5 Frames with a Gifted Nikon F and Ilford Delta 400 – By Dan Smouse

I was contacted a short while back by a friend who told me she had recently purchased a home in the area. The former owners had left her with basically all their possessions, including an “old camera”. Knowing that I love photography, she told me the camera was mine if I wanted it. I couldn’t say “Yes, please!” quickly enough! My mind was instantly filled with the imaginative anticipation of what the “old camera” could be since the possibilities were endless.

Hannah arrived at my house a few days later with a weathered and worn, leather camera bag. I took the bag from her and was shocked at the sheer weight of what the bag contained. Quickly, I took the bag inside. I could hardly contain my excitement to unzip the ancient leather bag and reveal the mystery. Opening the bag, I was greeted with an “every-ready” style camera case. The case was a cracked and aging with the name “Nikon” emblazoned across the front. I opened it and was greeted with a very large “F” on the over-sized prism. It was indeed a Nikon F in all its bulky, silver and black glory. I couldn’t have been more thrilled since I have been a devoted Nikon fan for many years.

A perfect companion

The arrival of this classic Nikon SLR happened to coincide with a photo project I had been planning for several years. Each July, on the Kenai Peninsula where I live in Alaska, sockeye salmon begin their spawning run up the Kenai River. Well in excess of one million sockeye salmon annually migrate up the river to their spawning grounds. It is during this time of year that dip-netting, one of the most sacred rituals of southeast Alaska, happens at the mouth of the Kenai River. I have long desired to document this unique element of Alaskan culture.

Dip-netting is a messy, muddy, and sandy activity. The Nikon F has proven to be a workhorse with a resume filled with grueling military conflicts. It has proven its ability to take a beating and keep on firing. The “F” seemed perfect for the task I was planning.

A suitable film and lens

For the film portion of the project (I also shot with my Sony a6300 and Nikon D610), I chose Ilford’s Delta 400 film. I selected Delta 400 because it was fast enough to shoot stopped down so I that I wouldn’t have to worry about perfect focus as I captured the action.  I also knew from experience it would provide an appropriate amount of grain, suitable for the grungy conditions I would be photographing. The lens I decided on was the pristine Nikkor Q 135mm f2.8 which was one of the lenses included with the camera. As a result of the longer focal length, I was able to maintain a workable distance from the fisherman yet still capture the details of their work.

Thanks for joining me on the Kenai Beach for an event that must be seen to be believed. If you are interested, you can see the entire project HERE.

You can see more of my work on Flickr (here) and IG (@in_the_image_photog). I also share my thoughts on life and theology at A Float on the River. God bless!

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10 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Gifted Nikon F and Ilford Delta 400 – By Dan Smouse”

  1. Dan,
    What a lovely gift from a a thoughtful friend. You must gift her with a b&w print!
    Film cameras never lost their ability to be devices that can take photos. This fact can be lost in all the noise of new cell phone gear, mirrorless cameras etc. Most film cameras need an in-home cleaning, batteries and film. It’s not difficult to work in a film-digital hybrid process.
    I like your work for the mere fact that it’s Alaska in black & white. I’ve only seen the state in color. I like the graphic quality of the man with the net on the beach (#3) and the visual humor of the fisherman up to the top of his waders with the gull as his wingman.
    Best of luck with your new kit!
    Dan Castelli

  2. That was a very generous gift from your friend. It’s hard to tell from the photograph what lenses came with your kit. Also, you did not comment if the light meter works. Have you used substitute 1.35 volt batteries if it is working?

    1. Hi! Ya, I was trying to stay somewhat close to the suggested word limit and thus edited out those pertinent details. I have not tested the light meter and have chosen to use an external meter which is not a hinderance to the shooting I will be doing with it. The kit came with an original Nikkor 43-86mm f3.5, a Nikkor Q-Auto 135mm f2.8, and a Soligor 75-205mm f3.8.

  3. I’m glad you’re enjoying your gift. Last year I was given a late Nikon F, with 20mm, 55mm and 300mm lenses. They had been owned and clearly cherished by a gentleman in Tehran and found their way to his sister in law in London. The kit is now with me in Zambia, where I use the lenses on a Fuji X Pro 2. Developing film is a massive chore in Zambia, where the chemicals are hard to come by. Your images are a pleasure to look at.

    1. I’m thankful you enjoyed the images! Since I received my F I have added a Nikkor 28mm f3.5 and 55mm f3.5 micro (both pre-ai) lenses to the kit. It is such a pleasure to shoot. I have shot the Nikkor’s adapted on my Sony a6300. If I had to develop my own film I probably wouldn’t be shooting film.

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