Nikon FE
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A Few Frames with Nikon FE, Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 & expired Lomo 400 film – By Alex Vye

November 19, 2020

A Micro-Nikkor 55mm 1:2.8 lens sat unused in my basement, on a dusty ledge, in a plastic bag. It is the last thing that I have from my grandfather on my father’s side. He liked to take photographs of flowers, rhubarb, and small toys in his backyard, so a small macro lens made sense. I decided to take the lens out for a spin of the docklands.

The photographs are of the Port of Saint John, founded in 1785 by loyalists to the crown fleeing the American revolution of 1776. It is a deep natural harbour abutting the Atlantic Ocean.

I wanted to take beautiful shots of the harbour, but alas, the day I arrived it was blanketed in deep fog.

Saint John Harbour

Saint John Harbour

A feature of many port cities of the era is that they can be very hilly, because what is important is a deep water, sheltered harbour, not the land. Saint John is very cramped in it’s port area because when it was built in the late 1700s, you don’t have cars and trucks, only horses and boats, so all the important stuff such as warehouses, banks and markets is crammed into boundaries defined by the distance a person could walk from the docks in about thirty minutes. This leads to many alleyways and tucked away places.

Graffiti in an alley

Graffiti in an alley

Jardine Alley

Jardine Alley

There is a lovely coffee shop hidden down this alleyway, carved into an old brick warehouse, ten minute walk uphill from the docks. The aluminum circle in the middle of the frame is a outdoor seating spot for the coffee shop.

Rogue Coffee Alley

Rogue Coffee Alley

Opposite view, showing a large multi-story mural of a squid or kraken on another old warehouse.

Kraken Alley

Kraken Alley

I love the oddities of old cities. In the foreground, bottom left, is a tiny patio for precisely one person to stand and have a drink.

One spot to drink

One spot to drink

One street up from the harbour, before you get to the warehouses, there is a series of old banks and financial institutions, as well as the customs house. You had to pay your customs and taxes  before bringing goods on shore. Abandoned most of my life, this magnificent building currently houses a hipster axe-throwing club.

Bank of New Brunswick

Bank of New Brunswick

Beautiful (in my eyes) architecture leading down to the harbour. There is a lovely Irish bar in the yellow building, as well as an army surplus store.

Line of Historical buildings

Line of Historical buildings

This green door leads to a dockside warehouse. In the 1990s it lead to coffee shop, then later  a tavern. I have passed through this door exactly one time in my life.

Green Door off of Water Street

Green Door off of Water Street

Warehouse by the docks

Warehouse by the docks

In Memory

One last photo, not taken by me or this camera. This is Donald Montgomery Vye, born 1900, died in 1987. It is with his Micro-Nikkor 55mm 1:2.8 lens that I took these photos. He worked as an Engineer at the Port of Saint John for multiple decades. Below he is taking a selfie of himself, with a timer, in his basement. I miss you Pops.

My Grandfather

My Grandfather

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    thorsten wulff
    November 19, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Lovely Alex, being from a harbour town myself, I miss the sea all the time.
    I wonder what your grandfather was about to shoot there with this elaborate setup…

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      November 19, 2020 at 11:12 am

      Thanks for reading….it’s amazing what I miss from being near the sea…….the cries of the seagulls, the forlorn call of the lighthouse horn,

  • Reply
    Charlie Bierwirth
    November 19, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Great way to remember your grandfather! Love the images. For expired film, which I know can sometimes yield some unusual results, the images look pretty stable and very vibrant.

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      November 19, 2020 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks…..one of these days, I will buy some fresh film, but the cheapo in me insists on working through my current stock of film first.

  • Reply
    Troy Phillips
    November 19, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    Great story and great pictures, thanks for sharing. I really like the look of this expired film . It gives an old port town feel to the pictures.
    I have a couple fe’s and this lens actually two of them . I was looking for another fe body because my light meter was getting wonky. I found a beautiful fe for a very low price and it came with the 55mm micro in pristine condition. This lens has great 3D rendering I really love using it .

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      November 19, 2020 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks for the note. I feel that the initial shot of the harbour, with the fog, turned out real well with a nice, grainy film look. I really love the Nikon FE….it has all the SLR features you need, but is small and lightweight so it doesn’t seem a bother when you are hiking around.

  • Reply
    Adrian Cullen
    November 19, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    A lovely set of images of which I’m sure your Grandfather would be proud. My copy of the Micro Nikkor 55mm f2.8 Ai is my most used lens because it’s been used on my XE2 to copy negatives taken on any of my film cameras. I did a brief test a longer distances when I bought it and was astounded by its sharpness even wide open.

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      November 19, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      Thanks for the comments. I do wish it had been a nicer day so I could take better pictures of the harbour itself; but when I arrived it a was a thick fog, nothing but grey. Life in a port city :).

  • Reply
    Clive Williams
    November 19, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    Alex, your foggy shot of the harbour has more presence and atmosphere (literally!) than any postcard view taken on a sunny day. It’s a town that works for its living, not a beach resort, and your picture is evocative of that. Nice job.

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      November 19, 2020 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks you for the nice feedback. Locally, the fight to keep it a “working port” (as opposed to appealing to tourists) is a constant rallying cry.

  • Reply
    Jon
    November 19, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    Great sequence of images – I’m going to resurrect my own micro nikkor 55 on to my FE – thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply
    Greg L
    November 26, 2020 at 8:08 am

    Nicely done. I agree the foggy landscape suits the vibe of the port city quite well. The micro 55mm 2.8 Ais is one of Nikon’s sharpest lenses at any distance near or far. You can still buy one new! My copy is currently attached to my FM3a and you have reminded me to go shooting with it. Thanks for the post.

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      November 26, 2020 at 6:45 pm

      Thanks:) I was quite pleased with the foggy shot. It is really hard to take good shots of fog.

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