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The F Word

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

It has been more than three decades since I threaded my first roll of black & white film through the take-up spool of a well-worn vintage NIKON F - thus began my romance with the robutness and functionality of the Nikon ecosystem.



The F (manufactured in Japan from 1959-1973) was the near perfect marriage of function and mechanically-brutal-aesthetics; the sum of all moving parts made sense and components were built Chuck-Norris-tough. The old camera was my first, and most reliable of business partners - although not the same copy, the Nikon F photographed above remains in my possesion.


In analogue times, the making of photographs was arguably more artful. Great faith was invested in your camera as a tool of the trade. Without the insurance of a digital preview or decent into a rabbit hole of menus, the application to the task and thought process when making a photograph with film was (again, arguably) far more engaged - there was little to no room for error. The professional photographer's greatest asset, beyond an embeded aesthetic, was confidence in their own ability. The ability to control light and the relationship between shutter, aperture and film. From one assignment to the next, your professional repuation was on the line. Fuck it up and the client was lost.


With my dinosaur status - this November, I will have roamed the planet for half a century - comes an appreciation of having learned a craft during less complicated times with less complicated but beautifully engineered tools. While I have evolved (my wife would say somewhat reluctantly) to embrace the immediacy of the digital age, I remain loyal to the workhorse-like acumen of the Nikon brand that has never failed me. Futhermore, I continue to apply F-learned film practises when working digitally.


I will always be of the belief that photographs should be made in camera, not salvaged from questionable digital files via photoshop wizardry.


My best advice to those learning photography is to slow down, work manually and master the basics. To grow as a photographer it is imperitive to understand the workings of the tool and how to best achieve the results you desire.


Currently in my camera case are:


  • Two Nikon D850 bodies

  • Nikon 16-35mm f/4

  • Nikon 24mm pc-e f/3.5

  • Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8

  • NIkon 50mm f/1.4

  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8

  • Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8

  • Nikon 200-400mm f/4

  • Nikon 200mm f/4 macro

  • Nikon 1.4x telecoverter


When not working professionally, I most often carry a Fujifilm X - E3 and 35mm f/2. Fujifilm make beautiful APS-C cameras - compact bodies with a lovely aesthetic that deliver excellent image quality and film simulations that pay homage to Fuji's great films of the past.


Heath

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