Posted 5 years ago
Here we are on the second day of 2015 and it’s getting cold here in Minnesota again ... so why not post another pre-1900 winter-themed stereoview.
As I noted in a previous post, most of us in the upper Midwest tundra think of creative ways to entertain ourselves. Back in 1886, the St. Paul Ice Carnival was created. The earliest years were shot by an intrepid photographer; HH. Bennett of Kilbourn City, WI. Here is another image by Bennett; however, this is an impressive nighttime shot.
This is stereoview #1556 entitled “Illumination of Third Street.” What impresses me is how Bennett was able to make a decent image at night. Trust me when I say that large format stereo photography is difficult even under good conditions and daylight. But after the sun goes down and it gets colder, unique challenges pop up. Given my experience and familiarity with large format B&W photography, I can say that Bennett faced several technical hurdles beyond worrying about how a slight breeze could blur the lanterns during a long exposure.
For instance, low temps reduce the sensitivity of photographic emulsion. And then there’s a nasty property of chemical based photography called ‘reciprocity failure’ (known in the 1860s and formally documented after 1900) that occurs when shooting very long exposures... I won’t get into details of how it affects the contrast / index curve and exposure (etc.), but it is a challenge even with contemporary non-digital equipment. I assume Bennett was a very experienced photographer that understood how to handle longer exposures to preserve nice detail in the darker areas of the image.
But in the end, he had a pretty good eye.
Also shown is an example of a camera from my collection that is capable of making these kinds of stereoviews.