The Anniversary Speed Graphic Project

Well after a few months of research and hard work, I finally finished the Anniversary Speed Graphic in August. It's been a labour of love but one I have thoroughly enjoyed.

 The Anniversary Speed Graphic as I bought it

The Anniversary Speed Graphic as I bought it

When I first bought it, I was quite stumped about what to do with it - restoration vs customisation. The emotional side of me wanted the camera to look like new as it would have 70 years ago. The practical side of me knew how hard that would be - my ability to re-trim a camera in leather was questionable, but also finding the parts for an American camera to restore it properly. In the end the head ruled and I decided I was going to strip the camera down to it's bare components - be them brass, mahogany or stainless steel. I secretly preferred this option.

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 Test paper bellows for measurements

Test paper bellows for measurements

The biggest job out of them all were the bellows - the state these were in rendered the camera useless. I attempted to make my own and was not far away from getting a template but in the end I contacted Henry De Haas in Belgium who was recommended by Jo Lommen, camera restorer who also worked on an Anniversary Speed Graphic among others.

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Whilst the bellows were in Belgium, the camera sat in my office and staring at me. The peeling leather was like an unstuck bit of wallpaper asking to be picked at. I started to pick and peel, unscrew and dislodge...there was no going back now, I had started. I had downloaded the service manual for the camera thanks to Graflex.org which broke the camera down into groups and then parts for that group. With that in mind I ordered various sizes of clear ziplock bags - one small size for parts and one larger bag to keep the parts in their groups. The bags were labelled and the parts stored away.

 Glue removal

Glue removal

Working on the shell, the leather was held on with an animal glue so soaking it with a hot damp rag would soften it quickly for it to simply be wiped away. Underneath the glue and cheap leather was a lovely Honduras mahogany which is too pretty to cover up. I was doing the right thing.

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A few weeks passed an then Henry sent me a new set of bellows developed from what was left of the bellows that I had posted him. I don't know how he did it but he did an amazing job. I can admit now, especially after my initials attempts at creating my own bellows, that without him I would have been quite stuck and had to wait along time to get the camera up and running. They fitted perfectly first time.

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With the bellows in place, the rest of the camera build was gathering pace. The body was glue free and and sanded down and once oxidised brass fixtures were shining once again. Work began on the rear which was also covered in leather. With the leather removed, it exposed a metal backing plate with painted mahogany screwed onto it. I decided to clean up the metal, prime it, and spray it matt black. I was instantly taken with the look. The black painted mahogany was sanded down to reveal the natural colour of the wood again.

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The front was treated in exactly the same way - cleaned up, primed, and painted matt black. The oxidised studs were all cleaned up and polished, and I had a look I was happy with.

The next problem caused the project to grind to a halt. Some of the screws that were on the camera were clearly the wrong size and had been replaced with cheap alternatives. They were important screws as well - the ground glass retaining screws and the drop bed side arms. This proved I had chosen the right direction with camera because a screw specialist here in Edinburgh spotted I was looking for American screw sizes and that was a problem. Eventually, I turned to a recommendation from a friend and found a good supplier who was able to help me out.

Finally, the camera was finished.

Click for larger version

Click for larger version

I've get a huge amount of satisfaction when I look at this camera now. I love that I can see the flaws and changes that have happened to the body in the 70 year history. What I am very excited about is the ability to shoot large format, something I had no plans to do any time soon.

I have a number of projects lined up for it, all which I'm really excited about so I'll keep you posted on the shape these take as I tackle them.

Road to referendum

If you haven't been aware, there has been one event that has captured the nation of Scotland recently - the Independence referendum. This has been a massive decision that we've all had to vote on with the simple options : yes or no. The conversations and heated debates have been ongoing for months with everyone shouting about their take on the information and statistics that we were being given. It was quite a moment in history to witness.

For me, there was one particular display of support for either side that captivated me, a silent one. From early on the in the road to referendum, windows displays were set up showing support for what they believed to be the correct path for Scotland. The Yes campaign were very clever with this - t-shirts, stickers, bags, posters, banners - the list was endless. People would buy more and adapt their window displays to be bigger and in some ways depriving homes of natural daylight. They weren't alone though, although it wasn't as immediate, the No Thanks campaign started this too - posters would get bigger, Union flags would appear long with novelty nodding Queens in one case.

The vote has been cast and the close results were in favour of staying with the United Kingdom. There was a lot of unpleasantness spoken on this journey but the silent displays were something I enjoyed - I loved people's creativity. During this time, I captured a few of these displays and it's something I'm glad I did. Below are some of my favourites as I wandered through the city.

 'Garbage?' - McDonald Road, Edinburgh

'Garbage?' - McDonald Road, Edinburgh

 'No UK, No Pound, Vote No' - Bothwell Street, Edinburgh

'No UK, No Pound, Vote No' - Bothwell Street, Edinburgh

 'What's in Store' - Brunswick Road, Edinburgh

'What's in Store' - Brunswick Road, Edinburgh

 'Aprons' - Heriot Row, Edinburgh

'Aprons' - Heriot Row, Edinburgh

 'Without doubt' - York Place, Edinburgh

'Without doubt' - York Place, Edinburgh

 'Flags' - Albany Street, Edinburgh

'Flags' - Albany Street, Edinburgh

 'Lion Rampant' - Lower London Road, Edinburgh

'Lion Rampant' - Lower London Road, Edinburgh

 'NO' (YES)' - The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

'NO' (YES)' - The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

 'The Postal Vote' - Easter Road, Edinburgh

'The Postal Vote' - Easter Road, Edinburgh

 'Jack's House' - Montgomery Street, Edinburgh

'Jack's House' - Montgomery Street, Edinburgh

 'Blue and White' - Elgin Terrace, Edinburgh

'Blue and White' - Elgin Terrace, Edinburgh

 'Hidden' - Restalrig Road, Edinburgh

'Hidden' - Restalrig Road, Edinburgh

 'United' - Randolph Place, Edinburgh

'United' - Randolph Place, Edinburgh

 'Balloons' - Royal Circus, Edinburgh

'Balloons' - Royal Circus, Edinburgh

Making a Solargraphy Camera

Before every summer solstice I aim to make myself a pinhole camera to start a six month solargraph and each year I fail by forgetting. Not this year. I found the perfect tins for this after a couple of presents were finished off at Christmas - Fortnum & Mason Christmas blend coffee and Lemon Curd biscuits. I love them. I hid the tins away until last week when I brought them out to begin the project.

If you're unsure, a solargraph is a image that is made with a pinhole camera. The camera of loaded with photo paper and pointed in the direction that the sun moves across the sky for a long period of time - from days to years. As the days pass, the image is imprinted onto the paper (viewable without chemicals) and maps the sun's movements through the sky getting lower or higher each day.  Typically you can do this between the summer and winter solstices to capture the sun's highest point to it's lowest point.

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The tins I am using both take a 7x5" piece of photo paper nicely - one portrait and one landscape. I'm using Ilford's Multigrade Art paper by Hahnemuehle which I've had for a while and one of my favourite papers. You'll also need duct tape or electrical tape (duct tape preferably but I didn't have any), a knife, an empty drinks can, a needle, and - depending on where you're loading the paper - a dark bag.

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Due to the thickness of the tins, I had to drill a hole 8mm wide into the middle of each of them as trying to force a needle through them wasn't going to work. Don't put too much pressure on the drill either, as it will bend the tin creating a slight lip. I managed to bend it slightly but, with some persuasion with the end of the Stanley knife being used as a hammer, I bent the lip back.

Cut a piece of the empty drinks can big enough to cover the hole you drilled. With a needle, make a hole in the middle of the cut metal. I used a small needle but there was no calculation to get the perfect needle size - any needle will do. I then taped the piece of metal to the tin ensuring to get the pinhole in the approximate middle of the drilled hole.

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Normally I would have put lightproof tape on the back of the cut metal with the pinhole in it but I forgot. Doing this would have stopped any direct light leaking in that wasn't coming through the pinhole. Instead I taped up to the pinhole leaving a millimetre or so I didn't obstruct the view.

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Put the tin and your photo paper box into a dark bag or move into a darken room to load the paper into the tin. Complete darkness probably isn't necessary for the piece of paper you are using due to the few seconds it will be exposed but you don't want to ruin the rest of your paper.

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Finally, screw/push the lids on and make sure you cut a piece of tape to go over the pinhole as a shutter before removing from the bag. 

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Tape the lids closed and you're ready. To be extra careful, I then attacked the tins with tape and covered every part of them (minus the pinhole/shutter) to block out any unwanted light. The only thing left to do is find your location to install them.

Make sure you attach them to something that won't move and where no one will disturb them. I have put one outside my house since I know I won't and another at my office. I've told people what it is so that it is not confused with anything else or treated as suspicious.

Enjoy and I'll update you in 6 months.