Box Brownie: Lessons in Light

It’s been a little while since I posted anything about my rather lovely Kodak Box Brownie camera, if the truth be told I have been using my digital a lot more over this autumn and winter and part of the reason for that is the light, or lack of it!

I posted a little guide to the brownie’s features a while back and in that I spoke about how you to control the aperture on this camera (the amount of light you allow to enter the lens and hit the film).

dsc02321My Brownie only has 3 basic settings. The lever which has 3 different sized holes in it simply pulls up out of the body of the camera. When it is in a closed position, pushed right in, it is at it’s widest aperture (for use on cloudy days/winter).  One click out, the middle position, is for bright evening/morning light.  The third position, with the lever pulled right out, is for very bright sunshine/summertime . Continue reading

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Show Time with My Minolta SR-7 : rewind and rediscover

Roughly around 20 years ago I bought an old camera, second hand at a flea-market, it was a Minolta SR-7. I don’t remember what I paid for it but I wasn’t earning much at the time so it can’t have been expensive.  I had fun with it for a few years and then the speed and light-weight convenience of the modern camera tempted me and the Minolta went in a drawer for a long rest.

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Since I found my lovely Box Brownie  in a charity shop I have been thinking that I should dig out my old Minolta and take it for a spin.

The summer sunshine always makes me wants to get out and about, even more so than I do normally, so this year I took the opportunity to visit some of the many local village shows and take some pictures of the things I go to see –  big bulls, long eye-lashed cows, huge vegetables and steam engines.

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Stithians Show is the one nearest to me and I think it is the best (controversial?).  It has everything that you would find at the much larger and grander Royal Cornwall but without the mass crowds.  Stithians still feels like a real village affair and a community effort (which it is) and, for a local girl like me, chances are you will see one or two people you know!Scan stithians 5

 

So one hot July day off I went to Stithians, the heavy weight of my old camera swinging by my side.

The Minolta SR-7, which was produced from 1962 – 1967, is far more complicated than any other camera I have.  Where as in previous posts I have revelled in the simplicity of my Brownie, my Minolta is about as complicated as I ever want my photographic life to get. (I like to keep things nice and simple.)

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I am afraid I am not qualified to give you a run down of all its features yet but needless to say I think I am going to enjoy the results! That is once I get the hang of the light meter I just bought on eBay!  This model of the camera is completely mechanised (although it did have a built in battery-powered light meter it functions fine without it) which means that when you take a picture and wind on the film it makes all the clicking, crunching and grinding noises you could possibly wish for.  An audio experience as well as a visual one!

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The other thing that strikes me about these first pictures is that they have a real timeless quality about them.  I realise the subject matter helps – the traditional country show – but still there is an almost ageless feel. The prize-giving picture above could have been taken when the camera was first produced in the 1960s.

I must just add that those cabbages are HUGE, cattle are surprising good at standing still for a picture and steam engines smell amazing!

I am really looking forward to further adventures with my Minolta!

For more of my photographic stories try: Box Brownie: The Perfect Reflection or Adventures with my Box Brownie: Part 2 How to load your film! or Lady behind the lens

Box Brownie: The Hi-Tech features!

If you have read any of my other posts about my Kodak Box Brownie No 2 you will already understand that one of the many things that attracted me to this camera to begin with was how easy it is too use.

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Some may say it is basic, primitive even.  I say it has a magical simplicity.

It is easy to forget with all our modern day gadgetry that at the time the Brownie was produced it was the latest thing.  This was Hi-Tech!  So with that in mind I thought I would highlight for you some of this camera’s specifications, it’s features if you will.

So this is my brownie:

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It was available in several colours including blue and red and was produced about 1920ish.

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It comes with one basis lens which doesn’t have any zoom or focusing capabilities per se.  The Brownie will find it difficult to focus on anything within about 6′ of the camera. But it will capture in sharpest detail anything in the middle ground . . .

 

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The shutter, which is ultimately how you take your picture, is this tiny little level on the side.  You flick it one way it takes a shot, flick it the other way it takes another shot.  It basically just opens the little door covering the lens.  If you find one of these cameras for sale this is the one feature, other than the condition of the lens, that you need to check . . . oh and the winder . . .

 

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After you have flicked your shutter switch in order not to have a double exposure you need to wind the film on.  This is the winder. Mine turns anti-clockwise.  Keep turning until the next number appears in the red window. . .

 

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This is the film counter window in the back of the camera it allows you to see how many of your 8 shots you have left, it also lets you know that you have loaded the film correctly in the first place as you wind it on and watch the little black arrows past behind it . . .

 

 

 

 

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There are two view finders, one portrait and one landscape to enable you to take the picture you like however be aware of your Parallax Error! For more information see: My Box Brownie camera, Adventures with Parralax Error!

 

 

 

 

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This little lever controls the aperture.  This Brownie has 3 different aperture settings. The lever pulls up out of the body of the camera in stages. When it is in a closed position, pushed right in, it is at it’s widest aperture.  This is for use on cloudy days/winter.  One click out, the middle position, is for bright evening/morning light.  The third position, with the lever pulled right out, is for very bright sunshine/summertime . . .

 

 

 

 

 

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The last feature is this tiny lever, pull this one out of the body of the camera and it allows you to take a long exposure picture.  Professionals call it the Bulb Setting I believe.  This lever basically stops the shutter from closing until you manually flick it closed by flicking it back the other way.  This is a feature I haven’t tried as yet.  Mostly because I don’t have a tripod . . .

 

 

 

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This is where your tripod (if you have one) would attach.  You see, Kodak thought of everything! What more could you want!?

Beautiful simplicity I think you will have to agree! Take a look at some more of my brownie pictures here.

For more Brownie fun try: Lady behind the lens and Box Brownie: The Perfect Reflection

 

 

Box Brownie: The Perfect Reflection

I was given my first camera aged roughly 8 or 9 years old.  It was a Hanimex Auto Grip 110F which took those funny cartridge films.  It was small and clunky but I felt so proud that it was all mine!  Many of the pictures that I took subsequently, mostly of my cats and chickens, were blurry and at less than arty angles but I kept every one in an album which I still have to this day.

In my teens I moved on to my grandfather’s old Minolta and life became complicated in more ways than one but that’s a whole other story, I digress!

The reason for this post was a different kind of reflection all together. In short, isn’t there something just magical in the perfect reflection?  I just developed a new Brownie film and I felt like sharing!  I often feel that if you find pleasure in the small things the rest will follow.  So here are some of my recent reflections! I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking and developing them!

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I think I am literally in love with this image!  There is something about the scene that I find other-worldly, like many of the Brownie pictures it feels utterly timeless.

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This proves that I did go over and sit on the bench in the previous picture!

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There is a haze to this one, not really sure why because it was a clear crisp morning in Penryn but I love the gentle ripples in the water.

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Not a reflection I realise but its water and I just love this picture.  The swans had just been over to investigate my potential for snacks, I had failed to provide them with anything so they left in silent indignation.

I feel that my photographs are just as much as part of this blog as the stories that I aim to tell and those blurry snaps from 30 years ago are as much a captured memory from my life as these reflections above.

For more Brownie adventures try: Lady behind the lens, My Box Brownie camera, Adventures with Parralax Error! or take a look at some more images at Box Brownie Photos

Box Brownie: The next step

Since I found my Brownie camera in a charity shop I have been on a sharp learning curve as I have got to know it and have gradually built up a picture of how this funny black box actually works.  I plan to do a couple more blogs on the anatomy of my Brownie and its few but important features.  It, like me, is not a complicated soul but may need a little coaching to get the best out of it!

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Falmouth Seafront

 

Today however I just wanted to share some pictures with you because these my friends are the first pictures that I have developed myself!!! And I have to say despite all my nerves about whether I was going to be able to do this or not I loved it.  Needless to say these will not be the last prints I make with my own hands!

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Zennor Quoit
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Flags for Obby Oss Day
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Pendennis Castle, Falmouth
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May Pole, Penryn
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Little Chapel, Falmouth

 

For more on Box Brownies try: Roadtrip with my Box Brownie, Lady behind the lens, Adventures with my Box Brownie: Part 2 How to load your film!, My Box Brownie camera, Adventures with Parralax Error!

The Raising of Logan Rock

In Cornwall we have a special kind of geological feature that through history has given the Cornish folks bucket loads of joy.  It is the natural phenomena known as the Logan Rock.

The word Logan comes from the Cornish ‘logging’, meaning rocking. and refers to a number of rocks which through some a happy accident are on a pivot and can be rocked despite their mighty tonnage.

The most famous of Cornwall’s logan rocks is at Treen on a stunning stretch of coastline close to the famous Minack Theatre.  It is reputed to weigh around 60 tons but because of its perfect pivot could be rocked by a small child.  Of course there is a kill-joy in this tale and his name was Lieutenant Hugh Goldsmith, R.N. (nephew of the famous poet Oliver Golsmith).

In April 1824 Goldsmith was on a jolly with the navy just off the Cornish coast and apparently they heard tell of the legend that no mortal man could dislodge the rock from its axis.  Goldsmith and 14 crew decided to test the theory.  After several hours of struggling with iron bars they succeeded in tumbling the stone from its position.

The crew had however underestimated the importance of what they had done, the people of the area were understandably furious at this act of vandalism. Goldsmith wrote to his mother on 24th April 1824 saying “the Rock was so idolized in this neighbourhood . . . I found all Penzance in an uproar. I was to be transported at least; the newspapers have traduced me, and made me worse than a murderer, and the base falsehoods in them are more than wicked”.   He was soon reported to the Admiralty and told to replace the stone immediately.

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Logan Rock taken with my Brownie

 

This was not an easy undertaking and it took several months to organise the necessary equipment but the Royal Cornwall Gazette reported on 6th November 1824 that crowds of people had watching the Logan Rock being hoisted back into position and a great cheer went up when it was seen to rock.

A VIEW OF THE SOUTHERN PART OF CASTLE TRERYN

Although the stone was replaced apparently it never rocked the same again.  This is a stretch of coastline that is well worth a visit and if you have a head for heights climb up to the Logan Rock and try it for yourself!

For more rocky tales try: Crantock’s hidden rock carvings & a name for a mystery lady

coastline towards Porthcurno

Roadtrip with my Box Brownie

Last week I had to go and fetch my nearest and dearest from Gatwick airport.  Now I will admit I really do love an excuse for a road-trip. I have always loved driving and as soon as I learnt I never looked back.  I think that part of that has to do with growing up in a rural area.  Without a car in Cornwall having a life can be a challenge and with so many beautiful places to visit you really do need some wheels.

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Boscombe Pier

 

So surprisingly perhaps despite being a country-girl I am always happy to set off on a long journey.  I have driven all over Europe, through some of the biggest cities and so am fairly confident behind the wheel. Cornwall can feel a long way from anywhere though and the longest part of any journey is always the final leg home down the rolling A30.

Back to this week I successfully retrieved my Cornish other-half from Gatwick and we decided rather than return straight to Cornwall we would take a bit of a side-trip to the south coast and basically bunny-hop our way down it for a few days.  We love nothing better than setting out with a vague route and just seeing what we find along the way. We weren’t disappointed.

We had a wonderful few days in Kent, Sussex, Dorset and Devon before crossing the border on to home turf!  The pictures below are some that I took with my faithful old Brownie and I thought I would share!  Again I have to say I was delighted with the results although I notice that bright sunlight (weren’t we lucky with the weather!) may be causing a few issues with exposure and my ability to see what I am taking a picture of in the tiny little view-finder! Lady behind the lens!!!

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Durdle Door, Dorset
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Ruins of Boxgrove Priory, Sussex

 

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Lancing Chapel, Sussex
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Other-worldly Dungeness, Kent
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Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
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Back in Cornwall, Lostwithiel
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Duloe,  just because.

For more Brownie posts try : Lady behind the lens , My Box Brownie camera, Adventures with Parralax Error! and Adventures with my Box Brownie: Part 2 How to load your film!

Lady behind the lens

In a previous blog I mentioned that my dear friends find the idea of me traipsing around the Cornish countryside with an antique camera highly amusing.  I am guessing, actually I know, that this is because this is the kind of image they imagine when they think of me:

 

The lady photographer was a bit of a rarity, especially when photography itself was in its infancy. (Part of that may have been the sheer weight of the equipment involved, even more of a challenge while wearing all those skirts.) But seek them out and there really are some wonderful early examples of the art created by some smart pioneering women.

This is Anna Atkins (1799-1871) in a portrait taken in 1861.  Anna moved in very scientific circles, William Henry Fox Talbot and John Herschel were family friends.  She was clearly an intelligent and inquisitive lady and she used what was considered the new gentleman’s hobby to help her record and illustrate her real passion – botany.  As a result she is thought to be the first person to ever publish their photographs in a book.  Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions was published in October 1843. She also proudly claimed to be the world’s first female photographer.

Since I am starting to find the cost of developing my Box Brownie films a little steep I am seriously considering learning to process them myself.  Hopefully if Anna can do it so can I and lets face it these days it is much less of a hit and miss procedure than it was for her!  And despite what my friends may imagine I will not be wearing a large hat, corset and 3 underskirts when I do it! In fact the reality of course is far duller, although I still like to think of myself as elegant (ha!) and I must admit that I am all too often inappropriately dressed! (I once climbed a volcano in flip-flops)

This then is the actual me, snapping myself Vivian Maier style ( I wish) in a reflection in Boscawen Street, Truro. I would like to add that I am far more cheerful than this picture would lead you to believe, that’s my face of concentration.

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I have had another film developed and am quite happy with the results. Little by little I am getting the hang of this, that is of course despite accidently catching the shutter while putting the Brownie back in its case and so taking a picture of the inside of the bag! What did I say in a previous Brownie post – make every shot count! Oops!

For more Brownie photos click here

Adventures with my Box Brownie: Part 2 How to load your film!

I picked up another film from the developer this week.  And as always it is that moment of trepidation that is half the fun, what will the pictures be like, did I breathe and blur, have I managed any double img001 (2)exposures and is that a good or a bad thing?

The gentleman behind the counter took my docket and reached for the packet which was sitting waiting by the till. “Can I just ask what camera you are using?” he said while handing it across to me.  When I told him he seemed surprised and during the conversation that followed he explained that he hadn’t seen a Brownie film in a long time and was impressed by how good the pictures were. I left a very pleased lady.  Please note he was impressed by the camera, not me but still . . .

I was even happier when I saw my new pictures, is it me or am I really getting the hang of this?  Perhaps then it is time to talk about the details. In my last article My Box Brownie camera, Adventures with Parralax Error! I gave my so-called top tips, maybe it would be helpful to explain a little more on how to use this natty little camera.  Of course as I have explained before it is just soo complicated!

This picture is apparently what my friends imagine I look like when I am out with my Brownie.  It is understandable in a way, the idea of me roaming the Cornish cliffs with a camera which is heading for 100 years old is comical I suppose.  It does conjure wonderful, soft-edged reminiscences of the past.  I am sure that when George Eastman and Kodak put the first Brownies on sale on 1901 they had no real inkling of the revolution the little black boxes would create.

It was in fact Queen Alexandra who really began the craze for the Brownie. When the papers let it be known that she was using one to capture memories of her children all of a sudden everyone wanted one.  The ingenious simplicity of Kodak’s little camera meant that photography was something that everyone could do.  It was a magic that we could all be a part of! And lets face it we have never looked back, even in todays digital age of the selfie and camera phone we still delight as much as ever in capturing those moments in our lives, big and small to look back on.

I mentioned before coming to grips with my Brownie and how it works was a bit of a trial and error experience so I thought that I would provide a little ‘How to load your film’ slide show just in case I have inspired anyone to give it a go!

 

How to load your film:

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Use the metal clasp to open up the back of the camera
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Open back flap
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Pull out the winder to release the inner case
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Remove inner case, which has TOP imprinted on it to handily show you which way round it goes when you put it back in!
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Slip the tapered end of your flip into the slot in the bottom spool and put in place
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Unravel just enough film to slot the film into the top slot

 

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Push the sloop of film into place

 

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Push the winder knob back in, if it won’t go you have the inner case the wrong way around!
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Wind the winder in an anti-clockwise direction and watch in the counter window for the number one to appear.  Bob’s your uncle! You are ready to go!

 

 

 

My Box Brownie camera, Adventures with Parralax Error!

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I recently found an old camera in a charity shop.  After ringing a photographer friend of mine to establish whether it was still possible to get film for it I bought it on a whim. I have always been a sucker for the old fashioned.

The camera that I had found was a Kodak Box Brownie No 2 and dates from about 1930. They were a very popular model, the must-have garget of the day, selling millions during their time in production between 1901-1935. They were reliable and easy to use, well, that2016-03-12-14.22.28.png.png is the theory anyway! For someone born in the age of the digital camera they must seem very antiquated and mysterious.

Luckily enough I am not one of those people, I did grow up using film cameras and only got my first digital camera just a few years ago.

I was however still confused!!  Funnily enough it is the cameras simplicity that is a little intimidating.  Your ultimate ‘point and shoot’ really. It feels strange not to have to worry about buttons and settings and gargets. But I am learning that with the Brownie it is preparation that is key however.

So I bought myself a 120 film, gave my rusty friend a wipe down and I then enlisted my trusty photographer to show me how to load it. I also had a quick lesson at the same time, which basically involved: this is the view-finder, this is the shutter, you just flick that in one direction and you’re done. That simple, flick one little lever, picture taken.

Perhaps that is why it is so joyful and I suppose a little mysterious too. It is true alchemy at work. “Click” goes the shutter but there is no whirring or buzzing. Even my camera phone makes that pretend sound of a mechanical camera to let me know something has actually happened!  With the Brownie you just have to trust in that magical reaction between chemicals and light.

 

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And happen they do and to me the results are golden.  I think that the Brownie pictures have a dreamy quality about them, there is that slight fading, a blurriness at the edges that I don’t think ‘photoshop’ can quite recreate. I also like the little inclusions you get sometimes (spots of dust I think) but most of all it is that old feeling of anticipation and excitement when you go to the developers and open up the packet to see just what you have captured.  It makes me smile every time.

So, I went off all snap happy with very little idea what I was actually doing. I learnt a fair bit in my first couple of films so here are my tips so far.

(please bear in mind I am NOT an expert, I am a total novice!)

  • Think about when you want to shoot, outside natural light is best, super strong sunlight is not ideal.
  • Choose what you want to shoot. The Brownie is not so good at subjects up close, I find interesting landscapes are working the best for me.  And luckily in Cornwall I have plenty of those.
  • Try not to breath! The Brownie doesn’t like it if you have the shakes, there is no auto-correct, I jam mine into my chest and hold my breathe and even then I still get blurry shots sometimes!
  • Take your time, think about what you want in the picture and what you don’t, you only have 8 shots on your 120 film make each one count.
  • Don’t forget your Parralax Error, no this is not science fiction! It basically means that what you see through your diddy view-finder is not necessarily what your camera sees. I took a lot of sky shots on my first film.

Finally give it a go! In this world where everything is instantaneous try something that you have to plan for, think about, anticipate, wait for for a change. It might make you slow your pace and take in what is beyond the lens!