I was recently inspired by one blogger, mastermind behind the travel blog Well Worn Soles, to do things the old way. He’s been traveling for a long time, he’s currently in Kenya I believe, with solely the photographic capabilities of an old Minolta. I know what it’s like to backpack for long periods of time in places with unstable infrastructure. I know that having a manual lens on a digital camera is hard enough in terms of opportunities missed. I know that while unpredictability can be a photographer’s best friend, it can also serve as a serious detriment if malfunctions are taken into account. Which is why I was nothing short of astounded when I heard what this kid was doing – traveling the world with obsolete equipment, traveling with obsolete equipment in east Africa. He optimistically takes on the hassles of finding film, developing it, making sure it’s not expired (not always successfully). He has to trust someone to create pictures out of his negatives, but who to trust? The only way to know is trial and error, a reliable method that unfortunately puts his precious photos at risk. He takes a picture and doesn’t know what it’ll turn out like until he has it on his computer; a digital camera doesn’t require patience, whereas this 30+ year old camera demands it from its user. What an anxiety-inducing endeavor! He has this to deal with and to worry about and yet, he comes up with absolutely brilliant pictures – a true talent.
So he inspired me to do things the old way, too. And I am so grateful for it. My mother recently gave me – she may think she’s lending it, but we’ll see – her old Nikon FM, manufactured in Japan from 1977 to 1982. Learning its intricacies is difficult, but I’m getting the hang of it. Film is expensive and developing costs burden a student’s budget. But after meeting a friend in New York yesterday, the camera – and my skill – were left to my own devices. I used up only one roll of film which consisted of a meager 36 shots. I missed on exposure and focus most of the time. Using a digital camera means I don’t have to pay attention to these technicalities so painstakingly. We returned from the city and we rushed to the nearest CVS to have them developed. The next morning, my mom surprised me with a CD, the digital home of these photos materialized. I popped it into the computer and anxiously awaited the results. Some of them were complete misses, but a handful of times I managed to come away with decent shots. For my first time using this Nikon FM, I’m very proud! I’m going to continue with this camera despite the costs and the worries. Nothing worth having comes easy.
The following pictures are the results of my first toils with this Nikon FM circa 1980. Let’s just say I’m in love.
Yes, technologies today provide opportunities that were unfathomable only decades earlier. But there is value in doing things the old way. Directly compared to the digital ‘Anon’ photo found below, these photos look different. They came out crisp and pleasantly grainy and the colors are captured very well. Using this Nikon FM makes each picture less expendable and more valuable and special, given the amount of time and effort and anxiety donated to each of the 36 potential photos on one roll of film. It’s a good feeling.