Two of my favorite Nikonos shooters met up a few months ago, we recently sat down (through email) and discussed the meet up
So.. Both of you are from Australia, Can you please draw me a rough map of your country, Draw a big star where you call home…
So as you can see they are both from the same place, except Tom doesn't know what a star is exactly. (in hindsight i see that this question wasn't worth much... But i had no clue they were neighbors to begin with)
Okay so i want to know why Nikonos, Why did you snag one? And why do you still shoot them? They are such a hassle…
Tom: Why Nikonos… hmm good question, I remember somehow finding the project via Instagram, I thought hey, this looks cool. I can’t remember how public the account was yet, as this was over 2 years ago. (funny because the project is only 15 moths old) I was fairly new to cameras at the time, the only camera I owned was a little 35mm Canon Sure Shot, looking back on the photos I used to take, with this back then I should be ashamed, very low quality. I remember emailing you Brandon and enquiring about the project, I’m one of those people who are very inpatient and make impulse decisions all the time. I decided not to get a loan Nikonos but to buy my very own Nikonos V. This was my first what you would call manual film camera. The first session I took it out I had no idea what I was doing, I was set on infinite and shooting away, still got some pretty cool photos (probably due to my good mates surfing haha). Ever since then I have shot multiple rolls through it and every time I seem to get some different photos that I think are my favourite photos of all time from it. I still shoot it amongst other film cameras due to the fun of being in the water and having something different in your hands, not many people have seen these bad boys, and shooting water on film has produced some of my favourite photos of all time, nothing that digital could do.
Huw: Well, I started surf photography with a GoPro like nearly every other teen. I just used video, played it back and screen captured a frame that I thought was worth saving. Looking back now I think i’ve developed a lot with the Nikonos.
Looking at the different photographers on the contributors page, I was influenced to buy my own Nikonos due to my interest with the concept of surf based film photography, prior to this I hadn’t used film.
So, the Nikonos is the first SLR camera camera I’ve used. I began to see that surf photography was a lot more than point and shoot and I liked the idea of film as you only had 24 or 36 shots, so you had to be patient and not just spray and pray.
I only shoot with the Nikonos because I love the feeling of not knowing what the image is going to look like until a couple days later. And in every roll of film there are always images I'm stoked with, and I can always learn from my mistakes.
What in your opinion makes a good image?
Huw: Probably the hardest question because its near to impossible to answer, but to me, what makes a good image is one that has a good composition, contrast, and light. An image that you can look back at and still be mesmerised by every time.
Tom: Tough question, I think it comes down to personal preference and style of shot, typical Nikonos stuff is either, someone surfing, wave art, underwater world and the occasional land one. Any shot that is in focus without a water droplet on the lens is a goodie in my eyes haha.
Film Nerd moment… Favorite film & why?
Tom: I’m a Kodak man all round, if we are talking value for money ill have to say Kodak Ultramax 400, these are usually cheap in bulk and I’ve got some insane colours and quality from it. High end films, of course I’m going to say good ol’ Portra 400.
Huw: My favorite film would have to be Ilford HP5 Plus 400 or Ilford Delta 3,200. Probably because I have ever only shot under 400 ISO once, and all the film in my fridge is 400, 800 or 3,200. The 400 because from every roll the colour and grain is good, and the 3,200 because grain is one of the things that influenced me to use film so, of course I love it.
If you could travel anywhere with just your nikonos & a pair of flippers where would you go? (yes i said FLIPPERS don't fight it)
Huw: Probably pipeline. I’ve always wanted to go out there because the wave just looks incredible and I love to photograph surfers, and especially empty barrels, too, which pipe offers both of.
Tom: Well, ironically I’m writing these responses on the plane back to Australia from the Maldives, its been a dream of mine to shoot underwater here and finally I got the opportunity to visit the country for a month, looking forward to getting my rolls developed and seeing if there is any gold on them (will keep you posted). Other than that, another dream is to visit California and travel that whole coast where majority of you are from. Also the greek islands could be a good time for the Nikonos.
Who knows more about shooting the Nikonos? Huw or Tom? Explain why..
Tom: Hmm… haha here we go. Well I got so much respect for Huw shooting a Nikonos III, I’ve never shot in the water without a light meter and I think for the quality of shots he gets back he’s doing a bloody good job at working those dials. When we shot together the other week he was double checking what settings I was on and he always seemed to guess them before the light meter did so there we go haha. I hope he gives me a good rap up also… haha
Huw: Definitely Tom. He has been shooting the Nikonos V for years compared to me; I’ve been using it just less than a year. All his images are sick, he is smart in the water, he always knows where to be, when to shoot and not to, and that’s a thing you have to know with film.
Are you scared of sharks, Isn't Australia full of them?
Huw: Totally. I’m heaps scared of them, even ask Tom! I probably mention sharks like five or so times in a day. I’ve actually never seen a shark, and I hope I never do!
Tom: People who aren’t from Australia always ask us this question.. Yes there are sightings sometimes, but there are only a few bites a year if that. The way I see it is that the the ocean is full of these beauty’s but maybe they just like the look of Australian’s that’s why they come in close? Haha
All of us have those Oops Moments, Like just yesterday i shot a roll of film that didn't have both end caps the canister.. No idea how that happened.. Tell us your biggest Oops with the Nikonos.
Tom: Haha.. Im still annoyed at myself for the oops. There was a local long boarding surf comp on with pros from around the world, I was in the water shooting and I was real confident that I nailed a few shots and they would come out top quality, I hop out of the water, start to rewind and think hmm, that was a fairly quick rewind for a 36exp. In all denial I still walk to the developer and drop it in, wait the hour and return to a roll that was blank, I was crushed. Never rush the loading process…
Huw: My biggest ‘oops moment’ with the Nikonos was when I’d probably only had it a couple of months. Finishing the roll I quickly got out of the water and loaded another roll of film without even washing or drying the camera, which was a huge mistake. At that time I wasn’t too good at unloading or loading and I exposed quite a few frames. I was pretty bummed at the time but they came out ok, so I guess it’s not all bad.
Favorite F-stop? (mine would have to be 11)
Huw: Once I got the the Nikonos, I went on the Project and read, “How do I use this camera?”, and I remember something about on “a sunny day use 16”, and I’ve just stuck by that, and as it gets cloudier I just go for 11. Determining which F-stop to use is still a challenge for me.
Tom: Something wide 11+ for sure on a bright blue sky day, when its a little less sunny I try for some depth of field low aperture stuff but still yet to get the shot I want haha
What does a roll of film + processing cost you over there? Why do you think it costs so much more?
Tom: Very touchy subject haha… I get all my film off Ebay in bulk, try and get 10 rolls for say around $50AUS, have paid more, have paid less. if I was stupid I would still be paying $14.95AUS for developing and scan to disk. My good friend Henry and I recently a few months ago purchased the Pakon scanner, this has helped us out a lot (I’ve heard these have sky rocketed in price). Develop only is $4.95AUS at a chemist (1 of maybe 5 places that develop in Sydney actively), depending on who’s working we can get a discount as we are dropping in regularly. If I’m not rushed for time, I send my rolls interstate and get it done cheaper. Henry recently started developing our B&W’s which is ace. Obviously the prices are up due to regular people switching over to digital and forgeting the art of film photography, but I think its slowly coming back, so hopefully more places open up which will bring down prices.
Huw: The shop where I get my film developed is Smile Please - SydneySuper8mm, in Newtown. The guys there charge me AUD10 to develop colour, 15 for b/w, and 10 for scanning.
I think it costs this much because there a so few developers in Sydney, and it’s a small business.
I’m happy to pay that because the guys at the shop, Chris and Nick, help me with the Nikonos or anything I ask them - they’re great. When I first took my camera into the shop I asked them all the basics. They knew everything from top to bottom, so I’ve always gone back there. They pretty much know everything to do with analogue cameras.
Do people in the line up treat you differently when they see that you aren't hauling a housing around? Is this good or bad?
Huw: I don’t think so, normally I get a pretty good response. Occasionally people paddle past me in the water asking what type of camera it is, and sometimes I get people coming up to me asking, “Is that waterproof?” They just can’t believe how something something so old could be waterproof. Mine is a Nikonos iii which was made in 1975.
Tom: Definitely, especially blokes my age who haven’t used film before, when I tell them its film they are amazed. I’ve had some older guys come up and ask if its a Nikonos as they used to have them/still do so its always great to hear their own stories about them. I think its a good thing, something different to a DSLR in a housing or a GoPro, something you have to physically work with, not just point and shoot.
IF & When we get our Nikonos Project Speedos.. will you wear them on designated Nikonos Project holiday’s no matter the water temperature?
Tom: HAHA, I would definitely consider it if Huw did it with me. One guy that I’m sure would be interested is Big Mike, he would probably put a pair on his blow up doll friend as well to accompany him lol.
Huw: I wouldn’t be caught dead in speedos, there’s not a chance in hell I’m gonna wear them, sorry.
Australia has some Insane Wave artists.. Quite a few have expressed interest in shooting for the Project. One of you guys want to give Ray Collins lessons with the Nikons? Just curious if you'd be down for that or not.
Huw: Yes I’d love to! Ray Collins is probably one of my biggest influences in photography. I’ve followed his stuff for as long as I can remember. I’ve shot his main spot quite a few times from the rocks, and on the trip, I kept nagging Tom to go there so he could check it out. I’m so keen to shoot that location in the water with the Nikonos, but I really have no idea how to approach it. So, if I was able to get some tips from him that would be great! And even the possibility of shooting with Ray - what an awesome experience! (too bad Huw won't wear a speedo, thats sort of a requirement)
Tom: Ray Collins… who wouldn’t want to give him a lesson haha I’d be honoured, count me in, I’m always down the way he shoots, so no problem for Huw and I.
Whats the hardest part of shooting a Nikonos & film in general?
Tom: I’ve gotten plenty of good shots in my time shooting the brick but then I’ve gotten plenty of shots where I’ve missed the subject or I don’t even know what I’ve done… haha, so the hardest part would be judging the range finder when trying to nail that good shot, especially with the 80mm as Huw has told me. Film in general will just have to be the on going costs.. But the quality of a shot you can produce will always make it worth it.
Huw: The hardest part of shooting with the Nikonos would have to be the view finder. Looking through the finder I have to imagine the photo is going to be a bit to the right, and a bit down. When you’re so keen to see a shot, but it doesn’t come out because the finder was above and the lens below the water, that just kills me. The hardest part of film would have to be that not every shot comes out as expected which can be annoying, but sometimes it comes out so differently that it becomes interesting and you think, “How did that even happen?”. Oh, I forgot… another thing about the Nikonos is the water spots. I can’t count how many times they’ve wrecked a good photo.
Whats the Best Part?
Huw: The best part of using the Nikonos is just being out in the water with my friends, capturing moments that can you can revisit and look over whenever you like. Thats probably my favourite aspect of photography, as well as capturing the shapes the ocean throws you, which is always interesting.
Tom: The colours (or color’s as you would say haha) and different grain effects you can get naturally, the feel of winding the film to the next frame and the anticipation feel of getting a roll back… I recently showed a girl my film photo folders on my laptop, she couldn’t get over the richness in the colours and the overall quality that can be achieved, this put a smile on my face for sure.
Do you have a Pre Swim Ritual? For example… I jam out to Taylor Swift and eat a banana. (banana spit is the bet of those old lens’)
Tom: Haha! I knew you were the type that was into Taylor Swift! Depending on the swim out, maybe some stretches, making sure the shutter is locked and the lens mount is free from sand cause it starts to protrude form the mount if one bit of dust is behind it. Other than that licking the lens a few times before taking the first shot (for cleaning purposes only of course… I’ve had a few stares in the past haha)
Huw: I have to ‘go to the toilet’ before hand, I’m always worried I’ll have to when I’m in the water and then I’ll l have to run out. (TMI buddy) Ahhhh, and maybe drink some water and slap on the sunscreen, thats about it.
Now.. Final Question.. who would you like to see interviewed next for the Nikonos Project?
Huw: I’d like to see Matthew Ord because some of his slow shutter stuff is sick. Matthew Lawless because his 80mm is incredible, or Petter Gresmo, because I’d like to know more about his location and how he shoots there.
Tom: I’d like to call Mr Tyler Schmid to the stand. Great guy. Then Tom contacted me: Change the answer to: Mr Sebastian Robison (@sea_bass) just to keep the aussie flow going! (we're going to call them both out to participate in the fun)
HUGE thank you to Tom & Huw! Stoked to continue seeing your work though IG. IF you are not following these two go check out their work!