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