time slicers

slicing it right

Toronto. I often think of a shutter as a means to control speed and illumination. However when the image is framed and the shutter button pushed, it captures on film, a ‘slice of time’ in the subject’s life.

I have discussed shutters in many posts like, “shudder and stutter – our shutter supplement“, “freezing motion at slow shutter speeds“, “Self capping miniature FP shutter”, “The Need for a Shutter in the 1890s, “Spring? I Shutter at the Thought 🙂, Etc.

From the beginnings in 1839 to the 1870s the ‘slice’ was measured in minutes outdoors or by strong northern light in studios. A lens cap or gentleman’s hat was enough to block the light. When Richard Maddox invented the dry plate in 1871, this changed. Outdoors, sub-minute ‘slices’ became practical and various mechanical shutters emerged and stepped up to the task.

For most of the next century, shutter speeds and media sensitivity increased. Electronic flash offered good lighting and extremely brief exposures. When digital technology and especially smart phones took hold, mechanical shutters disappeared to be replaced by fully electronic technology and both media sensitivity and shutter speed soared making both in door and night time photography practical – often without resorting to flash illumination.

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