Photography has always been in my blood, though for many years I didn’t engage it. The family photo album is filled with old, mostly faded Polaroid’s my dad shot from the first couple years of my life. My earliest recollections of vacations involved fishing and my dad taking pictures with his Argus C3, and later, a Sears branded SLR. One of my uncles was a die-hard Minolta fan (if memory serves me right) and eventually my older brother caught the bug and put together a dark room in our house, though what camera he had escapes me. It may have been a Pentax K1000.
During my senior year of high school, I suddenly developed an interest and in 1982 Santa brought me a Nikon EM with the 50mm f1.8 series E lens; also, under the tree that year was the matching autowinder. I was off and running! That combo accompanied me to Europe the following summer. Its lightweight and compact size were a perfect travel companion.
Upon my return I found myself using the autowinder to shoot baseball games for my former Jr. High baseball coach. Even though shooting at just over one frame per second, the sequences of hitters taking their swings and pitchers in their wind-up and delivery were able to help him spot flaws in their game. To say I was hooked was an understatement, but then life happened; college, dating, then marriage and children rightly took priority. I traded my Nikon for a little Olympus Stylus and picture taking became snapshots of kids, vacations, and holidays.
Fast-forward about two decades and once again I found myself pursuing photography. It began as a shared interest initiated by my youngest son, Tanner, and just took off from there. Once again photography bags were filled with Nikon bodies and lenses. Eventually the pursuit came full circle and I was gripped by the desire to shoot film.
Tanner had always favored film and my brother in recent years had rediscovered his love for film photography. Their influence was too much to resist and I began looking for an old Nikon film body, finally settling on a Nikon EL2. It had everything I was looking for: the old Nikon solid heft, smooth shutter, manual wind lever, and cheap. I think I paid $50 including shipping for it. I paired it with an equally value-priced Nikkor 50mm f2 ais lens and was good to go!
Old Town Kenai, Alaska
For the last 5 years I have lived in Kenai, Alaska and have begun a “My Town” photo project. The Kenai Peninsula has a very unique heritage and culture that I was drawn to explore and document through the lens of a camera. A significant part of the history of Kenai and the surrounding communities is the Russian cultural influence. Russian fur traders and fishermen first settled the area back in the late 1700’s and with them came the Russian Orthodox Church.
The oldest buildings in Kenai are mostly church buildings belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. The oldest still standing, is the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary, built in 1895, and is still in use today. The other is the St. Nicholas Chapel, built in 1906, to honor the first Russian priest in Kenai and who brought the smallpox vaccine to the native people living on the Peninsula.
As part of my project, it seemed appropriate to capture the old heritage with my EL2 shooting black and white film rather than digital. I chose Ilford PanF Plus for my film. It’s sharpness and tonal quality allowed me to adequately capture some of the fishing and religious history of my community.