Category Archives: Cameras

Repairing a Thornton Pickard Shutter

I added a second plate camera (By Hora & Co – Wandsworth London 1902-1930) to my collection recently and it came with a Thornton Pickard Shutter. This worked Ok for half a dozen shots, but then broke whilst I was photographing my favourite Exmoor trees (see pic above).

The problem was with the shutter curtain which is made of rubberised silk and had perished. Thankfully shutter curtain mertial can be bought from a supplier in Japan for just £16 including delivery. I have also benefitted from reading how to dissassemble and re-assemble a shutter on Paul Wins’ website.

Currently the shutter is in pieces whilst I wait for the delivery of the new shutter material. I have laid out the shutter pieces and stuck them to a piece of paper to measure for the new piece.

The beauty of working with these cmaeras is the relative ease with which they can be repaired and adjusted using simple tools and materials.

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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

Crocus-1.jpg

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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Now to get things in focus

Having learned how to set the exposure on the 100 year-old Thornton Pickard I have been working on getting everything well-focussed.

The challenge with focussing for a still life like this is the depth-of-field is shallow beacuse the camera is so close to the subject. To maximise the depth of field I set the f-stop to its maximum of f64. As a result of this small aperture little light gets to the film, so I needed a long exposure of 7 minutes.

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Bellows Camera in the Snow

With the sun out and the roads passable, I ventured up onto the top of the Mendip Hills with the Thornton Pickard and some film cartridges loaded with Photopaper as paper-negatives. I also loaded the VW Campervan with the darkroom chemicals, trays and red-light so I could process on site to check exposure. This proved vital as the first set of images – though at maximum aperture of F8 were still underexposed with the shutter operating at 1/30s and the paper’s ISO equivalent of 6.

So I went to the other end of the F scale – 64. this gave an exposure time of 4s – long enough to cover minor discrepancies in my manual timing. These shots were much better exposed, though the paper negatives – having been loaded in the not-so-light-tight van were a bit fogged in places.

I am pleased with the results – here are scans of the contact prints made from the paper negatives. Some images show a curved shadow at the bottom – a problem with the bellows sagging caused this. I lifted the lens mount and this reduced the problem. Really I need to fit new bellows – but as the rest of the camera is a bit worn it wouldn’t make economic sense compared to buying another in better condition.

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Still life with a bellows camera

On a snowy day, staying at home was the warmer option and gave me a chance to apply what I have learned about exposure for this camera to still life. Being a snowy day the light coming in from the window was nice and flat. Working close-up meant the camera was extended almost to its limit. After a few trial exposures with the paper negatives, I settled on a 4 minute exposure at f18 for these three images (paper negatives scanned, inverted and flipped in Photoshop).
But I have to admit to preferring the images as they come on the paper negatives seen in teh second set of images.

 

6 out of 6! – 6 Good exposures

On the frosty Mendip Hills this morning, I used the vintage Thornton Pickard camera to take some silhouette images of trees. Building on yesterday’s success with metering I managed 6 good exposures, despite the camera’s challenges including:
Lens aperture adjustment seizing in the cold
Shutter cord getting trapped during exposure.

Images below are scans of the original paper negatives and photoshop’s rendition of the positive of the scans. Tomorrow I will do some contact prints.