Archive for July, 2010

Readers’ Requests… and a Trip to Newfoundland!

July 27, 2010

Dear Readers:

I have enjoyed your comments over the last year, and your encouragement has helped me to keep writing.  Each month, I have come up with ideas for posts based on my own technical questions, topics that are not addressed in a coherent manner on the Internet, the images that come my way, and my own quirky photographic adventures.

Now I’d like to hear from you about topics you’d like to see – it’s your turn to drive the ship!

I will be vacationing in rural Newfoundland August 3-18, 2010, and largely out of touch (except when I manage to park our RV outside a little local library that may have Wi-Fi).  I hope to come back with many wonderful images to share with you.  It will be a trip long awaited;  Janie’s family comes from the Gooseberry Islands, a remote island outport now long abandoned,

Newfoundland Fishing Village (from

and her grandfather was a Newfoundland doryman jigging for cod in his sou’wester in the 1920s.  We are in Montreal with our cousins, Uncle Tobe has been paired with “…was she Aunt Susan or Susanna…?”, the genealogical charts cover the kitchen table, and the family has been traced back to William Parsons from Dorset in 1768.  We’re set for an adventure!

When I get back, there will be more images to see , plus the occasional adventure and musing on the creative process.  In addition to my Montreal and Newfoundland adventures, I am planning a large section on shutters, both pneumatic and spring-driven, the completion of the restoration and history of the 3A Ansco (which I’ll be polishing on the kitchen table of our Newfie cousins) , and a posting on a fascinating Mexican photographer and inventor.

But this is your turn – see how many ideas you can come up with while I’m gone!

Montreal, Quebec

July 22, 2010


What do a 1920 Newfoundland dory and the engine on the Wright brother’s airplane have in common?

Hint: Google “Make-and-Break Engine.”

Coaker (Collected by MacEdward Leach)
See also: The Six Horse-Power Coaker (Arthur R. Scammell)

Ye fishermen free that go forth on the sea,
With engines of various makes;
This old jump-spark of mine I will take every time,
You can keep all your new makes-and-breaks.

She was easy on fuel but she kicked like a mule,
And the screws on the bedding were slack;
And we all swore that she’d rise from the floor,
And we feared that she’d never come back.

One evening last fall we went out to our trawl,
It looked like ’twas going to blow;
We turned to go in in the teeth of the wind,
With a three-handed dory in tow.

Tom hove up the wheel and he cursed a great deal,
He cranked till he found of his heart;
He tested the oil and examined the coil,
But the devil of it would she start.

‘Twas coming on night, with the seas feather white,
When up to us rowed a small skiff;
And a bedlamer boy with a cast in his eye,
Kindly offered to give us a lift.

The kid stepped on board with the air of a lord,
His movements unhurried and slow;
He noted the string and the window blind spring,
But he got the old Coaker to go.

Go, go, he makes that thing go,
How he does it I’m sure I don’t know;
We can race with the Clyde and keep her alongside,
When he coaxes that Coaker to go.

So we shipped on the kid, and I’m sure glad we did,
Now it’s seldom we ask for a tow;
He gets a full share which I think only fair,
For coaxing the Coaker to go.

Go, go, he makes that thing go,
How he does it I’m sure I don’t know;
We can race with the Clyde and keep her alongside,
When he coaxes that Coaker to go.

Emmons Make-and-Break Engine

Variant of The Six Horse-Power Coaker by Arthur R. Scammell (1940)

This variant sung by Eddy Primroy [1928-1999] of Pouch Cove, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive.

Originally published as The Six Horse-Power Coaker in Gerald S. Doyle’s Old-Time Songs and Poetry Of Newfoundland: Songs Of The People From The Days Of Our Forefathers (Second edition, p.74, 1940).

From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Bedlamer boy — a youth approaching manhood; applied rather contemptuously to young fellows between 16 and 20; derived from the French bête de la mer (beast of the sea) used to describe a half-grown seal.
Coaker — a gasoline-fueled engine used in fishing boats ca.1920, and named for Sir William Coaker, founder of the Fishermen’s Protective Union (FPU) in Newfoundland.


The Nap – An Exercise in Creative Cropping

July 3, 2010

The Nap

There are times when I’m creative because I’m creative, and there are times when I’m creative because I’m scrambling to fix an error or rescue an image.  This photograph is one of the latter cases, and I ended up being ripped away from my comfortable dependence on the Rule of Thirds.

The 1950 Ensign Selfix 16-20 is my primary street photography camera.  It is a superb little camera, hardly larger than a point-and-shoot, yet with the excellent Ross Xpres lens and a full range of shutter speeds.

I recently spent two wonderful afternoons wandering the streets of Seattle, and shot two rolls of film of street people and an itinerant street preacher with the Ensign.  Receiving my film scans two weeks later, I was dismayed to find misaligned images with space above the heads and feet cut off!  After many years of photography, I should be able to avoid cutting off feet!

A careful examination of the Ensign’s pop-up Albada viewfinder revealed it to be more sophisticated than I had realized.  Peering through the rear window, one sees the image, together with a superimposed pale inner frame which I had ignored, taking it to be a reflection of the eyepiece.  However, on examining the finder more carefully, it is clear that a white mask painted on the inner surface of the eyepiece is designed to reflect on the front finder

The Ensign Albada Viewfinder Mask

lens, forming the true frame for the image.  Research on Albada viewfinders indicates that this is how they work –  information that I should have known from the start (see References). These are the challenges in working with older cameras that make it rewarding – and frustrating!

Now that I had discovered how to use the finder, I was faced with the problem of two rolls of dramatic but misaligned images.  Some were past saving, but I began cropping in an effort to use the remaining images.  The sleeping street person was a problem; his

The Nap, Original Image

foot hit the edge of the frame, and he definitely could not be aligned according to the Rule of Thirds.  I decided to see if I could use the misalignment for dramatic effect.  I cropped from the top, removing the bus and as much of the upper extraneous detail as possible, while leaving in place as much of the empty space in the square as possible.  I then cropped from the left, removing the base of the trash bin, and leaving the unkempt sleeping figure surrounded by the empty space, the bases of trees and a solitary lamp post.  In this arrangement, the surrounding empty square emphasizes the isolation of the sleeping figure, and may be more effective than a traditionally-balanced image.


Oleson, R.A. “Looking Forward:  The Development of the Eye Level Viewfinder.”

Petrakla, P. “Petrakla Classic Camera Site: Albada Viewfinders.”  “How to Get the Best Results From an Albada Viewfinder.”