Chapter 8 - In the Darkroom
Excerpt from Tim
by Daniel A. Sheridan
German weapons and German cameras were in that darkroom. Dad gave each of us an old German camera to learn how to take photographs. Bill had the Agfa 120mm camera with the fold-out leather bellows while I had Dad’s pre-War Exakta 35mm. “This is considered to be the first SLR camera ever invented,” he explained. “SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex. Notice how Billy’s camera has the range-finder. He uses that to set his focus, but he is not looking through the camera lens. He is only getting an approximate idea of how the picture will come out.” He answered another question, “The side-ways 8 stands for infinity. Infinity is beyond the horizon… far as the eye can see… forever.”
He unscrewed the lens and demonstrated how the mirror dropped down, then clicked up when the shutter was released. “That sound you hear is the reflex mechanism bringing the mirror up and down after you take a picture. This mirror lets you sneak a peek and see exactly what the camera sees.”
I look downward to see through the viewfinder. Everything looked backwards like looking into a mirror. This was before the development of the pentaprism. This old camera did not have a built-in light meter. Dad would read off the shutter speed and aperture settings from his Konica camera.
Dad explained the term, camera obscura — room dark. “The ancient Greeks were the ones who discovered the principles of the camera obscura way back in 400 BC. Now the word, ‘camera’ means room and ‘obscura’ means dark. When light is projected through a pinhole, an image is projected on the wall.”
Looking at the inside of the Exakta, I find a miniature room painted black with a black curtain opening and closing, it’s a little darkroom, a little camera obscura.
This was the summer of 1977. In the autumn of that year, a TV show came on the air, James at 15, it was my favorite at the time. James had a red light bulb hanging in his darkroom as he developed prints. Then he would put on his down winter coat and go out on assignment with his SLR on the Freedom Trail in Boston taking photographs of the Old South Meeting House and the Paul Revere statue in the North End. On Halloween, in the auditorium, we all watched Johnny Tremain, a movie about an apprentice working in a silversmith shop in Boston, then it was off to the Crestwood Library to read that book by Esther Forbes, then later on, her other book, Paul Revere and The World He Lived In.
“This is cool, Dad… What is it?”
“It’s a hand-held light-meter. You set the film speed here, now you can choose from these corresponding f-stops and shutter speeds, say f-16 at 125 or f-11 at 250.”