ten – four (and even more)

Toronto. We held our fourth COVID-19 inspired exec meeting via ZOOM. Kudos to Celio for arranging the meeting. Key changes are shown below. The big take away is deferral of our July Trunk Show into August to be safe. An extra exec meeting will be held in part to decide on the Trunk Show.

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a colourful French gentleman

Louis Ducos du Hauron c1915 courtesy of Colour Phtography by Brian Coe

Toronto. It’s nearly three years since I first posted a note about Louis Ducos du Hauron and his contribution to colour photography. After Ducos du Hauron learnt about the three colour theory of vision, he predicted almost all the ways to create additive and subtractive colour transparencies and prints.

His earlier papers were wrong in their tri-colour choice but that was due to an error in the general conception of colours, not an error on his part. Photographic materials of the day were too slow and limited in spectral range to prove his theories. Worse, the papers he submitted were never read to become a formal record.

I had a slide show of about 30-45 minutes based on the monochrome techniques of the 19th century. A requested presentation to a local Colour group resulted in me revisiting my talk. To my dismay, colour was not as linear as monochrome, but throughout it all was the Young-Helmholtz theory and the theories and concepts of Ducos du Hauron!

Brian Coe’s book “Colour Photography” was a wonderful guide to the highlights of colour photography since the 1839 invention of the art.


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to dye for

Ms Lena Ashwell 1907 by A C Banfield from Colour Photography by Brian Coe

Toronto. By mid last century we had Kodachrome and its competition to give us good colour transparencies. They or the original subject could also be photographed on three monochrome negatives through colour filters to give one negative per narrow colour band. All three with filtering carefully stacked and aligned would give the full visible colour spectrum.

To create an accurate colour print, a very complex dye sublimate process (similar to the example of Technicolor shown in this video) was used. Each negative was projected or copied on a matrix sheet of thick gelatine to make a mould. After washing, the gelatine in the matrix varied inversely in depth with the intensity of the negative. Dye was rolled onto each matrix (subtractive dyes) and after careful registry on a special paper, the matrix back was carefully rolled and the dye was absorbed inversely proportional to the negative density. The process was repeated on  the same sheet with careful registration for each of the three matrices using a different colour of dye (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow).

The Kodak Dye Transfer Process was one of many techniques that gave the most accurate colours available at the time. By mid last century, the colours were very high resolution and accurate. Check out the various books or articles on colour for more details.


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rare 35mm colour camera the Optikotechna Spektaretta sold by Leitz Photographica Auction in November, 2002

Toronto. Studies in the late 1800s proved three colour bands would create the full spectrum of visible light. Many attempts were made to create the plates necessary for this effort in a reasonable time.

For about the first half of the last century, cameras were made to take three black and white plates, each through a colour filter simultaneously. Various mirrors and pellicles were devised to expose the monochrome plates (or cut film or roll film). The Wikipedia article on Color photography suggests the first such camera was the 1903 Bermpohl (a recent post enquired about Brodie MacPherson’s later camera).

And Camera Wiki suggests such beasts were still used in studios for specialized work into the 1950s. They were a very rare design pushed off the market by the minicam revolution and the creation of colour film tri-packs including Kodachrome and Agfacolor for both transparencies and prints. This site discusses the Spekatretta camera in more detail.

NB. The post name comes from an oil common in my youth and suitable for lots of home applications.

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arcades a century ago

Colourized version of a c1901 photograph of the world famous Cleveland Arcade

Toronto. Arcades were the malls of yesteryear. Here in the big smoke I remember the Colonade on Bloor and the Arcade near the bottom of Yonge on the east side. This photo is the Arcade in Cleveland c 1901. It was designed after a famous “arcade” in Milan. The nine story structure in downtown Cleveland  is now part of a Hotel.

A big thanks to fellow PHSC member and past president, Les Jones, who sent me a lengthy string of old photos, mostly American. The segment including this Cleveland Arcade is from the Middleboro Review et al website on BlogSpot and its blog on “Marvellous Early American Photography“. A sampling of other photo cut lines suggests most are from Pinterest.

Once again we see there is nothing new under the sun, just improved/changed ways.

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les pellicules en couleurs

Late summer 1979. Pix of the CNE. This is the PHSC display at CNE set up by Allan Barnes to work when unmanned.

Toronto. Brian Coe’s book, “Colour Photography” gives a wonderful overview of the efforts to capture the colours of nature through photography, not by painting the monochrome print. In 18o2, the Young- Helmholtz theory of colour vision (enhanced in 1850) suggested the human eye had three receptors, each tuned to a narrow band of the visible spectrum. Signals from all three bands were combined by the brain to create the spectrum of colours we see.

Jim Maxwell proved this (more or less) in his famous experiment of 1861, just a few years before his untimely death at 48. After many frustrating years of experimentation, it was realized that the best way to capture colour was to use a tri-pack of panchromatic black and white film interspersed with filters and  couplers that reacted with the silver halides to form colour dyes. An additive system gave rise to colour transparencies (also called reversal film or slides), while a subtractive system was used for colour negative film and colour paper. Early on these schemes were extremely slow. When the minicam era began, the need for better colour materials accelerated.

Today, almost all modern colour screens and sensors still use a version of the tri-pack filters whether for television, computer, digital camera or smartphone. The difference is the amazing speed and brightness of these products.

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take a (down)load for free

Part A on Lanterns

Toronto. Since the lockdown reaction to COVID-19 in March of this year, we have had to cancel or defer all PHSC in the flesh activities. Inspired by our editor, Bob Lansdale, a few of the executive team including Bob, pulled together and released/will release a number of special pdf packages exclusively for members.

The most recent one titled, “ALL ABOUT LANTERN SLIDE PROJECTORS (PART A)” was sent out Friday to all current members with an email address. If you did NOT get a copy, please email me at info@phsc.ca and I will send you a copy after verification of your membership. Not YET a member? Grab your plastic and register via PayPal on the upper right of this page!

NB. The title of this post is a riff off a line from Robbie Robertson‘s song, “The Weight“. Robertson wrote the song in 1968 after he formed a group called simply, “The Band“.  I bought the first album by the Band called “Music from Big Pink” many years ago. At one point,  Robertson headlined concerts for Bob Dylan. Their final concert was in San Francisco, and was featured in a movie called, “The Last Waltz”. Robertson was born near Brampton and now lives here in Toronto. I saw him down at Indigo on Bloor a few years ago with Leonard Cohen. You can learn more from a documentary on the Band and Robertson featured recently by the CBC.

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where are the girls?


Toronto. Rita Godlevskis of PhotoEd needs our help. She wants the vote for best Canadian Female photographer.

The winner will appear on this tote designed by PhotoEd in collaboration with SPAO in Ottawa.

Rita has the scoop for you here

PS. HAPPY JULY 4th to our American Friends!
Have a safe holiday!

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les films noir et blanc

portrait in B&W

Toronto. When Englishman Dick Maddox announced the dry plate in 1870, he set a course for the future of photography. The invention and expansion of celluloid materials set the stage for emulsion substrates lighter than glass. Around 1886 roll film was suggested using the flexibility of celluloid. And in 1888 George Eastman announced the creation of the Kodak camera to compete with others in the roll film industry.

For the first few years, the backing material although transparent was not optically clear so camera and exposed film was shipped back to Rochester where the film was stripped from the backing and placed on flat glass tables. The negatives were set out in sunlight to contact print. These prints were returned with the camera and a fresh film roll to the owner.

Over the years, manufacturers worked diligently to increase film sensitivity (ASA/ISO rating), reduce the grain (especially when the minicam revolution took off), and expand the sensitivity band more and more into the yellows, oranges, and reds as the films moved towards panchromatic emulsions. For  a time after the minicams showed up on the market, private industry attempted to create developers that reduced the metallic silver’s  clumping tendency thereby make the developed film “fine grain”. In the 1940s, ASA 100 or 160 was considered to be very fast (Super XX for example). Kodak offered Verichrome, a film with TWO light sensitive emulsions, one slow and one “fast” to ease the dilemma of the occasional snap-shooter trying to choose a suitable film.

By the end of the days of film a speed of ASA 800 was attained and with fast lenses and slower shutter speeds it allowed indoor photographs by natural illumination. Modern day smart phones of course far exceed the highest ASA/ISO rating of yesteryear. The excellent 1975 book “Images & Enterprise” by Reese V Jenkins serves as a wonderful reference for the early roll films.

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where is it now?

Brodie’s Color Camera

Toronto. Brodie MacPherson’s one of a kind colour camera, we mean.

Editor Bob Lansdale is busy doing an article on the late Brodie MacPherson and would like to know where his camera ended up. If you know, drop me an email at info@phsc.ca and I will pass it on.

Bob writes in part, “Born in Toronto, Ontario, on November 26, 1909, to University Professor Walter Ernest and Elsie Margaret Macpherson, Brodie was the eldest of three children and the first to attend the University of Toronto. He enrolled in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering in 1927 and graduated in 1931.

“He would go on to serve as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War before returning home to start his photography business in early 1946.

“Macpherson’s engineering background, in conjunction with his subsequent years of experience working in the lithography business, would serve him well in the colour printing trade.”

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