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  1. #1
    kaishowing's Avatar
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    Antique/Vintage Question

    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/v2...stoncamera.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. #2
    Ian Leake's Avatar
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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. #3
    holmburgers's Avatar
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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).
    If you are the big tree, we are the small axe

  4. #4
    kaishowing's Avatar
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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 kaishowing; 07-27-2010 at 02:28 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Adding extra info.

  5. #5
    Ian Leake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaishowing View Post
    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.
    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. #6

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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. #7
    Anscojohn's Avatar
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    A high vantage point, an assistant or two, and a megaphone to direct the crowd.
    John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anscojohn View Post
    A high vantage point, an assistant or two, and a megaphone to direct the crowd.

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

  9. #9
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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!
    Bill Clark

  10. #10
    Jim Noel's Avatar
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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.
    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Films NOT Dead - Just getting fixed![/FONT]

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