the sky is falling …

1906 article re Wollensak’s solution to media insensitivity to blue light

Toronto. … or so said Chicken Little in the Children’s fable (I learnt the English version … ). For many years film and glass plates were basically insensitive to blue light (orthochromatic) so clouds and sky exposed for the landscape came out as white (ie. severely underexposed). Some filters solved the problem with a half clear bottom and a yellow top.

Wollensak, in this article from the Amateur Photographer for January, 1906, came up with a novel shutter solution. Its ‘Skyshade’ shutter slowly exposed the sky at a varying speed while the landscape was exposed at an adjustable ‘fast’ speed. This was all done with the shutter mounted in front of the lens and the camera securely mounted on a tripod.

Our thanks to my good friend, George Dunbar, for sharing this historic article with us.

Posted in history | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on the sky is falling …

dancing with mr stanhope

an array of Stanhopes courtesy of the Collectors Weekly website

Toronto. Did you know that microfilm images have been around since the beginning of photography? The role of John Dancer is recorded on the Collectors Weekly website under an article called, “Royalty, Espionage, and Erotica: Secrets of the World’s Tiniest Photographs (the image to illustrate this post is courtesy of their website).

The source of the name ‘Stanhope’ is for the type of lens used to view these tiny marvels instead of a much more expensive microscope.

The role of the Stanhope lens is also noted there and in a Wikipedia article. A few of our members collected “Stanhopes” which came in many guises. All used a Stanhope lens and a tiny positive image viewed by holding the lens between the eye and a bright light source.

NB. The title is a riff on the book “Mr Standfast” by one of my favourite authors – John Buchan  – also known as Lord Tweedsmuir (and governor-general of Canada back in the day). At least one of his books – “The Thirty-Nine Steps” written in 1915 – was adapted for a movie of the same name.

Posted in history | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on dancing with mr stanhope

making a brighter day

adding needed light for action shots

Toronto. In today’s world of smart phone ‘auto everything’ cameras, it is hard to imagine sensors so slow that sharp outdoor action shots are a no-no. But in the late 1940s, colour film was just that. Its sensitivity was abysmally slow.

Portraits and landscapes were great outdoors in full sunlight. But, for action shots, even in full sunlight, colour film sensitivity was just too low. Even a decade later, I found Kodachrome, at a crummy ASA 10, left the outdoor shadows in darkness if the highlights were correctly exposed (using a 35mm camera lens at f/2 and a shutter speed of 1/25 second or so).

So what could be done to take an action shot (especially using a press camera)? One could follow the subject and let the rest of the scene go blurry. One could use a strong flash. But what if the flash was too weak? Well, a more powerful bulb might have worked. No room for a larger bulb? Then multi flash guns could be used like shown here.

The article shows how one New York photographer (Oscar ‘Ozzie’ Sweet) solved things by concocting a support holding an array of flash guns, all set to fire when the shutter was released. As shown, the array was used with a press camera. Lenses for such cameras were a bit slow, even when used ‘wide open’.

The article is in Popular Mechanics (the March 1948 edition) and is presented  here thanks to my good friend and fellow PHSC member, George Dunbar. George found it while seeking historical material in magazine ads and articles.

Posted in history | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on making a brighter day

getting to know you

Kodak Canada Website

Toronto. In the days of print, camera makers, photographic chemistry manufacturers, studios, etc. used printed media to promote their wares. In fact George Dunbar has used the various magazine ads and articles of yesteryear as a source of photographic history. City directories, newspapers, in store displays, house organs, pamphlets, etc. were other sources of information.

In today’s world, the photographic mavens resort to the internet using web sites (such as Kodak Canada), social media, Youtube channels, etc. instead to promote product. The printed word, be it magazines or newspapers, is in decline while social media and the like are flourishing! Which raises the question – how will future researchers learn our rich photographic history?

Note: The post title is also a song title. In this case it is a song sung in, “The The King and I“, by Julie Andrews. While sourcing this song, there was some confusion over “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music” as the source. In any case in my selection, the actor is Deborah Kerr but the actual voice is that of Julie Andrews!


Posted in history | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on getting to know you

when we thought ten pounds was light …

A fall 1947 article on side flash activated by on-camera flash

Toronto. In this day of smart phones, it’s hard to imagine an accessory that was about 10 pounds in weight and a six inch square ten inches high with a flashgun stuck on the top and a tripod thread stuck on the bottom. …

Worse, the accessory (right photo) was to add a modelling light (centre photo) to a face illuminated by an on-camera flash (left photo).

We take smart phones for granted with their tiny, ultra light cameras and a tiny computer set for ‘auto everything’ so every photo is technically correct (subject, steadiness, and framing may vary). The contrast of a 1947 ‘accessory’ and a 2022 smart phone reminds me of that old adage, “we get too soon old and too late smart”.

George Dunbar, our good friend and fellow photo enthusiast generously sent along this bit of history in the form of a brief article on an extra flash triggered by the on-camera flash. The article once appeared in a September, 1947 issue of Popular Mechanics. Before smart phones took over, we used off camera bounce flash to model the subject and soften the shadows – sort of a one flash lights all.

Posted in history | Tagged , , | Comments Off on when we thought ten pounds was light …

still into analogue (a.k.a. film)?

Celebrating three decades of Lomography

Toronto. After nearly 20 years of serious digital technology, many folks still enjoy the mystique of analogue (film). The folks at Lomography know this! For 30 years now they have offered cameras and films for the niche enthusiast.

A recent flyer from Lomography, courtesy of Brigit Buchart, says in part, ” 30 Years of Lomography, Exposed!  Over the coming year, we’re going to be holding exciting events and releasing even more new products to celebrate our anniversary!

“To kick things off, we’re asking Lomographers and everyone around the globe to get involved and tell us why they still love shooting film via our new survey – 30 Reasons For Analogue: “.

So if you shoot film today, use the above link and join in on the fun. As we hear of the new products, we will try to post a notice here.

P.S. Visit our auction on December 17th and see if you can score some films or film cameras!

Posted in activities-other | Tagged , , | Comments Off on still into analogue (a.k.a. film)?

Our America by Ken Burns

book by Ken Burns

Toronto. I first learnt about Ken Burns via iMovie. The Apple App had a spot for effects and even came with one – the Ken Burns Effect. Burns as a documentary photographer used his effect to zoom and scan  stills in his videos to give a sense of motion.

I was surprised to hear that Ken is also an accomplished photo editor of historical photos as demonstrated by his book, “Our America“.

George Dunbar brought this to my attention. George writes, “I’ve been spending some enjoyable time with a magnificent new book, ‘Our America’ by Ken Burns. This huge, coffee-table-size volume, displays the excellent photo-editing talents of this famous documentary film-maker. He’s chosen about 250 images that beautifully capture the essence of America from 1839 to 2019.

“Most of the amazing images are entirely new to me since Mr. Burns and staff have obviously scoured the contents of many useful archives. Although all images depict American life, this book is a treasure-house of historical photography that will surely interest viewers worldwide.

“P.S. It’s available at the Toronto Public Library.”


Posted in book | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Our America by Ken Burns

a poet, a photographer, an author, a teacher …

Stan White reads one of his books Nov 2022.

Toronto. … and president of our Toronto branch 1985- 1987. Stan White at 93 has two more books to his name. Read more about Stan in this Hamilton Spectator/Toronto Star article by Jeff Mahoney. Stan was our resident Stereo expert – along with the late Dr Bob Wilson.

For a time, we kept one meeting open – usually a September meeting – as a stereo night often featuring Stan.

Note that Stan, with the help of family, has his own website (see link at bottom right too).

Enjoy the above article and if you were a member – or had EvRoseborough or Stan do photographic work for you – you may recognize our whimsical past president and speaker.

Posted in activities-other | Tagged , , | Comments Off on a poet, a photographer, an author, a teacher …

send in the cameras …

Kiev camera from earlier auction

Toronto. … never mind, they are here! At our Saturday, December 17th 2022 auction, of course. We are pleased to announce the live estate-only PHSC auction at the Legion Hall, Branch #101 just west of Brown’s line on the Lake Shore Blvd in Long Branch (Toronto).

Typical lots will be like the Kiev at left which was sold at a 2018 auction. We can’t be sure whether a Kiev or Contax will show up on the 17th, but there will be many desirable items in the lots going under the hammer.

Come on down and take a break from all that Christmas shopping. Enjoy yourself and reacquaint with old friends. And you may even win a bid for a new item for your collection or user gear. We will be posting lot photos as soon as they become available for display.

Note. The title here is a riff on that haunting and poignant 1975 Stephen Sondheim song as sung by Judy Collins, “Send in the Clowns“.


Posted in auction | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on send in the cameras …

and where will you be on December 17th?

Toronto. Our next auction is Saturday, December 17, 2022 at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall #101 on Lake Shore Boulevard West in Long Branch (South West Toronto). Pictures of sample lots will be posted as available.

PHSC auction DECEMBER 17, 2022

Posted in auction | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on and where will you be on December 17th?