the keepers of night

The reusable and one -use cassettes

Toronto. Since photography began there was always some means to keep the plates or film protected from the light.  When the Leica and its competitors arrived. Leitz made a very heavy and elaborate reusable cassette that opened only in-camera as the Leica base was locked.

August Nagel invented the single use cassette with a velvet light rap at the opening for his company’s Retina cameras. The idea caught on, especially after Kodak embraced it as a standard for retail outlets selling unexposed 35mm film rolls in 20 and 36 exposure reels (later 24 exposure). Leitz justified their expensive reusable cassettes by touting their open aperture meant no “tram tracks”. The “free” one-use cassette with its velvet trap had a very very small risk of scratching the film (tram tracks) but the risk was mostly if a cassette was left out of its wrapper or canister in a dusty area before use.

NB. The title of this post is a riff off a 1979 book “The Keepers of Light” by William Crawford. This excellent book of photographic history and practical advice on old processes is available here at no  cost. It can be read online or downloaded in various formats.

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top this!

a table top scene on Facebook

Toronto. In the days of film, it was common to have contests. One such contest was for the best table-top photo. Author, Sports-photographer, and past PHSC president Les Jones sent me a note the other day along with this link to a Facebook image from Amazing Design Ideas who copied this image over from the Miniature Calendar site.

It brought back memories of contests decades ago using table top and close-up photography. In this case, the cameras in the image are life size but the supporting items are tiny replicas.



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stick a cabinet in your pocket

A Cabinet card c1883

Toronto. With the advent of wet plate technology, the number of photographers increased once again. Albumen paper for positive prints became very popular in spite of the need to glue down the curl-prone medium to stiff cardboard. The so called Carte-de-Visite (CdV) format of oversize “business” or “visiting” cards with photos became the rage. People collected prints of the famous as well as family and added them to fancy albums.

By the mid 1860s, the fad had run its course and photographers looked for new ways to earn money. One idea was to increase the size of the photograph and card to a bit over 4×6 inches – the Cabinet card, intended to be placed on top of a cabinet or table for display to visitors. Cabinet cards were invented in Britain in 1866 and became popular the following year (1867) (which coincidentally, was the year our country was established in reaction to the American civil war).

The example here comes from Pinterest. The photographer, Károly Koller, took it in Budapest in 1883. It is one of a number collected by Kathy Moore and considered by Ms Moore as the best of the genre.

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a bit of Americana

August 8, 2020 online Americana auction

Toronto. For all you image collectors out there – if you collect or want some Americana, there is an auction next month (August 8th) online managed by American Heritage Auctions. Their catalogue for the August 8th auction is now online.

Three companies are available for online bidding – I chose the second one (Live Auctioneers) to display the catalogue.

Here is a great way to add to your collection a bit of Americana via online in this time of COVID-19 and its stringent rules and cautions.

Scroll down the first catalogue page for the terms, fees, bid increments, etc. before you make an offer!

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Richmond BC Camera Show POSTPONED

August 1, 2020 show in Richmond British Columbia CANCELLED

Toronto. We were sorry to hear that Big Dave and our other friends in Richmond BC had to postpone the August 1st Richmond Camera Show and Swap Meet.

Big Dave writes, “I hope that all of you are safe and well. During these unfortunate times, COVID-19 has changed our world immensely . We have been in communications with local authorities and have been watching all the press releases for the possibility of return to pre-COVID-19 conditions. As such we have held off this email for as long as we could. However, we must face the fact that at this current point in time, the Richmond Camera Show and Swap Meet must be postponed until 2021 for the safety and wellbeing of all.

Once things settle, we will be emailing with the updated date for the show. I hope that you and all your loved ones remain safe and healthy during these times.

Until we meet again,

Big Dave and the Richmond Camera Show & Swap Meet team.”

Dave’s news release reads, “Richmond Camera Show & Swap Meet Aug 1st 2020, South Arm United Church – POSTPONED Richmond Camera Show & Swap Meet, has been actively monitoring the COVID-19 developments. We have been following the directives of the BCCDC, HealthlinkBC and Public Health Agency of Canada. As the BC’s Restart Plan in Phase 3, large gathering are prohibited. As the show date approaches, and Phase 4 is nowhere in sight, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our annual Richmond Camera Show & Swap Meet to the spring of 2021. Both the organizers and facilities are working together to secure a potential date for the next show. We must consider the direction of the BC Government and their authorities to be the final word on this issue. The safety and well-being of our guests and partners are of paramount importance and we will ensure our actions are congruent to that. We will announce the new date as soon as it becomes available. If you have reserved a table for the 2020 show, you are automatically registered for the 2021 show. Please check out our website here or follow us on Facebook & Instagram for the latest update. We hope you stay healthy and we look forward to seeing you in the spring.”

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i am so EXCITED …

35mm Summicron set to f8 and hyperfocal distance

Toronto. … as Martin Short‘s character, Ed Grimsley, used to shout on SCTV skits. To do the character justice, Short was down right hyper. And speaking of hyper, hyperfocal distance was important in 35mm film photography, especially daytime street photography.

The camera lens was set to f/8 (or f/11). On the depth of field scale, focus was set so the infinity mark aligned with the furthest f/8 mark. The scene was then in focus from infinity to the distance aligned with the nearest f/8 mark. The camera was then basically a fixed focus camera with the light adjustment made by lowering or raising the shutter speed as needed.

I used this technique for years, moving the shutter speed on my M4 to compensate for the lighting variation as recorded by my light meter. This allowed me to keep ready for any split second scene without recourse to my meter and camera settings. Modern day digital cameras with a “programmed” setting, and both digital cameras and smart phones with auto ISO, auto focus, etc make such techniques unnecessary.

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make a date with f/8

a great coffee for us all

Toronto. Those of us who used 2-1/4 or 35mm cameras and film are familiar with the aperture setting f/8. It is a great mid range setting offering a nice balance of speed and depth of field for outdoors.

The delightful head of PhotoEd magazine, Rita Godlevskis, has collaborated with a local coffee supplier, Sparkplug, to make a special blend for photographers. After all, there is nothing better than a hot coffee and a great magazine!

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shady stuff

some of the many hoods for 35mm camera lenses

Toronto. Don’t you wish your photos were crisp and contrasty like those of an accomplished professional?

One issue last century was soft contrast caused by reflections from individual lens elements. Post war, element coating became common and with it a much crisper contrast. An alternative was avoiding light that did not come over the photographer’s shoulder (often Kodak’s advice to amateurs using inexpensive cameras).

Another option was a lens hood to block any light rays not contributing directly to recording the scene on film. Many professionals avoided the hoods and lighting guaranteed to cause a problem with contrast. Manufacturers sold hoods as accessories, or built them into a lens, or sold them with a lens.

Modern smart phones have no built in hood but your hand can be carefully placed to block extraneous light and materially improve contrast. If that maneuver fails, software editing can correct the contrast to a remarkable degree that was simply impossible using film and chemicals.

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and to cap it off …

a kludge of caps

Toronto. Dust and dirt everywhere! How can you keep it out of camera bodies and lenses? Easy, cap the openings! Since the early days of photography, caps have been used to keep out dust and dirt when the camera or lens is not in use.

Caps have been made of many materials – leather, paper, metal, plastic, etc. Most are signed by the lens maker but others are  generic and unsigned (or signed inside and hidden from casual view). Most caps just push on, but some screw on and others actually lock in place.

These caps are often lost. Or are left behind. Or fall off. Most makers offer replacements as accessories for a few dollars. But caps change over time, They may have the same diameter and depth to fit a lens,  but a different shape (shoulders, cupped, etc.) or material may be used. After the M series of cameras were released by Leitz, the company offered a conversion ring to allow old lenses to be used on the new M mount cameras. The rear lens cap for M mount lenses had three tabs added to the outer edge allowing the cap to be a wrench to remove the 1mm adapter ring from the Leica M body. These tabs were dropped years later after the old lenses were rarely used on M mount cameras and the adapters were no longer sold new.

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hardly ever

Case for screw-mount Leica with 5cm lens and an accessory viewer attached c1935

Toronto. In the late 1950s, I bought my Exakta VX IIa complete with an “ever-ready” case. Like many youths of the day, we called these “never-ready”cases since the camera couldn’t be used until the case was opened. When the box of cameras and lenses arrived in Labrador, I was disappointed that the camera case half covering the lens was a light brown plastic cup affair, not brown leather like the Leica used. On the other hand, the snap at the back of the camera allowed the two case halves to be separated. The knob attaching the case to the camera was threaded so the case (with the camera) could be mounted on a tripod – essential in those days for interior shots.

Years later, research showed these cases were offered around the time of the minicam revolution and may even have originated with the Leica. While the front part of the case dropped down to expose the camera, it didn’t detach. Hence, it was common practice to use the camera without the case. Shortly after the Leica appeared on the scene, Leitz sold a wealth of accessories and later lenses. Leitz sold many different cases of leather, aluminum, Bakelite, and other materials.

Cases are rarely collected making identification more difficult. The screw mount Leica case above could be used with an accessory such as the Imarect (multi-lens viewer) attached to the camera. I must have acquired it 30 or 40 years ago, but the records have been lost. My case was made by Leitz New York and sold to someone in Derry, NH.



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