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III ~ Beginning to Photograph

Film Cameras: First to Last

Spring Morning After Storm, Sudbury River, Ashland, Massachusetts

Beginnings are always a mystery. My father had access to a full photo lab at his company and as a little kid I was playing with a 4" x 5" Speed Graphic. All I can remember doing is trying to get the solinoid to synch the shutter to the flash. But the camera was not a toy and may have left a mark. I think all such experiences do.

A Brownie Hawkeye arrived one Christmas and so I began. Then an Olympus range-finder, a real camera and a black and white darkroom and not yet a teenager.

Then the audiophile bug bit, and engineering and MIT. Photography dropped into the background for some years.

I began at Bose in 1967 doing work on loudspeakers and electronic systems for NASA when photography returned in the form of a small exhibit of dye transfer prints at the South Boston Railway Station in a small glass cabinat. They stirred something, and then a visit to the Carl Siembab Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston to see more dyes, this time holding them and I saw color unlike anything before and discovered Eliot Porter. The exact order I am not sure of. Color from my 35mm didn’t make it so I again had my hands on a Speed Graphic photographing my wife’s flowers: marigolds in the front yard on Vericolor negative film.

By this time I was in marketing and advertising and supervising professional photographers with 8" x 10" view cameras. Bela Kalman who was doing advertising photos for me developed and printed the marigolds and even the small contact prints were enough to make me want a view camera.

JW Crossing Pike with Camera on Back_DSC1267

There was more to equipment than the camera. Four lenses, each on a lens board. My lens collection grew over time and eventually settled on a 70 mm Super Angulon, a 120 mm Schneider Symmar, and my two most important lenses: apochromatic Nikor 200 mm and 300 mm. These were the lenses I worked with most. The 200 mm Apo Nikor is a very simple tessar design which makes it extremely sharp but with a small maximum aperature (f8), and limited swings and tilts. However, for the kind of pictures I was to make it was nearly perfect. (The apochromatic designation is a lens that brings all three colors into perfect alignment and implies a construction that will result in a very sharp lens.)

Then came a bellows sun shade, a dark cloth, 15 film holders and a few more small accessors including a Luna Pro light meter. Below is a picture of the cameera case after a few decades of shooting.

Dye transfer printing is an adventure in itself and I get into it elsewhere.


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