PONF x Cinestill Film: Bright Analog Future

How’s it going, PONF Fellows? Having a nice start to the summer? As usual, it’s been busy behind the scenes at PONF. We’re ramping up for the presale of the PONF Camera coming later on this year, and planning how to deliver you the best camera we possibly can. That said, we’ve got something exciting to share with you on this #FilmFriday…we will be partnering with the fine folks at Cinestill Film to send rolls of premium 35mm color negative films with the PONF Cameras ordered in the presale!

We didn’t want you to have to wait even a moment before you’re able to put a roll of film into the analog back to give your new camera a test. And we wanted your very first 35mm roll to be the best of the best. That’s why we’re going to be sending exclusively Cinestill films along with it, so there will be nothing holding you back from taking your first amazing PONF photos on film when the camera arrives. That’s what PONF stands for, of course! I don’t know about you, but I’m always eager to hear the first clicks of the shutter in my new cameras.

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Brandon and Brian Wright, creators and cofounders of CineStill Film, have been innovating and charging ahead into the future of film photography for the past few years. That’s part of the reason that we’re so excited to be partnering up with them. Their film is creating a new gold standard in color negative films, thanks to their own innovation, which you’ll read about below. We went behind the scenes with Brian and Brandon to learn about their own personal history of photography, their adventure into film making, and finally, their thoughts on PONF. Enjoy!

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PONF: Where are you from, and where are you now?

Brian: We were born in the LA area, with a stint in Seattle during our formative years. Now we are back in LA.

Brandon: Hollywood, to be specific.

Do you have a favorite photograph that you’ve taken? Can you remember the moment you took it?

Brian: No. I don’t think I have a favorite, actually. They are like your children, you know?

Brandon: Some you love. Others, you are really disappointed in how they turn out.

Brian:  Man. That was good actually.

Brandon: Thank you.

Brian: Super messed up though…

What is your earliest memory with photography?

Brian: My mom’s ultrasound.

Brandon: [Eyes Rolling] No. Taking pictures on our dad’s Olympus OM-1 while skateboarding.

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What about your first encounter with digital photography?

Brandon: We got a free HP digital camera that came with our family computer.

Brian: It was fun to play with and get instant feedback. Anything we cared about we also shot on film.

Brandon: Actually, I think we may still have those files somewhere…

So what are your favorite film(s) and cameras or image making equipment /processes so far?

Brian: [Smiling] Our favorite film is anything CineStill.

Brandon: HA!

Brian: And the camera I have with me is my favorite.

Brandon: [Another Eye Roll] Come on.  We love our Leica M2. Pentax 67ii.

Brian: And our Rollei TLR. I can keep going.

Brandon: Yeah.  I guess whichever one we have with us.

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Tell us about the journey of Cinestill. As long or short as you wish!

Brian: About seven years ago now, when we were strictly doing the photographer and film maker thing, we recognized some of the more special characteristics of motion picture technology and emulsions. We set out to find a way to adapt it so we could use it to make still photos.  So, I guess the initial concept was actually pretty selfish.

Brandon: Hahaha. It was purely selfish! We wanted to shoot movie film in our Leicas. That’s it! So we started figuring out how to do that.

Brian: We began posting our results online so people could see how cool motion picture film looked when it was shot as stills – especially in low light. 

Brandon: Our friends and other professionals started messaging us asking if they could get some as well. But no one seemed willing to jump through all the hoops we did in order to shoot it.

Brian: Until then, it really didn’t occur to us that other people would necessarily want this.

Brandon: Yeah. We were essentially just tinkering for our own reasons. But enough people started showing interest that we said, “Oh yeah. If we want it others might too.”

Brian:  So we started trying to make it available to our friends and colleagues. Fast-forward seven years and here we are.  Making film for people around the world.

Brandon: So cool.

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What was the biggest challenge? The biggest surprise?

Brian: The biggest challenge so far was probably making CineStill in medium format.  It was kind of a monumental undertaking. Bigger than we realized initially.

Brandon: Yeah, I agree. I think it just took way more resources and capital. It makes sense now, but at the time, we were hoping the path to large scale manufacturing was going to be smoother than it was.  But we did it. And it took a lot of support from the film community to make it happen.

Brian: I think that connects to the biggest surprise as well, which is the degree of support we have had from the global photography community – pretty much from the beginning. 

Brandon: I agree. It completely blew us away. Within our first six months of launching, people started sending us images from all over the world that they shot on film we made. 

Brian: We were stunned.  It was so exciting. 

Brandon: Yeah – such a great feeling.

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From where you stand, what do you think the future holds for photography?

Brandon: I think things are headed in a great direction right now.  Look, nothing will supplant digital photography, or the tech that is driving it.  It is here to stay and it is super cool. But something interesting that came out of the “digital vs. film” days is that it gave serious  photographers, hobbyists and enthusiasts an alternative place to go. A place to explore. Now, more than ever, people – young people – are exploring film alongside digital. Many for the first time ever! And it is capturing people’s hearts and creative energy like never before. I don’t think this kind of passion over available mediums ever would have happened without the digital revolution. 

Brian: For sure. The market seems to be exploding with newcomers to film shooting. And it really is a renaissance fueled by the merging of old and new ideas. The future is so bright!

What are some of your initial thoughts on the film and digital PONF Camera? 

The PONF camera seems like a great option for those of us who shoot both film and digital and appreciate the benefits of each medium. As film photographers who love film, I think we’ve all dreamed of having the ability to switch seamlessly from shooting film for the images we really care about to shooting digital while still using the same 35mm camera system.

How might you customize one — what does your modular dream camera look like? What special programs does it have?

We would love to see a true optical rangefinder camera in Leica M mount that can shoot both film and digital backs. Add to that the ability to switch the front module to an SLR-style viewfinder/mount and you could easily fill out a full system with longer lenses. In terms of special programs, it would be great if the digital back could upload files to the cloud via wifi and scan 35mm film negatives to the memory card.

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

SHOOT MORE FILM!

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The PONF “Tell Your Friends & Test The Camera” Contest

Dearest Fellows, we talk a lot about our revolutionary camera. We imagine by now, you’ve become quite eager to test it for yourself. This is your chance! We’ll be producing our first prototypes soon, and want to let you, our community, in on this excitement. If you help us spread the word about the PONF Multiback Camera, you could be the first lucky tester!

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Starting today until the end of June, we will be having a contest to see who can help us spread the word about PONF the farthest. To reward the winner who tells the most friends, we will make you our honorary First Testing Fellow. You’ll be one of the first to work with a prototype of the camera, letting us know your feedback and sharing your results with the PONF Community and the world. It’s an exciting opportunity for anyone who has been following the project to be a part of the development and feedback process.

It’s easy to enter! First, visit the Tell A Friend, Test The Camera page and fill the form, letting us know how you learned of the project, and let us know anyone you’d like us to tell. Each friend whose email you share will count as an entry towards the grand prize. Then to tell more friends, it’s as easy as this: just spread the word about the PONF Camera by sharing the link. Your friends will enter their names with you in the “Who told you” section for an additional entry, and then they can spread the world to anyone they know who might be interested in this camera which will truly be more than a camera.

Tell the whole world! Everyone you know, not just the photographers. PONF is a powerful imaging tool for the curious, the experimenters, the computer programmers, the artists, the bloggers, fashionistas, trendsetters, the innovators, and of course, your friend that always has the latest tech.

What vision will our winner capture and share? How will unique imaging solutions fit into their lives? We’re excited to see! Check back in a few days for the leaderboard, to see how you rank in the contest. Good Luck!

History Lesson: Wet and Dry Collodion, The Precursors to Film (pt. V)

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, leading up to the present host of available ways to make a photography. It wasn’t always os easy! In the previous entry, we were introduced to wet plate processes, and now move on to dry plate, the precursor to film. Photography is getting easier and easier!

Albumen prints (invented in 1850 by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard) were made by floating a piece of paper on a solution of albumen, or egg white and salt, allowed to dry, floated again on a strong solution of silver nitrate and allowed to dry again, making them UV sensitive. This paper was placed in a contact frame with a glass negative and exposed to sunlight. Once the desired effect is achieved, the print is fixed and toned. This was cheap and it was quick. As a result, anyone of any income level, could afford a photograph. When traveling, if you didn’t return from an exotic locale with a photograph, you weren’t really there.

Castle, Kenilworth, Frederick Scott Archer, 1851_ Albumen silver print.jpgCastle, Kenilworth, Frederick Scott Archer, 1851; Albumen silver print

Shortly after the invention of the Ambrotype, came the Tintype, or Ferrotype. This was a thin sheet of iron with a baked on black enamel coating called japan. The process was the same as the Ambrotype, but yielded a one-off positive image. These were extremely popular, easy to make and, once varnished, very durable. Modern tintypes use trophy plate aluminium.

Tintypes were extremely popular during the American Civil War and many of those images survive today.

Isaac_Yost_of_Company_C,_118th_Regiment_Illinois_Infantry,_standing_in_uniform_with_bayoneted_musket_and_revolver_LCCN2010648383.jpgIsaac Yost of Company C, 118th Regiment Illinois Infantry, Standing In Uniform with Bayoneted Musket and Revolver

Frederick Scott Archer gave away this process free to the world and never made any money from it. He did, however, on 24 February 1854, take out a patent on a Wet Collodion Camera.

Archer Camera.jpgArcher Camera

The camera was akin to the kamra-e-faoree, or Afghan Box Camera. The chemistry was held inside of the camera itself in small trays. The photographer could coat, sensitise, expose and develop an image inside the camera by looking through a viewing window and placing their arms through sleeves attached to the side of the camera. A yellow glass window on the top acted as a “safelight”. Fixing could be done outside the camera, in view of the sitter.

Henry Fox Talbot believed that the wet collodion process infringed on his Calotype patent. He spent most of the rest of his life filing lawsuits against anyone and everyone. One photographer he went after was named Henderson. The Journal of the Photographic Society in June, 1854 wrote about the suit this way; “Talbot has as much right to prevent Henderson, or anyone else, taking portraits by the photographic or collodion processes, as he has to prevent Sir John Herschel from looking at the moon through a telescope”. It was only a matter of time before he went after Archer. Talbot’s lawsuit against Archer would come to nothing.

Frederick Scott Archer died penniless on 1 May, 1857.

On the 1st May, 2010, the members of ‘The Collodion Collective’ (Carl Radford, John Brewer and Quinn Jacobson), unveiled a marker near Archer’s grave. The original Archer family headstone was also discovered and reinstated by them.

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The wet collodion process has experienced a renaissance in the last 10-15 years. You can find workshops in the US, UK and Europe. If you are interested in learning this process, I highly recommend taking a workshop, as the hands on training with an experienced practitioner will be less expensive (and far less frustrating) in the long run than wasting chemistry and materials trying to learn on your own.

In 1856, Richard Hill Norris, took out a patent for his Dry Collodion Plates. He found that covering the collodion emulsion with gelatine or gum arabic would preserve its light sensitivity. Photographers could now go out into the field to shoot and not have to carry chemistry or portable darkrooms with them. This meant that they had to carry multiple plate holders, but they could be loaded and processed at their leisure. This made the process an order of magnitude easier and the popularity of photography soared.

On 8, September 1871, The British Journal of Photography published Richard Maddox’s process for gelatin dry plate emulsion. This spelled the beginning of the end of the mass use of the wet collodion process. However, the process would still be in use in the graphics and printing business as well as at tintype photo booths at carnivals, fairs and amusement parks well into the 1960’s.

George Eastman developed a plate coating machine in 1879 and opened the Eastman Film and Dry Plate Company. This greatly reduced the cost of the photographic process and opened it up to many would-be photographers.

Eastman Dry Plates.jpg

There are very few contemporary makers of Dry Plates, but the process is still being practiced and taught.

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Dry Plate would be the most popular photographic process for another 10 years, until George Eastman revolutionized the world in 1888 with a device called the “Kodak” camera, introducing the phrase “You press the button and we do the rest.”

Sources:

http://www.frederickscottarcher.com/
http://www.samackenna.co.uk/fsa/thechemist.html
http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium/pm.cgi?action=display&login=fredrickscottarcher
http://www.samackenna.co.uk/fsa/FSArcher.html
http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_wet_collodion.htm
http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_wet_collodion_-_thomas_rodger_00.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Scott_Archer
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis-Nicolas_M%C3%A9nard
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collodion_process
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collodion
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrotype
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintype
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_plate
http://www.thevictorianphotographer.com/workshops/
http://www.johncoffer.com/
https://www.topshitphotography.com/
http://www.jonathanstead.com/index.html
http://www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/course/dry-plate
http://thelightfarm.com/cgi-bin/htmlgen.py?content=PictorioGraphica
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photographic_film
http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/site/gloss10.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_photography
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JDfdHWBVG4
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albumen_print
https://www.etsy.com/shop/Pictoriographica
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_Wax
Reilly, James M. The Albumen & Salted Paper Book: The history and practice of photographic printing, 1840-1895. Light Impressions Corporation. Rochester, 1980
A Silver Salted Gelatine Emulsion, Richard L. Maddox, British Journal of Photography, September 8, 1871

History Lesson: Wet and Dry Collodion, The Precursors to Film (pt. IV)

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, leading up to the present host of available ways to make a photography. It wasn’t always os easy! In the previous entry, we talked about the paper processes. From the preceding photographic technologies, they were a step up in ease of use, but a step back in image quality.

Our story resumes in 1846. Louis-Nicolas Ménard, a gentleman scientist in France, discovers collodion. Collodion is basically nitrocellulose, or gun-cotton, dissolved in ether and alcohol, creating a sticky film (the name collodion comes from the Greek κολλώδης (kollodis), meaning gluey). In 1847 collodion was first used as a covering for medical dressing, then in the battlefield during the Crimean War. Collodion is still used today in the medical industry, as well as the Theatrical industry as a special effects make-up.

Frederick Scott Archer by Robert Cade, 1856.jpgFrederick Scott Archer by Robert Cade, 1856

Enter Frederick Scott Archer. He was a Sculptor. He often used Calotypes to capture images of his work. Archer became frustrated by the lack of definition of the images and extremely long exposure times, he sought out a new way of making images of his work. In 1848, Archer began work on his Wet Collodion process. He published his process in The Chemist magazine in March of 1851. This was the first time that glass had been used as a substrate for photographs. They were called Ambrotypes.

the chemist 1850-1851 title page.jpg

The Chemist title page

It also should be noted that a Frenchman named Gustave Le Gray had been working on a collodion-on-glass process and had published an article about 1 year earlier. However, his article was vague as to the process and has been described as “a theory, at best”. It’s a cruel irony that we have a wealth of fantastic images from Le Gray and less than 100 images known to be made by Archer.

Gustave LeGray - Tree, Forest of Fontainebleau, 1856.jpgGustave Le Gray, Tree, Forest of Fontainebleau, 1856

The first step in the Wet Collodion process is to grind down the cut edges of the glass plate, then meticulously clean the plate with a solution of alcohol and calcium carbonate.

Collodion is flowed carefully onto the glass plate, allowed to partially set, then lowered into the silver bath.

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Inside the silver bath, the bromides and iodides in the collodion react with the silver nitrate to form a light sensitive emulsion on the plate. After about 3-4 minutes, the plate is sufficiently sensitized to create an image.

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Under safelight conditions, the plate is removed from the Silverbath and loaded into the plate holder. Since collodion is only sensitive to the green blue and some of the UV spectrum, exposure times are determined by experience.

Developing the plate is done by removing the plate in safelight conditions and pouring developer onto the plate. Once developing is complete, water is poured over the plate to arrest development.

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Plates can be fixed in either Sodium Thiosulfate (photographic fixer) or Potassium Cyanide (KCN). This is the part of the process where you can see the image turn from negative to positive, right before your eyes.

The plate will lose sensitivity to light if the collodion dries, so all of the above steps have to be accomplished while the chemistry is still wet.

Once the image on the plate is dry, you must protect the delicate collodion emulsion by varnishing. This is done with either a sarandac, or lacquer varnish. After heating the plate over an open alcohol flame, flow the varnish over the plate and allow it to set. Heat the plate again to cure the varnish. Many modern Collodionists use Renaissance Wax instead of varnishing since it doesn’t darken the image on the plate like most varnishes. The downside of this is that the image layer isn’t as protected as it is with varnish.

The Ambrotype represented a sea change in photography. Prints from these glass negatives could be reproduced hundreds of times and unlike the Calotype, held a fantastic amount of detail.

Ante Room of Great Hall, Frederick Scott Archer, 1851.jpgAnte Room of Great Hall, Frederick Scott Archer, 1851

Wet and Dry Collodion, The Precursor to Film will be published in two parts. Keep an eye out for the next chapter!

Sources:
\http://www.frederickscottarcher.com/
http://www.samackenna.co.uk/fsa/thechemist.html
http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium/pm.cgi?action=display&login=fredrickscottarcher
http://www.samackenna.co.uk/fsa/FSArcher.html
http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_wet_collodion.htm
http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_wet_collodion_-_thomas_rodger_00.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Scott_Archer
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis-Nicolas_M%C3%A9nard
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collodion_process
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collodion
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrotype
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintype
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_plate
http://www.thevictorianphotographer.com/workshops/
http://www.johncoffer.com/
https://www.topshitphotography.com/
http://www.jonathanstead.com/index.html
http://www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/course/dry-plate
http://thelightfarm.com/cgi-bin/htmlgen.py?content=PictorioGraphica
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photographic_film
http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/site/gloss10.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_photography
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JDfdHWBVG4
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albumen_print
https://www.etsy.com/shop/Pictoriographica
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_Wax
Reilly, James M. The Albumen & Salted Paper Book: The history and practice of photographic printing, 1840-1895. Light Impressions Corporation. Rochester, 1980
A Silver Salted Gelatine Emulsion, Richard L. Maddox, British Journal of Photography, September 8, 1871

 

PONF x SONY Update: BIG Things To Come

PONF has a big vision for camera modularity. We see modularity as the key to the ability to create an ecosystem of camera bodies, lenses, systems, and formats that can be exchanged in and out depending on who is using them and how.

Sometimes you need something fast and light. Other times, the situation calls for the process to slow down and see things in stunning, highest possible definition, and you simply need the ability to capture more light. That’s where medium format comes in.

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Even before the first PONF Camera, which will be based on the 35mm format and have either APS-C or Full Frame Sony imaging sensor, is on the market, we already have eyes on the future to release something BIGGER.

In partnership with our friends at Sony, PONF is pleased to announce that we will be officially using their 100MP sensors in the second family of PONF products, allowing users to seamlessly alternate between medium format film and medium format digital. Our democratic pricing structures will make this technology to professionals, educators, and consumers alike for the first time in history.  Gone are the days where only the top dollar professionals could access top of the line sensors. At PONF, it’s preeminence to the people!

ponf sony

Also gone are the days of having to consider analog photography a “risk”. PONF offers both imaging solutions of film and digital side by side. You can have the immediate gratification and “fail proof” option of digital, but you can also have the physical, tangible, undeletable aspect of film. Not to mention both looks, highly sought after by artists and clients alike. Bye bye, presets! 

For everyone that’s ever dreamed of creating amazing, and wished they had access to their dream camera to bring it to life, the time has come. PONF, the Everything Camera, will be yours to explore the world with soon!

Stay in the know! Be sure to follow PONF Camera progress on our Facebook, Instagram, and by signing up for our newsletter.

HIRING: PONF GmbH is seeking to grow!

Camera Lovers and Engineering Experts Wanted!

We are hiring! Attention all Engineers, makers, gurus, programmers and integration experts who love photography!

We are looking for several motivated individuals with a variety of different skill sets to occupy several critical development roles on the PONF team. If you have been wishing that a brand new camera company was going to come along and not only ask you how a camera should be made, but give you a good job on the team producing it…well, it’s your lucky day, because that’s literally what’s happening. It’s not too good to be true. The team at PONF works hard and is committed to supporting one another in order achieve the vision that has been called impossible, bringing a hybrid film and digital camera to life.

All serious applicants should be motivated, enthusiastic, dedicated, and available now, as we are planning to grow rapidly in Q2 and beyond. These positions will begin in the near future, but once accepted, individuals will have the opportunity to learn proprietary information, join internal discussions, and begin concepting immediately. A signing bonus of One PONF Camera will be offered. To apply, please email your resume and a short cover letter to Raffaello Palandri at Raffaello@ponfcamera.com and let us know, if unlimited by time and money you could have any roll of film, and camera, and any lens in the world, what would you choose and then what would you photograph with that roll? And, if that question does not apply to you (it might not, and you will still be a brilliant member of our team, see the job descriptions below) please let us know what you find inspiring, about something that you find inspiring. We are looking forward to meeting hearing from you!

Digital Back 07

Positions Available

Electronics Engineer:

Essential skills:

  • Electronic engineering expertise: you are able to rapidly and efficiently draw electronics and design boards from data-sheets
  • FPGA knowledge: you are able to select available off the shelf solutions or design and program a FPGA

Specialized Electronics Engineer:

Essential skills:

  • Specific Visual Electronic engineering expertise: you have a specific knowledge in vision sensors, i.e. cameras and scanners
  • LVDS and MIPI knowledge: you have a deep understanding of the two, and are able to design electronic solutions with both.

Integration Expert:

Essential skills:

  • Experience with Raspberry PI and/or Raspberry PI Compute Module 3: you are able to use, program, hack the board at easily and customize it with the intention of using it for specific functions

Programmer:

Essential skills:

  • Experience with driver stacks: you know the Linux device driver stack and you are able to write drivers to connect a visual imaging sensor to the Raspberry PI
  • You are able to compile Linux drivers and could make an embedded version for a camera

Programmer/ Photography Expert:

Essential skills:

  • Experience in image processing: you know the basic of raw images processing, the key algorithms to improve them

Mechatronics Expert:

Essential skills:

  • Experience working in mechatronics and electromechanical components: you will help in design and make the shutter of the camera.

History Lesson: The Calotype and the Dawn of the Paper Processes (pt. III)

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 photographIn part two, we explored the rise of the Daguerreotype and the popularization of photography.

In 1839, Louis Daguerre was pronounced ‘The Inventor of Photography’. This did not sit well with many others, Nicéphore Niépce’s son, Isidore, for one. He was furious that his father’s work wasn’t even mentioned by Daguerre and spent the rest of his life telling anyone who would listen that it was, in fact, his father, who really invented photography.

There were several other people working simultaneously and independently of each other to perfect a fixed photographic image.

Julia_Margaret_Cameron - John Herschel April, 1867.jpg
Julia Margaret Cameron – John Herschel April, 1867

In 1819, the polymath scientist, Sir John Herschel discovered that hyposulfite of soda (now known as sodium thiosulfate, or “hypo”, common photographic fixer) dissolved silver salts.

Herschel discovered what would become the platinum printing process in 1832, based on his research of the light sensitivity of platinum salts. Around this same time, he also invented other lesser-known photographic processes such as The Chrysotype using colloidal gold as a means of creating an image and the Anthotype (also known as Phytotype) process that used photosensitive material from plants.

In 1839, he shared his sodium thiosulfate discovery with both Louis Daguerre and his friend William Henry Fox Talbot, giving a solution to the vexing problem of stabilizing photographic images to permanence.

Also in 1839, Herschel produced the first photograph on glass. This photo depicted his father’s telescope in Slough, near London. Herschel’s other contributions to photography include coining the term Photography and he was the first person to apply the terms Positive and Negative to photography.

Herschel Telescope First Photograph on Glass, 3 September, 1839
Herschel Telescope First Photograph on Glass, 3 September, 1839

In 1842, Herschel invented the Cyanotype process as a way to reproduce notes and diagrams. (This process was used well into the 20th century for engineering and architectural blueprints.). Cyanotypes have an interesting characteristic in that they will fade under prolonged exposure to sunlight but can often be regenerated by placing them in darkness for a while.

In 1843, Botanist and Photographer Anna Atkins used this technique to produce a book of Cyanotype photograms (objects placed directly onto sensitized paper and exposed leaving a negative impression) called, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

Anna_Atkins_algae_cyanotype 1843
Anna Atkins, Algae Cyanotype, 1843

In May 1839, three months before the big announcement of Daguerre’s invention, a clerk in the French Ministry of Finance, named Hippolyte Bayard, had shown French physicist (and director of the Paris Observatory), Dominique François Arago his own photographic images made with a positive paper process. He had sensitized paper with Silver chloride and inserted the wet paper into his camera for exposure; the paper was then developed out in potassium iodide to yield a positive image. This image was fixed with potassium bromide. Bayard was given a small pension to keep quiet about his process. His photograph, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man is widely considered the very first political protest photograph.

Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, Hippolyte Bayard, 1840, Courtesy of Societé Francais de la Photographie and the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, Hippolyte Bayard, 1840, Courtesy of Societé Français de la Photographie and the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY

Upon hearing the announcement of Daguerre’s invention, an Englishman named William Henry Fox Talbot rushed to The Royal Institution on January 29th to proclaim that he had been working on a photographic process he called Photogenic Drawing, since 1834, presenting several images he had made. Two weeks later he presented his process to The Royal Society. Talbot’s process couldn’t have been more different, however.

John Moffat, William Henry Fox Talbot With Camera and lens, 1864

(Right: John Moffat, William Henry Fox Talbot With Camera and Lens, 1864) 

Talbot’s Salted Paper or Photogenic Drawing process used fine-grained writing paper sensitized with a weak silver chloride solution, then brushed with a strong solution of silver nitrate. This created a coating of silver chloride, which darkened when exposed to light. The exposure times were often an hour or two for this process, producing a paper negative. This is referred to as a “Printing Out” process, meaning that the image is fully visible when the exposure is completed. (This is different from a “Developing Out” process where the latent exposed image is invisible until it is developed. Daguerreotypes are a developing out process.)

What was so revolutionary about Talbot’s process was that photographs were now easily reproducible. To copy a Daguerreotype, you had to re-photograph it. By contrast, with a paper negative, the process was fairly simple. First, you would wax the paper negative to make it translucent. Second, you would place the waxed paper negative on top of a piece of sensitized paper and place that into a contact frame. This frame was placed out in sunlight to expose.  Once the image was developed to satisfaction, it was processed as normal.

In 1841, Talbot perfected his Calotype process (sometimes referred to as Talbotype). The term Calotype comes from the Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful”, and τύπος (tupos), “impression”.

WHF Talbot The Open Door (wide shadow) April, 1844
W.H.F. Talbot, The Open Door (Wide Shadow) April, 1844

This was a developing out process using silver iodide. The Calotype Process brought exposure times down from hours to a few minutes in bright sun. The process starts with brushing a high quality writing paper with silver nitrate and allowed to dry. The paper is then soaked in potassium iodide (This formed silver iodide on the paper) and allowed to dry again. When the paper was needed, the silver iodide paper was brushed with “gallo-nitrate of silver” (silver nitrate, acetic acid and gallic acid) and placed in a dark slide to be exposed. The latent image was developed by washing the negative in gallo-nitrate of silver and then stabilized by either a rinse of potassium bromide or fixed in a hot solution of sodium thiosulfate.

Contemporary Calotypists are using several different methods to make their images. Each method has its followers and my research has shown that this process is not easy, but once mastered, produces beautiful pictures. Looking at the Flickr gallery of The Calotype Society you can see the potential of the process.

Edinburgh_calotype_club_1_53_maitland_montgomery_tennent

(Left: Edinburgh Calotype Club, Maitland Montgomery Tennent)

The Calotype is a very different image from the Daguerreotype. The Calotype is a paper process, so the grain and texture of the paper become part of the image, lessening detail and giving the overall image a more painterly quality. This was seen as much more desirable for portraits and artistic landscapes. Because of this, Talbot is often seen as the first photographic artist. His monograph called The Pencil of Nature is regarded as the “first photographically illustrated book to be commercially published”. It was published in instalments and contains his own account of the invention of the Calotype process; as well as several insights into the making of images and their use outside of being pieces of art. You can view and search Talbot’s vast collection of Calotype negatives and prints here.

The_Pencil_of_Nature cover
The Pencil Of Nature cover

The United Kingdom and Scotland, in particular, was a locus for Calotype photography. The Edinburgh Calotype Club, founded in 1842, was the world’s first photography society. They had many distinguished members and their body of work, Pencils of Light, is still available to view, in person, at The National Library of Scotland.

The Calotype studio of Hill and Adamson at Rock House in Edinburgh, produced some of the first social documentary photography with their images of the fisherfolk of Newhaven. The work of Hill and Adamson can be seen at The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Hill and Adamson Fisherman and boys 1843 (right: Hill and Adamson Fisherman and boys 1843)

Many historians believe that the invention of the Calotype marks the real birth of Photography in the mainstream consciousness. It’s repeatability and relative ease to produce (when compared to Daguerreotypes) and the overall mass appeal of the images themselves really brough photography to the masses. There was, however, still a desire for the amazing detail of the Daguerreotype and that is where Fredrick Scott Archer came in.

Next up:  Wet Plate Collodion: The Precursor of Film

Sources:

Talbot, William Henry Fox. Pencil of Nature Published by Longman, Green and Longmans, London 1844

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33447/33447-h/33447-h.html

William Henry Fox Talbot Collection http://foxtalbot.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/search

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33447/33447-h/33447-h.html

https://digital.nls.uk/pencilsoflight/history.htm

http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_edin/1_edinburgh_calotype_club_0.htm

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

http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_equipment_catalogue_1856_chemicals_for_the_calotype_process.htm

http://www.foxtalbot.dmu.ac.uk/

http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/Feb2007.html

http://fourtoes.co.uk/iblog/strines-journal-calotype/

Hunt, Robert. A Manual of Photography Published by John Griffin & Co. Glasgow 1853

https://www.flickr.com/groups/1384661@N22/pool/

http://fourtoes.co.uk/iblog/strines-journal-calotype/

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

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

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

Atkins, Anna (1985). Sun Gardens: Victorian Photograms. With text by Larry J. Schaaf. New York: Aperture. ISBN 0-89381-203-X.

http://www.mikeware.co.uk/mikeware/New_Cyanotype_Process.html

https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/hippolyte-bayard-direct-positive-process.46274/

Raffaello Palandri Describes His First Encounter with Digital Photography

An Essay and Photography by Raffaello Palandri

I have always been curious. I have always loved computers, technology, and learning new things, constantly using, disassembling and understanding everything. So, could I have avoided an early contact with digital photography? I can still remember my first encounter with this new technology in 1998, when I met the mighty Sony Cybershot DSC-MD1.

Sony_CyberShot_DSC-MD1_CP+_2011

A friend of mine got the camera from his father, who was returning from Japan. He probably got the camera from a store in Akihabara, the famous electronics district in Tokyo. I was lucky to be present when my friend opened the box for the first time.
A sort of squared silver object with a lens came out of the box. The lens was covered by a plastic cap, hooked to the wrist strap, something that I found funny in such a technological beauty. How could it be that such a camera could have a lens cap that… normal?

I almost had to fight with my friend to be able to handle the camera. The feeling was unique: it had a good weight (cannot remember, somewhat more than half a kilo) and it was full of nice buttons and dials, with labels in ideograms and Japanese. Having small hands, I appreciated the relatively small size: it was no more than, let’s say 9 x 12 cm.

It was a sort of Holy Grail, and I had it in my hands! When I managed to find the button to turn it on, the magic started. The MD disc started to spin, and with a soft buzzing noise, the menu appeared on the tilt (!) display… again in Japanese.3195722457_d70012cc3b_zThe camera was never intended for other markets and had no way to change the language on the menu. I found the position of the shutter button weird, on a sort of ridge on the usual right side of the camera, but inclined like in a German Praktica PL Nova or similar. The second weird thing was the lack of a finder. I looked for it but nothing. To shoot, you needed to take the camera at eye level, aiming with some sort of hopeful luck and then shooting, hoping not to shake the body too much. 

3162180783_3ba65590c4_zI  sadly had to give the camera back to my friend. But in that very moment, digital photography genuinely captured my curiosity. From that moment on, I continued shooting film and digital.

I have always found with digital I bring a different mind set to my photos. With film I had a sort of meditative approach, partially because I also used 4×5 and 8×10 cameras. I looked, pictured in my mind the photo, then I pressed the shutter button. It was a physical and mental process. You had to wait for the result. With digital all this was gone. I could directly take a photo, or better, several photos, with different settings and then improve, delete, re-take. The whole process become more oriented to getting the photo as quickly as possible. If you didn’t like it, you could delete it.

To this day, I cannot decide if I prefer digital or film. I like them both. 🙂 

To follow news and updates from Raf and the PONF team, follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

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/