Check Please…

Check Please…

10 years ago when I first put up the F6 Project I was re-invigorated with passion for film photography, the camera, and this new journey I had embarked on: stepping off the digital camera merry-go-round onto solid, analogue ground once again: film, and the film way. Putting up the F6 Project felt like a good way to express and share that excitement by inviting others into it along the way.

I’m not sorry I did. The F6 Project has opened the door to connect with many other like-minded photographers around the world, many of which I’ve enjoyed regular correspondence with since. But after 10 years I’ve had enough and am ready to simplify life.

I haven’t written anything in months and honestly – am out of things to say. And for the record – I’m not stepping away from the F6 Project because I’ve stepped away from the F6. I still believe the F6 is simply the best 35mm film camera ever made. By anyone. Over the past 10 years however, I’ve added back at least one sample of all the single digit F-series cameras… kind of a bucket list thing… and truly enjoy shooting every one of them. I don’t think I could ever explain why – if the F6 is the greatest camera ever made – I still continue to reach for the other 5 F’s. The uncomplicated reason is, it pleases me to do so.

1969 Land Rover, Santa Fe, New Mexico

1967 Land Rover, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nikon F6 + Nikkor 35-70 push/pull zoom, Velvia 50.

But time marches on. Though I still get questions now and again regarding the F6 from the site, the majority of contact these days is from SEO’s who want to put it on page 1 of google. So I can experience even more pressure of having nothing new to talk about. I watch activity in facebook groups of people posting pictures of their cameras and, while I remember that phase of it all, find myself clicking off to other things rather quickly, completely uninterested. I believe (but can’t prove) many of these groups are underwritten by manufacturer’s attempting to promote and create lust for their brands, and ignite a buying frenzy. Then I realize that in effect – I’m one of those people, having devoted an entire web site to it, rationalizing it by having never taken a cent of revenue for it. And don’t even get me started on the bot-infested, purchased followers, algorithmic chaos of Instagram. The marketing juggernaut the internet and social media has become is just not my thing. I don’t want to try harder. I don’t want to compete for page impressions. I just want to be left alone to shoot photographs, on film, with my F’s.

I digress.

As Kodak releases its new film and the camera companies fight to stay alive with this new mirrorless initiative – it’s anybody’s guess what the next 5-10 years holds. It will come and go regardless of me and what I do. I truly hope camera manufacturers find a way to remain relevant. I’ll admit though that it’s an uphill slog, especially if they’re target marketing someone like me who’s perfectly content making photography with tools that were created anywhere from 15 to 50 years ago.

So there it is – the final post to the F6 Project. Thank you to everyone from around the world who has sent encouragement over the last 10 years. It’s impossible to describe the warmth and reward that personal contact brought each time. It has always been for and about you, and I’m grateful for that.

VSOP 67, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nikon F6 + Nikkor 35-70 push/pull zoom, Velvia 50.

VSOP 67, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nikon F6 + Nikkor 35-70 push/pull zoom, Velvia 50.

I pondered which photograph to end with, and decided on this image of an old, 1967 Land Rover as the perfect parting shot. VSOP is short for Very Superior Old Pale, a grade label for specially aged brandy. In many ways it (the vintage Land Rover and its demarcation as VSO – not the brandy) represents aspects of me I choose to preserve, embrace and advance. Turns out I have a thing for Very Superior Old things; things possessing something other than the transitory value of so many of today’s mass commodities. Nothing lasts forever – not even this old Land Rover. But with any luck the Very Superior Old F6 will last a good, long time and make photographs well into its senior years, following the example set by his older siblings.

See ya’ out there.

Servicing the Nikon F6

Servicing the Nikon F6


Since purchasing my F6 new in August of 2008 it has traveled all over the place with me, mainly in the United States, but also in Haiti’s extreme heat and humidity. Its been in the rain, dirt, mud, dust, desert, forest, mountains and just about every other place you can think of. The camera has been pulled out of and stuffed into a bag or crate countless times. I’ve run close to 400 rolls of film through it – not epic by heavy shooter standards, but not too skimpy either. So even though the shutter is rated to an astounding 150,000 actuations (I haven’t even used a 10th of its shutter’s life span), the rest of the camera has begun to show some wear and tear. There’s nothing glaringly wrong with the camera, except the sub (front) command dial missing more often then hitting when rotated – but after reading a few scary threads on other blogs about serviceability, availability of parts, etc. I decided to have it done while there was still the opportunity to do so. Even though these cameras are built to last, nothing lasts forever. With use everything eventually breaks, wears out or needs maintenance of some sort. Being a preventative maintenance guy I believe in taking good care of things. On top of these reasons, I’ve wanted to have the modification to accept pre-Ai (F-mount) lenses made on the F6 – before it became impossible to get parts. What follows below is an account of the process, beginning with the most recent update and growing older the more you read.

UPDATE 11/27/15:

Today – 22 days after the F6 left here for its journey to the mother ship in California for servicing – UPS rang the doorbell and handed him back to me. He was packed in the same, original gold box and all original packing material he left here in three weeks ago. Upon opening the box I was delighted to see him safely cradled between the two, form-fitting cardboard inserts he originally arrive here in back in 2008, wrapped in the same, plastic bag. I’m happy to report he’s back to his old self and looking rather smart; better than ever. Nikon Service did an excellent job of cleaning, adjusting, and servicing the camera. They:

    • Replaced the rubberized grip. Due to extreme fluctuations in temperatures the grip had worked its way loose over 7 years of use. This appeared in two places: the most noticeable was the bottom right-front above where the MS-41 battery caddy slides in. At first it was just a little, but it grew to a gap between the bottom black rim and grip producing an entry point for moisture and dirt. The second as on the back door where, when you grab the camera with your right hand, the thumb rests.
    • Replaced the rubber button collars surrounding BKT buttons on top-back-left and AE/AF-L and AF-ON buttons on top-back-right that had gradually worked their way loose and torn; both one clumsy grip away from tearing off completely.
    • Adjusted the sub-command dial: it was not consistently engaging when rotated. Being primarily Aperture-Priority and Manual exposure shooter I use the sub command dial more frequently than the main command dial.
    • Performed the non-Ai lens modification to the lens mount allowing use of pre-Ai/non-Ai/F-mount lenses. (this added $50 to the cost of servicing)
This is what the F6 looks like with the Pre-AI modification made to the Aperture ring mount.

This is what the F6 looks like with the Pre-AI modification made to the Aperture ring mount. Much like the Df, the small, metal tab folds down without the need for an additional pin as found on the F4 and F3.

The F6 with a Pre-AI 50mm 1.4 lens mounted.

The F6 with a Pre-AI 50mm 1.4 lens mounted.

      • Replaced the internal battery, which was working fine, but after 7 years decided to replace it while it was in for servicing. (this added about $75 to the cost of servicing)
      • As an added bonus they sent it back with two Energizer Lithium Photo batteries (it left here with no batteries).
      • They also replaced the internal battery without eradicating the 10 rolls of data stored in the camera I had forgotten to extract before sending it in. They were also able to maintain the present roll count of the camera, keeping my file naming structure intact – which I was very pleased about.
      • As if all the above weren’t enough – I was granted the NPS 20% discount, bringing the grand total to what I felt was a reasonable cost. The camera looks, sounds and feels like new – but it’s most certainly my same old friend, evidenced by the serial number, a few well-earned battle scars and the worn eye piece shutter lever on the viewfinder.

The executive summary: I’m extremely pleased with the job Nikon Service did on my F6. They made me validate the camera was purchased new, in the US (even though there is a “Nikon USA” sticker on the rear, flip-down door) before performing service. The parts hold was about 1 week, and upon completion the shipping was next day. Who could ask for anything more.To anyone considering sending your F6 in for repair – especially if you bought it new in the US, and can prove it – do not hesitate.

In hind site I’m glad to have not purchased a gray market camera years ago. At the time it would have saved a couple hundred dollars, but painted me into a corner when it came time for service. After this experience I’ll be sending him again – more frequently this time – knowing cost is reasonable and confidence is high in a quality service experience. Thank you Nikon Service.

UPDATE 11/24/15:

Thus far I am very impressed with Nikon Service. This morning I received a e-mail from the gentleman coordinating my repair with Nikon Service informing me that there was in fact a way to preserve the data on the camera, and the repair should be completed by today. Having forgotten to extract the last 10 rolls of data from the camera before sending it in for repair, this was great news. Coming unsolicited, by the way, after I’d told them to proceed yesterday. So high marks for being proactive and willing to accommodate requests on the fly.

UPDATE 11/23/15:

The camera has been on Parts Hold for a week. I just received word today it should be completed by tomorrow. As suspected, replacing the battery does reset the number of rolls the camera has recorded to zero. This is something to be aware of when purchasing a used F6 if you’re using the roll count to gauge the age of the camera. If the internal battery has been replaced, the counter begins again at zero. There is no way to prevent this.

UPDATE 11/17/15:

After a reminder from my friend Andy in the UK I used Nikon’s web-based system to request replacement of the internal battery while it’s there for service. The current battery functions – but I figure I may as well replace it while the camera is being worked on. This raised the estimate from $115 to $170. Well worth it. TIP: If you need to reset your film roll number go to: SET-UP\Shooting Data\Film number: and re-enter the number of rolls in the camera. This is both good and bad: Good if your roll counter accidentally resets to 0. Not so good if you’re buying a used F6 and are counting on the number of rolls the camera has exposed to determine the age of the camera.

LATER in the same day…

Great news. The repair estimates have come in much less than anticipated.: $114 to CLA and replace the grip. Another $50 to modify the aperture ring mount to accept pre-ai lenses. I was happy to authorize and pay for the repairs immediately. I’ll keep updating through the process and conclude with an unwrapping video when the camera is returned. I’ve been “investing in” some pre-ai lenses this year as I build out my F/F2 kit and am anxious to mount them on the F6.
A Haiti Christian in her earthquake-destroyed church, Port au Prince, Haiti.

A Haiti Christian in her earthquake-destroyed church, Port au Prince, Haiti. (Tri-X)

Croix des Bouquets, Haiti

Croix des Bouquets, Haiti (Velvia)

Port au Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake

Port au Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake (Tri-X)

So after 7 years of moderate use I (a little reluctantly) decided it was time to send him in for a little TLC. This blog post will track the process of having the F6 serviced by Nikon and hopefully be of some benefit to anyone else who’s contemplating having their F6 serviced, now or in the future.

Wood Chisels, Allenspark, Colorado, Portra 160

Wood Chisels, Allenspark, Colorado (Portra 160)

Getting it ready to send:

First off, “sending him in” means sending the camera to Nikon’s Service Center in Los Angeles, California. Being in Colorado – Los Angeles is the proper service center.

Being a NPS (Nikon Professional Services) member, I decided to go through the NPS web site to set up the repair and print the packing slip. The NPS literature states that being an NPS member provides preferential treatment so I figured hey, why not. I filled out all the requisite information in the web form and printed it out. Always keeping original boxes, (much to the chagrin of my office) I carefully packed the F6 body in its original packaging materials, minus the strap, MB-40 grip and any batteries. I included the body cap, wrapped the camera in the original plastic bag it came in and placed it carefully in the cardboard cut-out form cradling the camera top and bottom, then slipped the golden, exterior box around it, then placed the whole thing in a corrugated cardboard box with a thin layer of bubble wrap around it. I sent the package USPS Priority Mail, trackable and insured for $2,500 which would cover the cost of a new one if the postal system lost or damaged it. It cost about $48 to ship it one way. It would have cost another $20 to ship it UPS.

The package left Colorado on a Wednesday and arrived in California on a Saturday.

North Park, Colorado, Velvia

North Park, Colorado (Velvia)

After a few days of waiting I called the Nikon service center [(800) 645-6687, Option 1 for English, Option 5 for repairs] and made it through to a helpful, intelligent human who was able to peer into the Service system. My camera had not been “entered” yet, and he suggested I called back in a couple of days.

That puts us at today. A second call produced a second, helpful, intelligent human who peered into the system again and told me the camera was received, but listed as “non domestic.” I asked her what non-domestic meant to Nikon service and she told me I had to provide proof of purchase in the US for them to repair my camera.

Thank goodness I keep important receipts like that – even from 2008. I went into the storage area of my office and after 5 minutes (and feeling pretty proud of myself), produced the original sales receipt from B&H Photo, dated August, 2008. The document was scanned, then attached to a reply e-mail from Nikon.

A follow up call (call number 3) put me in contact with the original gentleman from earlier in the week who said he’d personally make sure the document was forwarded and provide an update soon. He did both of those things, and Nikon has agreed to now look at my camera.

My account with Nikon now reflects this repair on-line and I’m able to track status via a service order number. Just as importantly I’m able to communicate (presumably) directly with Nikon service through this portal additional details as necessary. In an effort to clearly communicate my hopes of the F6’s visit to Nikon Service, I was told to send an e-mail through their system and it would be posted on the service center’s web page, which it was. Here is the e-mail I sent:

Smoker, Ektar

Smoker (Ektar)

Good Morning Nikon Service,

Thank you for repairing my Nikon F6. Below is a list of items I’d like you to provide pricing on:
1) Clean, Lubricate and Adjust (CLA). The camera is 8 years old and has never been serviced.
2) I’d like to have it modified to accept Pre-AI lenses. As I understand it, this is accomplished by installing the same folding, metal flap/pin assembly on the lens mount similar to that found on the F4 and F3.
3) I’d like the grip replaced on the entire camera. It has come loose on the front-right extruded handle (by the battery compartment), and also on on the back door. This allows moisture and dirt in the inner workings of the camera. The rubber grip has repeatedly come loose on the back door where the right hand grabs the camera. I’d like this replaced.
4) The small rubber collars surrounding the  AF-On/AE-L button on the top-right of the camera, and the same on the top left of the camera surrounding the BKT buttons. These have gradually torn and worked their way loose. I’d like them replaced.
5) The Sub-Command (front) dial on the camera often misses when it’s rotated. So it rotates freely and fine – but does not effect change often times when rotating. I have used the Custom Settings Menu to swap Main and Sub Command dial functions because of this. I’d like to know what it will take to have the proper level of functionality restored to the dial. In effect, so it works properly.
Please provide cost and time estimates on the above.
Thank you very much,

John B. Crane, Photographer

CoCoa Beach, Florida, Ektar

CoCoa Beach, Florida (Ektar)

That puts us where we’re at now: waiting to hear back from service if they are able to perform the above.
I’ll continue to update this blog post as information progresses. In an attempt to help things go smoothly and well I’m following all protocol suggested by Nikon.
Nikon F kit

Nikon F kit (Portra 800)

In hind site I’m glad to have not purchased a gray market camera years ago. At the time it would have saved a couple hundred dollars, but painted me into a corner when it came time for service. After this experience I’ll be sending him again – more frequently this time – knowing cost is reasonable and confidence is high in a quality service experience. Thank you Nikon Service.

Mirror-Up Shooting: It’s For Real

Mirror-Up Shooting: It’s For Real

Recently I read a blog post from someone claiming Mirror-Up shooting was a hoax. A waste of time, something camera manufacturers dreamed up as way to add a new feature to the camera and charge more for it. A “Emperor’s New Clothes” hoodwink, if you will. Well, take a look at this:

It’s slow motion video of the venerable Nikon F2 at 1/2000 sec. and the lens stopped down to ƒ16. If there were ever any doubt in anyone’s mind whether the mirror’s movement has the ability to create vibrations inside the mirror box this should answer the question once and for all.

To those who don’t know what Mirror-Up shooting is, please visit this page for a more detailed explanation. Essentially, M-Up is a feature included in certain cameras allowing a 2-step shutter release. The first step raises the Mirror up out of the way. The camera then is allowed to “settle” as long as you want before the second step – releasing the shutter in the camera and actually exposing the film. This all happens so fast in regular shooting that it feels like 1 quick step – but it’s actually 2. M-Up is highly useful in slower-speed photography: between 1/30 sec. and 1-2 seconds. For shutter speeds outside of this range it could be argued that the motions happen so fast there’s not time for the slight movement to affect image quality. But in that dead zone of slow exposures M-Up is real.

Memphis in the Meantime

Memphis in the Meantime

Memphis has been the subject of many a discussion between my son and I for a few years now. We love road trips and just being in the car together so when ever we’re hunting for a just barely out of reach, crazy destination to spontaneously shoot off to in the middle of the night (from Colorado) – Memphis has been a part of that discussion. Alas, common sense has prevailed and Memphis had remained unvisited – until this past July. As we planned our route to a family reunion in Nashville I was delighted to see Memphis sort of en route on the way home. We tend to drive any place we visit not for fear of flying – though who wouldn’t these days – but because we prefer to pass slowly through places en route to any destination – not zoom over places at 300mph in an aluminum tube with wings. So it was settled: Memphis on the return leg.

It’s hard to determine the origins of my fascination with Memphis precisely but strong contributors are Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis,” John Hiatt’s “Memphis in the Mean Time” and of course the father of color photography, the incomparable Mr. William Eggleston – one who unbenounced to him – was instrumental in helping shape and refocus how I approach the art of color photography. Elvis and Graceland may have a little something to do with it too but not being quite as ardent “King” fans, they’re certainly not the strongest draw.

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Graceland is Elvis’ old home and no trip to Memphis is complete without at least a drive by. We didn’t feel the need to go in – but were a little curious. Vans jammed with people cruised in and out of the fabled gates while a number of folks simply stood out front by the brick wall surrounding the estate. My wife and I agreed it was a little creepy – not sure how else to describe it… The wall was very interesting to me, containing “high-school yearbook” style insignias and drawings of Elvis along its 100 yard length. I walked it several times marveling at the influence this one, charismatic man had on so many people in a life cut short.

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

Graceland bussing people in and out of those fabled gates for a peek at Elvis’ mansion.

After Graceland we headed into the city center. It was a sunny, hot Sunday afternoon and we found a place in the shade to park near the bottom of famous Beale Street. As is usually the case on trips like this I’ll have my D3s and bunch of other gear buried beneath blankets in the car to keep everything cool, but leave it all in the car, choosing instead the F6, a 50mm ƒ1.4D and  some Portra 400 to carry while I wander. I like to minimize attention while shooting as much as possible and carrying a lot of gear gets uncomfortable – especially in the heat. While it’s true there are times when a few extra frames would be nice to have – I find I focus much more intently while shooting with a finite number of shots. Something I’ve discovered after years of editing: I hate sitting in front of the computer after a trip trying to decide which one of 10 images in a burst is the “best.” I’d much rather decide while shooting. This requires patience and being willing to pay the cost: sometimes being wrong and missing a shot. The benefits include more finely tuning your process to identify and take advantage of opportunity.

Memphis, Street Photography

Street Flipper, Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

The street flipper is a great example. There were two young men providing the afternoon’s entertainment, flipping down the gently sloping grade of Beale street. Pretty amazing, actually. I stopped and watched the first guy and overheard another young man walking past me saying to his girl friend, “yeh, I’m pretty sure I could do that…” I thought it would be cool to get a shot of him in mid-flip – hopefully in the air – so I walked up the street and found a good spot. There were trash cans lining the street and the one across from me was brightly colored, different than the others. I didn’t want it to be the brightest spot in the frame and distract from this guy’s athleticism as he flipped through the frame so moved up the hill a bit more. Working with the 50mm produced a lot of background that I couldn’t control. I could minimize it though by shooting a shallow depth of field. An aperture of ƒ4 allowed 1/1250 shooting Portra 400 at ISO200. Plenty fast to stop the guy in mid-flip were I lucky enough to time it right. Focus might have produced a problem at this point. Acquiring focus as the flipper flipped through the screen wouldn’t be feasible (he was a fast flipper), and if I settled for what the camera wanted to do I’d have been focused on the buildings across the street – making the foreground flipper blurry.

What to do… Here’s where de-coupling your focus from the shutter release is a really fantastic idea – and I think everyone should do it. It’s a good thing I usually shoot like this because I was ready. If not, to dig through the camera’s menus there on the street and fuss with CSM Settings would have taken too much time and attention away from all that was going on around me. In the F6’s CSM Menu, Custom Setting A4/AF activation/”AF-ON Only” allows the camera’s auto focus feature to be activated using only the AF-On button(s – plural if you use the MB-40 grip as I do). The camera’s default setting is “Release/AF-ON” which means if I’d used this setting to pre-focus on a certain point, the camera would try to focus again when I pressed the shutter to make the image – producing a blurry image because the camera would have focused on the buildings across the street instead of the flipper. At ƒ4 there’s not much room to miss before the image is out of focus. Not what I wanted. Using the AF-On button I focused on the street in front of me where I suspected the flipper would land, then raised the camera to frame the shot and waited. Almost immediately the other flipper came flipping through the frame and I fired one shot, hoping I got him. A little thought, a little planning and a little camera knowledge goes a long way.


Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)


Lorraine Motel, National Civil Rights Museum, Martin Luther King Jr., Memphis, Tennessee

Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee.

After asking around someone pointed us towards one of the more famous destinations of the area, the Lorraine Motel – where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on the balcony outside room 306. The Lorraine Motel has been turned into The National Civil Rights Museum for all to come experience. This was one of the most powerful – yet non flamboyant – destinations I’ve visited in recent memory. People hovered around and the air was reverent; respectful – not a lot of goofing around and selfies going on amidst the large group of kids who’d gathered in the shade across the street. The depth to which I was moved at this location was unexpected and we explored for nearly an hour, taking it in. The museum’s doors were open and the air conditioning felt great, and they always appreciate donations to keep the lights on.

Lorraine Motel, National Civil Rights Museum, Martin Luther King Junior, Memphis, Tennessee

The Lorraine Motel became The National Civil Rights Museum to commemorate MLK Jr. Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Speaking of the heat, I was a little concerned when I grabbed the last role of Portra from the console of the car. It had become warm despite the AC running while we drove. I put it in my pocket and hoped for the best, and was delighted when processing (thank you Digi-Graphics!) revealed no issues what so ever. Sometimes I’ll carry a cooler for the film but most of the time I’ll simply protect the stash from direct sunlight and call it good. I’ve never had any problems, even in the extreme heat of the Caribbean.

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennssee (2014)

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

After the Lorraine we slowly made our way back to the car, wanting to savor as much as we could. On a Sunday afternoon there wasn’t much activity outside Beale Street and it was nice to casually view the architecture and decor lining our path. The musical legend of Memphis alone is worth the visit, but add to that the food, culture, history…

BB King's Blue Bar, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

BB King’s Blue Bar, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

great color and geometry in the signage, urban architecture, interesting people, and magnificent night light and my imagination ignites with photographic potential. It was tough to leave – but we had 1,200 miles and 20 hours of driving ahead of us.

Blues City Cafe, Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Blues City Cafe, Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee (2014)

Memphis is one of the wonderful perks found in driving across the country rather than flying over. We only had a couple hours in Memphis – hardly enough time to scratch the surface – but I’ll take what I can get.  It was fun to finally be there if even for just a short time. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to return and devote the proper amount of time and attention to such a historically rich city. Happy shooting.

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July

Allenspark, Colorado Fourth of July Parade

Allenspark, Colorado is nestled snugly just below Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness. Each year Allenspark celebrates July 4th with a short but festive parade down the main street.

In years past my eyes have been focused upward, searching the skies above for the real Fourth of July photograph. This year I chose instead to focus on what’s right in front of me. Attending the Allenspark Fourth of July parade has become an annual event. Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains, tucked safely in the shadow of Indian Peaks Wilderness, Allenspark is where we began our married life 20 years ago today – and holds a special place for both my wife and I. As the small parade of locals passed in front of us, people, animals and vehicles adorned in American regalia, I was filled with a new appreciation for the strong character and relationships of this town – and our country. What we stand for, what’s important to us. Some days – especially in the mountains of Colorado – it’s great to be an American.

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)

Fourth of July Parade, Allenspark, Colorado (2014)



I went on one of my 4042n jaunts last Saturday, this time to SoapStone Prairie Open Space, a relatively new area at the extreme edge of Colorado. You can cross into Wyoming on one of the short backcountry trails. Having decided the goal for the day was to record honest images, I headed out with a pack full of Portra 160, some Ektar, some Delta and of course Tri-X.

soapstone prairie natural area, fort collins, colorado
Soapstone Prairie Morning, Extreme Northern Colorado (Kodak Portra 160)

What do I mean by honest images. I mean images of an area that don’t happen for a split second once a month, then are gone. An honest image is an unpretentious image. An honest image represents what an area looks like 99.9% of the time, not .1% of the time, deceiving viewers into believing every minute of every day looks like magic hour. An honest image means heading out when nothing’s flowering, nothing’s blooming and nothing’s having babies. An honest image is two does and a buck watching you work your way up the trail in grey-blue hour, wondering if you’re there to kill them, and deciding your not.

North of Wellington, Larimer County, Colorado (Kodak Portra 160)

The honest image means a natural color film. Not a digital camera. Not Velvia (though I do think honest images can be made on Velvia). The temptation with Velvia is to force it into the dishonest realm – to compromise it. Juice it. An honest image means no Photoshop monkey business. It means no pano’s, no stitching, and for the love of all things good and right in the world, no HDR. An honest image means being intentional about the media you choose to record a scene that’s chosen you. An honest image means no black and white conversions. It means no cropping your way to a good image. It means thinking in series, or working for the stand-alone, solitary shot that needs no caption, no tag line.

Evolution of a front range sunset, no.3, Fort Collins, Colorado (Kodak Ektar)

An honest image means medium format, 120 fine-grained, color negative film to capture every bit of nuance, every slight tonal variation, every bit of every square inch of everything in front of your fixed, focal-length (non-zooming) lens as you stand behind the tripod with the cable release in hand and trip the shutter. An honest image means waiting. It means looking intently for composition and it means missing. It means seeing a shot and not being able to frame it properly and passing it by, but allowing it to burn into your brain for next time.

Rawhide Power Plant, Northern Larimer County, Colorado (Kodak Portra 160)

An honest image means it fits the subject matter. Northern Colorado and southern Wyoming aren’t Disneyland. The land is muted, earthen hues. Greens, mauves, ochres, tans, cobalt blues, cadmium reds, burnt sienna’s; big skies, small plants, ugly rocks and lots of wind. It’s bright, sunny, high-altitude light out of dynamic range praying for a cloud to drift between the sun and the earth to make a shot. An honest image means driving for hours and stopping in the middle of an unmarked county dirt road to turn around to make a shot that you pray you can make before a car comes over the hill and… because with the wind blowing and the hood on your Carhartt up you can’t hear anything more than 3 feet away. An honest image means getting dusty and dirty kneeling down in the the ditch. It means chasing your hat across the prairie when the wind takes it.

red mountain open space, fort collins, colorado
Near Red Mountain Open Space, Northern Larimer County, Colorado (Kodak Portra 160)

An honest image means no trespassing. It means closing gates behind you and honoring the mandate to stay on the trail – and missing the shot you want because you did. An honest image begins an hour before sun up and ends an hour after sun down. It means a last tilt of the thermos of tepid, too-strong coffee for something to drink at the end of the day. An honest image means washboard roads, AM talk radio, bugs in the radiator and chipped windscreens. It means nearly running out of fuel and paying too much a gallon at the nearly closed, sporting good-convenient store-fast-food chain-delicatessen-truck stop-fuel mart that smells like burnt coffee and is out of TP.

An honest image means – above all else – joy. Peace. Solitude. Creative immersion. It means Discovery. An honest image is a very, very good thing.

Post-Lude: In the spirit of “honesty,” this post was first published in my previous blog, written when I was shooting a lot of medium format film. Images in this post were not made with the Nikon F6 on 35mm film, but the Mamiya RZ67 on 120 (medium format) film. Not that anyone cares – or would ever know.