Tag Archives: Photography

Going “large”

I have enjoyed learning to use my 1900s halfplate (5×7) camera and love the images it can produce. However, starting with a piece of paper negative that size means the mounted image is less than 5×7. This means I can’t enter it for camera club competitions. The 5×7 size is a little too small also for selling as wall art – unless arranged with other images.

Having tried 10×8 photography using my cardboard cameras and being satisfied with the results I decided that it was time to “go large”.

So I have purchased via eBay a 10×8 full plate camera of a similar vintage, ( I sold on one of my two 5×7 cameras first). With apparently good examples going for £800, I was pleased to get an offer accepted on one in OK condition for less than half that price.

This camera has bellows in great condition, but needed some light repairs to splits and breaks in the wooden structure and mounting points. I use “chair repair” runny PVA glue to get into the cracks and clamp overnight to effect these repairs.

The metal parts on this “New Countess” are aluminium rather than brass. Some of these parts needed straightening which was a tense but successful process.

With a good dousing of leather “reviver” on the bellows and a cautious sprinkling of graphite powder on the sliding surfaces much of the renovations have been done.

Some home-made PVA and sawdust filler were needed to fill a light-leaking crack in one of the two film slides.

The lens that came with the camera is an F11 10 inch focus length example with a rotating disc of aperture holes. F11 is a bit restrictive so I have made some additional lens boards to fit, using the original one as my pattern. I can now use any of my lenses with this camera, including the Thornton Pickard shutter for short exposures.

The last modification to the camera was to make a strong tripod mount from a disc of 12mm plywood and sunken bolt-screw arranging to take a standard tripod screw.

I taped strips of photographic paper to the slides in order to test the camera and was pleased to find no light leaks from the camera and only the cracked slide needing additional repair. Now happy with the camera I ran three test shots with some 10×8 sheets of photographic paper. I pre-flash the paper to reduce the contrast and for the first shot I over did this so the whole sheet was dark. The next two shots were much better. At this point I was having to guess the F stop as I hadn’t seen the indistinctly scratched numbers on the F-stop disc. Therefore the exposures are a little dark,

The glass focussing screen is not original and quite a thick and murky piece of glass – hard to use. So I have ordered a replacement to be made ( https://www.ebay.com/usr/virgisst ).

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.

Success with the antique camera and shutter

Well, some success and still some failures(learning opportuntites). Saggy bellows have caused a shadow on the negative and one or two film holders have small gaps – now filled.  But the ones that workd I am very pleased with.

The big challenge is metering correctly to set the exposure. I realised that in trying to increase the exposures I had been getting, I had been metering the highlights instead of the midtones.

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River Axe – set up for the shot
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F8 1/30s print and negative – Focus not great
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Cornwall F8 1/100s print and negative – Bellows drooped causing shadow
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F8 1/30s print and negative – Just right 🙂

 

How to measure the speed of my antique shutter

My Boots branded 100 year old Thornton Pickard camera has a new addition – a mechanical shutter. This allows me to shoot at speeds under 1 second. With these faster speeds I can use 200 ISO sheet film instead of the much slower photo paper.

To measure the speed of this shutter, I fixed it in front of my digital fuji XT20. I set the Fuji on a 5 second exposure on f8 (as wide as the old camera goes). This gave me time after pressing the Fuji shutter to then trigger the old shutter.

I then viewed the histogram of the image taken – which was of course, at the speed of the old shutter.

I then moved the old shutter out of the way and took a few images on the Fuji adjusting the shutter speed until I found a speed that gave me a similar histogram to that obtained with the old shutter. This turned out to be a useful 1/30s.

The speed of the old shutter can be changed – but it is a bit of a fiddle.

 

Adding a shutter to my antique camera

In order to access shutter speeds of less than 1s I need a mechanical shutter. I found one on eBay for a bargain price – and it is in good mechanical working order. The challenge was to attach it to the camera as the rubber seal has gone solid.

I first rigged a plastic adapter to put the shutter on the front of the lens. This did work OK, but isn’t very elegant. Next, I looked at putting the shutter between the lens and the camera body. I didn’t want to make too many cuts, or changes to the camera or shutter so fabricated a frame to hold the shutter onto which the lens could be mounted. I only needed to make 3 small screw holes into the lens mounting plate. This has worked well, so will now stain the frame to finish it off. Next step (in the next blog) is to measure/adjust the shutter so I know what speed it is running at.

Sheet film experiments

I now have some 7″x5″ sheet film for the antique Thornton Pickard (Boots) bellows camera. Unfortunately the film/plate holders are slightly less than 7″x5″ so in complete darkness, using masking tape stuck to the bed of the guillotine as guides, I trimmed down the film to fit. What you see here is my third day’s experiments – Day one produced under-exposed images, day two over-exposed and today – just right (mostly).  Setting up the still life by the kitchen window, I took light readings off each piece of fruit and the black paper backgroud – yielding recommended exposure times ranging from 4 to 30s at F32. As the 30s was for the black background I went for a 20s exposure and was very happy with the result. I used the same settings for my portrait shot.

Contact prints were made, experimenting with exposure here too. I am exposing using a flashgun held 45cm above the paper. The flashgun has a controllable intensity. – level 4 seems optimum – but doesn’t give quite the contrast I hoped for – I have ordered some filters on ebay to make the flashgun light more magenta as I have read this increases contrast – we’ll find out when they arrive.

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Optimum exposure for the film and print
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Under-exposed print (flash setting 3)
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Over-exposed print (flash setting 5)

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One problem was the film/plate holders are old and fragile and some wood splintered off – the pieces that make them light-tight. So I had to make (using some mahogany veneer) replacement pieces.

The other problem I have encountered with these film holders is that the metal plates that sit in the middle separating the two pieces of film have springy pieces in the middle and these scratch the film and they don’t fit too well either. I am replacing these with stiff black paper and we’ll see how they perform.

My Day two efforts were outside – around Glastonbury – Godney. The light was too bright and I had to deal with exposure times of only half a second with this ISO 200 film even on F64. It wasn’t possible to accurately judge taking off and replacing the lens cap in these circumstances – though I did try. I have sourced on Ebay a shutter mechanism that will fit on the front of the lens allowing me to make theses shorter exposure times. Something to play with over Christmas 🙂