a material thing

Wooden View Camera with brass trim – like the brass microscopes of the day

Toronto. Have you ever wondered why the older view, box and folder cameras were made of wood with a leather, paper, or varnish coating? Or that the new 35 mm minicams were mostly metal. That some cameras were bakelite and other plastics? or that plastic and exotic metals like titanium are used today?

Cameras (aside from the lenses made of glass in a brass or other metal housing) were made from materials in common use at the time. As the popular use of wood gave way to metal and the ability to cast shapes, so camera designs changed, Around the world war 2 era, some cameras were made from plastics such as bakelite which could be moulded like metal but were less costly materials.

Modern digital cameras (not part of smart phones) are made of plastic, or for strength and durability, have skins of titanium. One can often picture the era by the material used in everyday cameras.


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50 ways to lose a lover

Anscoflex II Camera

Toronto. In the 1950s the marketeers at the camera companies struggled to make their products stand out from the herd. No item was too tiny to be touted as the biggest improvement ever in photography. Some changes where indeed useful, others not so much.

The advertising vehicles of choice were national and international magazines that would spread the word to all, especially those not yet committed to photography. On April 30, 1956, Ansco bought a four page spread in LIFE magazine to show just how important the company was to photography.

Ansco touted three major improvements for the year:
1 Panchromatic film (or as they called it ‘Ansco All-Weather Pan’)
2. Anscoflex II camera with built-in close-up lens and cloud (yellow) filter.
3. Anscochrome film for colour 3x faster than traditional films.

Panchromatic B&W film was relatively new. Sensitive to reds, it gave a more realistic colour rendering in grey scale. While not mentioned, the big deal was pan film at ortho film prices. We never learn from this ad if the cost was dropped (unlikely) or not.

The Anscoflex II was a box camera with a very large viewer and a built-in “close-up lens” for things at 1 metre from the camera (hardly close-up), and a built-in yellow filter so skies could be darkened leaving the clouds to shades of white to light grey.

And Anscochrome was touted as 3x faster than ‘traditional’ film. Kodachrome as the traditional film was around ASA 10 while Anscochrome was ASA 32. I used both and Anscochrome was a stop or two faster than Kodachrome, but more importantly, it was slightly lower contrast, emphasized greens rather than reds, and could be processed at home as it used much larger dye molecules than factory-processed Kodachrome making the development process much simpler. The fussy Kodachrome process demanded much tighter control of time and temperature and used many more steps.

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a colourful view

Argus colour slide projector ad in the April 16, 1956 issue of LIFE

Toronto. In the 1950s, the best colour shots were colour slides. Realistic colours, very high resolution, and visible to a whole room full of people. Of course everyone had to sit in the dark as each slide was projected on a special screen or an old bed sheet. The penalty for viewing these colourful images was listening to the host drone on about each slide.

The slides took special gear in the form of a projector and screen. Each manufacture  claimed their brand was the best of all. By the mid 1950s everyone used a tray to hold the slides and project them in sequence. Of course the trays could also be storage for the delicate images. Bright light bulbs ran very hot at 300 or 500 watts and could cause the slides to burn if held too long in view. A special heat filter and a tiny fan helped keep the condensers and slides reasonably cool.

A lower wattage bulb ran cooler but offered dimmer illumination. Colour prints at the time were expensive and rather poor resolution. The above advertisement in the April 16, 1956 issue of LIFE magazine shows minor changes to the Argus projectors from earlier versions. Of course today slides, film, projectors, Argus, and LIFE have all disappeared into the mists of time.  Thanks to member George Dunbar for this suggested look back in history to the days when colour slides were the peak of photographic viewing, especially for arm chair travellers.


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Juno Beach 75 years ago today

June 6 1944, photo by Gilbert Milne Canadian Press courtesy of the Globe.

Toronto. June 6th, 1944 was a memorable day. The famous D-Day landings took place on the beaches of Normandy. Canada took Juno Beach in a spectacular fashion.

Editor Bob Lansdale has made it his challenge to see that the event and our photographic contribution is remembered, You can read about D-Day here in the Globe, or here on the website of the Juno Beach Centre, or here on our own website or in Photographic Canadiana 43-2.

As a kid in school during the second world war, we commemorated the first world war each November 11th and in particular the Vimy Ridge monument and Ypres.  My wife and I had grandfathers and uncles that joined the Great War as it was known.

Only one uncle joined WW2 – and he was just a boy. My wife’s father tried too but he had injured an eye earlier and his generous offer was declined. There never seemed to be a similar commemoration for a WW2 battle. Perhaps D-Day and Juno Beach are the battles to be remembered by all.



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Photo News Summer 2019

PhotoNews 28-2

Toronto. As I opened Tuesday’s Globe and Mail for a quick read, out came Norm Rosen’s latest opus on all things photographic.

As usual, the magazine was an exciting read with lots of photos illustrating what the writers said in the articles.

Two articles caught my interest: Victoria Haack’s “My Best Friend” with ideas on making spectacular pet photos. I have had dogs and cats for many years and have always enjoyed each pet’s personality. Some have a great sense of humour. Some are good friends with other animals. All are great companions to my wife and me plus children.

The second article is Will Prentice’s “Flash 101″ column discussing flash metering vs. the data on the camera’s back (like the histogram graph). While I prefer to let the camera sort things out regarding flash, I know many professionals like to adjust the brightness of a standalone flash like a Metz and inspect each result on the camera’s viewing screen.

Check this issue out in the newspaper or on the newsstand – or wait a few weeks and check out the PhotoNews website. Can’t wait? then check out the website now with its many added articles beyond those in the print edition.

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getting ready for the 6th

my uncle joins the army of WW2. He was 15.

Toronto. When war was declared in September 1939, my uncle was too young and lied about his age to sign up. He trained in Canada and then embarked for England and more training. Being young, he was assigned less dangerous missions, including eventually the liberation of  Holland and Belgium. He never joined the gang of brave men who tackled Normandy those many years ago.

Years later, he told me stories about his war time escapades. He said he signed up because he thought it was the only way he would ever see Europe. He never expected to survive the war. He had his first taste of beer as a soldier in England. He left for Europe a kid and returned home five years later as a young man of 21.

My grandmother had this black and white photo of him in uniform coloured – a proven way to obtain coloured prints in those days.

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miner 49er

c1850 Daguerreotype of an American Gold Miner

Toronto. The Daguerreian Society is a scholarly organization more dedicated to the first photographic process than even France, the home of Louis Daguerre!

This is obvious from the effort expended in its Symposiums, Annuals, and Quarterlies (the 28 page DSQ 31–2 quarterly for April-June 2019 has just been issued to members). While I would be delighted to publish a copy here, its Mission Statement clearly states “… Quarterly for its members …”

If you are a member, you have already received this quarterly via  email or will shortly via snail mail. Want to join, or learn more? Visit their web site.

The above image is featured on the cover of DSQ 31-2 and is a fine example of a hand coloured Daguerreotype. Processes well into the 20th century were monochromatic. Colour was possible using special processes. And slides like the c1900 Autochromes and their competition did capture colour – sort of. Around the beginning of the second world war, and after, colour processes of far higher quality – like the 1935 Kodachrome –  came to market.

Today, modern smartphones and other digital cameras make the creation of colour images so simple a child can shoot them (my granddaughter, all of eight years old, told me quietly  this week that she is saving up at least $500 dollars for a good camera that will work with her iPad).

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a closer look

The AUTO-UP lens attachment for a Leica to allow close-ups down to a 1/2 metre

Toronto. For many years the convention for mini-cams was infinity down to one metre (1m). Many normal lenses for the Leica followed this standard leading to a variety of means to frame and focus in the macro range – closer to the subject than a metre.

This led to a number of third party devices that let Leica owners and others use their normal lenses at distances closer than the engraved 1m mark. An example shown here is the AUTO-UP device that fit many different 35 mm cameras.

The one shown is for the Leica with a non-rotating Summitar normal lens. A one diopter auxiliary lens allows the camera to focus from the regular 1 m down to a half metre. Above the lens is a rectangular lens that adjusts the position of the viewfinder and rangefinder accordingly.

Owners of other cameras could buy a similar device designed to fit their camera and lens. The little screw at the bottom connected the device to the lens like a filter or lens hood.

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with a little help from my friends

San Francesco Mural – by JR

Toronto. My good friend George Dunbar unearthed this digital montage in the Guardian as reported in a column by Glen Helfand entitled, “Tech bros, socialites and Metallica: the mural capturing San Francisco in 2019“. Only part is shown here – see the Halfand article for more of the mural and its video and animated GIF components.

Montages have been around for at least a century. The best known in photographic circles are perhaps those of William Notman. In the days before high speed wide angle lenses and fast media, it was impossible to get everyone in position and still for a shot (group action shots are still tenuous). Notman’s solution was to design the scene first, then shoot each person in the appropriate position and size. Each person was printed and carefully cutout and positioned on the original design. The montage was re-photographed and then copies were sold.

In 1967, the Beatles‘ famous album, “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released (I have both LP and CD versions). The cover shot was a montage of celebrities with their location and names listed. Just another example of the use of montages. Today, with computers and digital technology, the result is far more life-like than the old cut and paste efforts of days gone by.

Note: the title of this post is the name of the second song on the album.

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elephants have them too

Toronto. Be sure to visit our 9th TRUNK SALE this coming July 14th at our usual location – Trident Hall, 145 Evans Ave, Toronto. It will be held outdoors in rain or shine.

Choice locations on first come, first choice basis.

If you enjoyed the fair – or missed the fair – come on along to our Outdoor Photographic Trunk Sale!

Click the icon at left for full details.

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