Saturday, July 22, 2006

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# 11

Sarah Lee refused the offer from Sandberg to carry her camera. She had never allowed anyone to touch that camera. It wasn't because the camera was especially valuable. It probably had no value to anyone but her; still it was priceless to Sarah. You see that plain old wooden box camera had been built lovingly by her father. She could remember as a teenager watching him work on the camera.

Sarah's father was a photographer, not a woodworker, so it lacked the finesse of a cabinetmaker. The wood was scavenged from an antique table, so the pieces didn't match perfectly. In order to focus, the lens assembly slipped in an out like a spyglass. The lens was very old and from France. The shutter was a simple thing with only two speeds, I and B. I was for instant most likely about a 40th of a second. The B just opened the shutter and held it open until the photographer released the switch. Sarah's only repair had been to replace the squeeze bulb which tripped the shutter.

To control the light the front element of the lens could be removed. There were five disks with various size holes that could be inserted behind the front element. These fixed apertures were chosen for the amount of light that day. Sarah had a tiny light meter from the 1940s that she used to judge the light. She never told anyone about that. It was old but not old enough to be used in a civil war setting.

Sarah's father had bought that particular lens because the barrel was wide enough to throw light in what would be the equivalent to an f3.5 in today's terms. If there was no aperture installed it could be focused easily on the ground glass at the rear of the box. The aperture Sarah and her father had used for portraits was f64. It gave a good depth of field which allowed Sarah not spend much time focusing the camera. The wooden box had three viewfinders. Each was brass and set for a fixed distance. Sarah just chose the one closest to what she needed then slipped it into the brass holder.

The first thing Sarah did upon returning to her wagon was to replace the landscape viewfinder in the small velvet lined wooden box. Then she removed the f22 aperture ring for storage on the lower level of the same wooden box. Only then did she unpack the two film holders.

"So how many exposures did you fire?" Sandberg asked.

"Four," she replied simply.

"How the hell could you capture the battle with four shots," Sandberg asked. He obviously thought that he had answered it himself. It was a simple answer she couldn't have, he thought.

"How could you need more?" Sarah asked it with a smile. Unlike Sandberg she had been through the same discussion a hundred times. First with her father, at which time she held Sandberg's position, and afterwards with more all the time. Digital cameras had not only increased the number of photographers, it had increased the number of shots it took them to be satisfied that they had a good one. Their coverage was almost a movie, since the shots came so close together. No matter how well the digital cameras captured the scene and no matter how qualified the photographer, they always lacked something. THe something was the feel of the place and time. The digital image at a reenactment was as out of place as the sound of that siren wafting across the black powder fill air.

"Before we start with the who did what, I want to see your four cute little images." Sandberg was intentionally being an ass, but Sarah caught it and didn't rise to the bait. Instead she opened an old wooden steamer trunk circa 1900. From it she removed a black film-changing bag that resided atop her change of clothes. She closed the truck and latched it before she pushed it to the side. From what looked like an old wooden nail keg she removed a folded canvas water bag.

"Why don't you go fill this, the faucet is just about twenty yards in that direction?" Sarah said it while pointing toward the bathhouse.

By the time Berg returned she had the first negative loaded into the film tank made from a peanut butter jar. The canvas bag, which Berg lugged back to the wagon, held exactly three gallons of water.

"Now John, I am going to do my one frame to make sure I have something, then I'm going to wait till I get home to do the rest. I always process a negative from each shoot to make sure the camera is working so that I can make any adjustments for the next shoot, should I need to.

Sarah quickly mixed four ounces of developer.

"You can't fill the tank with a thimble full of chemicals."

"Your lack of photographic knowledge amazes me," Sarah said it with a fake look of disgust. She knew how little modern photographers knew of primitive techniques. She poured the four ounces of chemicals into the sixteen ounce jar then quickly turned it on its side. She also began rotating it. What she had done was to form a long thin puddle of chemicals on the side of the jar. As he rotated the jar, the chemicals covered the film. By rotating it before the film had time to dry it was back in the 'soup' again. "Actually I only need 2 oz but it is easier to make four," she said smugly.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Berg said it but he knew when he had been beaten. Sarah obviously knew more about his new profession than he did. Well more about the history and the old ways. He doubted that she could make all that primitive crap shoot a decent set of images of a road race or arena football game. He could shoot a battle with the digital camera and then go shoot a circus inside the tent an hour later. He doubted she could do that.

Sarah dumped, added and rotated more chemicals. Finally she declared it complete. She removed the lid to view a perfectly exposed and developed 4x5 negative. She ran some water over it quickly then showed it to John Sandberg.


At 9:45 AM, Blogger Annie said...

A novel mehod of giving a basic photography lesson here.

I confess I haven't been reading the story as it's been posted. So I can only comment on this one post. Why haven't I been reading it? I think it's because I'm always caught up in some novel of my own and I tend to stay focused on that storyline, excluding others. But I always appreciate reading about the day-to-day life.

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Me said...

Hi Mark ( & Sue)

I like this narrative style of writing and I adore the picture.

I am grateful for the messages of support you have dropped onto my blog despite being upto your ears in your own challenges.

I think that kind of humanity is a wonderful thing which is much appreciated.

God bless. Hope your are both well.

At 2:31 AM, Blogger Ggraph said...

Thanks for stopping by. There's an explaination of how this story is written before #1. If you read any more I'd like to know what you think.


My heart goes out to you for all the recent troubles you have suffered and I hope this newer happier trend remains with you.



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