Friday, November 15, 2013

Klondike Friday: Photography

The forth book in the Klondike Gold Rush series, Gold Web, will be released by Dundurn in December, 2013. In this book a photographer arrives in town to set up a business. Angus, being a keen and intelligent young lad, takes a job escorting her around town. Naturally I wanted to be able to describe the equipment and the process of taking a photograph in the day.

I contacted Jared Case at the George Eastman Museum of Photography in Rochester, NY. Jared arranged a tour of the facilities for me and a meeting with a couple of the experts on 19th century photography. It was a fascinating day.

One of the reasons the Klondike Gold Rush is so historically famous, is that it occurred at the beginning of the era of common photography. The camera and all it's equipment was becoming small enough and light enough that it could be taken outside of the studio to photograph people on the street or going about their business. By 1898 there was even a camera for hobbists. It was the Brownie, invented by the abovementioned Mr. Eastman. You took your pictures and mailed the entire camera to the Kodak offices. They developed it and sent back the pictures and a new camera.

Photography was still a clumsy business though, and it was likely my photographer would have used dry plates, rather than film. The dry plate had two sides, so one could snap two photographs before having to change plates. Light was a problem - and most pictures had to be taken in the sunlight or in a very well illuminated room. Otherwise, the photographer required a bowl of magnesium, lit to provide a sudden flash.

In the book, Angus is totally captivated by the new art of photography. What wonders it will show. Corporal Sterling thinks science has a place in the future of policing. Fiona, on the other hand, is most concerned about protecting her privacy. There are still people searching for her, you know.

Here are some pictures I took with my own camera at the museum.

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