Category Archives: Black & white

Refurbishing Antique Bellows Cameras

The Blog writing has been on the back burner whilst I spent time refurbishing my two 1900s, mahogany and brass bellows camera.

The Boots camera is a single-rack camera and less useful so I decided to refurbish this one keeping it as original as possible. The Hora camera is slightly more modern by 10 -20 years and has a double rack and pinion adjustment making it much more useable since focussing can be accomplished without changing the distance between the lens and the object. This Hora camera then was to be refurbished to make it as useable as possible.

Each camera was stripped down, as far as possible, to its component parts. IMG_3023  The wood was cleaned with “Soft Finish” remover to gently lift off grime leaving the patina intact. The wood was finished with liquid wax. All sliding surfaces had a light dressing of graphite powder to ease movement.

The brass was in a badly corroded state in many places.

The worst was treated to a light sanding with 600 wet&dry then polished with a cream cleaner. After completing the first camera my fingers hurt so I purchased a battery powered Dremel to do the buffing. However this new Dremel was dreadfully underpowered and stalled with the lightest pressure at the slow and medium speeds. After finishing the cleaning using the high speed only I returned the Dremel to Amazon who refunded me fully.

As the pictures show the bellows of the newer, Hora camera have had a lot of bookbinding tape applied to cover light leaks.

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I bought, from a supplier in China, replacement bellows and glued them in place with flexible adhesive. Whilst the new bellows are fully light tight they are less stiff that the original and sag quite a bit. To address this I have attached a brass ring to the middle section of the bellows and use a tensioning wire to hold the bellows up. This is a period feature on some other cameras of this type.

The Boots camera had its glass screen cleaned with 1200 grit wet&dry carborundum paper. I still haven’t removed all the marks, but the glass is much clearer in use. It does still need new bellows but I want to locate a leather type to look more original than the Chinese polyester version.

Both cameras have now been completed.

because of the cleaning and lubricating graphite, are much easier to use. and I have taken some very pleasing images with them since the refurbishments, an example of which is below. More images to follow in my next blog.

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North Somerset Artsweek 2019

It has been a very busy April/May – preparing 75 pieces for North Somerset Artsweek #nsaw2019 – but so worth it!

We have had a great response from visitors to the Clevedon Theatre Shop venue, in terms of numbers, purchases and (more importantly) conversations. Just today and tomorrow to go then time for a rest.

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The artists, Eric, Laura and myself.

NSAW2019_Venue36 (2 of 2)My work on show – B&W photos taken with the antique camera and large prints taken with the new Fujis. Also one of the wood-sculptures – Starling murmuration (sold).

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A successful first lino-cut in a short taster-workshop.

Antique camera at Hartland Quay

It has been a busy few weeks preparing for North Somerset ArtsWeek in May. I am exhibiting at The Theatre Shop, Clevedon BS21 6HX.
#NSAW19 @NSomersetArts northsomersetarts.org 
More of this later…..

Meanwhile I wanted to spend some time enjoying the drama that is the North Devon Coastline. No better place than Hartland Quay – and so it proved.

A two night stay at The Hartland Quay Hotel (recommended) gave me the time to view the cliffs and sea in a variety of light and weather conditions.

A mix of paper negatives and x-ray film was used. The X-ray film exposure times have been tricky to work out – I am still experimenting. Anything from 1/125s (using the Thompson Pickard shutter) and 2 seconds have yielded images, but the longer times do seem over-exposed on  processing. I have some more work to do on the images and will post later.

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Yorkshire Trip & a Half-Plate Camera

Taking the opportunity to stay a few days at Skipton this week, I packed the VW Camper with my “new” 1900s Hora bellows camera and basic dark-room gear and headed into the countryside – enjoying the challenges of photographing in the snow.

VW Camper Darkroom (1 of 2) vw-camper-darkroom-2-of-2.jpg

With such bright – but high contrast scenes it was always going to be a challenge to get any kind of image on the paper negative. Even with the paper at ISO 6,  F45 still only have me a 2 to 4 second shutter speed. So I used the Thornton Pickard shutter with the “time” setting and held it open with an air bulb for a count of up to 4 seconds.IMG_4530 IMG_1603

Photographing waterfalls was a similarly challenging exercise – again a high contrast subject. This time the light level was lower allowing for a longer, and hence proportionally more accurate timing of the, exposure.

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Here was a good place to compare the two lens types I now have. A wide angle 5inch ? F6.4-22 Apem Asymmetrical and a standard 8 inch F8-45 Beck Symmetrical.IMG_1559  IMG_8844

I am very happy with the images from both of these lenses though the wide angle image was over-exposed – only working with a 2 second exposure at f22. I had pre-flashed the paper negatives before setting out on this trip and am happy to report a much improved dynamic range as a result.

I think the images are really atmospheric – they draw you in to explore, to see and discern detail. The hyper-reality, hyper-clarity of many modern digital images leaves no mystery – you see the image and quickly forget it. But an image that you have to work with a bit lingers more in the memory and invites you to fill in the hidden/un-revealed detail. You finish the story of the image – so you have an investment in the image – start to form a relationship with the image- the subject – the photographer.

 

 

 

 

Pre-Flashing the Paper Negative

Another useful tip from an online forum – to reduce the contrast of a photo paper negative, the advice is to “pre-flash” it with a short exposure to an enlarger light. I don’t have an enlarger so have rigged a small desk light with a couple of sheets of tracing paper over the shade and then added a filter holder and for the flashing added a number 9 Ilford magenta filter. Pre-Flashing the paper for 0.5 to 1.0 s seems to have given an improvement in tonality for the images. To test the process, I deliberately chose a high contrast picture – dark soil and white, sun-lit, crocus flower.

First – without flashing

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Second- with.

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Vintage Photography with X-ray Film

With 5×7 sheet film being expensive, at over £1 a sheet, I have been looking for alternatives. I love the look paper negatives give to some images and so will continue to use paper as “film” for some subjects – particularly those that don’t move …

In searching discussion forums on alternative photographic processes, I came across questions and advice about using x-ray film. Working out at around 10p a sheet this looked almost too good to be true – but it works  … and it looks great!

The film is described as being “sensitive to green light” so I wondered if, like photopaper it would render reds as black, but that is not the case. There is quite a good tonal range as the print below shows.

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