Cornices and Cupolas: Rescuing Architectural Images

We are often presented with classic, quaint, or colourful buildings that would make striking images – then we grind our teeth when we can’t use them because there is a power line, a curb full of parked cars, or a dumpster destroying an otherwise  wonderful image.  In these cases, one can often rescue the scene – and sometimes create a more powerful image – by focusing on details of the building, and extracting an abstract image derived more from shape, lines, and colours than the overall building and its surroundings.   Sometimes, one can do both:  create an overall, “postcard” view of the building and its setting, and then focus in to obtain “arty” images of architectural details or lines and shapes.  For example, consider the…Continue Reading

Vintage Filter Systems: The “Series” Filters

While there is a plethora of information available in books and on the Web about vintage camera and lens systems, almost nothing is written today about the design and use of photographic filter systems between 1915 and 1950.  To some extent, this is understandable, since digital image manipulation in Photoshop has largely replaced the effects of colored pieces of glass placed between the image and the film.  Yet the lack of attention to vintage filters is unfortunate, as this era covers the development of an entire science of photographic filtration, and the growth of an aspect of photographic art that allowed creative effects never dreamed of in the earliest days of exposing silver salts to light. The pre-digital film photographer…Continue Reading

Vintage Viewfinders

Note:  Excellent optical diagrams of the viewfinders described here are available on the Early Photography site and in Camerapedia.  See reference list. Ever since the invention of the camera, designers have grappled with the problem of accurately viewing the image before the film is exposed.  Early cameras, such as the  above 1886 Instanto tailboard camera, lacked any form of independent viewfinder, employing the rear ground glass focusing screen as the only means of composing the image.  This arrangement worked in the days when cameras were large, heavy, bulky, and largely restricted to studio work. Once dry plates and roll film became available, the camera moved out of the studio, and a quicker and more convenient method of previewing the image…Continue Reading

Bill Carter, Master Jeweller

Wandering down the narrow, branching streets of old downtown Nanaimo will take you past the ornate stained glass of Bill and Jean Carter’s Bastion Jewellers.  Bill …”practices traditional jewellery making the old-fashioned way. He carves master models out of wax to create custom designs then hand-fabricates the piece which gives him the freedom to make exceptionally beautiful, high-quality finished jewellery. Whether it’s a favourite logo, ring design, or an art-deco reproduction of an antique item, we create custom items in gold, silver, platinum, or a new blend of platinum-silver.” Yet it is Bill himself who is the gem of the shop.  I first met Bill bent over his immaculate workbench, carefully dissecting the workings of a classic mens watch.  He…Continue Reading

Joe’s Tire Hospital: Flexible Formats

The ability to change formats is a desirable feature in a vintage camera.  Obviously, those with interchangeable backs, such as the Graphics, can readily use different formats.  In addition, a number of folding roll film cameras, such as the Voigtlander Bessa, have the ability to switch between 6×9 and 6×6 cm formats. Such cameras can be identified by the two red windows placed at different positions on the back.  Unfortunately, many manufacturers accomplished this goal using drop-in masks that are almost always missing, and templates for remanufacturing these masks are nonexistent.  However, a few camera designers, notably the British Ensign, used built-in flaps that are an intrinsic part of the camera. Square format, besides stretching film, works well for street…Continue Reading