France on Film: Rue Saint-Dominique
In the summer of 2022, I traveled France with my normal Sony mirrorless camera gear, as well as with a Nikon FG, a vintage film camera. I found the FG in a Kokomo, Indiana thrift store for $10. It was sold as non-working, but it just needed new batteries. The Nikon FG was produced from 1982-1986, and mine came with a 50mm lens attached. It’s a manual focus camera, complete with manual settings for shutter, iso and aperture. It also has an aperture and program mode, with audio alarms for incorrect exposure. I bought a dozen or so rolls of Kodak 200 and 400 speed film and took the camera and film with me to France.
I found the prospects of shooting with film to be quite interesting. I hadn’t had a film camera in decades, though my first camera was a Kodak 110 camera back in the late 1970s. I’ll admit to a lot of trepidation about film — it’s expensive to buy, expensive to process, and would the photos turn out anyway? Film photography forces you to slow down a bit, as you can’t “spray and pray” as you might with digital, culling one or two good frames out of hundreds of shots.
About halfway through the France trip, I realized I needed to re-think the way I was using the camera. I was taking a few landscape shots, much as I do with my digital cameras, but it was clear that in challenging light conditions, I was never going to get the results that I would with digital. In a sunrise or sunset scenario, I was going to prefer the greater dynamic range of the digital output and its latitude for post processing. I felt like I needed to be doing something completely different with film, not just replicating the shots I would take with my digital camera.
So,I changed focus (ha!) and decided to use the film camera in the middle of the day, on packed streets and in places I wouldn’t traditionally take photos. I’ve never been a huge fan of having people in my photos, but I realized that in Paris, the people really add something to the photos. And film, with its grain and softer focus, would offer something more interesting and unique.
I ended up shooting every roll of film I had, and eagerly sent them off to be processed when i returned. When the digital scans arrived in my e-mail, there were some photos that I really liked.
This photo of Rue Saint-Dominique looking toward the Eiffel Tower might be the best of the bunch. It’s one of my favorite views in Paris, with the Hotel Thoumieux sign. I also like the awning, the lights, menu, people, and action. The photo has a vintage look, it almost fees like it was taken long ago.
I really enjoyed shooting with the Nikon FG, and plan to share more of the results, plus more thoughts on what it’s like to go from digital to film.