Exposure by W.F. Berg 1955 focal press

Toronto. Mid last century was the golden era of photography. The processes were getting better, cameras were becoming more ergonomic and precise, and technical and coffee table books were offered in wild profusion. Capitalizing on this renaissance was focal press in England. The publisher produced books on every imaginable photographic topic.

The books had a style all their own. Text was profusely illustrated with tables, nomograms, and diagrams galore.  A few plates of photographs were printed and tipped in in clusters to illustrate a particular technique.

Exposure by W.F. Berg was typical of the focal press books. It was first published in 1950 and again (second edition) in 1955. Mine is a second edition which I bought used ($3.00) in October of 1960 at Mitchell Photo Supply which faced Dominion Square in Montreal.

Exposure was one of the single word titles in the Photo-Technique series edited by A. Kraszna-Krausz. Exposure actually covered the fundamentals of camera technique in about 440 or so pages. I bought many of the focal press books over the years and educated myself reading them from cover to cover and applying the learned knowledge and skills behind my camera and in my darkroom.

It was a far cry from today’s digital mavins who often get excellent photos without a thought about technique or concept. In the days when you had to understand the technology to get a decent photograph, materials cost money which was often in short supply. I look back on my negatives today and marvel at how few shots were taken during any one event. Every shot counted so technical skill and good framing were essential.

With our digital camera or smart phone, we take dozens of shots expecting at least one to be technically sound and worthy of saving. As all the others were basically zero added cost,  we can delete them with a clear conscience.



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