a fine balance

Cheap laboratory balance to weigh photography chemicals

Toronto. I began to take photographs in grade school when someone gave me a simple box camera. In high school, I joined the camera club and began to print and process my own photos. Once I started working, I decided to also develop my own negatives.

On a shopping trip down to Toronto, I found an old lab balance which I still have. The local Rexall Drug Store happily ordered my list of chemicals. A copy of the Photo-Lab-Index provided the necessary “recipes” for me.

After learning how to “roll my own”, I moved on to packaged chemicals, finally settling on Microdol-X for negative development. Acetic acid for the stop bath and ordinary prepackaged fixer completed the process. Many a pleasant evening was spent developing negatives and prints. I tried various so called fine grain developers but ended up with Ilford’s Microphen (competed with Kodak’s Microdol-X). I even struggled with colour print technology by Ferrania (Ferraniacolor).

A bit over a decade later in Montreal, I used drums, new colour processes and special filters. The advent of the fast processing shops like Eddy Black’s and Japan Camera ended all home development since they were faster and cheaper for negatives and small prints (3,5 x 5 and later 4 x 6). For a while I developed negatives (black & white) and made prints both B&W and colour but even that ended by the 1990s.

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All About Enlargers – Part B

All About Enlargers – Part B

Toronto. What do you do when a photograph negative is too small? Enlarge it! You may be surprised to learn that enlarging apparatus came along well before the minicam revolution of the 1930s. In this special members-only supplement (vol 1-7) Part B concludes showing the various devices available to enlarge the existing sensitive materials.

Vol 1-7 was sent out last Friday afternoon 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? well, for heaven’s sake! Grab your plastic and register via PayPal on the upper right of this page! And you can donate to the society the same way via PayPal, or go to our Canada Helps entry on the link below the PAy NOW button.

As stated in this supplement, “The advertisements and illustrations in this supplement originally appeared in the The Photographist numbers 109 and 110, the journal of the Western Photographic Collectors Association (WPCA) in 1996. The WPCA was affiliated with the University of California Museum of Photography and stopped publishing circa 1996, going into dissolution in 2001. For the story of the history of the WPCA, see the article in Special Supplement Vol. 1 No. 1.

“In an effort to make this material available to collectors, historians and those interested in the history of photography, this content was digitized by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada (PHSC) and Milan Zahorcak from the U.S. in 2019 and 2020 for distribution to PHSC members as a seven part series. The first instalments were about magic lanterns (parts A and B), shutters, posing chairs, flash lamps and the part A on early enlargers. If you have any questions or would like higher resolution scans of any of the images, please contact the PHSC at info@phsc.ca.”

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if winter comes …

Submit YOUR work to PhotoEd magazie

Toronto. … can spring be far behind? The delectable editor of PhotoEd, Ms Rita Godlevskis, announces two big events: The online version of PhotoEd’s winter edition and a call for material due February 1st for the PhotoEd spring edition.

Be sure to read this new online edition (different from the printed version) and submit your work to Rita for consideration. Those selected will be in the Spring 2021 edition of PhotoEd magazine.

NB. The title of this post is the last line of Shelley’s poem “Ode to the West Wind“.

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merry Christmas for those celebrating today

Toronto. Many of us wait until today to celebrate Christmas. Our president, Lewko Hryhorijiw, when asked gave an amazingly long list of countries still celebrating Christmas a couple of weeks later than December 25th. So to one and all, have a very merry Christmas in spite of COVID-19 and it’s necessary spread limiting restrictions.

A Merry Orthodox Christmas – courtesy of H. Sandler


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they’re coming! they’re coming!

ad in LIFE magazine

Toronto. In this case, it was the Japanese camera makers who moved on to America and Europe after the Korean War. They slowly eliminated both American and most German makers of film cameras.

In the latter part of the last century, companies from Japan, like Nikon worked hard to expand market share with ostensively better quality and features than the competition. And it worked. No American and few European camera makers are still around. Even today in spite of the aggressive onslaught of digital technology. Nikon, Canon, and Sony exist (although I suspect smartphones are taking a heavy toll).

Thanks to good friend George Dunbar who suggested this ad from the December 5, 1969 issue (p 97) of LIFE magazine when Nikon was busy pushing into the movie market. Note: the Nikon optical house began as a strong local maker of microscopes and now sells them world-wide.

This post title is a riff on the mad-cap 1966 Cinemascope comedy “The Russians are coming, The Russians are coming” produced and directed by Canadian, Norman Jewison.

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by the light of the silvery moon

21st Century Wet Collodion Moon
Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Smolinsky

Toronto. From the very beginning of photography, the moon and photography have worked closely together. John William Draper made his daguerreotype of the moon in 1840. It is the earliest existing photographic image of the moon. A cleaned up version is shown here by the Met Museum in NYC. The modern day shot by the old wet plate process at left is thanks to Mike Smolinsky in the States via NASA. We were unable to link to mr Smolinsky as many people on the internet are so named.

I have photographed the moon many times myself over the years. I can still remember my first photograph in a central Ontario field on ASA 400 film using a 135mm lens. To be sure of the image, I bracketed the exposure and even threw in a relatively fast exposure. To my amazement, the fastest exposure showed the moon’s detail  while the slowest shot captured the sky detail  leaving the tiny moon image burnt out and transparent with no details at all.

In the spirit of moon photography, NASA recorded this image as the Astronomy Picture of the Day on January 2, 2021. The accompanying text notes, “ In the mid 19th century, one of the first photographic technologies used to record the lunar surface was the wet-plate collodion process, notably employed by British astronomer Warren De la Rue.

“To capture an image, a thick, transparent mixture was used to coat a glass plate, sensitized with silver nitrate, exposed at the telescope, and then developed to create a negative image on the plate. To maintain photographic sensitivity, the entire process, from coating to exposure to developing, had to be completed before the plate dried, in a span of about 10 to 15 minutes.

“This modern version of a wet-plate collodion image celebrates lunar photography’s early days, reproducing the process using modern chemicals to coat a glass plate from a 21st century hardware store. Captured last November 28 [20201128] with an 8×10 view camera and backyard telescope, it faithfully records large craters, bright rays, and dark, smooth mare of the waxing gibbous Moon. Subsequently digitized, the image on the plate was 8.5 centimeters in diameter and exposed while tracking for 2 minutes. The wet plate’s effective photographic sensitivity was about ISO 1. In your smart phone, the camera sensor probably has a photographic sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 6400 (and needs to be kept dry …).”

A big thank is due to my friend Russ Forfar up  along Georgian Bay on Lake Huron for suggesting this idea and sending me the NASA link.

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a loopy idea

T.T.&H., Agfa, Leitz – example loupes

Toronto. I show three magnifier loupes at the left. The first is a Taylor, Taylor, Hobson brass loupe used in the late 1800s to focus a lens on the massive old field/studio cameras so that the subject was sharp on the ground glass. In the above linked post I called it a “no-name” as I missed the tiny T.T.&H. engraved on the second black rim.

In the middle is my favourite AGFA LUPE 8x that I have used for years. Bought new, the acrylic lens and base are as pure as when first made. It is ideal for checking 35mm negatives and slides. Flipped up side down I use it to look at all kinds of tiny objects. Note that Inter Ocular Devices used to replace foggy human lenses in cataract patients (like me) are also made of acrylic plastic known to be clear, flexible, and inert.

And at right is just one of many varieties of Leitz LVFOO loupes. These 5x loupes came in various finishes and where used on the PLOOT and VISOFLEX I mirror boxes as viewers to focus a lens with some precision. Initially, these beautiful all glass loupes were repurposed for use as 35mm negative checkers complete with a neck loop. They were  offered for about $299 which I thought was far too expensive.

Surprisingly, the 5x loupes are now badged Leica at even higher list prices! These loupes, coded as 37 350 were offered as recently as 2017. Different models were made. Today I see them still offered as used or remaindered at even astonishingly higher prices – with or without a neck strap.

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FIPP 2010-2019

FIPP ends in 2019

Toronto. Sad news from Freemantle, Australia last week. The Freemantle International Portrait Prize (FIPP) has been discontinued.

The originators wrote, “All good things must come to an end. The FIPP Committee recently decided that FIPP 2019 would be our last; committee members having spent hundreds of hours voluntarily planning, organising, and conducting FIPP over a decade.

“The Fremantle International Portrait Prize (FIPP) ran its first photographic competition in 2012. We staged our Fifth FIPP last year in 2019. In that time FIPP received more than 7,500 photographic entries from 48 countries, awarded more than $50,000 in cash and prizes to entrants and donated over $90,000 to charity. More than 20,000 people visited the five FIPP Showcase Exhibitions in Fremantle, Western Australia.

“FIPP is proud to have run one of the world’s foremost and ethical photographic competitions which has helped to put arts in Fremantle on the map. FIPP started in 2010 with zero funds and, after paying our prize money and donating to charity, remains in a strong financial position. In formally closing FIPP has distributed remaining funds to the two charities we have continued to support, namely The Arthritis Foundation of Western Australia and the Kai Eardley Fund.

“FIPP is extremely proud of its achievements and its contribution both to the arts and to charity. We are equally proud of the work of our hundreds of volunteers and support from Sponsors.

“In particular, we wish to thank you, the entrants. Each and every one of you for entering FIPP. Some of you are multiple entrants and some have been with us from the very beginning. Without you, the entrants, none of this would have been possible.”

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two for the show …

1935 high speed movie camera (Electronics Dec 1935)

Toronto. I began working for Bell just months after Toll Area was formed. In those days Bell Labs in New Jersey did a wide variety of research. This article from the December, 1935 issue of Electronics tells of the collaboration between Kodak and the Labs that resulted in a high speed (3,000 frames per second) movie camera furthering scientific research.

Not your usual camera or movie post, but one that shows the wide ranging incursion of photography in all aspects of industry and life! As an aside, the editor of the day at Electronics was Keith Henney, the editor-in-chief of “Radio Engineers Handbook” which I bought in 1958 and still have to this day (also own a copy of Fink’s book on TV Engineering).

Have a look at the December 1935 Electronics and especially the article on the Kodak/Bell Labs movie camera starting on page 7. My thanks to good friend George Dunbar who unearthed this story while searching for photographic history articles and advertisements.

NB. The title is part of the old catch phrase, “One for the money, and two for the show. Three to get ready and four to go* which I often heard as a youngster.

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happy new year everyone!

Toronto. Well thank god 2020 is over! What miserable year it was too! Let’s hope 2021 will be far better and let us get back to normal again by summer! All the best for 2021 from the Photographic Historical Society of Canada (PHSC), its members, and its executive (those worthy folk who bring you all the benefits and are totally volunteers).

all the best in 2021 – both images courtesy of Amazon

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