In your bag No: 1609 – Nicholas Palfrey

Nicholas has used lessons learned from trials and errors of the past and settled on this sweet setup for his latest adventure in Morocco.


My name is Nicholas, I’m 24 from London and I am currently studying for my masters in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art. My interest- and ensuing love- in photography started off initially in a threefold manner. For a start I had spent a summer in Morocco with my girlfriend and her family a three or four years ago, whilst I was doing my undergraduate degree in Fine Art, and although I had immense fun that summer it felt as though I was missing something, as though those memories and things I had seen were quite literally just that- memories and things, I wanted a way of documenting what I saw. On top of this I had earlier that summer, seen the Sigmar Polke show in Köln and although I thought some of his stuff was a little dubious, his moving image work was a real revelation for myself and I saw it as a potential way to fill the gaps between making larger, more time consuming sculptural work, it acts not quite as glue but more like expanding foam that fills gaps. Finally, many of my best friends were and still are brilliant photographers and I had always been quietly critical of photography whilst also admiring some of the stuff they put out. A month or so after this initial spark of interest had fully ignited I invested in a Beaulieu 4008 ZM2 with a Schneider Kreuznach ‘Optivaron’ lens and a couple of months after that I bought a Zorki 4 with the legendary Jupiter 8 lens (which I sadly had to sell on to fund my much later Hasselblad acquisition). I have never really considered shooting digital as the tactility of film suits my natural disposition for physicality similar to my sculptural practice which is my main day to day focus.

The kit that I am showing here is the kit I am taking on my 5th (I believe) trip to Morocco this week. As you can see from the picture, it’s all ready taped up- the tape both covers all the shiny bits and  and also helps me light seal everything as they, especially the hasselblad have take numerous knocks and falls over the last few years. Last summer took my Hasselblad 500cm with the 50, 80, 150 and 250 lenses plus a couple of backs, bellows hood, some wratten gelatin filters that I had aquired a the best part of 40 rolls of film split 50/50 Kodak Tri-X and Ektar 100. Although I liked this kit much of it I didn’t really utilise it all that much and I learnt a lot on the two month trip that summer. On previous trips I had taken a Minolta Autocord, a Canon 814 super8 camera and a whole bunch of Tri-X. This was a much easier set up to work with and I enjoyed shooting much more that summer- too much kit makes me think too much and get a little too nerdy about the ins and outs of the kit and not about what I’m expecting and what’s in front of me.

Over the last couple of months I have be playing around with 35mm film for the first time since I had just got into photography as I am now having to make pennies stretch much further due to my masters degree. As I print all of my photographs it is as if it is an entirely new medium in terms of printing and shooting- especially with a point and shoot, which, although I was extremely skeptical of due to the sudden surge in the socialite/ model/ art school kids owning one, I am enjoying it a lot and I happened to pick up a Canon AF35m in Berlin in the new year for about 5€ and it has a filter thread so that it automatically calculates the exposure including filter!!

In this kit I have my trusty Hasselblad 500cm with the standard 80mm C T* lens and the 50mm Distigon C T* lens. In fact my favourite Hasselblad lens is the 150mm C T* but it is not all that much use in crowded cities so that is sadly having to be left at home. I chose to stick with the C lenses as opposed to the CF, CFi etc. because they’re small and have the shutter speed and aperture linked automatically so I can quickly move between apertures without having to press the button and then move the rings together like on all the later Hasselblad lenses. The C lenses (including the non T* coated lenses) are also way smaller and much nicer to carry around whilst also being exactly the same lenses other than the change up in shutters after the C T* line changed to CF lenses. Along with this I also have a two Hoya filters, a yellow/ green (y k2 in Hoya language) and a green (x1 in Hoya language). They are both 67mm threaded filters so that they fit on the larger 50mm lens and mount on the adaptor to the ‘Bay 50’ bayonet mount of the 80mm lens.

Additionally there is a Nikon 301 body with the Nikkor 50 1.4 AiS lens which I am really excited for as it’s the first semi auto camera I have used (apart from a brief use of a Minolta X-700 which is now in the possession of my girlfriend). I especially excited for aperture priority and automatic metering! For this camera I also have a Hoya K2 filter and an 80a blue filter for portraits. Finally I have the aforementioned Canon AF35m ‘Autoboy’, with its automatic everything, inbuilt flash and surprisingly fantastic 38mm 2.8, four element lens! I attach a blue 80a filter when required for portraits to bring out all the skin texture. Also in this set up is a Sekonic L-508 light meter that I got for a bargain back in October/ November. The bag I transport everything in is a Manfrotto ‘Professional Shoulder Bag 40’. However this is to transport everything and once on location I carry around the leather cross body bag that I bought a while ago in Morocco and fits film, potentially a lens and lightmeter and not much else.

Finally, film wise I only ever really shoot Kodak Tri-X as I love everything about it, although it’s gradually becoming more and more prohibitive to shoot in the large quantities I would like. I shoot at speeds varying from asa 50 all the way up to asa 6400 and have always had results that I can get decent prints off. I develop it in Ilford DDX when at home and the university’s Ilford ID11 most of the time. I love the tones that I get off DDX, I also really appreciate ID11 and D76, which is what I used when I started developing at home, but I got lazy and started using DDX because it’s easier to mix. I have tried other black and white films however I just can’t seem to come round to them, HP5 for instance just lacks a little bit of intensity. I have also shot colour film, however because I love printing I just don’t find as much enjoyment from the colour process. Lastly, I print everything on standard Ilford RC satin paper, I used to really like ‘pearl’ but due to it being out of stock at Parallax in Brixton, London (a really great, friendly cooperative that’s sells nearly everything you might desire). I ended up having to settle for the satin and have to say I haven’t looked back, i get much deeper blacks and the finish is just right!

Kind regards,

Nicholas Palfrey


Instagram: lesnicks

Thanks for sending us your bag shot Nicholas, very well thought out. Wish I was young again to be able to travel with more medium format gear.

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