Lauren Birnie-Coll | 'Falifornia' England

A few months back Lauren reached out to me with a few questions about her Nikonos iv-a & Nikonos V.  The resulting discussions resulted in an England wide search for an American Nickel.   A Nickel was found and she was able to continue her Nikonos adventures.  After seeing her dedication to search High and Low for something as simple as a nickel i figured Lauren would be our next interview for the Nikonos Project. 

So.. England… can you please draw me a rough map of your country, draw a big star where you call home…     Sorry for the lack of a star – it would have covered the whole of south england haha. 

We all want to know why Nikonos, why did you snag one?  and why do you still shoot them?  they are such a hassle…  So when I came to Uni last year I started shooting film and fell really in love with it, the process the quality, the colours, the whole shabang. I also fell super hard for the ocean, I am a huge fan of it.  So then I was like ‘oooft imagine if I could shoot the ocean, on film… that would be rad’. So then I think I must’ve done some googling and discovered the Nikonos and then the project or maybe the other way round… I don’t fully remember haha but I found it and was mega keen to get my hands on one, so bought one eBay and obviously loved it – so that’s why I’m still shooting with a Nikonos, because they are a COOL. They are a happy hassle which let you combine film and the ocean which is pretty sick if you ask me, which you are, so there ya go!

What in your opinion makes a good image?   Flip that’s a tricky question… I guess for me personally a good image is one I can get a bit lost in. I know that might sound a little lame but honestly I love a visual escape. Also light is a big thing for me, my fave is early morning, actually evening, I mean I’ll take either, not too fussy! To be honest if the photo was taken in the ocean then the chances are I’m gonna be a fan. So yeah to sum that up a watery, lighty, visual escape does it for me. Also just something that captures a pretty raw and real moment, I love really simple, honest photographs.




Film Nerd moment… Favorite film & why?  I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t been that adventurous with trying out different films, but my go to choices are Kodak Gold 200 or Fuji Superia 400. I really love the punchy colours and the grain and also they’re on the cheaper side of things which is pretty ideal.  

If you could travel anywhere with just your Nikonos & a pair of flippers where would you go?  Ooooft at the moment I quite fancy Panama, I’ve never been to that side of the world and I like the idea of the warm water and tropical things, and apparently they get mad rain storms and I love shooting in the ocean when it’s raining so that would be mega cool.

 Are you scared of sharks?  I don’t think so… Can’t say I spend much time thinking about them, I think crabs and jelly fish are more of a threat over here really haha. Like I wouldn’t be pleased to find one in the water with me but yeah not too bothered just because they don’t hang out here much!

 All of us have those Oops Moments, like just yesterday I shot a roll of film that didn't have both end caps on the canister. No idea how that happened.  Tell us your biggest Oops with the Nikonos.  Oh man I’ve had two pretty dodgy ones. The first was last summer, I was seriously lucky and got invited on a sailing trip in the Mediterranean. I was beyond stoked at the idea of bringing my nikonos, because the water is so so clear out there and ah man I was just so excited about the shots. So I went, brought the Nikonos, was snapping away, life was great, Nikonos was great, water was great. All good in the hood. Weirdly I only used one film (which is so unlike me, I’m normally really bad for just powering through film after film), and when I came to rewind it, there was something weird going on, like it wound too easy and just didn’t feel right. Anyway when I processed it, it was totally blank. Turned out the film had ripped when I first put it in so it didn’t advance, so I got no photos. I cried. It’s still a touchy subject haha so moving on, the second of my oops moments happened a couple months ago. I was shooting at a pretty busy break on the north coast of Cornwall, I was doing a lot of dodging surfers which is not my strong point. Anyway one thing led to another and some dude surfed over my head (not actually on my head, I duck dived), his leash got caught on the strap of my nikonos and pulled it off me and so then I was like ‘ah it’s lost forever’ but amazingly my friend found it in the sea a while later. Miracles do happen people.

Favorite F-stop?  (mine would have to be 11)  Ummm I actually really like shooting wide open in kinda low evening light. It’s been a bit hit and miss for me, sometimes there just hasn’t been enough light, but when there’s just enough there, oooft it’s goooood, funky things happen to the focus too which is cool.

What does a roll of film + processing cost you waaaaaay over there?   Waaaaay over here, maybe like £4 for the cheaper stuff, then like Portra 400 and the fancier ones are more like £7. I can actually process for free at my Uni (Falmouth, big up), which is soo flipping good, so ya know, any British Nikonos shooters, hit me up and I’ll make you some great processing deals haha.

 Do people in the lineup treat you differently when they see that you aren't hauling a housing around?  Is this good or bad?   I reckon most people are just pretty curious about what your shooting with, they’re so used to seeing the big housings so the little Nikonos is a bit of a conversation starter for sure. Also when people find out it’s film not digi there’s always good responses to that which is awesome.

 What’s the hardest part of shooting a Nikonos & film in general?   For me the hardest part with a Nikonos is nailing the focus, had quite a few shots which could have been so sick but the focus is waaaay out. Also had some seriously dodgy moments in the weird waves and currents around Cornwall, where I’ve been keen for a shot so swum out back and then immediately regretted it haha so yeah, it’s hard for me to stay sensible with a Nikonos in my hand haha. With film in general I still find judging light and shooting accordingly pretty tricky.

What’s the Best Part?   The best part has to be being in the water, switching between shooting and surfing and just having a mega fun time. Also I really love the sound of the shutter, so mellow haha.

 What is your favorite Image captured on your Nikonos?  I have two favourites. The first is of one of my best friends Louise. We went for a swim in the pouring rain and the ocean was this amazing greeny blue, and the photo is of her laughing and just totally happy surrounded by the sea and the rain and I just love it. Rain on the ocean is just my jam. The other one I took during a surf a couple months ago. Two friends were visiting and they hadn’t surfed or been in the sea for so long -  I actually felt really lucky to witness their sweet reunion with the ocean haha. We managed to get the perfect conditions (pretty tricky over here) for a little slide sesh. The sun was just setting and the sky looked SO good, the shot is of Freddie, lying on his board between sets, I got the focus pretty bang on (for once haha) and the sky and the sea just did its thaaang.

Do you have a Pre Swim Ritual?  For example, I jam out to Taylor Swift and eat a banana.  (banana spit is the best on those old Lens’)   SO glad you love taytay, I too am a huge fan haha. Right now my pre swim ritual is psyching my self up for the cold water. I’m pretty lucky in that I don’t get cold too easy in the sea, but even with 5mm of neoprene it’s just kinda chilly right now. Also yeah I love a good lick of the lens hahaa… definitely had some weird looks for that one but has to be done!!

 Now... Final Question. who would you like to see interviewed next for the Nikonos Project?   Ok so these 3 names. Brigid Lally. Megan Barrett. Erik Oseto. All of them take ridiculously cool photos, and I just want to hear more about their watery adventures. 


Go check out more of Lauren's adventures in Falifornia on Instagram and Tumblr.  


Gavin Johnstone | Nikonos photos from the cold north.

Ihor Hora |  Cyprus

Ihor Hora | Cyprus