jungle fever

late 1950s diesel generator by Allis-Chalmers

Toronto. Jungles are unkind to photographers. Hot, humid, dangerous places full of fungus and mold. No place for cameras! In the late 1800s or so, manufactures made special ‘tropical’ cameras. Instead of a leather covering on wood (organic leather was tasty fodder for fungus and mold in damp conditions), polished walnut or mahogany or teak wood was used. This wood was far less attractive to fungus and mold.

While in Labrador, I had the pleasure of meeting an Allis-Chalmers technician who installed and connected our three generators. He was an amateur photographer and had been in the South American jungles doing installations. With him was his camera – an older Exakta with a Zeiss lens. What was remarkable were the terrible scratches frosting much of his camera lens’s front element.

He assured me his camera still worked properly if no bright light hit the front element. He explained that the jungle was so damp he frequently had to wipe off the lens with whatever material was handy, hence the scratches. His conversation was memorable as I had recently purchased a newer Exakta with a Steinheil 58mm lens rather than a Zeiss Tessar or the newer Zeiss Biotar.

In the past century photographers – professional or amateur – seemed to be everywhere on this old planet. Jungles with their humid air full of spores were an obvious attraction in spite of the effect the hot, damp environment had on camera equipment. Modern digital cameras and smart phones (especially iPhones) are well sealed and avoid using organic materials to embellish the cases making digital gear reasonably impervious to climate extremes.


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