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by Genghis


It started innocently enough. My wife Patty walked our dog in the park a half a block away from our apartment in the Lower East Side of New York at 3:30 AM, just as she has with our various dogs over the past 28 years. Twenty-eight years without incident, until now that is. This public park is ungated, as open as the dawn's welcoming light that was to make its appearance a couple of hours after this routine early morning dog walk. This time however, two housing police officers in a company van left their idling vehicle to intercept Patty, to give her a ticket for trespassing. When my wife questioned the sanity of this act, the officers pointed out an obscure sign posted on a fence well away from the park's entrance. It read.....


When Patty came back home and presented the ticket for my perusal, I simply said...."Okay, so pay the fine." Not so fast, Patty said. She had to go to court for this type of violation. Ridiculous? Yes, but it is what it is. This court appearance required a different strategy than merely ponying up and paying the fine, as one would with a parking ticket. The new strategy mandated by the court appearance like some petty thief would need to make, would be to claim innocence based on the obscure logistics of the sign placement in relation to the park entrance. This, was a job for photography! We'd Perry Mason this violation of the penal code out of the park, baby! We'd have to shoot various angles expeditiously, and just as expeditiously have prints ready for a consultation with a lawyer in a few days. This had to be a lawyer familiar with New York penal codes, and I had a good one. This particular attorney represented me on a flimsy reckless driving charge nine years ago, that I incurred on my old Harley. This lawyer got the charge dismissed, and rightly so. The sight and sound of a long-haired tattooed menace knuckle-dragging greaser biker on a loud Harley with straight pipes, was obviously too much for the sensibilities of the Dudley Do-Right that cited me for reckless driving, but that story is for another time. The point is, that this lawyer proved the invalidity of the charge to the judge that dismissed my case.

Our photographic plans were laid out, and straightforward. We'd throw a roll of Kodacolor 400 into the cheap Olympus point and shoot we keep for this type of mundane job. After all, the result doesn't have to be salon prints. No problem. Except that the point and shoot refused to load the film. The Olympus was making retching sounds worthy of an emergency room of a Medicaid fraud facility. This was case of the camera being knocked about one too many times by the cat. Sturdy, these point and shoots ain't. I didn't want to fool around with digital. There are times when I want the simplicity of shooting a roll of film and dropping it off at the CVS for the Young-Person-At-The-Ubiquitous-Photo-Desk's-Automated-Processing-Machine, to do it's mindless thing. Just spit out those prints in an hour, baby! That's all I ask. Two copies per negative, please. No muss, no fuss, no digital darkroom work....and no functioning point and shoot camera---so whaddoowedo?

That's okay, man. I'd drag out my old Nikon F3 out of mothballs and press her once more into service. I haven't used this old warrior of an SLR since I went digital 7 years ago. Surely, the batteries would be kaput. Prediction validated, the silver oxide batteries were as dead as doornails. Say, have you ever wondered where that saying came from? Why not "dead as Phillips screws," or "dead as three-quarter inch bolts?" Why doornails? For your information, this old platitude dates back to times of antquity as long ago as the 1300s, when knockers on medieval doors sat on outsized doornails. These purposefully ginormous doornails that were much larger than the smaller utility studded nails that ran the length and width of these castle doors, were thought to surely be dead from the incessant hammering of the knockers. These nails were beaten to death from the multitudes of visitors announcing their arrival. That's the origin of the saying, "As dead as a doornail." The CVS didn't have the batteries that my F3 needed. Too specialized for routine inventory. A trip to the local Radio Shack brought me greater satisfaction, my F3 got her new batteries and we were on our way to gettin' fast prints to show the lawyer!

Not so fast.

I sacrificed the last roll of film in the house trying to get it loaded into the point and shoot. Hey man, no problem. Surely the CVS would have film.....NOT! Neither did the neighborhood Duane Reade. This film shortage at convenient stores is symptomatic of the popular decline of film in the face of digital's onslaught. Film, processing chemicals, it's getting harder and harder to find these items on a broadbased level. Not to worry. I eventually found an ample supply of film at a Walgreen's.

Handling the Nikon F3 reminded me of how much I loved and cherished this wonderful instrument in the years before I went digital in 2003. I bought my F3 in the mid-1980s, when I worked as a retinal photographer at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan. There was a small camera shop on Broadway and 164th Street where I bought my film supplies. It was called Harry's Camera Shop. Harry's real name was Zvi Glick. Harry was nice guy with a large family. Orthodox Jews like Harry believe in siring many children, and if my memory serves me correctly, Harry had seven children. Harry sold me my Nikon F3 HP ("High Eyepoint") in 1984 for the princely sum of $476.30 (those were the days!). This great SLR was my faithful partner in our street photography exploits for 19 years. That's not quite as long as the 22 years I used my loyal Nikon F before the F3, but still---19 years is a big chunk of time by any measure.

The Nikon F3 deserved the title of Nikon's "flagship" in the '80s. Built like a tank, extremely rugged and reliable, this Nikon was also refined technologically. It boasted Nikon's first electronic titanium shutter capable of accurate speeds ranging from 8 seconds to 1/2000th of a second. The film winder was super-smooth, and a joy to just pull to advance the film and cock the shutter, because of ball bearings in the shutter and film transport mechanisms that rendered the film-winding action butter-smooth. While shooting with my Nikon D1x DSLR, I sometimes miss the visceral pleasure of racking that flawless, billiards table-smooth F3 film winder. This is probably analogous to a sports car driver transitioning from a beloved stick-shift four speed, to a semi-auto paddle shifter. It's a melding of muscle memory and endorphins, man! Working great and traditional machinery gives me tremendous pleasure. The Nikon F3 was also beautiful in its design, having been designed by famed Italian automobile designer Giorgetto Giurgiaro, who designed the Ferrari Berlinetta 250 Bertone and various Maseratis. The viewfinder of the Nikon F3, was the best in the world, bar none. This old F3 of mine, is probably the most efficient point and shoot camera to ever shoot a roll of film headed for CVS's photo processing desk. Later.