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Time Travel - Back to the '70s


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#1 nfoto

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 18:32

This is a preamble to my New Year's 2013 Resolution. I will spend a few months in this year only shooting with the lens kit I had 40, 30, 20, and 10 years ago. Should be 3 months for each period by my reckoning.

I will not, however, go back in time so as to shoot with film-based cameras. There must be a line drawn somewhere and this is it.

First out accordingly will be the spring of '73. At that time I was near completion of my studies at the University of Oslo, Norway, hoping soon to become a botanist. More on that later. I had already been engrossed in photography for nearly a decade at that time, so my arsenal of Nikon gear by the standards of the period was formidable indeed. Suffice it to say the gear was much better than my ability to make great photography with it, but never mind, you have to learn to to walk before you can run. Being an aspirational photographer I did my best, or at least believed so.

So what was the line-up like at that time? I had 2 Nikon F bodies, one with prism finder, one with the massive Photomic crowning it, plus a sleek 'modern' F2 with the DP-1 finder. There was a motor drive for the F cameras and another for the F2. I thought having the motor drive was very cool and the motors surely attracted a lot of envy from bystanders. They also increased the need to finance a growing film consumption which was more difficult to accomplish given the economy of my student existence.

Lenses according to whatever notes I have retrieved, and memory flashbacks, were as follows;
  • Nikkor-QC 15 mm f/5.6, a super-wide sensation freshly arrived from Japan by a convoluted and not entire legal route involving friend of a friend of a girl friend the latter whom I hoped to get as a second wife but that didn't pan out, the impressive lens notwithstanding.
  • Nikkor-N 24 mm f/2.8. I purchased that lens in spring '69 if memory serves. I had become very fond of it.and used it way too much.
  • Nikkor-S 35 mm f/2.8, from my initial Nikkor kit of mid '60s. A former favourite that was put to the back seat by the 24 Nikkor.
  • Micro-Nikkor-P 55 mm f/3.5, also from mid '60s and one of my most used lenses at that time.
  • Nikkor-P.C 105 mm f/2.5, also brand new from Japan as a replacement of my former 105/2.5 Sonnar. I used it for portraits (of girl friends) and landscapes, in that order.
  • Bellows-Nikkor 105 mm f/4 with the PB-4 Bellows, awaiting its first season of ordeals in the meadows of spring flowers.
  • Nikkor-Q 200 mm f/4, at that time the longest relatively affordable "tele" Nikkor.
There were, unusual for the period, two zoom lenses as well they were;
  • Zoom-Nikkor 43-86 mm f/3.5 (yes, the "dog"). I purchased it so my next girl friend, who went on later to be my second wife, then subsequently, my late wife, could use it on our holidays and vacations. The strategy obviously worked. We even acquired a true dog, a German Shepherd, to go with it as a suitable model for the zoom.
  • Zoom-Nikkor 80-200 mm f/4.5. The legendary lens that brought pride back to zoom photography. For my own purposes, of course. Too long for the girl(s).
A little later in spring most of my gear was stolen with my car, a racing-tuned Austin Mini-Cooper, and some of these items have been replaced later but not with the same version (applies to 24, 43-86, and 80-200, all of which now are the latest version of their respective models). I made a tally to confirm I still had all of the '73 set available, and added CPUs to the few lacking this modern feature.

In order to honour my '73 preferences, I'll shoot a lot of IR in the first period (January-March) and aim to post at least 1 sample from each lens during that time frame. Cameras will be D40X, D200, or Fuji S3 for IR, D600, D3X, or D800 for visible light.

I envision going down Memory Lane this way will be fun and if I think otherwise later, a promise is a promise.
Bjørn

#2 olivier

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 18:45

Great resolution, I am looking forward for a pictorial follow-up... (I hope you will be posting some of your pictures!)
If I had to shoot with what I had 40 years ago, I would be stuck with a pinhole lens...


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#3 Fons Baerken

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 18:58

looking forward, good inspiration..

#4 nfoto

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 19:34

Better start "wide enough", then ....

D40X/15. IR. I've slightly adjusted so the fall-off of this lens becomes a tad less visible. Not that this matters much with such a scene, though.

Entrance into 2013
73_15_C1301045132.jpg
Bjørn

#5 Gardenerbob

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 22:27

Strange place for a bench...
If this is Norway, what is 'Light Hergas' doing on the wall?
Oh Yes, Nice shot, though a bit spooky...
Bob

#6 Millirehm

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 22:42

Working with and managing huge lens kits causes a lot of decisionmaking - may be a burden. Sometimes it is favorable to go back to the roots temporarily
Wolfgang

#7 nfoto

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 23:06

I'm professionally familar with decision-making as that reflects much of my working years anyway.

So my intention was not to have a lesser burden to bear. I always do a lot of planning and making sure my tools for a given assignment or trips are what I need later. Rather, this should be seen as a variation on a theme I have presented to many of my workshop students.. Namely, how to learn to see visually by bringing just a single camera, or a single lens, or work within a [small] area, or within preset constraints. The underlying idea is decoupling the process of visualisation from the technology by stressing the overwhelming influence of the photographer himself. One has to understand that any scene or any setting holds a potential for great photography if you just look for the opportunities instead of whining about the limitations. In fact, just by adding your own presence, a scene has altered its content and thereby enhanced its potential. Although I have on numerous occasions done the "test" by using only a single camera-single lens or similar approaches for say 1-3 months, one wants sometimes a change of affairs so to speak. Thus this time it is within the constraints, if any, of a photographer anno 1973 I want spend the next months. I think, no I already know, this will be another great experience and look forward to meeting the near future as a time traveller..
Bjørn

#8 nfoto

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 23:12

Gardenerbob: a railway underpass just across the river where I live.

The street artists seem to speak the same language everywhere. Not much originality there.
Bjørn

#9 Jan Anne

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 23:32

I wish you a lot of fun on your time travels Bjørn, it sure is an original and challenging undertaking (and with only 7 years under the belt not something I can join you in).

Though I wasn't around yet in 73 my 16/3.5 fishy with C mount is from that era, a stunning lens that joined me on a of lot trips in combination with just the 50/1.2 for an awesome, versatile and lightweight combo.
Only the mediocre are always at their best....

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#10 nfoto

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 23:34

In three years time -- so still hope up for you to do a decade lookback.
Bjørn

#11 Rags

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 03:05

A wonderful project, I look forward to the images.

I'm going to advance to the bottom line; I suspect upon conclusion you can support the idea; that you don't need the current crop of lenses to take a good picture

Just my guess... :D

Rags

#12 Gardenerbob

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 13:16

I like your idea of constraining equipment in order to force a new viewpoint. I am going to try it myself.

#13 Erik Lund

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 14:15

Looking forward to this time travel thread!
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#14 nfoto

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 14:31

The idea isn't new and has proven itself over decades of actual photography. You can only gain insights and discover new aspects of your photography, so there is nothing to lose.
Bjørn

#15 56 DIN

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 14:36

i wish you a lot of fun

and for us readers many "aha effects", by thinking, "why hasn´t this been my idea ?" when you show your results.
Thomas

#16 Andrea B.

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 16:38

keyword for me from your essay - decouple.
from the idea of limitations.
from too much gear.


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#17 nfoto

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 16:45

A basic problem with such projects is the fact that you cannot undo your time experiences. Meaning you cannot *redo* what you did back then because everything, you inclusive, has moved on. Rather, seize the opportunity to unravel your old ways of thinking (if at all possible).

For the '73 section of the ongoing project, very few of the original images exist today. The reasons being a series of random events plus a deliberate "cleaning-out" of the old image files as part of a New Year's resolution (1990). So it is not easy to show my ancient way of visualising, but whenever there is the odd image, I might track it down.

So, for example, here is a snapshot with the 15 mm f/5.6 from that period. Done on IE 2443 like much of my non-scientific work of that time.

_NG_15mm_IE_D7415548.jpg

Would I do this capture in the same manner today? Perhaps. I can easily understand and "read" the framing, and using say the Fuji camera, an emulation of Infrared Ektachrome is feasible. At the very least I would today use a tripod, whilst 40 years ago I believed a tripod wouldn't matter much (of course, time proved me wrong in that assumption too).

Since the subject is long gone, all one can do is speculation anyway.
Bjørn

#18 nfoto

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 17:47

So, next lens out is the Zoom-Nikkor 43-86 mm f/3.5. This is perphaps the Nikkor with the worst reputation of all times, yet managed to not only sell in huge numbers but continued in their lens line for about two decades. During this long interval it went through several changes both cosmetically and optically. The workmanship and build quality were first class, though, so mitigating the somewhat dodgy impression one got from the imagery delivered by the 43-86.

Back in the old days, the 43-86 served us well for snapshots and nobody knew anything about bokeh bad or otherwise. So one had to be content with shots like the one below,

(Nikon F, 43-86, Tri-X)

43-86bw2152.jpg

Today, during a dull and wet winter day, less obvious snapshots emerged.

End-of-life situation for Christmas trees (you see them on designated collection points all over the city. D40X, 43-86),

43-86J1301075164.jpg

Waiting at the doctor's office, while the Evil Eye watches us all (D40X, 43-86; not using the finder)

43-86Evil_Eye_J1301075158.jpg

So, the infamous 43-86 continues to have relevance even today. For IR, it is in fact performing well.
Bjørn

#19 nfoto

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 13:38

The Zoom-Nikkor 80-200 mm f/4.5 was the "dream lens" of Nikon aficionados in the early '70s. No wonder since the lens redefined what a zoom optic could be. It was sharp, had good colour rendition, and handled well. all that besides being built to a high level of workmanship and taking 52 mm filters, the standard of the time.Thus it quickly became a legend in its own time and by default I had no rest before I got one for myself..

It went through several cycles of cosmetic changes from its introduction in 1969 until it became discontinued in late 1981, to be replaced by a slightly faster f/4 version. Evil tongues might say the replacement was a step backwards, but Nikon as usual had the final say. There was a significant change in the optical design in 1977 to give even better image definition. The new version is easily identified by having a rectangular cut stray light baffle at the rear end.

Except for having a tendency to developing "zoom creep", one could hardly fault the handling of this zoom classic. It balanced extremely well on say a motorised camera too. In optical terms it shows the vintage by being more prone to flare than most modern equivalents, and since there is no ED glass in it, colours are slightly more muted as well. Not a drawback for most subjects, though, and even beneficial at times when scene contrast is excessive. The near limit is approx. 1.8 m so one would perhaps not find the 80-200 ideal for portraiture. Less well known is that the 80-200 performed in an exemplary manner when you added an auxiliary lens, for example Nikon's 4T, to give a very useful device for doing close-ups.

My original '71 version of this lens ended its life after dropping off a cliff in Italy. I replaced it with another sample and then some years later (late '77 or early '79) traded it for the AI model I now have in my possession. Recently I had a look at it again and added the now mandatory CPU chip to it.

The 80-200 was intended to do a man's work back in the '70s (never let it come near any of my girl friends of that time) and here is one of the few examples left from that period. I photographed a chemical mill making ammonia fertilisers and in the process the plant discharged copious amounts of nasty and hazardous nitrogen oxides. Very soon thereafter this kind of environmental pollution became prohibited never to be seen again at least in my country, so this picture has a historical significance of documentation to it whatever its pictorial values might be.

Industrial pollution (Nikon F, 80-200 mm f/4.5, Kodachrome)
Smokestacks_80-200_8021461.jpg


Earlier this morning I retrieved the 80-200, put it on the D40X, and snapped the following picture standing on my door steps. Just a flashback to the '70s.

Thermal inversion fog (Nikon D40X, 80-200 mm f/4.5, IR)
80-200_J1301085177.jpg

I had forgotten how wicked sharp this zoom lens was. On the straight-off camera files you can easily see the details of the aerials of the house on the hilltop (distance 3.2 km) and main side branches of the spruces and pines there are resolved too.
Bjørn

#20 olivier

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 20:14

This is a thread I am going to enjoy immensely.
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