Monday, 14 August 2017

The Book Review-pure fiction + coffee developer!

In the few moments I get left over after reading and re-reading  'Snow Canvas' , 'My Leica and I' ,and 'Living Leica'  (1956 edition,  of course)  few other books or subjects attract my attention.

However, one that did arrive , via Amazon, is a detective mystery.The title is 'The Dead in their Vaulted Arches'

I have found that I only enjoy this type of book when I am able to read most of a series with the same characters such  the Bryant and May series  by Christopher Fowler, The Powerscourt series of David Dickinson,  Edward Marston on Railways and the unique series of Martin Beck books which when read in order and arranged by the spine will spell Martin Beck!

If I still have your attention I shall introduce the latest in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley (pub. Orion 2014). Again, a series is involved and number 6 has proved to be of interest to me as a darkroom worker. In short this is the adventure of the younger daughter of an impoverished Colonel with a country house left to decay on the death of his wife, the owner, in 1939. Her body is recovered just post war and his daughter is astounded to be picked out as her true successor by Sir Winston Churchill as the body arrives home.The heroine is found to have inherited all the amazing intellectual ability of her Mother.  In the course of the adventures of this patriotic family the young lady discovers her mother's last home movie undeveloped and manages to develop it using strong coffee and reversal chemicals, all described in detail,  together with the manufacture if a safelight and a reel! Needless to say the film is a key to the solution of many things.

All very' Ripping Yarn' stuff and by no means the end of the series, which continues, but readable as a stand alone book or preferably after the minor characters are introduced by earlier books. Given the Boy's Own storyline I found the presence of points 'For Discussion' and an interview with the Author, at the end, just a little strange unless I have got hold of a School Edition-I think not.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Don't forget the Valoy 11......

When the time came to discontinue the Valoy 11 it was called the finest manual enlarger available and Leica fans were scouring  dealers to snap up the last few in stock. The last of the line is a superb machine and those still available illustrate the hard wearing properties of the machine which still looks very modern (as enlargers go!) especially in gray/blue finish. What more could a black and white worker ask for? Just add a Focotar 2 ( or large element "1.5") and off we go!

(Canadian issue of leaflet-17-3c)

A enlarger guidebook- v35 oddity in print

One of the rarer publications concerning the v35 Focomat  is the colour booklet shown below.This runs to 96 colour pages all in cartoon format which relates the story of purchase and colour printing by a v35 using a young couple as examples. Given the price of the machine it was probable that the average age of a purchaser in UK was about the same as some Honda cars of the time -which was revealed as  not young

In true Enid Blyton manner the young people are provided with a Mentor, Uncle John,an Airline Pilot, who is an expert colour printer. This rather strange book carries the Leitz trade mark and the usual serial numbering as a Leitz issue publication , it would be interesting to learn how it came to be authorised.  Get one now-if any more have survived!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Leitz Literature and Design-

Three Leitz publications came my way a few days ago and it was interesting to note the evolution in design that they illustrate.  It goes without saying that those likely to be reading this will be well aware that there has been only one basic change in the design of Leica direct viewing cameras since the 1920's which was the arrival of the M3 in the 1950's and the change to bayonet lens mounts.

The design of enlargers  was equally timeless and I could go back to well pre war days to,  more or less,  match the illustrations of the Focomat enlargers shown.  These underwent their own screw/bayonet moment shortly after the War and then changed little until the v35 came along.I would say these leaflets cover the period 1950-1970 , approximately.

And here is one of the older leaflets in the English edition from December 1937 which shows the classic Focomat 1 which appears Blog passim on this site.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Thoughts on the First VALOY enlarger

With the help of Ebay I recently acquired a box of early Valoy parts from a dealer in the North of England.  They went for 0.99p plus postage and  included some Gamer parts that no doubt will well cover the cost. The Leica parts included a column cover that I described in an earlier Blog posting and all was in remarkably fine condition. I have added a few odds and ends from my spares box and have ended up with an example of the first model of Valoy to put into practical use.

The later Valoy chassis as in the Type 2 derives it's geometrical integrity upon the interface of a number of flat surfaces and planes which assemble at right angles but the first design had a few 'built in' problem areas for the Wetzlar engineers. The thin dome sections containing the lamp and negative are affixed by precision screws to a cast hollow arm uniting the column and the head in a factory set relationship. It follows that this fixing is of the utmost importance in ensuring that the axis of the head is at the precise 90 degrees to the column as no other adjustment is possible. The care taken by Leitz is clear from the almost tissue thin spring steel shims used in the head assembly and the torque applied to the three heavy screws-which I recommend should never be undone.

I have attached some illustrations of the restored enlarger using a few spare parts I had. The column supplied was authentic but the electrical wiring had been modified and had non standard exit holes drilled so has been replaced ,again from spares,  I had  selected a stainless steel tube from a early De Vere 203, of exactly the same diameter,  which solves the corrosion issue once and for all. However, there is the question of drilling and threading for the set screw for the foot and this has defeated me so far as it is a hard metal. The Leitz electric plug system is almost impossible to restore and, as received, had been replaced by a cable running through a hole drilled in the corroded plug!

I make no apology for a column foot that came from an early Type 2 in black with a superb name plate that could not be resisted but made the question of earthing even more complex.  The red screw at the foot of the  original column no doubt met the regulations in Germany when the enlarger was made-1932! and the machine had the serpentine original wiring.  Rewiring advice is beyond the ability of this Blog,  but, whatever you decide,do fit an efficient earthing system and if in any doubt get it checked by a professional.  Remember that contact between the various parts may be poor.

This may be the right place to remark that I have found at least four types of lampholder in Valoy/Vasex/Focomat  enlargers fitted to a lamphouse which differs little in construction between 1920 and 1970.  This Valoy had an Bakelite holder with three insulated  brass spring pins surrounding the lampholder and permitting the adjustment screws to be used to obtain the precise lamp coverage. In this case the brass pins were firmly fixed  in place but still springy.

I have not seen the small light trap in any lamp fitting prior to the last Color-Focotar when this took the form of a spring washer floating around the cable entry tube and was presumably fitted for colour printing sensitivity purposes.  The first and oldest holder seen is all metal and has an interrupted annular ring around the lampholder bearing on the outer tubular housing and giving the same adjustment.These seem very fragile probably due to the heating of very thin metal.  Some of the metal fittings use brass pins with springs recessed onto the pin and some do not!  In later examples the solid pins will fly out with some force and care should be taken to remove the lampholder in,say, a plastic bag to avoid loss of these tiny, but vital, spares.  The last metal holder has strips of thin brass pressed out of the holder to form spring bearings but are still forced outwards in some cases with small coil springs which seems a logical way of saving money and obtaining efficiency at the works when the much revised lampholder on the Colour Focomat was issued.

The condenser bears no similarity to the Type 2 and is more like the first Focomat with a rotary lifting arm of super smooth action. In fact it is best described as a short Focomat  type.  Absence of a bellows means one less part to worry about when restoring after 80 years.  I am told that neither of my anti- newton plates are really satisfactory with the Valoy 2 as they distort the light paths but they find little use with the Valoy 1 as a thin plate of card or acetate in the classic Leica Guide pattern will suffice. One of my a-n plates is the correct Leitz fitting and the other a Japanese replica product made in small numbers in the last year or so, but of similar high quality.

Should the inner dome require repainting this can be done with car aerosol spray but this job will be eased by first removing the reflector surface which is a loose push fit in most cases.  Do bear in mind that a wide range of 'silver' shades is available and I have often found that the short household cans from hardware outlets are easier to work with. This applies, in particular, to the later white finish.

The baseboard on this one was missing but they do come up from time to time and it would be nice to have an original rather than one shown which is attractive, but modern.  In the meantime that fitted has been constructed from block board which arrived as part of an Ikea wardrobe and proved to be solid timber which could take a precision cut from a power rail saw.  ( Short advertising break for my son,  Rupert, of 'Money for Nothing' BBC TV-On a TV near you. Thanks for the carpentry, Ru. )

The panels had six inches removed at each end which was glued under pressure at each end of the new base  to guard against warps, and to give a firmer base for the column.  Care was taken to see that the blockboard seams did not match.  Four doorstops lift the finished base off my darkroom bench and allow tidy cable runs. This board is larger than necessary but gives me some options for future use.

I first examined a number of original base boards, some of which have been beyond realistic recovery.  The subsequent delamination by dampness reveals  most  to be composed of three plies of hardwood each about seven millimeters thick with a outer coating of veneer.  There are countless shades ranging from deep Mahogany varnish to an acid green/blue tinge in flat varnish,  no doubt reflecting what was available in difficult times.

Older readers will recognise the column extension which represents, with the Purma camera, one of the few Welsh contributions to camera history being a product of  'Gnome'  of  that country. It was a product  marketed when the hobby in UK had to produce all it's goods from home industries as imports were restricted.  It bears some likeness to the Reprovit bracket but for full security and integrity of the geometry a further bracket at the top would inspire confidence. I have contrived to cover all possible bright metal in the light path using an early Leitz column  felt cover.

Finally,  the type of red filter and fitting shown is it seems a stock Leitz size as it is also a perfect fit on my Vasex enlarger.The 50mm lens shown is an attempt at authenticity and is an Elmar such as the Leica user might have transferred from his camera as was popular at the time.

Not a faultless restoration, and in some ways not authentic, but acceptable , I  feel, for 0.99p and the scrap box!
First , the Focomat style negative stage
 The early type dome/ arm joint
 The column offset, courtesy of Gnome
 The base,masking frame and column cover

This is the Elmar in place-too valuable to heat up by switching the light on!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I've seen the light- but it should be dark red?

Almost all the negative carriers for 35mm film on Leitz enlargers follow the pattern of a single metal plate with few variations. Yes, Esmiralda, I know there are 3x4 and 4x4 versions which I have, with glass,  never used and am never likely to.

However to start to plough a new furrow I wonder just how these items were made?  I ask from the practical viewpoint of a man trying to replace the red gelatin in two standard holders. At a guess the channel is formed  by soldering shim onto the base brass after the red windows are filled. Trouble is you just can't see the join. ( Avoiding obvious humour)

Use of a magnifying lens on the outer edge shows no trace of two parts having been joined but a faint line is visible around the film aperture, always assuming you have not opened it out to 25x37 with a file. The tiny screws holding the silver 'ramps' are not involved.

I have found a holder from a pre Valoy model which must date to the 1920's which had missing red gelatine but an obvious milled recess into which a replacement gel can be fitted in a few moments. I used a slip of the safelight that used to come in Ilford MG filter sets and bedded it in with UHU which did not react. However, no nearer the real question of how do we repair standard negative carriers?

The only rather poor solution I can come up with is to cut a mask such as appeared in the Morgan Leica manual at one time.This was a possible cure for Newtons Rings. Made from red acetate and covering both the gaps it should then show film numbers against red film.

Yet again,  any ideas welcome. This is a picture of the older carrier which was easy to repair.

The Long and the Short of things...

There has been a discussion for some time about the correct bulb to fit to a Valoy 2 enlarger. An excellent illustration appears on one commercial website which has been on display for some time.

This refers in particular to Osram products  (beloved by the factory)  I was at a loss to know what I should fit to be correct, although I had used a Valoy for years with no complaints and any old 75 watt enlarger bulb that came to hand.  I have just checked my small stock of bulbs and find that the 75 watt bulbs of modern issue in bright glossy boxes all measure 4.13 inches long which is even shorter than the 'short' Osram product, but,, moreover,  also shorter than early Phillips bulbs in distinctly 1950's packs. I would assume that I have bulbs small enough to give optimum coverage in a Valoy 2 -if I notice !

As ever, comments on this tenuous point are welcome at the email address above as the 'comment' facility seems to have ceased to function.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Leica News and Technique- Jan/Feb 1937

This edition is a rather interesting publication of E.Leitz from the London office sent out to all registered owners- and sold at six pence to others.  A suitable winter picture was selected for the cover, as appears below, which is credited to Dr. Robert Semple,of Aberdeen.  Efforts to trace the background of this Leicaman were quite easy-always assuming that I have the right person- as a lengthy account of his life in Medicine and his War Service appears on the Internet. He is not credited with an interest in the Leica but it does appear that he must have been aged about 20 at the time the picture was published.

All this would be interesting but would not have taken my eye had it not been for an item on Ebay last week. Advertised for sale was a lantern slide in a 80mm mount of this very picture. As you can imagine I had to 'Buy it Now' at a very modest price. Now, black and white slides were often made in Eldia film holders but these were of the exact size of the Leica negative. This picture has been printed to about 60mm x 45mm.  The label reads "from Leica Magazine"  as  1936-217 and the mount is signed "R.W.Blakeley".   I am lost as to why this picture should become a lantern slide in a larger size when one would expect to see it printed on film to produce a positive image for 2x2 mounts which existed in 1936.  In fact 'Agfacolor' was advertised in the magazine concerned.  I was interested to see that the slide shows slightly more than the printed page so may well have come from the original negative rather than being a copy of the magazine.

I have not attempted to take the research further but should any reader have personal knowledge which might help then do let me know.  Just use the email address at the top of the Blog.

And here is the slide, under glass.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Cri de Coeur - 1950

Also found in a Magazine of 1950 was this small plea from the Secretary of the Circle which strikes a familiar note 67 years later..........All very true today, except that contact should be the Hon.  Sec........ to hear from you!

Artist at Work- R.G. Lewis copy from 1950

From the first page  of Miniature Camera World for April 1950 comes a delightful illustration from 'R.G.Lewis'. The derivation of this name (which only disappeared recently) is a story for another post but it is clear that in 1950 genuine works accessories were in short supply, or manufacture had not resumed after the war.
It should be added that all the addresses shown are decades out of date!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Our 100th Post on this Blog- Recruitment

It is appropriate that this 100th post returns to the original aim of publicising the Leica Postal Portfolios, now Leica Society, and its Circles. Fuller details can be found on The Leica Society website but what an opportunity to scan an article by H.S, Newcombe from 1938 on the very subject.

PLEASE NOTE: All the above addresses are well out of date-Please follow the Club Website.

Leica Competition No. 2 - 1937/8

An interesting competition entry form came into my hands recently,  folded inside a copy of Leica News and Technique, but no hope of entering as entries had to be in by January 31st 1938 !

This Competition was conducted by Leitz at 20 Mortimer Street. Those of us who support the Society in the Annual meetings and Exhibition will be surprised at the relaxed rules that apply today, contrasted with 1938. The practice of requiring contact prints with entries seems to have dropped out in the post war period and was introduced in order that the sponsor could check the fixed relationship of sprocket holes and frame which is the tell-tale signature of a Leica negative.  Also noted is the first rule which precludes 'grey' imports from competing,  but , after all,  Leitz were  putting up the prizes which were not inconsiderable in the values of 1937/8. The submission of 20x24 prints seems to have gone out of fashion in most amateur work and probably just as well knowing the difficulty of mailing even 16x20 prints.  Clause 11 would not be accepted by modern workers and is difficult to justify as reproduction in the magazine was probably the limit of use made of prints. Use of a' nom de plume' is novel and one wonders why a simple number would not suffice?  Finally,  in a nice touch of detail, a small transparent envelope is attached to contain return postage.

and the Winner was.................

The March/April  1938 edition of the Magazine contains the results which are lengthy. From my own knowledge of the early membership, and well known Leica users of those days,  it would be usual to find familiar names right across the winners but it is necessary to go tho Group 1V- second
 Prize (Extra) to find Dr. Jouhar  and in Group V - 3rd prize Frank Dumur of Haus Rosenberg Wetzlar, which might be a questionable entry under Rule 12.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

An Original Tom March print

I was favoured to be given an original Tom March print some years ago. I cannot identify the driver,car or track but would liken to add this souvenir to the previous Blog concerning his work.  I think I can identify a Maserati badge but as usual comments welcome.

T.C. (Tom) March-more on our past Secretary

I have never expected these ramblings to be more than of, I hope, passing interest to Leica users and those who are members of the current Leica Circles. Many blogs ago I wrote about Circle 6 Housekeeping and the Circle 6 Mirfield Award for 1969 which went to Tom March.  However I recently learnt that Tom had been a past Secretary of this Circle and also of the original New England circle when it existed. This position seems to have been held for many years,  at least from the early 1950's, and he was still a very active member in 1969, and contributed to the last ( Big) Morgan Leica Book in 1972.. I have now turned up an article he wrote in 1951 in which he refers to his pre war interest in Motor Racing and I have reproduced this as it is of considerable interest to the Leica user even today.  References to Colour Film can, I think, only refer to Kodachrome at 10 ASA which must have posed real problems with fast moving vehicles but he had the advantage of a 85mm Summarex f1.5 which is a lens rarely seen even today.

A month after the above was posted I came across another print from 1952 and here it is-

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Early Days in Circle 6 - 1938

I was pleased to trace an early report of our Circle in the Miniature Camera Magazine of December 1938 recording the circulation of the very first folio of prints. We are now on 584.  This report came from James Robertson of 5 Mill Road,  Irvine,  Ayrshire,  the first Secretary. The folio was given a fine launch by the inclusion of a one man show from C.C.B. Herbert ( Blogs passim) who was General Secretary of Leica Postal Portfolios at the time and who was collecting  5/- ( 25p) from prospective members.

Given this lead I have also found a report of the second circulation in the January 1939 edition with J.H.L.Adams as the guest showing International tennis stars in action. The second folio included members prints using a diversity of lenses. Two Telyt shots,two 35mm wide angles and one with the 28mm Hektor joined the more usual 50mm and 90mm work.  Members were still sought, as they are today, 78 years on,  but we have relaxed the requirement for home processing although it is interesting that all present members in 2017 process at home.

Finally in what is rather a domestic Blog I have an illustration of a circulating folio in 1938 which is obviously of a 4x3 inch Circle,this small size having been dropped from the present day range of options.

continued overleaf-
Please click on scan to improve legibility.

Monday, 29 May 2017

The State of the nation- January 1946

Following the gloomy posts in the past when our Circle closed for 'the duration' comes a newly discovered report from Miniature Camera Magazine for January 1946 picking up the pieces that remain after six years of relative inactivity.  Interesting to note that just like B.B.C. TV,   the Circles resume precisely where they left off in 1939!  ( Actually a bit of Urban myth- the website will recall the correct version.)

Our Society was back in the swing of Saturday gatherings in London again open to all but a new trend of 'serious photography' in a London showing much evidence of  Wartime damage.  The full notice is reproduced below and it only remains for me to draw your attention,
again, to the meetings based on LCE, Bristol  which commenced in 2017  ( Yes, 71 years later!)  given publicity in a recent Blog here. Sorry about the rather poor original which forced me to reverse the scan.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Unusual lens container-HELP

This post is little different from the usual themes of the Blog in that a response is sought from anyone who can shed light on the container illustrated in the following pictures.  This is of a Bakelite lens pot rather similar to recent Russian products.  The item is marked Ernst Leitz Wetzlar Germany and on the base 9cm Elmar.  However it has been tried with eleven examples of this lens and all are just too long to fit.  It may be that it was offered for a very early lens of non standard length and lacking a r/f ring but this is not available for testing.

Any help would be much appreciated, and in the event that 'Comment' does not work just email to UPDATE July 2017: Another of these has appeared on Ebay at 99.99 or offers.
It is likely that this one shown ,and a 50mm version,may appear at SAS of Newbury in a future auction.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

A Big book in many ways-Rudolf Pestalozzi, 1882-1961

For some years I have owned a copy of 'A Leica Amateurs Picture Book' by Rudolf Pestalozzi, a large publication in more ways than one.  In measure 32cm x 25cm this was published in the UK by Fountain Press in 1935 using illustrations printed  by Gebr. Fretz A.G. of Zurich.  To simply commend the quality of the production is not enough.  The whole is produced on matt paper in a way that really complements the Leica negatives and obviously a lot of expensive work went into it's preparation.  Examination of the images under a powerful lens seems to suggest gravure printing which is an excellent, and surprising, choice for 160 pages.  It elevates the work of this most gifted Amateur to that of the likes of Dr Wolff, a contemporary worker.

Reading the brief notes it is a surprise to learn the the author has just four years experience with the Leica and while he owns a Leica 111/ Summar at the time he is writing, the majority of the prints were produced with the 50mm and 90mm Elmar.  He commends the photo electric exposure meter and the Universal viewfinder but little beyond that and his equipment was not extensive.

Regarding subjects he has travelled to all parts of Europe in gathering a wide selection of subjects. All involve an original interpretation of his subjects, except a few portraits which I would judge to be personal souvenirs.  A notable exception is an available light portrait of Karl Barth as a far younger man to the usual portraits of the theologian in old age.  This makes good use of the 90 mm lens.( 1sec f6.3-Tripod)

Obviously well connected and able to roam freely across the Continent before the build up to World War Two,  Pestalozzi was a member of the well known Zurich Steel company of the same name,   His work continued after the war in more specific travel photography.

I would go as far as to say that most of his work would take a Prize at the Leica Society this year if it could be presented printed in the manner of this book!

I do not think it fair to 'lift' a print from the book but if you can get hold of a copy you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Back to the future-LPP photo walk

Truly in the spirit of the founding fathers of LPP the following notice is worthy of the widest distribution  among Leica enthusiasts in striking distance! 

                                                    Monthly Leica meets in Bristol.
London Camera Exchange Bristol (Baldwin Street) will be hosting a monthly social meet and photo walk, named Bristol Leica Social. The first meeting will be on April 1st, 2017, and on the first Saturday of every month thereafter. 
Each meet will start at the store, at 9am, (3 Alliance House, Baldwin Street, BS1 1SA) then divide into smaller groups for a photo walk around the centre, meeting at a café at 12 noon to compare images and, of course, discuss all things Leica.
For more information please contact LCE on 0117 929 1935. Please note that there are two branches of London Camera Exchange in Bristol. The Leica specialist Baldwin Street branch is near the Waterfront area of the city.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Six foot Leica for sale-$250 million (O.N.O.?)

No picture with this one as it's illustrated across two pages of  The Times (London) supplement today, 18.2.17.  Go out and buy a copy this morning.  At 924 Bel Air Road, Hollywood is a house with an enormous 'Leica' reproduction which could appear to be a bar or a piece of furniture,  However what is most interesting is the model used by the maker.  The body obviously has a battery cover from the M6/M7 but also a front slow speed dial. There is an angled rewind as in later M cameras but above all... the lens,  clearly marked f2.0 5cm Summar but the serial number is unclear (last made 1940) Very strange.  A rather nice house is included in the asking price.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Mystery Solved !

In my Blog dated 8th February I made reference to the unusual viewfinder used by Mr Herbert in the small photograph which I added.  I am pleased to say that I have traced what I think is the finder in a copy of Leica Illustrated Guide 11 by the famous James L. Lager published by Morgan and Morgan in 1978.( Page 125-first printing)

The finder is lacking in any number or Code Word but resembles a squashed plastic cup formed into a rectangular shape at the front.  The model illustrated has a cross wire and bead, possibly for aerial photography, but no reference is made to this part in a railway context and,  quite frankly, the addition of the wire looks rather a home made adaptation unworthy of Leitz.  It bears the usual Leitz trade mark and is engraved '5cm'. There are no optical parts.  It is shoe mounted and no doubt could be replicated in plastic card if one really thought it a good idea.

Given the rarity and the fact it was never marketed no doubt this finder came over from Germany after the War, I have never seen one in the U.K., beyond this photograph.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

More of C.C.B. Herbert and his Railway Photography

The next photograph comes from the results of the 1948 Ian Allan Photographic Competition where Mr Herbert was the Number one prizewinner.  As the premiere winner he had a page all to himself and the print stands up well to enlargement, with just a little interference from the coarse screen used. It  must be said that the locomotive was no doubt moving slowly from rest but, for me, the best part is the smoke and steam rising above.

I was fortunate  to get hold of a copy of My best Railway Photographs. No.four,
 this contains a portrait of Mr Herbert at work.  Note the rather unusual viewfinder which he later describes as  designed for the German Air Force in the War.  I am unable to find anything similar in the usual reference books.It contained no lenses at all, and explains that he  normally used a f3.5Elmar or a f2  Summitar.This latter lens was the favourite 'top' lens of the period offering excellent performance without the drawbacks of some of the exotic offerings of the day.  As a favourite film -around 1948- he used Agfa Isopan F in good light and HP3 if required,

Friday, 3 February 2017

A Leica Postal Portfolios 'Great'-C C B Herbert.

Researching the history of Circle 6 one name, above all others, comes up again and again concerning the all too short pre-Second World War period of activity. That name is C.C.B.Herbert.

We are fortunate to have been given a number of memories of Mr Herbert from friends still with us. Only in recent weeks have I been told of his generosity toward younger members and families when arranging meetings in London at the Mandeville and the Bonnington Hotels. Mr Herbert was a founder member and first Secretary of Circle 1. He was active as President until his death in 1987, having held office in every possible capacity for 51 years!

I was able to trace a few quotations from his own writing which survive, most striking is this quote concerning his railway career-

"I was probably destined to be interested in railways from the day I was born", he said in 1984. He came from a line of railway men, his great grandfather was a senior official of the South Eastern Railway, two great uncles were Directors of the Cambrian Railway and Great North of Scotland Railway, and his father worked for the Railway side of  the London Stock Exchange."

I calculate he was born about 1905- however confirmation would be welcome as some sources differ considerably. Though his enthusiasm for photographing engines began in 1919 with the gift of a roll film camera which we shall refer to later in connection with his books. His photographic career commenced when he joined the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1925 as a trainee in the  Engineering Department at Kings Cross. Happily for us all this coincided with the launch of the Leica camera. He bought a 35mm Leica camera, one of the first models available at that time and set out to photograph the 'Pacifics' and 'Atlantics' at work. Herbert's work is typical of Leica in that most of his photographs were taken handheld and of moving subjects, in this case the train. In his career, it is clear that by the mid 1930's he was well established and respected in Railway Professional Societies as shown by his paper delivered at a meeting of the Permanent Way Society in November 1937. This included the phrase (immortal in the company of some) ”As the chimneys of locomotives have become shorter with the passing of time, rails have grown longer”

Herbert and his camera were rarely parted while he was at work and in 1947 he wrote that many of his photographs were taken "during opportunities that I seized, some while working on the line, standing back at the look-out man's whistle to let an express pass, some during train journeys, and a lot round about Kings Cross". This much is clear from his published work which often shows fast moving trains from a viewpoint which can only have been achieved by standing in the opposite tracks!  This unique opportunity gave him an undoubted advantage over larger format workers still in the mould of the railway company plate users of the past.  Film, other than 35mm, was almost non-existent for some years during and after the War.  We have only a few clues as to his film of choice but by 1947 he was using the high speed H.P.3.  35mm film was produced in profusion for aircraft use so as a miniature specialist he could continue and always favoured the Leica because he believed its versatility enabled him to take instant shots. His photographs have the 'photojournalist' style which lightweight 35mm cameras made possible.  A few samples are available on Web sites including Getty Images and his railway books (pub; Ian Allen) are available second hand. His approach to his work was to produce pictures "giving a fine impression of a railway scene with the 'atmosphere' and feeling of speed" in the Leica manner and in this he succeeded.

He was a member of The Railway Photographic Society, the Leica Historical Society and was President of Leica Postal Portfolios for 20 years, after serving as Secretary, Circle Secretary, Treasurer, Chairman and President -performing some of these roles concurrently! He also edited the Magazine!  Herbert gave his name to a fine trophy which is still competed for in the 'Leica Society' as the two Leica groups have been known since amalgamation a few years ago. In the early days he was a keen recruiter of members to the Circles even to the extent of inviting any user of 35mm to his first Leica Treasure Hunt in London(see last Blog) to try to win them over. In 1965 he was made a Life Member.

The Herbert Collection consists of 35mm film negatives, and some 6x9 film negatives, showing the LNER, at work around London with some SR and GWR photos, mainly at London stations. They are taken in the normal course of a day's duty and include German bomb damage during the Second World War. However, Herbert did not provide captions for much of his work. A small proportion have been printed but the size of his legacy of work means that some 2600 prints still exist but are difficult to match with the negatives.

Still in existence are a number of prints with 'crit sheets' prepared for Leica and other circles, a practice that continues to this day.

I have been fortunate to acquire several of the small books, almost booklets put out by Ian Allan in the early days of their rail publishing and no doubt aimed at young enthusiasts and priced accordingly. Here are several pictures of some relevance to Leica users with the authors own comments.

His books were small -in fact 4.5" x 7"

in format to accord with post -war economy but are produced on quality paper and, if grain is present, this is printed sharply. A number of combined books appeared as reprints in later years but not under his name.

The first print is of a scene that some might regard as defective but which has a touch of Turner in the blurred locomotive at speed. (The scan is enlarged)

This is also an example of the rare technical data which is missing from other photographs. Note the thoroughly standard processing, one can hardly get more standard  than HP3 in D76!

From the same book is this shot of Mallard leaving Waterloo in the 1948 Locomotive Exchanges in Leica 3:2 format.

Note: Click on prints for enlarged view

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A rather unusual activity in London- 1938

In April 1938 a rather special event took place in London, In fact, the second celebration of a 'rather unusual event' for L.P.P. circles.Already Club activities of a far from solitary nature had suggested that this was a group of Print Circles where activity took place on both the home postal basis and as a parallel activity there were group meetings, at that time often in and around London. In retrospect these latter meeting seem to have taken place at a fairly frantic pace in the few years prior to the closure of the Circles during WW11.

The event I am highlighting today was organised by none other than C.C.B. Herbert the then Secretary of Circle 1( Later to achieve senior posts in the Circles and become Chairman/President)) who had proposed a treasure hunt in Central London in the April edition of Miniature Camera Magazine. About 40 Leica users gathered at Nelson's Column on Sunday April 24th to scour the West End for pictures taken in three groups- Named subjects, Titles and, lastly, objects, later producing prints from the negatives. Just to keep all above board the last shot on the roll-limited to a 36 exposure film- was a communal photo shoot of the date board on the gate of St Georges Hospital! The judge was Percy W. Harris and the day was voted a success. The contemporary press report below reveals an atmosphere which is rather dated, but it was almost 80 years ago. In other places are recorded such delights as a joint walk in London on Saturday afternoon and even a night photography session planned to last all night with a break to allow those leaving to catch the last trains!

I am delighted to detect a movement toward such joint activities in the past few years, even if conducted at 'decent' hours. Quite apart from the generous hospitality extended by Leica at Bruton Place and Annual weekends there have been informal groups meeting for 'days out' in the provinces and Circles have not hesitated to join up for quarterly lunches in the Country and for group visits. One concludes that the only solitary activity in Postal Circles is dealing with the circulating folios.

I cannot close without noting that the page filler on Mimosa film at the end of the article is also by Mr Herbert whose contribution in those days, and for some 30 years as President in post war days was tremendous for 51 years in all.

At the time of writing(2017) the L.N.E.R. Railway Society are cataloging the rail archive of negatives by C.C.B.Herbert. This amounts to some 16000 negatives and 2600 prints.