How did people enlarge before cheap electricity?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by BetterSense, Jun 15, 2009.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    My electrical service recently went out. I was bored, so I figured I would do a little darkroom work. Then of course I realised that my safelight wouldn't be on, and my enlarger wouldn't work.

    Now, wet-plate photography predates incandescent lighting, does it not? And even if not, surely there was a need to make prints in areas that were away from electrical service. What kind of light sources were used for making contact prints and for enlarging, without using electricity? Or maybe I'm wrong, and photography really depended on availability of electricity and incandescent bulbs.

    Plus I've been thinking, after the zombie apocalypse, how will we make photographs without electricity? Manual cameras are easy to find and chemistry shouldn't be a problem, but I guess we are still dependent on electricity to make prints.

    I can imagine using daylight for contact prints, but I don't know how you would control exposure.
     
  2. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    I'm sure they used kerosene lamps.
     
  3. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Subscriber

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    Printing Out Paper :smile: Also remember Adams used light from Yosemite Park as his diffuse enlarging light source I believe before he had electricity??? Read that somewhere
     
  4. David William White

    David William White Member

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    Daylight was used to make contact prints on 'printing out' paper. Often north window light, which is a little more uniform throughout the day. Cyanotype, kallitype, and platinum printing processes are all contact print processes, and all work well under sunlight. Remember that cameras only got small much later, necessitating projection enlargements.

    I have no electricity at my cottage, so I do contact printing outside (for the 4x5) and for enlargements, I have fitted a 12V incandescent bulb ("marine bulb") to my enlarger, and it is powered by a car battery. I charge up with jumper cables, but I'm thinking of adding a solar panel this year.
     
  5. AgX

    AgX Member

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    There were solar enlargers, either employing an adjustable mirror or being adjusted as a whole.
     
  6. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    How do you control exposure; do you put everything in a frame and cover it up with dark cloth, then take it outside and expose it or something? It seems pretty hard to 'safelight' the sun.
     
  7. StorminMatt

    StorminMatt Member

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    Daylight would certainly be an option for enlarging. Fiber optics are being considered as a simple way to bring daylight into dark parts of buildings in order to reduce energy usage and cost. So why couldn't fiber optics be used to bring daylight to an enlarger as well?

    As for running an enlarger during a power outage, you could always get a deep cycle battery and a power inverter. Even higher wattage inverters (ie 400+W) are pretty cheap these days.
     
  8. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

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    Mammoth plate cameras were big not because the photographer did not wish to enlarge...:wink:

    Also many processes from the 1800's (such as carbon printing) can not be enlarged, since they require UV light.

    Vaughn
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    For albumen printing, which was popular from around the mid-1860s through a little before 1900, most of my exposures are around an hour in indirect sunlight, 20 minutes in direct sunlight. I put the contact printing frame by the window, take it away to check it occasionally (the frame has a split back, so you can open half of it and see how it is progressing without losing the registration of the neg and the print), and then just move it to a darker part of the house when it is ready. The sensitized paper is mainly UV sensitive, so it can be handled under ordinary incandescent light without much concern about fog.
     
  10. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    Yes, it was called "contact printing" I think. Rumor has it that this barbarous practice continues to this day. :D

    Seriously, the rise of electrification and the rise of silver gelatin paper took place in a similar time frame. IOW, before widespread access to electricity, there weren't any real enlarging papers (and even the early silver gelatin papers were slooooowwwww). Most of the old processes were primarily about contact printing. If I'm recalling my history correctly. But I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm not! :wink:
     
  11. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I recall watching a friend's father print in the mid 1950s. There were 6x9 negs contacted printed in a small frame. Loading was done under the stairs in daylight but gloomy conditions. The contact frame was then placed into his inside pocket and exposed to the evening light outside. Counting elephants was the norm and it was based on his previous experience of correct exposure. Back to the under the stairs position the paper was placed in a series of liquids and the print revealed. It seemed like magic although by modern standards even the contact prints were probably of poor quality but then again in those days most prints were simply obtained from the local chemist as 6x9 contact prints and whole evenings would be spent passing these around and discussing the background to the shots. Prints were simply a means to conversations about the scene and the people.

    APUG like technical discussions would have been as alien as Martian-speak but the prints were nevertheless the core of the evening's entertainment. The days ended earlier then. Unless you were a nightshift worker you only saw midnight strike on New Year's eve but I am beginning to digress

    pentaxuser
     
  12. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    Lets see, salt prints were popular from 1839 to around 1850. A contact print process, exposures in direct sun of at least several minutes, sometimes hours. Then came albumen, from around 1850 to well into the 20th century. Again, a contact process with long exposure in direct or indirect sun light. Then came gas light papers--lets think about that--why would they be called "gas light." Slow papers, gas light instead of electricity. Remember, people had gas lights in their houses long before electricity came along. Silver chloride papers are still very slow, as any one who has ever tried to enlarge on Azo with an electric enlarger will attest. What about the other historical processes? Platinum/palladium, carbon, cyanotypes, POP, etc. are sensitive to UV light--i.e. the sun. The emulsions are around 1,000,000 less sensitive to light (and then it is UV) than current enlarging papers. Tintypes et. al. are sensitive to UV light as well. Glass negatives have to be printed on something else, see the above processes.

    If you search *-bay, you can find darkroom safe lights which are alcohol lamps with red glass covers in the vintage section of the site. Again, used for gas light papers.

    Check out the Alt Process section of APUG if you want to do prints without electricity. I have done (and continue to do) many of the historical processes. A word of warning, they are addictive. You are warned.
     
  13. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    1. I am not that old. So I did not experience it. :wink:
    2. They went to be earlier and worked on other types of enlargement. [Life is more interesting when the television does not work!] :surprised:
    3. All siriusness aside, they made contact prints and lantern slides.
    4. The contact prints were from large format cameras.
    Steve
     
  14. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    One of the earliest was the Woodward enlarger (1860s) It was solar powered and it could make life-size enlargements from half-plate portrait negatives.
     
  15. j-fr

    j-fr Member

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    This is what it looked like

    From:

    "Praktikum der Wissenschaftlichen Photographie"
    by Dr. Carl Kaiserling,
    Assistent am Königl. Pathologischen Institut in Berlin.
    Berlin 1898

    j-fr

    www.j-fr.dk
     

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  16. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Ansel Adams wrote about using a solar enlarger in San Francisco, light was piped in from a large mirror. Can you imagine it? That would take patience.
     
  17. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    I have actually seen a Kerosene Safelight auctioned on eBay. I didn't win the auction, and other than a curio I can't see using it. But it was clearly a choice.

    MB
     
  18. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    There were also safe light candle holders. Just a candle holder enclosed in amber glass with light tight vents for air.
     
  19. Maris

    Maris Member

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    The electricity requirement has an interesting side effect in that it is an aid in distinguishing genuine photographs from other pictures which look like photographs but might not be.

    The only energy input required to generate a photograph in a sensitive surface is light. Photography was invented in, and works perfectly in, a world without electricity. Other processes which can make fine looking pictures, ink-jet for example, cannot be done, even in principle, if there is no electricity.

    Of course, light alone is not sufficient for the entire cycle of production. The picture maker needs energy too but in some of the workshops I have been to beer, pizza, and cigarettes seemed enough.
     
  20. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    During the 1956 Olympics held in Melbourne, my Grandfather worked at the Olympic stadium every day, except for the opening and closing ceremony days.

    He saved his pennies and had a roll of film for each day, before or after his shift he was allowed to roam the stadium in the standing area only. This he did, exposing a roll of film each day.

    Each evening he and I went to the bathroom, I sat in the bath at the plug and tap end, he sat on the bath at the other end. As the film was the cheaper orthochromatic film (money was exceedingly tight) he used a small kerosene hurricane lamp sitting on a stool in the corner. The kero lamp had a big square glass bottle with the ends cut off over it, this bottle had some red cellophane paper from Christmas wrapping stock wrapped around it, this was his one and only safelight.

    We developed the film in a seesaw fashion with both of us holding one end of the film; this is the bit where I came in handy. As my eyes were very good, I could tell him when the film had pictures on it, which decided the time was right to end development.

    For picture making he had a small 6x9 wooden contact frame (which I now have). Paper was in 6x9 cut sheets so one loaded the negative, then the paper, then closed the double-sided spring backed backside. My job then was to walk to the clothesline and back with the holder on top of my head if it was a sunny day, if it was cloudy, I walked to the back fence and back. We then processed the paper in cut down kerosene tins, using the same safelight used for film developing.

    I now realise that I didn’t have to hold the contact holder on the top of my head, but as a young fella it gave me a sense of importance, which is obviously why my grandfather instructed me very seriously, of the importance of being able to hold the contraption dead straight and not to run or deviate from the decided upon route in the backyard.

    Our bathroom was out the back of the house at one end of the back verandah, there was no electricity there; we used a kero lamp for light. The hot water system was part of the kitchen stove, which was a solid fuel, or wood burner type. Effectively this was a self sufficient or independent way of photography, compared to today that is.

    As a matter of interest we used an egg timer in the house for most things, including a shower. My grandfather, father and myself had to have our shower all over from start top finish before the egg timer was through. We did this by quickly rotating as one hopped in, got wet, hopped out then lathered up, then hopped back in to rinse off. Any longer than an egg timer under the shower, the hot water ran out.

    Mick.
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Mick,

    Great story and I am sure you have great memories of working with your grandfather.

    Steve
     
  22. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    I threw my television out in 1974. My life has been interesting. I believe you are correct; there is a correlation.

    I challenge anyone here to unplug their TV for a month and see what else will arrive in your life. I promise that you will not miss the favorite TV show after a few weeks.

    MB
     
  23. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Just exactly what does the pizza do?