The Thornton Pickard Reflex continues to be favoured despite only having two vaguely serviceable plate holders, as betrayed by those four scratches running through the sky. It was a long drive, over 450 mile round trip to expose just two plates on a day when this Avro Lancaster was having one of it's running days. The other plate was fogged. NX611 is a Lancaster B Mk VII, dating from April 1945, which means the Thornton Pickard Reflex was already twenty years old when this Lancaster was shiny and new.
Although NX611 is not airworthy, it is regularly moved under it's own power and as each item comes up for overhaul it is completed to airworthy condition, such that one day it can leave the ground once again. It's a spectacular achievement and in a very period setting, please visit the LAHC for more information and support their efforts.
Two recent arrivals have joined the museum after clearing the workshop, another Russian Leica copy the Zorki 1 and a development of the same camera, a Zenit 3M.
Apart from the Thornton Pickard, other cameras currently loaded are the Leica III, Zorki 1 and Zeiss Icarette.
Entering the workshop this month is this particularly snotty Robot II, dating from the immediate post war period. It's almost identical to pre war models, presumably making use of the same tooling. The lens serial dates it to 1944, although the camera was certainly made later.
This poor thing is in atrocious condition, corroded throughout and the lens heavily fungus etched. The man made covering can't be saved. It is however making weak attempts to work, and a film found inside it produced some very weak images that showed it was working into the 1970s. It did have both N and T type film canisters within it.
It's going to require an extensive effort to make it presentable, even the badge has corroded to powder on the back. I have published the image here to make it public and so force myself to complete the job. The end result will be little use other than a paperweight though, as the Schneider Kreuznach Xenon lens is severely fungus etched, the surface looking like the sea under a microscope. Quality control at Schneider Kreuznach in 1943/44 was a bit lacking too, as there are two objective lens bubbles inside the f/11 arc.
Well I am happy to report that the Spotmatic survived its winter trip better than I did. It didn't even make it out of the camera case in South Africa, which was a shame as I had hoped to catch some wildlife with it. Instead it went to Ukraine and into the 10km exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor plant in late April 2019. I exposed two rolls of ancient HP5 in the Spotmatic and it gave 70 images. I thinned these down for the gallery, but there are a fair few of Pripyat, the abandoned city in the shadow of Chernobyl. The Thornton Pickard had another image added to its gallery this month, but the one below was made with the Spotmatic near Kyiv, Ukraine.
On 30th December, Keith was seriously injured 200km North of George in South Africa. He suffered multiple rib fractures and a broken clavicle, then developed pneumonia as a result of chest injuries. Although on the mend, it seems unlikely that there will be any updates to the LICM for some time. Keith reports that the LICM Pentax Spotmatic which was with him as the time, escaped damage - but sadly didn't get a chance to be used either.
A full year after new shutter curtains were made for the Thornton Pickard Reflex Special a handful of negatives were exposed in it to test the shutter. The film used was the last of some Ilford FP4 quarter plate cut film, that has lived in the fridge since 1984, one of which is at left. The remainder were on Efke stock. Efke are now sadly defunct.
You can see the camera being rebuilt in Project 6.
The Parvola, rebuilt earlier this year, has had an image gallery started for it now.
The Ensign Focal Plane Reflex has had it's image gallery updated after several years on the shelf.
Further contemporary images from Grandad's DRP have been added to its image gallery too.
This is the sad looking Ihagee Parvola as it arrived last month. A great deal of effort was expended on it as it needed a lot more attention than first thought. The Compur shutter was taken apart completely, for when I got the front off - I have never seen so much debris inside a still working shutter. Quite amazing it was still releasing at all. All the leaves needed taking out and cleaning and both cocking and release pivots were bent. The tatty plating has been left though. There's a little bit of blooming on the lens front element which isn't harmful and the lens is in good order. The leather had been painted at some point to disguise the poor state and the camera had clearly got quite wet at some point. Both of which meant the leather covering needed to be replaced. The approach used for this Parvola was to undo the results of neglect and damage and retain natural wear, then return functionality. The Parvola was also used to try out a new method of making leather impression stamps for the Ihagee logos, this is documented in Project 7 on the workshop pages.
The camera has now has its own entry on the museum pages after it's restoration/conservation treatment. It is currently loaded with a roll of our diminishing stock of 127 roll film, so let's hope all is well with it.
One of our long term residents, an Ensign Focal Plane Roll Film Reflex (crikey, that's a mouthful - no wonder they renamed it the Speed Reflex), recently went into the workshop (yet again!) as we found a donor to supply all the parts it needed. Viewing hood springs, correct shutter selector catch, undamaged top housing with better leather in the hatch, neater lens cover, a handful of screws and a usable carrying case. Other than that the donor's innards had all but rusted away.
This contemporary image from 1938 shows one Trevor Edmund Thomas, on the shore at Weston-Super-mare. At this time Trevor was the owner of our Graflex 1A. We know this as he had written both his name and two addresses in the back of the camera. Although faint and confused with scratches and wear, a bit of research in the census found a name of a surviving relative, to whom we wrote in May 2018. The fabulous outcome is this image. The lady I wrote to is Dorothy, the little girl in this picture. Behind her is her father, Trevor and we also see his wife Olive and their son Arthur. It would appear that this image is reunited with the camera that took it almost eighty years to the day.
Very much of the era, it's a very warm summer day, sunny but hazy looking roughly easterly. Trevor is dressed in a full suit and waistcoat, a tie and neatly folded handkerchief. Wherever possible we like to show images known to have been taken by each camera, contemporary ones especially so. So I'd like to express my thanks to everyone who helped resolve the evidence trail that lead to the address, and Dorothy and her daughter Vanessa for finding and allowing me to publish this picture.
For anyone totally fed up with the e-mails about data protection etc etc. You'll be pleased to know I don't keep anything! Unless you send me an e-mail, in which case I store those until I get bored of them in my in box. I'd love to give you a time scale, but rest assured, my boredom threshold is pretty low. Also I don't have the technical competencies to deal with all that cookie malarkey, so have had to discontinue the Google adverts altogether, otherwise those nasty google people will try to track you and send you lots of adverts about things you've already looked for and bought last week.
Additional images added to the image gallery for the 1934 Kodak retina model 117.
In November 2017 the old Kodak Retina, now 83 years old and, you might think, overdue for retirement - was despatched on what would turn out to be almost a world tour. The camera was taken from the display case, given the briefest of checks entailing a quick look for holed bellows and a visual test of the shutter, two films were grabbed from the fridge and off it went. In the next 6 months it was subjected to temperature ranges of -10 to +33c. Altitudes up to 11,000ft and about 30 airport x-rays. Of the 70 frames exposed, 58 are usable. The exposures mixed on those two films ranged from night time long exposures to insane cold, high altitude and sun so bright it made your eyes hurt. Both films were then developed together in the same tank in multi-shot ID11. What could possibly go wrong!
Workshop activity is continuing with the Ensign Focal Plane Reflex having a fairly extensive overhaul, the Thornton Pickard Ruby reflex needs new velvet light seals in the plate carrier and I have been collecting together the materials and information for a total rebuild of an Ihagee Parvola wreck, this will entail new leather work and pressing logos into the covering when finished. I am developing a new method to replace the way I have been doing it for many years, documented in Project 1. This will be written up in due course and added to the workshop pages.
Yes, still here! In terms of vintage photography I have nothing to report. The Nikon FE is out and about as is the Kodak Retina 117, but nothing to add to their pages.
And finally after 20 years, I decided to stop hiding and put up an "about" page, so those of an inquisitive disposition can find out about the author.
The view from my mountain hideaway as the sun went down on February 28th 2018, so just about okay for inclusion. This was taken with the trusty and quite battered Pentax K-X. I also used the Kodak Retina 117 for a similar shot, but that will have to wait.
The mountains are the Trans Ala tau, but I don't think anyone will be able to track me down from this angle.
But here's some weird, very obscurely related photography related news. Okay, that is pushing it somewhat, but I am struggling to find anything to write! Amongst my innumerable interests, I occasionally like to play with drawing or painting, as well as a bit of writing.
I recently completed a book entitled OF OUR OWN DEMISE and wanted to do the cover illustration. Now the subject of the book has nothing to do with photography, so I will not go into it here. But I elected to draw the image as a negative, exactly as you see here. As a creator, when I draw normally, I can see the progress that my efforts are taking, adjusting and modifying as I go. But I decided for this, the creator would have control but the final outcome couldn't be entirely known.
"The creator does not have total dominion, but absolute interest."
The final outcome would not be known until the image was "processed", in this case digitally inverted. It was interesting as there's a strong parallel with taking a photograph and seeing the film for the first time as it exits the developing tank. I was very strict with myself, I drew it once, when I was happy with the negative, I had it scanned and then flipped the negative in good old "Photoshop". The result was pretty much as I wanted, but seeing it for the first time was a joy normally denied me.
If you are curious as to the finished image, click here!
November was very busy with the move. Life will be very much different now, but I will attempt to look after the website from time to time. I decided to add a page that explains why, what and how "Rise and Fall" lens movements were used. So many folding cameras were fitted with the feature from the 1900s - I thought it might be useful to someone.
Follow this link to find the page.
And please visitors, do me a favour and take a look around the site, visit a few more pages. Whilst the majority of visits come from search engines, this somewhat perversely damages the figures. Visitors who type in a search, visit a page, find out what he or she wants then leaves is recorded as a dis-satisfied customer so far as Google is concerned, as they seem to think that "engagement" is vitally important, i.e.. - how deep into a web site you go. Hence the number of sites festooned with "click bait". So sites like this that give you information free of charge and without making you "go round the houses" to get it, are penalized with high "bounce rates". So please, do me a favour, and delve in a little deeper!
What's new indeed, pretty much everything. New clothes. New home. New Country. New language. New weather. Gave up my job after 30 years in the same company.
Buy hey, if you're going to have a shake up, have a good one. So I am currently living in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Righto, enough about me.
My place of employment for over 30 years. Draper Tools Ltd, from Early 1987 until October 2017. I enjoyed my time there, felt valued and I think I must have worked with almost everyone to a greater or lesser degree during my stay. Although Draper's were fabulous and everyone from the Chairman, John Draper, down were sorry to see me go, I think 30 years is enough.
in 1998 this photograph was taken with the collection's Williamson WF117A aerial camera on one of a very few outings for it. This was taken by a friend using the Williamson from the right hand seat of C172 G-BHCC as we passed by back in 1998.
The head Office building stands out well in the town of Chandler's Ford. It was also well positioned as a good marker to start the run in to Right Base leg for runway 20 at Southampton Airport, back in the days I could fly in there. You'd never see a Cessna 172 in there today, it's wall to wall Flybe Bombardier Q400s.
Cameras wise, I'd long been cooking up ideas about making new shutter blinds, and have put quite a few in over the years. Some years back I bought some new shutter cloth from Micro Tools, but was a bit dismayed with it, as it was far too thick for the Ensign Speed reflex that it was intended for. But that's all I could get so I used it and adapted the camera to take into account the extra bulk of the cloth. Earlier this year I went to use the Ensign again but it was dead. Accordingly I thought it was time to take it all to pieces and make my own cloth to the correct thickness, as I had hatched a plan to make my own cloth and an experiment suggested I was on the right track. I had hoped the original Micro Tools cloth had degraded as it was well over a decade old. Alas no, when I stripped the camera the problem was easily resolved, so I just elected to fix the issue and move on. But I felt cheated! I had this idea in my head, and I simply had to give it a go. So I went on a hunt for a camera with a nice big cloth shutter that was in need of replacement. It didn't take long. It was advertised as a Butcher's Reflex camera. It was unmarked in any way, but with a Butcher's Aldis Anastigmat. Butcher's were notorious in not marking their cameras, as they had a history of just importing them "off the shelf" from Germany prior to the First World War and then having Houghtons Ltd. in London make them when the German supply kind of became inconvenient. So unmarked cameras from Butcher's are not at all uncommon. It didn't quite look right though. But no matter, the camera was just what I wanted, externally and cosmetically is was fine as it was, but the shutter curtains were totally ruined. Perfect.
So I put my long awaited idea to make new shutter curtain material into action, and am pleased with the outcome. I wanted to make my own as I needed control over the thickness of the finished material and I had rejected the methods I that others have posted online as being unsuitable. One method I've seen involves painting cloth with acrylic paint on one side, but it doesn't produce the soft pliable low drag result of the original material.
Anyway, the method I cooked up can be seen in Project 6, and the restored camera, which actually turned out to be a Quarter Plate, Thornton Pickard, Junior Special Ruby Reflex can be seen in the museum pages.
Sadly with all the changes of recent weeks, any thoughts of using the cameras is on hold for a few months.
Well no, that's not entirely true. I did just manage to scurry off to get a film processed that had been languishing in the FED 3 for a while. That's actually one of the things I like about chemical photography, the fact that memories are locked away, latent - as Fox Talbot would have said, awaiting rediscovery upon processing. This instant digital gratification has its place, but I rather do like the wait, and birth of an image. The investment of hope, experience and time. Anyway, I will add a few more images to the FED 3 gallery.
One of my occasional experiments with Autochrome-esque images.
The camera I chose for this attempt was the Ensign Selfix 220, a 1950s era 120 roll film camera.
Mainly because I hadn't got around to publishing any images with it. Now the Selfix is nothing special, with a fairly average lens and self energizing shutter, with a harsh action, making camera shake a very real likelihood. My attempts to make colour images with this camera, mimic those of the earliest attempts, that is three separate exposures through coloured filters, first Red, then Green and then Blue are made on black and white film, then processed as usual. Originally, these were then made into positives, then each image was projected via it's own projector through the same filter to be coincident on a screen. This later part is done digitally here, by scanning each negative and then putting it in the appropriate channel in Photoshop - but it's much the same process, just easier as it avoids having to get three projectors working together.
The camera needs to be tripod mounted, and the filters I used were fairly dense needing a three stop increase in exposure. The camera had a bit of an issue with frame spacing, the result is the colour bands down the sides of the image, which enhances it no end.
The subject is the Hydrangea in my garden, which cannot make a decision as to be blue or pink, so invariably does a half and half.
The first film, a Foma 100, went through the Reflex Korelle and has been processed. All told I am quite pleased that the old Korelle got to celebrate it's 80th birthday with a film. The B model is far from the best of the Korelles, but I enjoyed getting it to work and I am reasonably pleased with the results from the first attempt. The one at left is a small part of the very first picture from the first roll from the rejuvenated Korelle B. The only issue may be the first curtain out accelerating the second by a fraction, though this is hard to tell, so I will wait and see what the faster shutter speeds show up, also one film roller is a little sticky which has made some tiny scratches on the emulsion, but this ought to be easily cured. The camera itself is completely light tight without a hint of fogging or streaking, which makes a very pleasant change for once. A few more frames from this first film can be seen in the camera's image gallery,
Grandad's old DRP was given what will be it's final outing. 90 years after Gramps bought it, his daughter was photographed by his Grandson with the 1927 DRP.
The FED 3 went on some travels to Kazakhstan, no results back from that trip as yet though. Recently I was seduced by Reflex Korelle. Every collector wants one of these, and they are fairly common. The unusual one is the Reflex Korelle B, the rarer though cut price simplified version that no one wants, so that is the one I acquired for the camera equivalent of a donkey sanctuary. It's been through the usual deep clean and had a new shutter made for it. It currently has a test film in it, but that's not finished yet. However the restoration can be seen in the workshop pages as project 5.
Sorry, the adverts have to go on again, It looks like I will be unemployed soon, so I cannot afford to fund the website anymore. Hopefully the adverts will cover the cost of the hosting. Apologies, I hate putting them on.
Not much of note going on that's visible. In the background I have been sourcing backing paper for 118, 122, 124 roll films. This will be re-spooled with film I have acquired from Ilford. This should enable me to start sorting out some galleries for some of the more awkward sized cameras. The next problem is processing as I don't have any appropriately sized spirals, but I've got this far so I'm not giving in yet.
A fairly momentous beginning to the year for entirely non camera related reasons but on the camera front, a handful of images were added for the rebuilt FED 3 which has proved to be an absolute gem. Although the test film wasn't exactly visually stunning, the experience of using the FED was a delight. Happy New Year to all.
A very attractive FED 3 donated from Russia has been resident in the workshop for some weeks, it has now been restored and joins the collection pages, along with a humble Lomo, Smena Symbol and a No.3 Folding Pocket Kodak dating from around 1907.
The camera that takes the credit for inspiring my interest in old cameras was given an outing earlier this month. Having sat in the display case for some time unused, it required a quick clean and check over, but all seemed in order. It was taken to this old saw mill in late evening, with just one plate loaded.
Yikes, is it a year since I used any of the cameras? Sadly yes. The cost of replacing the computer to author the web site totally consumed the budget for film and chemicals. However we have just restored the Ensign Midget, it waited a mere 32 years before it got the chance. It was promptly sent to Siberia.
||One of the images from the Siberian trip, taken near Omsk in August 2016. The Ensign Midget performed rather better than I'd hoped, returning six out of six images for the one film I had wound for it. The others can be seen here,
Nestling in the back of the cupboard was an old box of Ilford ID11 powder developer. reputedly this has an almost limitless shelf life. This box was the wrong side of 20 years old, so in an extreme product test. I mixed it up and processed the rolls from the Exakta VP. Mixed to stock then used as 1:3 one shot developer, it was fine! Thumbs up for Ilford ID11. So here's one one image from the Exakta VP-B, depicting Bristol Blenheim returning to RAF Bicester for the first time in 70 years.
||Whilst comparing the Exakta VP to recent SLRs reveals many shortcomings, considering the era from which the Exakta hails, you have to be impressed, It's easy to use, the lever advance sweeps the next frame in reasonably quickly and the controls are easily set. Fine focussing is a little tricky, but gets the desired result. A fine instrument of the day, a good working example is worth persevering with.
Good new for the visitors, bad news for me. After no less than three attempts to buy old MacIntosh computers I got ripped off by some idiot, who ran off with the money - fortunately, ebay refunded me most of the money. Another machine was totally rubbish, it wasn't even worth the postage to send back, so that went to the skip, and finally the one I am writing this on. Then I had to fork out for newer software, ouch. So the Museum funds are relying on loans. I can only hope that I get some income from the Google adverts soon, although in light of recent performance this looks unlikely. So sadly there is no money for film and processing for some time. The last four rolls of 127 roll film went into the Exakta VP a few weeks back, sadly they remain unprocessed for now. However I did scrape up enough to process two rolls from the Varex IIa, it was despatched to Uzbekistan back in April where it was nearly lost, as it was impounded at Uzbek customs along with the VP as they contravened their export rules. The rule is supposed to protect Uzbek antiques from being taken out, but the border officials apply it to old cameras too. Luckily the cameras were being escorted by a UN negotiator, and they won the day. Phew. Some results from the two rolls of film that went through it are on the gallery for it,
The Kodak I restored FOC for the chap in Northern Ireland has now been returned to him. The deal was I got to keep it for three weeks to sit on my shelf. Whilst it was resident I managed to get one image from it. As it was roughly 1912, I managed to find this period aeroplane at Bicester. It's a reasonably convincing replica of a BE2c, modified from Tiger Moth airframe.
Another year rolls by. The end of 2014 saw two new arrivals,
both Exaktas. One a Varex II b and one VP, these are currently workshop
residents, so aren't on the web site yet. The Varex looks to be a straightforward
cleaning task, whilst the VP is likely to be more involved. maybe new
curtains, but the whole thing is jammed currently so hard to tell. I have
added some results for the Praktica
Super TL. I never thought Prakticas got the praise they deserved,
the Super TL performed rather well and in the hands of a decent photographer,
which patently I am not, I imagine it would be possible to get some fairly
spectacular results. Anyway, here's a taster, happy New Year.
||Stop Press! The Exakta
II b and Exakta VP have both
passed through the workshop successfully and now have entries on the
web site. The VP was a bit of a challenge but appears to be behaving.
This was a repair and conservation job, all the original parts have
been used, the shutter curtain tapes had snapped and wrapped themselves
around the internals. they needed washing and ironing to get them
flat again, before putting back in slightly shorter than before. Getting
the shutter set up again was a bit awkward, but a slither of paper
around the roller bulked things up enough to keep the curtains running
about right. Fingers well and truly crossed!
A recent planned outing for the Sanderson
revealed the Dial Set Compur had gummed up. It had never been opened up
in the 30 years it's been a resident, so it was a bit overdue. Cleaning
sorted it out, but whilst I was in there, I did a cut-away picture, you
can view the full size by clicking the image, This Compur, mounting an
f4.5 Zeiss Tessar, was originally fitted to a Contessa Nettel, whose serial
the Compur is proudly displaying. Presumably that camera was broken up
at some point and it's shutter/lens combination used to update the Sanderson.
In turn, when the Sanderson wound up at the LICM, I rebuilt it with an
original Bausch and Lomb Unicum, keeping this Dial Set Compur and Tessar
combination as an additional setup.
I've added some images for the Nikon
FE taken in Kyrgyzstan, as mentioned previously, here's a taster...
Whist the image on the right was made with the Rollei
Well, I have been rather avoiding the website in recent
months, concentrating on motorcycle restoration rather than cameras. In
April I took a couple of the cameras to Kyrgyzstan again, the Nikon
FE and the Rollei 35. The most recent
outing was for the Ansco No.3, very much
a humble member of the collection, this was the best I could get out of
In 1861 the Scottish theoretical physicist James Clerk
Maxwell whose most celebrated work concerns magnetism, electricity and
electromagnetic fields, created the first colour photograph. He achieved
this by making three exposures of a tartan ribbon, each through a different
coloured filter - red, blue and yellow. The resulting negatives were then
made into positives, and all three were then projected through their respective
filters onto a common screen. This additive process results in a colour
image on the screen. As a homage to this event, I decided to have a go myself. I elected to use the common
additive colours used today, known as RGB - or Red, Green and Blue. I
used our 1908 Sanderson quarter plate camera
for the experiment. This required, a complete service
before it decided to play nicely, as the Unicum shutter had decided to
jam. So I set up a suitable still life with only natural light from one
side, a mirror to shine some light through the back of the glasses
and made my three exposures. I compensated about three stops for the rather
dark filters I found. These were then processed in a suitably vintage
tank, and the developer was left in too long deliberately, to punch up
the contrast and was developed on the warm side. Just to really give it
the aged look, the wash was freezing cold to really mess up the emulsion.
As I don't have one projector that takes quarter plate, let alone three
identical ones, the negatives were projected onto paper, photographed
then combined on the computer to finish the process. This is the result.
Maxwell's original can be found easily enough online.
On the camera front, we have been very busy in
the workshop, acquiring a 1915 Graflex 1A
in decidedly rotten condition as a challenge, for my 50th birthday. After
many hours work, it has been returned to working order. We are also resurrecting
a Ensignette and a Leica
III is waiting its turn. Three further images have been added for
the 1902 Sanderson, here's one of them.