Ok, but remember, you asked for it!
Introductions? Oh this could be painfully dull! Oh well, since I have been hanging around APUG for a few years, I guess I had better step forward ‘n’ give ya all a chance to throw a tomato or two ;-)
I took the odd photo with the family’s Kodak box camera back in the 1950's but didn’t get interested in pictures until I started working (early 1960's) and bought a Polaroid. The “instant picture” was ok until I started college and got interested in photography (rather than “snap shots” of the commonplace and uninteresting).
I went to (technical) college in northeastern Ontario, in an area where there was a gold rush in the first half of the 1900's and the wilderness was peppered with old mines. This was REAL northern wilderness where a person could get lost and never been seen again!
In my first year of college (1969) I made an adventurous (and risky) hike 5 miles north thru the trackless bush to a major mine that had closed in the 1940's. Hiking to the north, there were NO more roads to the north, none to the east, and nearly 20 miles to the first road west.
After successfully hiking thru the trackless wilderness in to the mine site (a 5 acre clearing in the middle of nowhere), I pulled out my Polaroid to photograph the site and ALL of the pictures came out BLACK. I tried another cassette, and they all came out black!
I hiked the 5 miles south, back to the road, and went straight to the camera store in town where I plunked my Polaroid on the counter and said, “Show me some REAL cameras!” I came away with a Zeiss Voightlander with a 50mm Zeiss lens, an electronic flash, and a pocket full of colour and B&W film. I hiked back to the mine site and got my pictures :-)
I discovered the my college had a camera club and a darkroom! I joined the camera club (which brought the membership up to 3!) and started learning about home-grown B&W. Being a member of the camera club also got me conscripted into being a photographer for the school paper (which then had THREE photographers!). With high speed film (400 ASA in those days) and the good optics on my Zeiss (as well as a quiet shutter), I discovered I had a talent for “candid photography”, which was REALLY popular with the editor of the paper. Being a sneaky photographer didn’t win me a lot of friends but I felt as if I was one of the early “investigative journalists” :-) Most of the newspaper’s front page photos came from my Zeiss and the subjects didn’t know they had been photographed until the paper hit the stands. (Then I’d hide for a few days until people cooled off (snicker!) My best front page picture was of the Dean, in coveralls, carrying a stepladder down the hall with fluorescent tubes in his hand and the story was about insufficient funding for college maintenance. It got the attention of the Board of Governors!
I continued dabbling in 35mm for the next 15 years as I advanced in my (technical) career and bounced around Canada chasing advancement, but by the early 1980's I was growing dissatisfied with 35mm. I picked up an old Rolleicord from a pawn shop and tried my hand at 120. When I ventured into doing my own E-6, I was hooked on larger formats! There was something really impressive about a 120 transparency to an old 35mm shooter.
Once I was hooked on 120, I started looking for a better, more versatile camera. Hassies were out of my price range but Pentax had just announced their 645 so I got in touch with Pentax and asked for a referral to someone who was using a 645 in the field under adverse conditions (Canada is noted for the COLD, doncha know!). Pentax referred me to a wildlife photographer in Alaska and after getting a glowing report from him I decided to spring the mega-bucks for a 645 and told Pentax I wanted one. There were no 645's in Canada but Pentax said they had a few stores that had 645s on backorder and they planned to send 2 to Canada that year, that I could have one of them, so I picked the store closest to me to be the lucky recipient of one 645 and I phoned the stores and told them they were getting a 645 and it was MINE!
I loved the 645 and used it for years (while the Zeiss collected dust). Going with 120 film pretty much forced me into doing my own darkroom work buy my husband (of the time) was also into photography (35mm) so every house after that had to have a suitable space for a darkroom.
I continued with 120 film until about 2 years ago. The local pro shop where I used to buy chemicals and film had been in business for decades and had a used equipment counter. They always had an assortment of used press cameras and the odd studio camera, so I would stop by and drool on the counter every time I was in the store but the cost of Large Format made me nervous - I didn’t feel I was a good enough photographer to invest that much money per frame! A few years ago, I heard that the old pro shop had gone out of business and I MISSED their closing-out sale!
I ran across various LF camera builders on the Internet and, since I had been building things for years, I thought I’d try building a 4x5. When I acquired a suitable lens on eBay, I bought some Cherry wood and a set of plans (from an online vendor who is, fortunately no longer in business), and built a 4x5 monorail. Being in the building mood, I acquired a Besseler Dichro 45, repaired it, and built a 4x5 enlarger to.
While I was working toward being able to do colour prints, I got distracted. With my other hobbie being Cowboy Action Shooting (a shooting sport with strong connections to the Old West time period - hence, my moniker “Calamity Jane”) and antique machinery, it was natural that my photographic interests began to turn to historical processes and I began playing with dry plate “tintypes” using the Rockland products. That led to building more “stuff”, like a portable darkroom, light-tight drying chambers, etc. I also got into doing some P.O.P printing.
After looking at how much I had spent on LF photography in the past year and the ungodly amount of income tax I had paid, I decided it was time to set one against the other and turn the “Old Time Photography” into a business - at least, if I didn’t make a profit, I’d be buying my photographic stuff with tax-free money! If I did make a profit, then the photographic stuff would be paying for itself - a win/win situation :-)
Well, the business has continued to evolve (despite the lack of paying customers) and I have been working toward taking “Calamity Jane’s Old Time Photography” on the road, to go where the customers are. I have purchased a 16x16 marquis tent, put together auxiliary lighting, made a tintype cart (to hold all my supplies), furnished a “set” to photograph customers in the tent, a display table, and various other goodies to do tintypes and P.O.P. prints away from home.
Things have pretty much come together now - all I need is CUSTOMERS! ;-) This Friday I hit the road to attend a major agricultural fair, rodeo, and “pioneer days” celebration. Over 4 days, I will have access to about 10,000 people. I plan to stock my display table with “stock” tintypes and P.O.P. prints ahead of the main show and to offer “studio” and location shoots during the show. If my chemicals don’t poop out on me and I can sell out my inventory, I can cover over half my LF costs for the past year. With another (Cowboy Action) event on Labour Day, I might just break even in my first year :-) :-) :-)
When things quiet down in the fall, I want to try my hand at some wet plate work.
So that’s my story (and I am sticking to it!). Ya’ll find Calamity Jane’s Old Time Photography at http://www.geocities.com/winnonad
What a wonderful introduction. How nice it is to have you here. Your skill in narrative writing is excellent. If your photographic skills equal you writing skills you indeed are accomplished.
Hopeful am I to read many more posts from you.
Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)
This was a great piece to read - I loved it, but now I'm curious. Would you tell an ex gold miner from "The Porcupine" where you went to school and which mine you hiked in to?
Originally Posted by Calamity Jane
Hi John! Fancy meeting a Poker here Yer name don't sound familiar though.
I attended Northern College of Applied Arts and Technology, Kirkland Lake campus, in the town where the streets were REALLY paved with gold!
I don't remember the name of the mine anymore (that WAS 35 years ago!) but if you find an old contour map of the area, follow the highway east from K.L. about 5 to 8 miles (toward Quebec) and then go straight north for five miles. If I had a map, I'd look it up myself.
It may have been one of the claims that was revived 15 years ago when the price of gold went high because I found lots of gold in the rock piles they left behind when they closed. Some of that gold went home in my pockets :o
Son of a gun!! We have a lot more in common than just the school. I went to Northern in Porcupine from 77-79 and worked in the Pamour Porcupine (engineering) and then at The Dome (contract, pulling chutes and a bit of development in the drift) from 79-80. When I was at the Dome, I'd have every second week on nights, so during the day while my sweetheart was at work, I'd while away the time making a 45cal Kaintuckee squirrel rifle from a CVA kit. Gosh that thing was deadly !!! (at short range ) You wouldn't know anything about black powder eh? (just kidding - I've read your web pages). I have a bit of the yellow stuff here at home too, just enough for a keepsake.
Originally Posted by Calamity Jane
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Oh lawrdy! Another Northern alumni! Saints preserve us :rolleyes:
Well nice to meet you CJ and glad to see you here..BTW, congrats on the new 8x10 seems like I read over on the LF forum you picked one up (or maybe it was here...can't remember). Being the new owner of nice old 81x0 about the same time, I know how much fun you are having...and envy your drive to work with wet plates.
If you ever decide to make down here to Texas, give us a call...be glad to meet you.
Jane, nice to hear your story. I do admire the dedication it takes to hike into a wilderness and then back again with a proper camera. Sounds like you have what it takes to do well in the old west setting. Best of luck on your journey into the past and the road trip. Hope you have to raise prices to keep up with demand at the meet! If you ever get this far south, drop me an email. tim
P.S. My last trip to a mine netted me a great shot of two trees, but the mine was a bust. It was a hellish walk up hill, but worth the trip. Wouldn't change it for the world.