why the tripod?

tools of the trade

Toronto. Did you ever wonder why so many old photos and drawings of cameras in use showed a tripod? Until the dry-plate era, the media were so insensitive that it took  seconds or minutes in bright light to record the latent image.

When dry-plates began to be popular (1870s and later), cameras needed a shutter, not just a hat or a lens cap and counting the time exposed. Rudimentary shutters showed I for instantaneous photographs and B for bulb or timed photographs. I was actually very slow by modern standards at somewhere between 1/5th and 1/15th second, fast enough to hand hold the camera in bright sunlight but too slow for the camera to capture motion (moving, walking, running, etc.).

The above photograph c1875 shows a typical camera and tripod of the time. My thanks to friend and PHSC member George Dunbar for sharing his find with me. The site “Fans in a Flashbulb” offers colouring book versions of this and other tintypes showing the tools of the trade in the late 1800s. The photos can be downloaded as a pdf and coloured at home in this COVID-19 era as “Fans” suggests.


This entry was posted in history and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.