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  1. #1
    BetterSense's Avatar
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    How did people enlarge before cheap electricity?

    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.
    f/22 and be there.

  2. #2
    tiberiustibz's Avatar
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    I'm sure they used kerosene lamps.

  3. #3
    Andrew Moxom's Avatar
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    Printing Out Paper :-) Also remember Adams used light from Yosemite Park as his diffuse enlarging light source I believe before he had electricity??? Read that somewhere
    Please check out my website www.amoxomphotography.com and APUG Portfolio .....

  4. #4
    David William White's Avatar
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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. #5
    AgX
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    There were solar enlargers, either employing an adjustable mirror or being adjusted as a whole.

  6. #6
    BetterSense's Avatar
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    I do contact printing outside (for the 4x5)
    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.
    f/22 and be there.

  7. #7

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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. #8
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Mammoth plate cameras were big not because the photographer did not wish to enlarge...

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

    Vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  9. #9
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BetterSense View Post
    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.
    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.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    Mammoth plate cameras were big not because the photographer did not wish to enlarge...

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

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

    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!
    Bruce Watson
    AchromaticArts.com

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