I had to buy a camera yesterday to use as a prop for the cover of the soon to be published Novel...

The Prop Camera.
Nikon F4s with ancient 50mm 1.4
©2014 Kirk Tuck

The novel, The Lisbon Portfolio, is out of my hands and in the hands of my book designer. My proofreader loved the story and had a grand time showing me each and every inconsistency and misspelling. We are nearing the finish line and everything is looking great. In two or three weeks, at the most, you'll be able to grab an electronic copy from Amazon. A short time after that you'll be able to order a printed copy from Amazon, if you'd rather read from real paper. 

The story takes place at the dawn of the digital age. The year is 1999. Our protagonist, Henry, is sporting a couple of Kodak professional DSLRs but his personal camera is still loaded up with film and clicking along. Henry is off to cover a corporate trade show in Lisbon unaware that he is about to be sucked into a world of corporate espionage and double dealing. It's an action packed story with enough twists and turns to rival a mountain road. Will Henry escape with his life? Will his photographs turn out? 

But, in order to get the book out we needed to have cover art. The cover design that won our in-house contest juxtaposes a man shooting with a camera up to his eye on one side with a hand pointing a gun on the other side. And in the background is a ghosted back image of Lisbon from my own archive. 

We had the image of the hand with the pistol and, of course, we have the image of Lisbon, but we needed a good, silhouetted shot of the man with a camera. Full length, in a dark suit. Holding a camera of the era....

All the design elements were bouncing around in my head yesterday as I walked into Precision Camera to torture myself with another peek at the Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2.  I went to Precision to buy a new camera strap to replace the promotional strap on my Sony RX10 (that's a good sign; it means I'll probably be keeping that camera for a while...) I also wanted to get a boom pole holder for my Gitzo microphone boom. And I wanted to replace an umbrella that was damaged on a shoot last week. It was one of the Westcott 43 inch collapsible umbrellas. They fold down really small and they're only $20. 

At any rate, I was nosing around, trying to avoid the huge and unexpected crowd who had come for the in-store Photo Expo when I stumbled across a beautiful Nikon F4s in the used cabinet. It's one of my favorite models since it has the MB-21 battery pack which runs the camera from 4 double "A" batteries. I thought that this camera, coupled with a vintage 50mm 1.4 lens would be the perfect prop for my book cover model to hold. Granted, it's not digital but it has the correct gravitas and I was pretty sure it would be inexpensive...

I bargained like a rug dealer in the Grand Bazaar and walked out the door with it. On Tues. or Wednesday we'll set up the shoot and use the new prop. My original intention, once the shot was done, was to put the camera on a shelf with some old Leica rangefinders, an ancient Alpa camera and Nikon F2's and F's. But then I made the mistake of loading a roll of Tri-X into the thing and.....away we go. At least a full weekend of nostalgically shooting film. I'm sure I'll be sobered up by the bill for processing I'll get sometime next week. Oh well. A small price to pay for the perfect prop. 

To reiterate: The book is in production. It's being beautifully designed and laid out. And it's being done by someone who, unlike me, does not procrastinate. For a certain demographic of photographers this may be the hot book of Summer 2014. Stay tuned.

Studio Portrait Lighting


  1. Hey Kirk, just use BW400CN. It's C-41 process so you can get it developed, get prints, and a CD with low res scans at the local 1hr machine at Walgeens.


  2. Nikon F4 as a prop. How sad. How times change. Little more than a paper weight. So they took our Kodachrome away...geez.

  3. I have a shelf in my living room where I keep a Nikon F, F2, F3, F4 and F5. The F4 was my first Nikon and it is still the best looking camera I have ever seen.

  4. I was never a fan of the Nikon F4. One day around 1990, the photographer with whom I shared studio space walked in with a brand new F4. I hefted it with its standard lens, said "hmmm," and placed it on our UPS scale. Then I did the same with my Pentax 6x7 with the 105mm standard lens. They weighed exactly the same. I decided then and there that it would be a very cold day in a very hot place before I would pack that kind of weight to shoot a 35mm frame. :o)

  5. hey i was there and saw ya! i almost came running up gushing like a tweenager at a One Direction concert for a photo.. but you looked deep in thought, so i let you be :D

    first kTuck siting!

    (appologies for kTuck nickname...*hangs head*)


  6. Nikon F4S; my absolute, all time favorite camera. Why such a boat-anchor? It fits my hands perfectly and I truly do not mind the weight. Matter of fact I added a battery grip to my DSLR to make it more comfortable and easier to hold.

    One size does not fit all!

  7. Man do I love my F4S! I do love my larger format cameras and I do tend to travel with the FE since it is lighter. But then the F4S is in my hands again. Like a glove. And it just GOES! And that shutter and motor wind fire off and it sounds like a piece of high precision military gear. And you just know you could bludgeon someone to death with it and still take a really good picture of their body afterwards.

    Man I love that camera.



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