me. They usually come with questions about what’s it like to shoot with film and do I have any recommendations. I always say that getting a roll back from the lab is like having Christmas. You don’t know what you’ve got until you open the package, and that’s simply wonderful.
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