Dear PONF Fellows: A Note From Founder Raffaello Palandri

By Raffaello Palandri

Dear Fellows,

Yes, you should know that you are my fellows in this journey. By this point, you might be wondering what it means to create a camera like the PONF Camera.

Usually one can see the final product of a company, but has no or very little understanding of what happens behind the curtains, behind the scenes.

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But as we’ve mentioned a few times before, PONF is different. We are not the typical company. Boldly, excitedly, we want you to know that we are not afraid to show the world how this camera is coming to life. Let it be an inspiration to every entrepreneur with a dream! 

PONF is currently in the prototyping phase. This means that we reached the first peak of our ascent. The path has not been easy. We encountered difficulties, delays, and we made mistakes. But we didn’t stop. Every single thing, even if negative, has something to be learned from. Arriving to a prototype means that you managed to pass through countless hours of meetings, drafts, documents, phone calls, travel.

Let’s look back at the last 3 months, the fastest paced period of the project until now.

We, the founders, moved here to Nürnberg in November 2017, after having established PONF GmbH in October. We from Scotland, as we considered Germany the best place to bring this camera to life from a business perspective.

From November 5th to today (roughly 110 days), we’ve attended more than 70 meetings, travelling throughout Germany to meet companies, institutions, Universities, banks, investors.

So far, we’ve met more than 500 people (I kept the business cards) and pitched the project 62 times.

We’ve prepared more than 2000 pages of documents, mainly project documents, to prepare the next phases with the partners such as an industrial designer to create our prototype, along with financial plans, to convince banks and investors to step into the project.

And the result? All this hard work has been rewarded. We have secured some great partnerships, with surely more to come as our organization and vision continue to expand.

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We’ve secured new technology components to use on the cameras from Sony. We will be developing new kinds of optical products with Gossen. The big photography players are paying attention. We have also started developing R&D projects for the cameras to come. We are going to build a system designed to last.

We also improved our business model. We want you to be sure that your camera will be made to the highest standards. We are getting three ISO certifications: ISO 9001 (quality management), ISO 14000 (environmental management), ISO 27001 (IT security).

We have met some amazing creatives through the PONF Fellowship already, and we want to meet many more. Your project – as this is not only ours, it’s yours too – is growing stronger and stronger. We are looking for participation instead of competition, inclusiveness instead of corporate walls, transparency instead of cold speak.

One last note on all of this: unlike some other young photography companies, we will not be running a crowdfunding campaign. We want to use every single cent to develop a better camera. We believe you deserve that.

So, we will soon start a pre-sales campaign. You will be able to select the camera with the finish and accessories you want, as well as configure the software and the functions of the camera, if you need it. We want to be bound by a sale contract with you even from the beginning, to let you know that we are bold and fearless even in our marketing and sales strategies.

Now, may I please ask for your help, dear Photo Enthusiasts? This is the time to show your support to the project. This is the time to share the news, to help us grow even faster. We will keep up the pace, don’t worry.

Help us. Donate to the PONF project. Even a small contribution will help keep our team running. Check the PONF Shop often, as we plan to keep adding products that you can buy to support the Foundation. You can also follow our news and updates on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the PONF Newsletter.

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The Man Behind the Camera: Meet PONF Founder Raffaello Palandri

In our interview series introducing the different members of the PONF team, you might have started to wonder who was the creator of this ambitious, innovative company. Rest assured, we didn’t forget about Raf, he has just been SO busy behind the scenes in thousands of hours of meetings, strategy development, and research, that we weren’t able to share this interview with you until now, but here it is! Without further ado: introducing PONF’s founder and director, Raffaello Palandri.

A lifelong user of film and digital cameras, Raffaello also brings to PONF many years of wisdom in leading large, complex IT projects. He applies this knowledge of quality, teams and systems to execute his vision and successfully create a camera that many others have talked about for years but never quite managed to bring fully to market. He is busily networking within the photography industry to create a new kind of camera company, one that is a friend and collaborator of all, to create a future for film photography that is sustainable and accessible to all.

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Where are you from, where did you grow up? Where are you living now?

I was born in Florence, Italy (its Italian name is Firenze), but I grew up mostly in Rome. When I started working on the idea of an innovative camera, I had the luck of finding in my best friend, my soulmate, Tiziana. To start the PONF Multiback Open Camera Project we moved to Dunfermline, Scotland, the old Capital of Scotland, before Edinburgh got the job. After the vote on Brexit, we decided to move to Germany, and after a few weeks in search of the perfect spot, we chose Nuremberg, Bavaria (and to be more precise in Middle Franconia).

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What is your earliest memory with photography?

I have memories of me keeping my mum’s Olympus Pen when I was probably only 4 years old. I still have that camera, and I love its silent shutter and the pleasant smell of the leather bag, that reminds me my family and my childhood.

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Describe your first encounter with digital photography.

My first digital camera has been the Konica Minolta Dynax (Maxxum in the USA) 5D. I still use as avatar a selfie taken with that camera. I was amazed by the technology, having always been the guy that disassembled everything he had on his hands. So, I started shooting both film and digital, never leaving film, though.

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What is your favorite film and camera or image making equipment/process?

Apart from PONF? I love 6×6 cameras and, being a collector, I developed a passion for TLRs (twin lens reflex). I love their design, the sound of their shutter.
For image making, 4×5 is a really lovable format. It generates fantastic images, and you can do everything at home, development and printing.

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What has your career been like? What are some of your favorite or most formative past projects or roles?

I had the luck of getting good experience in managing projects, including very large ones. I think I had many different roles on the same ladder. I have always worked in IT related jobs/projects, from really humble roles to managing ones. What I always loved about working in IT is the huge potential computers have in helping us, if we are able not to lose our humanity searching profit. I have been a quality manager, and from that role I have learned how to follow any process in detail, something that now is becoming essential in the development of our camera.

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How did you get involved with PONF?

I had the idea, I did the research, and I bootstrapped the company until now. I have been lucky in finding many people interested in the project, including the many companies and institutions which are supporting us in different ways. We are building up a team, and that’s important. I would like to find our project, in a five years time, deeply rooted in the photographic industry and development. We are investing to help people learn how to make better photographs, how to write with light.

 

Tell us about your role with the project, recent successes, in progress developments, etc.

Formally I am the director of the company that runs the project and the head of R&D. Using less official words, I am one of the team who is developing this amazing camera.
We are generating a lot of interest around the project, making every day steps forward, learning from our mistakes, considering them as opportunities to better learn. We are now teaming up with amazing companies, amazing institutions, amazing people. We can boldly say that we are small, but we are growing strong.

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What are you interested in besides photography?

Well, I am Curiosity with a capital C. I am an avid reader, and I usually read 150 books per year, in addition to those required by my job. I am a tinkerer, I like to touch things and learn how they work to improve them. I love calligraphy and collect writing instruments. Apart from that, I relax practicing meditation (one day I will come back to teach it) and ki development.

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Let’s end with your advice to another photographer but with a twist: Ten words or less or a Haiku.

Follow the light
the one outside you
the one inside

Great Haiku! Thanks Raf. You can drop Raf a line at raffaello@ponfcamera.com, and follow him at his website, Twitter, Instagram, and blog, as well as on the PONF Facebook, Instagram, and newsletter. So many ways to get in touch! 

History Lesson: Daguerreotypes and the Popularization of Photography (pt.II)

Written by Gregg McNeill

In this series, we explore the history of photography in terms of image-making methods and various technologies available to photographers at different periods of time. In part one, we explored the origins of the very first photograph.

In our previous entry we looked at Nicéphore Niépce and his Heliograph, View from the Window at Le Gras. This entry focuses on his business partner Louis Daguerre.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre was born on 18 November 1787 in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d’Oise, France. He was trained as an Architect, but was known for his skill at theatrical illusion and diorama painting. His fascination began when he used a camera obscura to aid in the painting of his large Diorama Paintings for his theater. When he partnered with Nicéphore Niépce, his mind was always on the money-making potential of the medium of photography.

 

Portrait of Louis_Daguerre, 1844 by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot .jpgPortrait of Louis Daguerre, 1844 by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot, George Eastman House

In 1833 Nicéphore Niépce suddenly died, leaving all of his notes to Louis Daguerre. Daguerre would all but abandon the bitumen-based photographic process they had been working on in favour of a silver-based process that he had been experimenting with, separately from Niépce.

Daguerre’s process was as follows:

A silver-plated copper sheet was polished to as perfect a mirror finish as possible. This first step was essential to making a good-looking photograph. Getting a perfect finish by hand, could take up to an hour. First, rottenstone, a fine polishing abrasive, is applied with a hide-covered buff, then jeweller’s rouge. Lampblack is then applied, usually with a velvet-covered buff. Applying nitric acid, to remove any remaining matter, finished the polishing process.

The polished plate is then sensitized in a darkroom using a fuming box:

Stephen_day_fuming_box.jpgStephen Day Fuming Box

Here is an in-depth look at a modern fuming box. The plate was placed into the fuming box carriage, and then slid over a dish containing iodine crystals. The plate is fumed until a yellow tinge appears. This produces a coating of silver iodide.

The exposure time was several minutes. This made the first portraits quite an ordeal, with the sitter clamped into all manner of metal braces to prevent movement. It was later found that an additional fuming over bromine fumes, followed by a second shorter exposure to iodine fumes greatly increased sensitivity, reducing exposure times to as little as 30 seconds in full sun.

Once exposed, the still invisible latent image was developed in the darkroom, over fumes of heated mercury. Even though the toxic nature of mercury exposure was well known, precautions were rarely taken. Modern practitioners of this process use fume hoods and other laboratory-grade safety equipment.

The much safer Becquerel process of Daguerreotype development involves sensitizing the plate only to iodine fumes. Then, after exposure the plate is developed in sunlight using a red filter to cover the plate. This red-filtered “sun bath” intensifies the latent image to visibility, as if the image were exposed for several hours.

Back in the darkroom, the fixing of the image was originally done with a hot saturated salt solution, but this was almost immediately replaced with a bath of sodium thiosulfate, the common fixer we still use in film development today.

After drying, the image on the plate was basically a coating of fine dust and very, very delicate. A gold chloride solution was pooled onto the surface of the plate, which was heated from underneath then drained, rinsed and dried. This gilding gave the image a warmer, more pleasing tone and made the coating a little more resilient. Still, the image was subject to tarnishing from exposure to the air, so great care had to be exercised to maintain the image’s integrity.

The finished Daguerreotype plate had to be encased in an airtight container. A matt was placed over the plate and covered with a pane of glass, bound together and sealed with strips of paper coated with Gum Arabic. This was then fixed into a protective case.

Daguerreotypes were a one-off process, meaning that the plate that was produced was a one-of-a-kind with no negative. They could only be copied by re-photographing them. This was a service that many studios offered but it was costly.

With the help of French physicist (and director of the Paris Observatory), Dominique François Arago, Daguerre would present an overview of his process to the French Academy of Sciences on January 7, 1839. The details were kept secret, with viewings of his plates only at his studio and under strict supervision.  The French government agreed to buy the rights to his process in exchange for a lifetime pension for himself and Niépce’s son, Isidore, as per a previous agreement between Daguerre and Niépce.

On August 19, 1839 the French government presented the Daguerreotype process to the world for free, as a gift. (Despite this a patent agent, acting on Daguerre’s behalf, applied for a patent in England and Scotland just five days previous, entitled “A New and Improved Method of Obtaining the Spontaneous Reproduction of all the Images Received in the Focus of the Camera Obscura”. Photographers in England and Scotland would now have to pay a license fee to use the Daguerreotype process. For this reason the process wasn’t widely adopted in the UK.) Louis Daguerre would also retain the patents on the camera and other equipment used to make Daguerreotype images.

Daguerreotype studios quickly opened in every major city across the globe.

For the next 15-20 years Daguerreotypes would be the most popular and ubiquitous method for image capture. Nearly 5 million plates were created in this time.

Daguerre himself created what is believed to be the first photograph of a person. In his image, Boulevard du Temple, in the lower left corner you can see a man getting his shoes shined. The exposure time is thought to be somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, long enough for the camera to capture the unknown men and render the moving traffic in the street invisible.

Boulevard_du_Temple, 1838 by Louis Daguerre.jpgBoulevard du Temple, 1838 by Louis Daguerre

This image is thought to be the oldest daguerreotype portrait, taken by John William Draper, of his sister Dorothy Catherine Draper.

Portrait of Dorothy Catherine Draper, 1839 by John William Draper.jpgPortrait of Dorothy Catherine Draper, 1839 by John William Draper

The first self-portrait was taken by Philadelphia photographer Robert Cornelius in October or November of 1839. He wrote on the back “The first light picture ever taken”.

Self Portrait, 1839 by Robert Cornelius.jpgSelf Portrait, 1839 by Robert Cornelius

It’s difficult for us to understand the impact that Daguerre’s photographs had on the public. For the first time in history, people could see places they could never visit and images of someone long dead. The best way to experience a Daguerreotype is to hold it. Alison Nordström, a photographic curator, called Daguerreotypes “Mirrors With a Memory”. This is very apt. The image is both a negative and a positive at the same time, depending on the angle at which it is viewed. The image appears to lift off the plate, with the viewer often reflected in it.  

A properly exposed and focused Daguerreotype has nearly infinite detail, exceeding even modern digital methods. One can get lost in the image examining every tiny detail and staring into the eyes of someone from the past.

Daguerre had introduced photography to the populace and photographs were being made all over the world, for those that could afford them. The process was complicated, cumbersome and somewhat dangerous but photography was gaining popularity.

Next: The Calotype and other paper processes make the photograph repeatable and easier.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daguerreotype

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Daguerre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_photography

James, Christopher. The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. Cengage Learning, 2016.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d932Q6jYRg8

http://www.alternativephotography.com/becquerel-daguerreotype/

https://goo.gl/cfqRiV

http://www.cdags.org/wp-content/uploads/HowImadeDaguerreotypes1972.pdf

https://agno3solution.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/daguerreotype-fuming-box-ver-3-3-march-2015/

http://www.daguerreotypes.co.uk/Equipment.htm

http://www.alistairscott.com/daguerre/

http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_daguerreotype.htm

http://cdags.org/

https://goo.gl/Cnjudu

http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/dagprocess.htm

https://www.filmsnotdead.com/joyeux-anniversaire-daguerreotype/

 

Design in Mind: Meet Industrial Designer Vincent Bihler

In this interview, we meet Vincent Bihler, another creative with many talents to join the PONF team. Vincent is an award winning industrial designer who’s brought many products to life, all the way from concept to execution and looks forward to applying the many principles on form and function he’s learned along the way to the PONF Camera. He is currently building the first proof of concept for the first analog back of the PONF system.

He brings to the project plenty to experience with cameras as he’s been an avid film photographer since he was introduced to the medium at age 16, just before leaving home to study Industrial Design. Since then, he’s honed these two crafts equally, developing especially an impressive eye for photographic scale and space. When asked to name his favorite film and format, he quickly named several classic, photophile’s dream setups, so we are confident he will deliver nothing but excellence in the creation of the PONF Camera, a new classic standard in analog and digital photography! 

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Where are you from, where did you grow up? Where are you living now?

I am from France and grew up in Elsass, very close to the German and Swiss borders. I then moved to the region of Bordeaux, where the famous wine is produced. I also lived in north of France, in Sweden, then back in Paris, and now Lyon… So many places have built the person I am.

What is your earliest memory with photography?

I was offered my first camera at age 16, it all started from there. A little bit later, I found a beautiful Canon AE1 in a flea market, early in the morning. I could not stop shooting with these nice cameras!

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Describe your first encounter with digital photography.

Digital came later. I tried Fuji cameras at first to keep the film look, then I used Nikons for paid studio work. I think their versatility is king there.

What is your favorite film and camera or image making equipment/process?

Easy… Portra 400 and Rolleiflex 2.8F… Or Ilford Delta 100 and Leica M4 + Summicron 35 iv King of Bokeh… Or Trix and 21 Skopar f4 ? … Or Pentax 6×7 with whatever?!

What has your career been like? What are some of your favorite or most formative past projects or roles?

I’ve been mostly working as a product and industrial designer. For 4 years I worked at a French tech company called Parrot. I developed some of their latest products to date from scratch: first drawings, ergonomical and usage considerations, shape intentions to the industrialisation with many trips to Hong-Kong Shenzhen for quality controls on the production line. I now have joined a product and industrial design firm (entreautre.com) where I am leading the development of several innovative projects.

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How did you decide to become an industrial designer? Can you say a little bit about what it’s like to follow all the steps in the process of creating a thing from idea to execution?

As long as I can remember, I’ve always been thinking of stuff I could build to fulfill my needs. I built a whole guitar at age 15, because I needed something versatile enough to play different kinds of music with a single instrument. That story actually is quite similar to PONF, right? During my studies (mechanical engineering) I had the opportunity to take several design courses which led me to a specialization in that field for my last year. I went to Sweden where I tried to catch this legendary Scandinavian influence… I was then hired at my first job as an industrial designer after the 2013 James Dyson Awards. I participated with a good friend and won the National 1st prize.

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How did you get involved with PONF?

I contacted Raffaello after having seen that they were looking for people that would like to get involved in the development of the PONF Camera. It was great timing! 😊

Tell us about your role with the project, recent successes, in progress developments, etc.

I’m in charge of industrial and mechanical design. We’re currently building a first proof of concept, which is a very simple mechanism that allows us to prove how practical the product will be.

Are you working on analog or digital components or both?

Right now, I am working on analog “mechanical” components. But these will be useful for the digital back also.

Have you always wanted to design a camera or have you ever designed a camera before? Can you talk a bit about what you’re taking into consideration?

5I’ve been thinking about something similar for a long time, but so far, the tech wasn’t ready. My considerations about this project: I don’t think we can fit everyone’s needs with a single object. This is a simple ergonomic rule. Designing a whole ecosystem that leads to strong products clearly different from one to another and that will fit a precise application is the key. I will make no compromise in that direction. We don’t want to see another Frankencamera that is too cumbersome for street photography, nor a Coolpix lacking flexibility for studio shooting…

What are you interested in besides photography?

Design! I love that. I have been playing guitar for a while now… Oh, and film photography rocks.

Let’s end with your advice to another photographer but with a twist: Ten words or less or a Haiku.

Less is more 😉

Thanks Vincent! To see more of Vincent’s work, visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

So It Begins: Industrial Design Partner Selected!

As promised we have something to tell you today. The excitement behind the scenes is mounting at PONF as we move closer and closer to our camera coming to life. The wait just got a little bit shorter and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are thrilled to announce that we’ve selected an industrial design partner!

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After some meetings and careful consideration, the decision has been made. A great project like PONF needs a great partner for the industrial design, the team which will help to optimize the UX (user experience) and UI (user interface), to create a camera which is truly universally functional. We were searching for a team that shared our passion for this project, and, according to Raffaello Palandri, the founder of PONF, “We nailed it!”

We sincerely hope that our partner will grow with us,  transforming our big ideas for the integration of analog and digital photography into amazing, iconic products.

As the business end of things is still being finalized, we will wait until their proper instruction is prepared before we announce the name and impressive portfolio of the firm, but trust us when we say that in the fluid nature of this project which moves evermore quickly to completion, we are in good hands of these designers! 😉

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Here are a few more hints to keep you excited:

  • They have about ten years of experience creating products in all categories, from home appliances, to personal electronics, to wearables, fitness gear, and more
  • They won several design prizes, including a 2018 German Design Award
  • They are an amazingly creative and innovative team
  • They have worked for companies of all sizes, all around the world.

The other reasons that we chose this particular firm were a bit closer to the heart of the project. We share the same values, the same vision. We want to create a visual narrative that will be bold and modular. We are thinking not only about making a product, but both ourselves and the designers want to create something that will last, like true friendship.

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Stay tuned, as we will shortly reveal the first official renderings of the PONF Camera. Make sure you’re following along on Instagram and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter.

A Blossoming Community: The First PONF Partnerships

We have mentioned more than once that PONF is a new kind of camera company, but what does that really mean? One of the cornerstones to our vision of this company is that it not only be a company that makes cameras, but a company that builds bridges in the photography industry to truly serve photographers of all levels of interest and experience.

At PONF we are committed to never compete within the photography industry, but be a friend and collaborator to all who want to push the ability to the modern photographer forward. We are particularly dedicated to serving the international film community, as we believe that film photography should be preserved for the generations to come and this is dependent on companies that care more about the medium than the bottom line.

We are grateful for the established photography companies who already at the outset of this project have provided PONF with so much support and will allow us to use their expertly developed components to make our camera the best it can be. Sony will be providing us with APS-C and Full-Frame sensors and their new M-OLED electronic viewfinders. We are prepared to integrate them into the best digital workflow a DSLR can offer, fully customizable according to each person’s individual needs. Because the digital back is operated by the RaspberryPI Compute Module 3, it can be endlessly programmed for specific functions according to individual needs. But beyond that, the camera’s onboard operating system will also allow for cloud connection, drone operation, and more.

The German company Gossen made the first light meter in 1933 by taking advantage of the photoelectric characteristics of selenium which made it possible to develop a reliable instrument by means of which the photographer was able to measure light for his shots, instead of working with estimated values or tables. PONF Founder Raffaello Palandri always had a special appreciate for Gossen meters as he used one for his whole life, during his many years of shooting all kinds of analog cameras and processes. We are pleased to announce that Gossen light meters will be available to those who purchase PONF Cameras or join the PONF Fellowship at a special price.

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From a developmental perspective, PONF is pleased to announce the interest in our project of The Fraunhofer, the largest Research & Development institution in Germany. Specifically, Fraunhofer IZM is the branch that deals with the reliability and the microintegration of the electronic components. This means that they are specialized in making electronic components smaller and more reliable. The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS is one of the world’s leading application-oriented research institutions for microelectronic and IT system solutions and services. We are pleased to report that the Fraunhofer has invited the PONF developers to participate in their startup incubator program, which will begin very soon. It’s easy to see how the support of these renowned teams and superior equipment and mentorship will push the project forward.

Additionally, we are grateful to our institutional business partners they helped us to start and run the company: GTAI (German Trade and Invest), Berlin Partner, and Invest in Bavaria; and of course, the entire PONF team, all around the world! Check out previous blog posts to learn about our experts and their involvement in-depth. Remember, we have a big announcement coming February 15, so be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

What other companies should PONF collaborate with? We welcome your comments and suggestions, and if you work in a company within the photography industry and would like to get involved with the PONF Fellowship, drop a line to raffaello@ponfcamera.com

 

History Lesson: The First Photograph (pt. I)

Written by Gregg McNeill

In this series, we explore the history of photography in terms of image-making methods and various technologies available to photographers at different periods of time. 

View_from_the_Window_at_Le_Gras,_Joseph_Nicéphore_Niépce 1826View from the Window at Le Gras, Nicéphore Niépce, 1826

This is the oldest surviving photograph made by a camera. It is called is a Heliograph and it was produced in 1826 by Nicéphore Niépce. This image is the manually enhanced version made by historian Helmut Gernsheim in 1952. The actual plate looks like this (The dimples were caused by damage sometime after 1952):

Point_de_vue_du_Gras_by_Niépce,_1826

Niépce’s other pioneering work included the invention of the Heliogravure, a process used to copy drawings and engravings. He worked with Louis Daguerre perfecting many photographic processes like the Physautotype.  Niépce and his brother Claude invented the Pyréolophore, the world’s first internal combustion engine.

View from the Window at le Gras was created by dissolving Bitumen of Judea in Lavender oil and brushing it onto a pewter plate. The sensitised plate was then loaded into the back of a camera obscura similar to this one:

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The exposure took anywhere from 8 hours to several days (modern experiments lean toward several days). Notice how the sun strikes both sides of the buildings?

After the plate was exposed, it was washed with lavender oil and white petroleum. The bitumen in the areas of the image that received more light would harden and remain and the areas that received less light would wash away. The Heliographic process doesn’t yield a terribly detailed photograph, but considering this is one of the very first times that a permanent image was made with a camera, it’s pretty incredible. This process, as well as Niépce’s Physautotype process, are still practiced today.

View from the Window at le Gras is on display at The Henry Ransom Center, in Austin Texas. You can also visit Niépce’s home and workshop, The Maison Nicéphore Niépce in Paris.

With the birth of photography, the process of making a permanent photograph was neither easy nor convenient. It was the domain of scientists, inventors and craftsmen. It would be some time before everyone would be able to be a photographer.

Up next: The Daguerreotype

Links:

http://www.photo-museum.org/niepce-invention-photography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicéphore_Niépce

http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/firstphotograph/

http://www.photo-museum.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliography

http://www.photo-museum.org/niepce-nicephore-daguerre-physautotype/

Some Basic Principles of Photography

At a Glance: Focusing on the basic fundamentals of light, chemistry, and mechanics which make analog and digital photography possible

What is a Photograph? What is a Camera?

Photography is the act of capturing an impression of light or the lack thereof on surfaces and landscapes. The meaning of photo is “light” and the meaning of graphy is “writing, literally “light-writing.” In its most rudimentary form, the act of taking a photograph is recording the light waves on a light sensitive plane through a relatively small, round opening in a completely dark chamber. This model is scalable to any size and can be complex or incredibly simple. A room can be a camera obscura, or a painted and taped up shoebox with no lens, just a pinhole (you don’t know anguish until your pinhole camera is stolen from the high school darkroom when you still hadn’t managed to make a decent enough exposure from it), or a beautiful metal analog camera lovingly handmade in the 1970s, or a complex array of lens elements and electronics and sensors which make up today’s digital cameras. These are all cameras.

pexels-photo-247807A view camera, which is simple in construction yet yields incredibly high resolution images from 4×5 sheet film.

Photography Basics

You may wonder, if it’s so simple, how then are photographs made? Whatever your type of camera, you have a chamber which allows the light sensitive plane to be protected in complete darkness, and an opening which is currently closed. When the opening opens, an exposure is made, and a photograph results. More light from the scene means a brighter photograph, and less light means a darker photograph. Photos can be both too bright or too dark, so using a light meter to get an idea of the “correct” exposure for the scene is very helpful, as some planes used for photography handle more or less exposure in different ways.

A mindful photographer bears in mind three aspects that control the light communicated from their subject/scene to their intended plane of capture:

  • Aperture
    • The aperture is the round, relatively small opening in the completely dark chamber. More specifically, the numeric value or f-stop assigned to the aperture describe its size, which among other things determines how much light passes through at a time. Small numbers (f/1.4) correspond to large openings and large values correspond to small openings (f/64)
  • Shutter Speed
    • Shutter speed is the amount of time the aperture is open for, usually a fraction of a second. For example, one fifteenth of a second is expressed as 1/15. One one-thousandth is written as 1/1000. This is a fast shutter speed. Exposures can also be very long, 8s or 8 seconds, or even thirty minutes!
  • ASA/ISO/Film Speed/Plane Sensitivity
    • Whether you’re using a film or digital camera, there is a fixed value which describes how sensitive the film or digital sensor is to light, and this is referred to by any number of the terms above.

Key Differences Between Film and Digital

Here’s the way I see it, and you don’t have to believe me. I present my case as a user of both formats and believer that they are different, necessary, and crucial to the amazing ecosystem of tools we have as modern photographers. The difference between film photography and digital photography in theory and practice, maybe not so different at first. A camera is still a camera and a photography is still a photograph. Exposure and color still remain critical, but can be adjusted later on so long as they were captured in a way that passes certain criteria. But in process and materials, which matter a whole lot to artists, which by definition are people who make images to express things, there is a whole world of difference.

pexels-photo-133070Color negative film, which is usually an amber-brown color once processed

Very basically, film is (usually) a transparent support coated with a light sensitive chemistry. When an exposure is made on the film, light brightness and the concept we call color affect areas of the film differently. The film must be kept in complete darkness before and after the exposure, until it is treated with a chemical process to reveal the latent image. In most photographic process, this produces a negative which is printed or scanned by passing light back through to create a final image. The areas that become white on a print (sky and clouds, for example), have more silver on the negative (more silver halide was activated), allowing less light to pass through the negative to the paper. The areas that would be dark on the print have less silver on the negative to allow more light to pass through to the paper. Each stage and aspect of this process are malleable, specifically so if one has proper knowledge of the physics at play. With proper storage and protection, most photographic processes available now yield a negative that will last forever, which can be reprinted or scanned again and again.

In digital photography, this capture process is relegated to a digital sensor which eliminates the need for chemistry and consumable materials completely. This should be noted as in some ways it provides an advantage to the historically finickey process of film photography, prone to damage by improper exposure, temperature, moisture, and dust and scratches. The digital sensor collects the light information of color and brightness as tiny points called pixels, millions of tiny, indistinguishable pixels forming a high-resolution image. The pixel information is stored as long strings of numerical data on memory cards and hard drives. The archivability of digital photographs is a nuanced topic indeed: while digital files are impervious to the elements in some ways, they are only as permanent on the media on which they are stored in their digital form.

cofBehind the scenes in the development of PONF Camera

PONF Camera: Experience As Our Guide

The point is, while you don’t need anything fancy to make a photograph, here we are living in the cartoon space digital Postmodern age. In the relatively short history of photography, the tools and processes available to us as image makers have been advanced, developed, and refined continually to the point where they are nearly limitless. At this point in time, we have access to almost everything that came before and optical precision beyond Louis Daguerre’s WILDEST dreams is now completely ubiquitous, even on the personal level via smartphones. At PONF, we seek to make the epitome of cameras, to provide the very best experience possible to our fellow photographers. We’re combining analog and digital into one seamless, complete workflow, on one camera with interchangeable backs that we hope you’ll learn to use inside and out, as an extension of your vision.

Stay tuned for a big announcement regarding the PONF Camera on February 15th! Until then, you can follow us on Instagram or Facebook, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter.