How the Nikon FM2 Changed My Skate Photography

How the Nikon FM2 Changed My Skate Photography

I know that this will be a bit nerdy for some of you who aren’t savvy to the technical aspects of photography, but here goes.

When I shot my first skate photo at the Del Mar Skate Ranch in February of 1979, my first skate photo ever, I knew nothing of the workings of the camera I borrowed. I asked my roommate, whose camera it was, what to do. He loaded the roll of Kodachrome 64 film for me and told me to shoot at a fast shutter speed, 1/500th of a second, match the exposure needle to the little circle in the viewfinder, and most importantly to have the sun behind me. Those were my instructions, and I pretty much stuck to them for years. I did learn to tweak those rules over time, but shooting a skater with the sun behind them during the day meant I was pretty much relegated to producing silhouettes and a lot of bad photos.

After a few years of working on the tan on the back of my neck, a technical miracle from the Nikon Corporation came along, and in late 1985 I picked up the Nikon FM2 camera body. This camera was a game changer with a faster flash sync of 1/250th of a second, which allowed me to shoot fill flash during the day, even shooting directly into the sun and lighting up the shadows with minimal motion blur. This technical leap changed my photography big time; there were no limits when it came to lighting, and in the next few years I shot some of my favorite, well-lit, images.

Here are a few examples of daytime skate photos using the Nikon FM2 and a flash:

Nikon FM2 with 16mm Nikkor fisheye lens.

Tony Hawk, Crossbone Lien, Del Mar Skate Ranch, 1987

Steve Caballero, Fish Banks, Sunnyvale, CA, 1987

Chris Miller, Seylynne Skatepark, N. Vancouver, BC, 1986

Rodney Mullen, Ollie Grab, San Francisco, CA, 1988

Mark Gonzales, Gemco Bank, Oceanside, CA, 1985


  • I skated in the 80s and these are the guys I and the world looked up to and still do. And today I’m a photographer and love the variety of these moments you saw fit to freeze and your work is just phenomenal.

    Tom P
  • So sick!

    Bryan Perez
  • Hello Grant,

    just to say thanks! most of your work adorned the walls my bedroom and almost all of my friends growing up.

    James Dickerson
  • Grant.. I have met you.. I am a Fallbrook photographer friend of Brett Stokes… I always enjoy seeing your work and I particularly enjoy this story! Mike

    Mike Reardon
  • I stared at these images when they were originally published, to the extent that feel like my own memories, or at least part of the fabric of who I am. Thank you for doing what you do. Sincerely. For so many years you were our eyes, our window to the evolution in a sport we all loved.

    Joel Hamilton

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