Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Final Word

This blog came into being because of the great love a group of strangers from around the world share for Nikon manual focus lenses. We came together to celebrate these lenses on a photography website called I was the instigator of a discussion I fully expected would last a few weeks, but that has, in fact, lasted for over two and a half years. In reality, I see no end to what has become a conversation that continues all day and all night seven days a week, since it involves people from around the world.

In early 2012 I suggested to one of the participants of the conversation that it might be fun if we were to share a lens, passing it from one person to another as it circumnavigated the world. Leighton Womack, who lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, offered to create a blog through which we could share with one another the photos taken by participants. We broached the subject in our discussion on Fred Miranda, asking the salient question; what lens might inspire folks who already own and use a variety of manual focus lenses, to become engaged?

A relative newcomer to the conversation, Ben Bruni from Sydney, Australia, offered to make available a forty year old lens that none of us had used before. It is the pre-AI 85 f/1.8 H.C. that had been converted using an AI conversion kit offered decades ago by the Nikon Corporation. Conversion is essential because pre-AI lenses originally designed for film cameras may not be mounted on modern digital single lens reflex cameras generally used by today’s photographers without causing damage. It seemed the perfect lens for what we soon began calling the Great Nikon Lens Adventure.

I developed Guidelines, a Lens Itinerary as well as a Contact List with information about all the participants of the Adventure. With a lens selected and guidance for how to proceed we began. The lens soon given the name “Nikki” moved from Sydney to Singapore the middle of May, 2012, then on to Hong Kong; Amsterdam; Rotterdam; Paris; rural Germany outside Cologne; a city in Romania; Venice, and then across the Atlantic Ocean to Rochester, New York. The lens zigzagged across the United States before arriving, ten months after the Adventure began, at my home near San Francisco, California. I used the lens for two weeks, which was the time given to each participant. At the end I shipped the lens back to Ben in Sydney.

We began this Adventure without any idea how it would unfold. We all knew there were risks involved. The lens would cross many borders and pass through the hands of many people. Ben was remarkably open to the possibility something untoward might happen over the months. We were in reality strangers to one another after all. Yes, we’d gotten to know one another in cyberspace, but few of us had met in person. I was aware from participating at another website where something similar had been tried and failed, that there was no guarantee we’d be able to sustain this effort over many months. But, remarkably we did. A total of twenty individuals had Nikki in their possession, eighteen men and two women. Those of you who’ve followed this blog have met these folks and seen a bit about their world.

Along the way, one person bought a new lens hood to donate to the Adventure; a couple of people contributed lens filters; someone initiated a card that subsequent participants wrote on and a few participants slipped gifts for Ben and myself into the box. Yes, there was an accident, with the lens tumbling to the ground in Dayton, Ohio. The lens hood was bent, a lens filter broken and the front ring for mounting filters badly bent. The person responsible for the lens at that time, promptly sent it to a repair shop in Chicago, Illinois. Fortunately, they had a replacement part from the same version of the lens. That in itself is quite amazing given how old the lens is. Nikki came out of repair good as new.

When I received the lens and read comments from those who’d gone before me, I was deeply moved. We really did something quite wonderful. This may have begun as a lark, but it became a real cause for celebration, not only for those who participated in the Adventure, but also for those who later happened on the conversation. We likely could have sent the lens back around the world, giving new people an opportunity to join the fun, but Ben was anxious after seeing what others had done with the lens, to mount it once again on his camera. The lens safely arrived in Sydney mid-April, 2013, and Ben got his wish. We really did it!

I congratulate all who participated in this Adventure for a job well done. Thanks to one and all.

Curtis Grindahl


  1. It was a real honor to be a part of this adventure. It was a blast!

  2. Thank you again for putting this together. It took some of the most memorable images of my kids. The adventures with Nikki were awesome.