the buzz on filters

bee on flower by Rudolf Paproth in “Filter Practice”, a 1962 book by Clauss and Meusel

Toronto. We have it so easy today! The digital camera or smart phone sets the white balance; black and white is a ‘special effect’ etc. In the days of film, especially orthochromatic, filters were essential accessories.

Dr Hans Clauss and Heinz Meusel wrote a detailed book in German on filters and their use in 1962. The book, “Filter Praxis”, was translated into English by L. A. Mannheim and published in 1964/69 by Focal Press and Chilton Book Company as “Filter Practice” – I have Chilton’s 1969 version.

Without filters, outdoors the clouds disappeared. Filters adjusted contrast. While panchromatic films solved the cloud issue, filters were still used on camera to adjust contrast if necessary. With the then colour transparencies and colour negative films, filters converted daylight colour balance to tungsten and vice versa. The problem of colour cast was especially trying in those days. This book discusses the technicalities of all filters and how they can be effectively used.

Today, instead of fussing with filters on the camera or in the darkroom, we use a photo application on our smart phones or computers. Our late editor, Bob Lansdale, was a perfectionist – he refused to use an application’s automatic conversion from colour to B&W, instead he doggedly used the sliders to adjust the conversion of each colour in each picture manually. This gave the best contrast and most realistic result for a colour photograph as it was converted to B&W (compare images for Photographic Canadiana, volume 46 online and in print to see the effect) .

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