the history of flash photography
I love old magazines. Especially old photo magazines and pamphlets. “How to” and “about” pamphlets are interesting to me, even more so if the subject matter is photography. My favorites are from the 50s. Many times the content reminds me that not all that much has changed about the best way of taking good photos. Even digital technology hasn’t changed these best ways very much.
Sometime in college I obtained a lot of old photography publications. They ranged from mens magazines from the late 50s and early 60s to photo annuals and how-to pamphlets. The pamphlet from Flambeau to Futuramic .. the history of flash photography is one of my favorites in my small collection. Besides telling the history of flash in hokey 50s jargon it also has great retro (to us now) illustrations.
This publication came from Honeywell, an early maker of the modern flash gun. Honeywell handle flash units were a standard throughout the sixties and can often be seen on the silver screen whenever a photographer was portrayed.
The earliest flash gun was a modified flambeau. The flambeau was a giant wick with a handle and could light up a large space. It was often used to photograph large groups of people. It was very flammable and often caused fires and damage if misused. From the flambeau, the blow gun evolved. It was a handle that contained magnesium powder. Kerosene or alcohol was poured in the pan and lit. The photographer would blow into a tube which propelled the powder through the flame making a brilliant plume-like flash. This also ended up with firetrucks.
There is more history of the evolution of flash photography, equipment-wise, in this tome which I will cover in future posts. It brings the reader up to date to the modern age of 1959.
It’s pretty amusing.
They are coming back. Those dramatic clouds of Spring and Summer. The ones before and after torrential weather. The ones that billow around the edges of storms.
Clouds have been a popular subject matter for as long as artists painted and since photography began. Social media has also given cloud photos a viral platform. I follow Clouds 365 Project on Facebook.
Clouds as a subject caught my interest from the time when I bought my first 35mm SLR. Sunsets, moon-lit clouds, stormy clouds were the first obvious attractions. But they were always the background to something else in my images. Rarely a subject by themselves.
It wasn’t till I bought my first digital camera that I started to look at cloud formations alone as a subject. I started to see the formations as a form of landscape photography – with no land.
Photoshop was available to me long before I got my first digital camera but now the combination of the two tools opened new doors for creativity and ability to work with cloud images.
The great thing about photographing clouds is you don’t have to travel anywhere exotic to find interesting opportunities. Anyone can photograph clouds from their back yard.
About this Image
This formation happened where I live and was on the periphery of a storm happening North of my location. The sun was setting and hit the atmosphere and clouds with a brilliant orange. This image required very little photoshop work.
This photo is from my pre-digital days. I was driving home one evening and I saw a most spectacular March sunset over Diamond Lake. Because this lake is near my house I could quickly get home, load my camera with Ektachrome and have time to get a 12-exposure roll’s worth of the scene.
One of the things I like about this image is how one can get lost in the lacy intricacies of the branches.
I made this image using a Pentax 6×7, a tripod and Ektachrome 200 film. I metered for the brightest part of the sunset and opened up 1/2 stop.
The Richfield History Center offers a glimpse into the past at Christmas time. This year a gallery was transformed into a living room and kitchen vignette from 1954, all decked out for Christmas. It is the follow up from last year’s 1977 exhibit. The exhibit consists of center-owned pieces and 20 borrowed items from Richfield resident and avid collector, Gary Anderson. He was 10 years old in 1954 and recalls that year to be his apex Christmas experience.
The exhibit is 15’ x 15’ featuring an aluminum Christmas tree, metal doll house, Prince Valiant castle and knights set, living room bowling game, Holiday knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, period furniture, clothes washer with wringer, wooden snow sled, 8mm movie camera and projector, refrigerator, Christmas cards and more.
On a video screen were television programs radio clips and television commercials from 1954. I saw two cigarette commercials with Santa wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Smoking!
The year marks an iconic time for Richfield. “The suburbs were going up and it was the modern thing to do to move here, where a family with young kids could afford to have a house and a yard,” said Jodi Larson, director of the History Center. (ref.– Star Tribune)
The Richfield Historical Society was formed in 1967 to preserve and share the Bartholomew House, the first house in Richfield. In 2005, this historic Richfield house was joined by the History Center. The exhibit runs through Jan 5.
More information about the exhibit and hours can be found at http://www.richfieldhistory.org/
A more detailed article can be found at http://www.startribune.com/local/west/183601881.html?refer=y