By Ben Walker
Let me tell you a little about the camera display we have in the museum. This is a fair cross section of cameras used by the folks in Delta for the last one hundred years.
The cameras range all the way from a 6×8 inch view camera to a little 16 mm ‘spy’ camera. Most popular were the roll film cameras, and there are many size in the roll film section.
To give you an idea of how much it took to take a picture in the ‘good old days’, a view camera was put on a tripod. The shutter was opened; the diaphragm (f stop) was opened. A black cloth was placed over the photographer. The back cloth enabled the photographer to focus and compose the inverted image. After this was done the shutter was closed and the diaphragm was set to the desired stop. The f. stop was determined by experience and gussometric, as there were no light meters in those days.
Flash power was put in the flash pan. About one half a spoonful was about right, but then this had to learned by guess and by golly. After that was done a film holder which had been loaded in the dark room was inserted in the camera. The dark slide was pulled from the film holder. The flash gun was held high; the shutter was opened by means of a rubber tube which had a blub that enabled the shutter to open and remain so as long as pressure was held on the bulb.) While the shutter was open, the flash was fired and the shutter was closed. The dark slide was replaced and the film holder removed and taken to the dark room for processing-and that is another story.
And from that comes the changes in flash photography. Flash bulbs were introduced in the early thirties. They were large (about the size of a 100 watt bulb) and they were expensive in those days. Gradually the bulbs got smaller and smaller. Then the introduction of electronic flash came.
While I was attending the university, the science teacher told me to come into his laboratory and see what was going to become the flash of the future. In the lab he said it would be loud. It was – it sounded like a shotgun blast. “Well,” I thought to myself, “I hope I live long enough to see that!”
That was in the fall of 1949. Next January Uncle Sam sent me to the Army school of photography in Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. Just before the course ended, they said, “Oh look what we have …” and they showed us this wonderful new way to take flash pictures. It was powered by a wet cell battery and took only just one minute to recharge after each flash. On display are also an flash gun, which used powder, and array of flash bulbs, film holders and roll films.
Now look at the cameras today with the built in flash that requires only a moment to recharge. Not only that, but they measure the right amount of light. And the cameras have gotten so automatic anybody can get better quality pictures than a professional could a couple decades ago.
And today with the new digital cameras who can guess what is next.
Director, Delta County Historical Society and Museum