This Week No. 32: Nikon N70, craft fair postmortem

Kate's half of the table
Kate’s half of the table featured different sizes of a lovely hat, mittens, slippers, and originally, some baby booties. I used a basket and some yarn balls as decorations. (Daniel J. Schneider)

My very first craft fair is over and I managed to sell a few prints in spite of light foot traffic. I have a page of notes in my Moleskine, and a storied Nikon N70 in my bag.

Craft fair postmortem

After all the prep work I did for one craft fair — a craft fair that I originally had suggested for Kate before she offered to split the table with me since I would have to tend it — I may have caught a sort of bug. Let’s review:

I’ve spent several hundred dollars and a couple months working to prepare for the Denver Post’s Holiday Craft Fair. I had some digital-C prints made up and laid out a book on the table full of alternate available prints for order. The other half of the table was Kate’s knitted goods.

Kate won the day, scoring the first sale with two pairs of baby booties. I could’ve sold several more pairs, but sadly, nothing else in her collection sold. The first takeaway, though, was that cute sells.

There were maybe 100 or 150 people through during the course of the day. Several other sellers noted that foot trafiic was much lighter than years past, and that there were less sellers than the last few years.

In spite of those hurdles, I managed to sell one matted 8×10 and two matted 5×7 prints. After a long discussion on Twitter with some friends, I decided to price my prints at $40 for an 8×10 and $25 for a 5×7. Both prices still represented a decent profit margin over materials cost, and not a single person questioned the prices. Perhaps they were too low, but I’m still not confident in my ability to sell them at higher prices — especially when they are not truly handmade darkroom prints.

Even though I only sold a few prints, I spoke with a number of people who were very interested in them. No one was interested in ordering prints of any of the other images in my book, though I’m aware that a fair like that isn’t a place people are really looking to order things at — they want a cash-and-carry product. Given the expense of preparing the prints I did have, I’d only made prints of six distinct images, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve sold several more if I’d had greater variety.

The quote of the day was, “Do you have this in blue?” While Kate’s knitted hats (in a gorgeous aqua wool) were quite popular with browsers, several people asked about color options. I think the lesson for Kate is that you need several sizes and colors of each item if you want to sell knitted goods.

My half of the table
On my half of the table, I arranged my antique hardware crate of matted prints, a print on a small easel and a book of further examples. To the side I had a framed 8×10 print on a collapsing easel. (Daniel J. Schneider)

My third takeaway had to do with space. I thought a 6-foot table would be plenty for the few things we each had to display, but it filled up really fast when I started setting up. I could’ve brought an extra table, or easily rented two given the low price I paid, but I didn’t. Lesson learned.

One person commented that they’d like to know when the photo was taken. Everything I was offering was taken this year and I hadn’t even thought of that. I did title all my photos — I primarily stick to county and state, but sometimes add a striking feature or the main subject, when it’s something obvious. But it sounds like I need to at least append the year the photograph was taken to that convention.

Speaking of county and state — my goal isn’t to hide my locations from other photographers, but rather to protect the things I see from being overrun by curious explorers and potentially damaged. I’ve found a lot of really well-preserved things out on the Eastern Plains and I’d like them to be there for me to photograph again.

My last big takeaway — I need to be able to swipe a credit card. Pretty sure I lost at least one sale due to not having Square or something similar. A lot of complaints about held funds have me apprehensive about Square itself, but a competing service called EMS+ looks pretty good. Lower fees and free hardware are tempting, too. I’ll definitely sign up before trying another fair.

All that said, I feel like I’ve caught the bug a little bit. It was a lot of fun to talk to strangers about my art and discuss the stories behind some of the images. I put my Yashica-Mat on the table as a decoration, too, and that drew several people to the table. I think a fair with a bit more foot traffic might be even more fun.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking at a way to offer the remaining prints for sale on my website. We’ll see how long it takes to set something up.

Nikon N70 front
Front view of the Nikon N70 with the 28mm f/2.8 AF lens. The grip more than fills the right hand. The red line introduced on the F3, however, is still present. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The N70 Story

Kate and I had lunch at Homegrown Tap & Dough one afternoon this last spring and planned to walk from there to Washington Park. I was testing out the Pentax 6×7 and figured a walk around the park would provide some opportunities for test frames.

We made it about two blocks and I stopped to take a picture of an early-twentieth century garage. A couple middle-aged men and a few kids were walking down the sidewalk. I held the camera down, away from my face, so they’d feel comfortable walking past and I could get back to framing my photograph.

They stopped, though, and one of the gentlemen asked about my camera — was it film, what kind, etc. He asked if had many cameras, what did I do with them. I described my blog and that I was testing the Pentax, that I had my own little Home for Wayward Cameras.

He was full of questions, though, and I admit, I got tired of the Q&A fairly quickly. I don’t really enjoy being grilled when I’m trying to make a picture, though I try to humor people to a point. I toughed it out a little longer and it was worth it.

He said he lived just a few blocks away and invited us to follow him to his house, where he said he had some old cameras in the closet he didn’t have any use for. I was nervous, but we tagged a long.

He went inside for a bit while we talked to the neighbor who’d been walking with him. When he came out, he handed me a bag containing:

  • a Kodak Instamatic 804 with hard case
  • a Bell & Howell Electric Eye 127 with leather case
  • a Kodak Brownie Starflex outfit
  • a Kodalite Flasholder with box and accessories
  • a Nikon N70 35mm SLR camera body

He said he was pretty sure everything worked; some had belonged to family members, but the Nikon had been his. By then I’d lost all the light, so I thanked him and Kate and I headed home.

Nikon N70 display
The display panel is remarkably complex on the Nikon N70 — nearly as complex as the display on my Canon 30D was. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I had a Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AF that came from Dean Krakel along with the Nikon FM2n he gave me, so I bought a battery and decided to try the N70 out.

The first thing I had to do was clean up the camera back. The right side grip and the back were originally coated with some kind of rubbery paint, but it turned into a gooey mess with age. I confirmed via forum sites that it could and should be removed. It took a little elbow grease and a lot of 91% rubbing alcohol, but I got it all cleaned off. I think I like the shiny-smooth back better than the rubbery coated version, anyway.

I had some trouble loading film at first and there were some errors to clear before the computerized bits were all ready to go, but I got it all working pretty quickly.

My first impression is that it’s an awful lot like using a digital camera. It has a lot of the same controls my Canon 30D had, and the shutter even sounds somewhat similar. It’s easy to burn through film frighteningly fast, too (not necessarily a good thing).

I’ve finished a couple of rolls of film already and have some likes and dislikes written down, so there will be a full review coming soon.

Stay tuned for my Year in Review posts coming in the next couple of weeks. Check out last year’s posts in the meantime: 10 most popular posts of 2014 and Best photographs of 2014.

Nikon N70 back
The back of the Nikon N70 was originally coated in some kind of rubberized paint which had grown sticky with age. I removed it with some 91% rubbing alcohol and a lot of elbow grease. (Daniel J. Schneider)