Antique/Vintage Question

Discussion in 'Plate Cameras and Accessories' started by kaishowing, Jul 27, 2010.

  1. kaishowing

    kaishowing Member

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    First of all, apologies if this is the incorrect section to post this.
    At the moment I'm curating at the local gallery where there is an exhibition of local vintage photographs from three generations of a family of photographers.
    One of the shots we're exhibiting is from around 1880 and of a street view looking down a long road where there is plenty of life going on, several horse-drawn carts, people walking, kids running etc.
    My question is about the exposure as it's been puzzling several people, myself included.
    How can the photographer have managed to capture a moment in needle-sharp focus with all that movement going on and using the equipment that he would have had to hand?
    This is the camera that he actually used to take the shot...(by the way this is what he referred to as his 'portable' camera) -

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v229/kaishowing/Digital/Johnstoncamera.jpg

    If you want to see the image in question, go http://www.wickheritage.org/johnston-gallery.asp?catid=55 and click the image titled 'Drying sails at Wick'

    Thank you in advance for any help.
     
  2. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Hard shadows, for example those below the cart in the foreground, imply that it was quite a bright day. This would allow him to use a faster shutter speed.

    These are fabulous photos by the way. They remind me of Frank Sutcliffe's work in Whitby.
     
  3. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Also, the moving subjects are far enough away that the relative movement wouldn't have been very great. That is to say, moving the cart 1 foot might only translate to a few mm at the film plane (for example).
     
  4. kaishowing

    kaishowing Member

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    Seeing the age of the camera I just assumed that it was an 'uncover the lens and count to 10' type camera. Do you happen to know about what time that they could regulate shutter speeds?
    Also was there any advancement in chemical processes that could possibly allow the image to be transferred to the plate more rapidly?

    That particular image was dated August 1887, and as far as the people at the heritage centre are aware, that's an accurate notation.

    It's a stunning collection which the heritage society are in the process of digitising - just for sake of preservation. I would imagine that after that has been done the plates will be carefully stored away safely for future generations.
    The Johnston collection is huge. There are over 10,000 shots like the one in question from all over the county, plus another 40,000 portraits.
    To sort through it all will take years, but one that has captured the local people's imagination - luckily.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 27, 2010
  5. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    There were a huge number of photographic innovations in the 1880s. For example, silver gelatine dry plate negatives were in use by then. These were faster and much more convenient than the earlier wet plates. By faster, I mean that they reacted to light more quickly so you could have shorter exposure times. Judging from the picture of his 'portable camera' I'd say it probably was an 'uncover the lens and count to 10' but the photographer may well have been counting to 1 by then. I'm not sure when the first automatic shutters came into use.
     
  6. Blanc

    Blanc Member

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    Well there is a really fast silver bromide emulsion described in the french translation of JM Eder's book printed in 1883.
    Home brewed in less than optimal conditions I obtained some 16 ISO plates, fare enough to make a 1/15th s exposure at f=12 in full sun. It worked at 1/60th and F2.

    And some other emulsions from later sources (1885) quote ultra fast plates around 50 iso (according to an unaccurate adapation of the warneke's sensitometry system)

    I'm not that amazed, but the images are just crazy!
     
  7. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    A high vantage point, an assistant or two, and a megaphone to direct the crowd.
     
  8. LyleB

    LyleB Member

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    That's what I was thinking, a "staged" photo.
     
  9. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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    "Antique/Vintage Question"

    Thought you were talking about me!

    They are wonderful photographs. I book marked the site!

    My fathers family is from Aberdeen Scotland. I've got a photo of my great grandfather who was in a bicycle race about the time these were made. I have a silver pocket watch engraved inside on the back (the back opens to reveal) "2nd Prize, for, 16 hours, amateur bicycle contest, won by William Clark, 14-6-84, 260 miles 14 laps." Also have a B&W pic of him on the bicycle. Poor gent looks a little like me! It has the very large wheel on the front, looks like a thin coat of solid rubber on the rim.

    I've wondered how sore was his behind after the race!
     
  10. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Although impossible to identify exactly, this lens could well be in the neighborhood of f4 as many were in those days. This would enable short exposures with the emulsions of the day. Photographers became adept at fraction of a second exposures as emulsions became faster.
    Assuming a film or plate speed of 16, f11 @ 1/10th second would not be too hard to achieve. Of course smaller apertures would provide for longer shutter openings.
     
  11. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    I was a stringer for a guy who did convention photography.We used to have to set up groups for shooting with 12/20 banquet cameras and Cirkut Cameras. No megaphone, though.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    cameras that took 4x5 plates ( dry plates )
    were around in the 1880s / 1890s easy ...
    i have a few of them. they have "instantaneous" shutter speeds
    that would have been anywhere between 1/15-1/60th S...
    no megaphone would be needed ...
     
  13. eddie gunks

    eddie gunks Member

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    i have shot wet plate collodion in direct sun in NY for 1 sec. at f16. most of the lenses at that time were f3- f8. being the photo is from 1887 or so they were probably using dry plates which were WAY faster than collodion. it would have been very easy to produce the photo....with or without a mega phone.
     
  14. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I looked at the images on the page http://www.wickheritage.org/johnston-gallery.asp?catid=55 and indeed there is a picture of the Wick Harbour c1862, however, the rest of the images look to be from much later in time. Based on the type of steam ships I'd say many of the other images are from 1900 to 1920s.

     
  15. kaishowing

    kaishowing Member

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    Thanks everyone for your responses. I'll be passing on this info to the people at the Heritage Centre. It's amazing to find out how quickly the technology developed, and how quickly the new techniques were readily adopted by photographers of the time.
    Truly fascinating.
     
  16. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    There is also the 1/125 Galli shutter, or similar that could have been used with appropriate light and plate. Photographers are an improvisational lot.
     
  17. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    I found Jim's "shutter" innovation searching for something last year, and it is indeed quite possible to get higher shutter speeds than I can manage with a Packard. And it's actually pretty repeatable after you do it a few times.

    (Unless you drop the darkslides!)
     
  18. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Graflex and Graphic focal plane shutters from the 1900's could shoot at 1/1000 seconds. Some focal plane shutters were even faster then. See:
    The Evolution and Demise of the Larger Format Press Cameras by Reg Holoway
    The All-american Cameras a review of GRAFLEX by Richard P. Paine

    Steve
     
  19. goamules

    goamules Member

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    I'm sure it's a dryplate, with an early shutter, like people are saying above. Prosch invented a popular shutter around 1886, and before that there were "drop" shutters. The dryplate era really made photography easy and popular with amateurs.

    http://www.photica.net/shutters/shutters.htm