predicting glass

As We May Think

Toronto. Wikipedia has an article on a famous essay that predicted things we take for granted today – like computers, Google Glass, AI, internet, robots and more. In 1939, Vannevar Bush published his essay “Mechanization and the Record”. After the war ended, (written before Hiroshima and Nagasaki) an expanded article was published in the July 1945 edition of Atlantic Monthly titled “As We May Think”. An abridged version was published a few months later in September, after the Atomic bombs were dropped.

Bush envisions his tiny camera using dry photography to develop the tiny negatives. The process pictured by Bush used diazo crystals developed with ammonia fumes, a system I used in the early 1960s teaching data transmission for Bell. While Bush felt his camera would snap any relevant stills under control of the wearer, Google Glass used a 5 megapixel (later 8) camera to continuously record a full colour video of all the wearer saw. Privacy concerns curtailed the promising Google experiment.

George Dunbar sent me a note on the September 10, 1945 LIFE reprint of this abridged article (beginning on page 112). Looking back, it is “Deja Vu all over again” as NY Yankee player Yogi Berra would say.

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wishful thinking …

Polaroid Ad in spring, 1962

Toronto. When Edwin Land announced the famous Polaroid Land system a few years after the war, dealers had difficulty keeping the “picture-in-a-minute” cameras and film in stock.  By the time this ad showed up, the Polaroid system was down to a brief 10 seconds from start to finish for B&W prints.

However; many folk decided waiting for far less costly prints was better than seeing the results in 10 seconds using a very expensive process. Many users realized that taking a “perfect” photo like the ads showed was far more complicated than just pointing and shooting the camera.

In the days of “picture-in-a-minute” excitement, many amateurs had a Polaroid used with only a few rolls before the camera was quietly shelved, and it was back to the Kodak again with its cheap film and processing. With other cameras, bad prints were tossed; good ones were kept in an album or shoe box for future generations.

This April 6, 1962 ad in LIFE (p 25) was typical of the day, promising great photos of that special event (like an Easter outing) in just 10 seconds. Ironically, LIFE devoted this issue to ways to stretch your money – too bad everyone wasn’t using a Polaroid camera … A big thanks to my friend George Dunbar for this ad reminiscing what might have been.

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Bill’s World

Notman Studio Portrait of Lillie Langtry of Boston in 1886/7

Toronto. In 1995, McClelland & Stewart, Inc (then a famous Canadian Publishing House) published a Canadian edition of The World of William Notman” written by Hall, Dodds and Triggs. The lavish book had a history of the Notman Studios and a beautifully printed collection of Notman photographs with exceptionally high resolution and deep blacks.

The 230+ paged hard cover book carried a suggested list price of $100 with a 25% discount for the first months of publication. It was originally published in 1993 by the American publisher, David R Godine, Publishing in Boston.

I bought my copy as a remaindered book for the sum of $24.99 at Edwards Books on Queen just before Spadina. The last named author, Stanley Triggs, spoke at the PHSC decades ago. At the time, Stan was a curator of Notman photographs at McGill’s McCord Museum. By 1995, he had authored two other books on Notman (Portrait of a Period in 1967 and The Stamp of a Studio in 1985).

Anyone interested in Notman, Canadian history, or Photographic history should have, or at least read, this book.


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OCCS for April cancelled too

Toronto. News from our friends in Ohio of another closing to offset risk of infection.

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Yashica 44LM in LIFE


Toronto. Yashica were very busy mid last century. One series of Yashica cameras took on the mighty Rollei TLRs. The Yashica versions came in the identical 120 roll film size and in the smaller size using 127 roll film.

I bought my sister the 44LM in a grey finish. The little beauty used 127 film, gave oversize 2×2 inch slides, and had a built-in light meter making day-time photos “a snap”. She took many photos with the Yashica until it met an untimely death. Always kept on a shelf in her bedroom, one day it was accidentally pulled down and crashed to the hardwood floor, never to focus again.

The quarter page ad is from page 72 of the March 9th, 1962 issue of LIFE magazine. A tip of the hat to my friend George Dunbar for suggesting this ad  and bringing back memories of my sister’s enthusiastic use of her Yashica camera.


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bean bag boogie

Bean Bag Photography for wildlife

Toronto. With the proliferation of fast cameras and films, photographers began to search for a simple support to rest the camera or long lens on. More flexible than a tripod; steadier than hand held, especially when depth of field was narrow.

Impromptu supports could be made from clothing sitting between the gear and the ground on a car hood, door window opening, rock etc.

A bag began to be offered without stuffing, The buyer could use what ever media he desired. As one wag (Lester Lefkowitz) put it, “… if you get lost in the woods, you can eat the beans.”. And, even today you can  find these bags at various price points.

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getting a leg up

Schiansky tripod with Leitz head 14100

Toronto.  Over the years there were many kinds of camera supports. The early studio supports were massive wooden boxes, usually with four legs. When cameras were used outdoors we soon saw the traditional three legs – tripods – first of wood and later of metal. Various heads, columns, camera mounts, etc. were offered. In the latter half of the last century monopods were available.

Table top tripods with different heads became common and remain so today, but with flexible legs to wrap around a support. When media and cameras were very slow, a support like a tripod was essential. From the very beginning of photography to well into the last century tripods were critical accessories for work in poor light.  Fast lenses, fast media, and flash  made hand held photographs in good light practical. Optical stabilization augmented other improvements to permit hand held photographs even in poor light.

Today’s  digital cameras and smartphones have sensor ratings far exceeding film ratings and coupled with optical stabilization have all but eliminated any need for tripods during casual day to day snapshots.

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more cancellations from COVID-19 cautions.

Thanks to Kissclipart for this image

Toronto. Steven Evans writes, ” I am very disappointed to tell you that in light of the on-going COVID-19 crisis, the opening reception and open house for my exhibition  — de Pedra — scheduled for March 19th, 21st and 22nd are cancelled. Furthermore, the exhibition is now postponed until such time that life for all of us returns to normal. Like you, I am looking forward to better days ahead, a times when we will have cause and confidence to celebrate and relaunch the show.

“In the meantime, please know that my thoughts are with you, your families and colleagues. Stay strong, stay healthy and stay optimistic.”

And Sol Hadef in Montreal writes, “In trying to conform with public safety measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, Le Camera Show [April 5, 2020] will be postponed to a date to be determined. The Rangefinder remains open for business and is always buying ,selling and trading quality  cameras and lenses.  Thank you all for understanding.”

Finally, our friends in New England (PHSNE) have also postponed their  April 19,2020 show and auction over in Newton Massachusetts.

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photo booths – nostalgia writ large

Montreal prints in colour

Toronto. Are you into photo booths? Can you remember when the nerds had cameras but everyone else crowded into a photo booth for a memorable photo of a day at the fair, seaside, etc.? That was before everyone had a smartphone…

How about a photo booth  web site? a blog? or even a CONVENTION on nostalgia (a.k.a. photo booths …)?? Those were the days indeed.

In my youth, the photo booth prints were strictly black and white in a strip. We could crowd three people in a shot (at best). The web site/blog link above includes a CBC article on the last photo booths in Quebec.

My thanks to George Dunbar for suggesting this topic and blog. Have a look at how we once captured outings!

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out of the blue

an old Yellow 2 Filter

Toronto, In the days when orthochromatic black and white films were popular, filters were used to darken blue skies so clouds could be better seen in the negative and printed. Leitz had a wide range of yellow and green filters to fit various lenses and darken the blues. Otho film was blind to reds, etc so the various yellow and green filters were common,

These colours disappeared when panchromatic films and later colour negative films became common. Polarizing filters eliminated distracting reflections but were expensive. Blue and amber filters allowed indoor colour film to be used outdoors and vice versa while deep red filters made use of infra-red illumination in B&W films.

With today’s smart phones and digital cameras we seldom see filters.

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