Scotland and Iceland: Intentionality – Mini Photo Essay

In June of this year I joined my family for a two week trip to Scotland and Iceland. We spent ten days in Scotland travelling north from Glasgow, through the highlands, and making our way to Edinburgh before we jumped to Iceland for a four day adventure.


I made this trip an opportunity to work on my intentionality when it comes to photography. I still consider myself as really new to film, even though I’ve been shooting for the better part of eight months. I primarily shoot to capture moments in my day to day life but as I learn more about this medium I try to shoot more and more with the intention of finding a scene, composing it, and capturing it. Maybe that seems like a nuanced difference but for me it’s an attempt to change my approach to photography.

I embarked with something a bit fancier than the usual “cheapest 400 speed you offer” so I ended up bringing five rolls of Portra 400, two HP5 Plus and two Tri-X 400. Why the variety? While I strive to become more intentional in my approach to photography I need to be purposeful about how I utilize a given stock of film. As for gear the only camera I owned at the time was my trusty Olympus OM10.

There are two things I noticed when I kept intentionality at top of mind,

  1. First was that I was more willing to take risks with composing because I was trying to shoot out of my norm, basically it forced me to get out of my comfort zone
  2. Second was that having constantly gorgeous new scenery all around you makes it harder to be purposeful because I wanted to capture everything!

These differences are what I think about when I go back to these shots. I can see some scenery shots here that didn’t challenge me as much, like this shot from the Quiraing landslip on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. It’s not necessarily hard to line up where you want the horizon, capture this rugged landscape, and get it in this shot. Could I have done more to add some character to this shot? I very well could have but it’s not something that was top of mind because of that second point above, sometimes you just want to mindlessly capture gorgeous sceneries like this.


And I look at this one from the Reynisfjara black-sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland. I was under a cave staying dry and just people watching and taking in the desolate scene. I knew I wanted to shoot something here that was more than just the sand and the cliffs because that wouldn’t do any justice to what I was seeing around me. I thought if I could contrast the ominous setting with something bright and warm then that would achieve my goals. I ran out into the rain to create this shot when the two vibrant ladies were contrasted with the sand – and in that way I challenged myself and got what I wanted from the scene.


The more I think about it I figure it’s not hard to shoot with intentionality in mind. Does it require more focus on your subject and the composition? Certainly. That’s what it’s about by definition, but at that same time a requirement to focus gives you the time it takes to challenge yourself and to become a more vulnerable photographer.

It takes a whole lot more vulnerability to want to share the ladies in the poncho shot because it took me a lot more thinking and it’s more personal than the Quiraing shot. I’m sharing my own thoughts on what I wanted that image to look like and I get to benefit on a discussion related to those thoughts. So overall, being intentional and being vulnerable to share that intentionality forces you to grow and become a better photographer.


Maybe this all seems like an obvious point but I just wanted to share where I’m going with my photography and I hope some of you connect to that approach, if not I hope you enjoyed the shots.

All shots developed at Kerrisdale Cameras in Vancouver BC, black and white shots scanned by me on an Epson perfection v550.

Book Giveaway: “Northern Tier” by Thomas Wilson

UPDATE: Congratulations to @pyfilm for winning this giveaway! 

If you’ve been following our Instagram you’ve probably seen us spamming you about the giveaway we’re running for Thomas Wilson‘s new book “Northern Tier”. We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to promote such a beautiful book that captures what it’s like to bike from New York City to Oregon, and all the rural Americana vibes you get on that journey.BE001_03

“Northern Tier” is printed by Beatrice, an independent press specializing in artists’ books. This post is to share some teasers of the book as well as Beatrice’s description of this project.

From Beatrice:

“Northern Tier is a contemporary document of rural America, captured through the photography of artist and scientist Thomas Wilson. In the summer of 2017, utilizing the Northern Tier bicycle route, Wilson rode his bike from New York City to Oregon along with his riding partner, Michael Patten.


The pair’s days were spent swiftly traversing miles of empty landscape, while at night they slept in strangers’ bedrooms and sleeping bags on the side of the road. Wilson punctuates his landscape imagery with pit stops in small towns, collecting postcards, ephemera, and other samples of Americana that oscillate between humor and melancholy.


The book is offered in an open edition through 2018, though the first 100 copies also come with a free print. The book was edited and designed by Wilson and Pat Reynolds, and it features introductory texts by Michael Patten and filmmaker John Wilson (Tom’s brother). 


Thomas Wilson is a photographer based in Brooklyn, NY; he also teaches high school earth science. His work has recently been featured on BOOOOOOOM and Aint-Bad.”


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Here’s how to enter:

  1. Follow us @boxspeed
  2. Follow Thom @thomspictures
  3. Comment on the giveaway post and tag a friend you’d bike you’d bike across the USA with

If you’re a photographer working on a project and you’d like to spread the word on your work send us a message! is the best way to get in touch or DM either of us at @nickross48 or @_slee_.

Much love,

Box Speed

Nikon F3 Review: Understated Perfection

The Nikon F3 is the third flagship SLR from the Nikon F series. Released in 1980, during the peak of the SLR arms race from camera giants like Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Minolta, it enjoyed a 20+ year period of production before it was succeeded by the Nikon F4 (although the F3 was still in production well after the F4 was released). Enjoyed by enthusiasts and professionals alike. The technical details of this camera have been discussed to great lengths elsewhere. In this review I’m going to focus on my personal experience shooting this camera and where it fits in my arsenal. Here are my thoughts on this legendary SLR.

Nikon F3.jpg

I bought this Nikon F3 back in March of 2018. I got an incredible deal on it, $169 USD for the body, so I just had to get it. It was a bit dinged up but in 100% functional order. I didn’t really need it at the time, but with a deal like that I couldn’t really pass it up. Plus I had some Nikon F-mount glass already so I saw it as a good investment.

Nikon F3-8.jpg

I’ve only owned three 35mm SLRs in my life, the Canon AE-1, the Nikon FE and now the Nikon F3. The F3 is by far the superior system. The film advance is the best feeling advance I’ve experienced in an SLR, the modular nature and versatility are unmatched, and the design is to die for.

Nikon F3-6

The Nikon F3 was designed by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, a famous designer who’s responsible for designing some of the most striking Italian sports cars ever. He was the one who added the patented red stripe accent to the Nikon F3, an accent that has been included in every major Nikon release ever since. The F3’s design is industrialist while still remaining beautiful. It’s understated but bold. Some might say that it doesn’t matter what the camera looks like, what matters is its functionality. While I agree to some extent, I also believe that having a camera that you’re inspired to create with is incredibly important. If you’re more likely to pick up a camera that’s beautifully designed, you’re more likely to go out and shoot. Of course, functionality is important too and the Nikon F3 is no slouch when it comes to this either.

Nikon F3-9

The viewfinder in the Nikon F3 is one of my favorite components of this camera. It’s clean, clear, offers 100% viewfinder coverage and isn’t bedazzled with distracting needles and LEDs. The shutter speed is displayed in a separate LCD window, as is the aperture display. There’s nothing to distract you from your composition.

Nikon F3-3

The metering in the F3 is pretty much infallible. I shoot on aperture priority mode 99% of the time, and I’ve never had a failed exposure, even in tricky back-lit and contrasty lighting. Even with aperture priority mode on, I have the freedom to meter for the shadows or highlights with the exposure lock button. With these two features in tandem, I pretty much have complete control over exposure even while in a semi-automated shooting mode. The Nikon F3 is the camera I choose when I want to go out and shoot and have nothing in my way.

Nikon F3-7

I love taking the Nikon F3 out when I want just a bit more control over my exposure and aperture than a point and shoot but want to turn my brain off a bit and not worry about nailing my exposure like with my Leica M2. It’s also a nice departure from the 35mm focal length that is on virtually every other camera I own. The lens that is permanently attached to my F3 is the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4. Only on the rare occasion that I do some portraiture work will I bring out the 105mm f/2.5. Besides that, its always the 50. I love how this camera offers full-fledged functionality but also allows me to just turn my brain off and shoot.

Nikon F3-5

There are many aspects of this camera that I love and very few that I do not. If I had to complain about anything with this camera, its the flash compatibility. I don’t often shoot with a flash so it’s not much of a concern, but the F3 has a unique flash hotshoe and it can be tricky finding a compatible flash without the use of adapters. But as I said before, this is hardly a concern for me as I prefer to shoot without flash in 99% of all situations.

All in all, this is a fantastic professional SLR that serves as one of my main 35mm cameras. The understated but powerful design, incredibly clean and clear viewfinder, robust metering system and the versatility of its automated/manual modes make this my favorite 35mm SLR of all time.

Nikon F3-4