Thursday, April 23, 2015

Photography Rant – Is It A Rant Or Just Some Observations?

Panasonic G6 with 45-175mm zoom


On my last holiday trips outside this country I was surprised to see so many people using cell phones to take photos. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, the world of technology is changing and changing very rapidly. I was also equally surprised to see so few people using cameras and most of what I saw were larger DSLRs (I am a mirrorless user myself). Some were even using their iPad which in and of itself is rather amusing to watch. Cell phones have virtually hosed the lower digital camera market and must be a blow to the bottom line of camera companies who saw much of their profit in these small entry level cameras go out the window in recent years. So, along comes the cell phone, the new Kodak Instamatic. 

If you are into a phone contract as most people are you might as well take advantage of as many features of the phone as you can and that includes taking photos and immediately posting them for all the world to see. Cell phones have operating systems (be they Android or iPhone) which allows the user to customize their photo before sending it and link it to many social network services. This is a great feature to have and certainly an advantage to those folks who have limited photographic abilities and are only interested in chronicling the moment. You can do a lot with a cell phone camera though anyone will tell you that as a serious photography tool the cell phone has its limitations. But that matters not to the masses. 

Do people archive their photos anymore? With Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. there is really no point anymore in archiving photos since they are instantly available on any social media site one posts to and simple to retrieve. I have close to 70,000 photos on my home computer with a double backup system to protect my digital investment. I refuse to rely on a Cloud service or any other sites to store my entire collection though I do store some resized photos on services such as Dropbox. At 620GB worth of photos, storage costs would also be high. 

I believe that many people who take pictures do not even bother to preserve their photos in any organized fashion. Indeed when the phone exceeds its capacity to take more photos they are simply deleted with hardly any thought given to keeping them. A serious culling exercise to be sure! A product of our disposable society? Perhaps!

I remember a time when people at the office would go on vacation to some exotic location, come back with reams of printed photos to show their colleagues. When was the last time you saw that? Typically, these days, someone will pass you their phone, smile and say, isn’t this a great shot or here we are at the beach or some such thing. The photo print services must also be hurting as fewer people are printing out their photos.

I am not a landscape or a portrait photographer although I have dabbled in both. I use a camera to chronicle my life and to preserve memories of where I have been and what I have done and to support my hobbies. Quite often I will take hundreds of photos on trips that I have been on. Indeed, I carry a camera with me at all times. Anyone who has a cell phone will argue the same. I like street life, unusual things, architecture and moments in time and recently I have become interested in video. Once I return home I organize my photos into categories and store them on my computer. Many a time I will go back to those photos to revisit a memory or confirm a detail. Some, a very few in fact, are printed off on my home printer, framed and displayed in my home or my office. I have a 15 second search rule. If I cannot find a particular photo on my computer within 15 seconds it is in the wrong place. I am that organized!

So where are we with photography these days? As consumers we consume things and throw them away. Photography is the new throwaway “art”. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. We all select our path in life and many people choose to live in the moment and that is fine. I am not one of those people and believe that memories are important and shape us as individuals. That is my approach to photography. 

Again, where are we headed? For those few of us who want to continue to take pictures in a serious way technology is progressing to the point where the camera of the future will in many ways mimic the cell phone. I see a day, and it may be here already, where cameras will have an operating system much like our home computers and we will do with the camera many things we already do with the cell phone today. Rather than a revolution I would call it an evolution and it is inevitable I think.

I took my first digital photos in 1999 with my trusted Fuji Finepix 1300 (later stolen), have a couple of good digital mirrorless cameras today and will continue to take photos well into the future.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mantel Clock by Ingersoll-Waterbury

Ingersoll-Waterbury mantel clock
 I picked up this Ingersoll-Waterbury two-train mantel clock this week The seller probably did not pay much for it, nor did I.

The clock says that it was made in Canada but as is typical of clocks sold in Canada before and during the Second World War the movements were made in the US, assembled and shipped to Canada to be installed in cases that were sold as "made in Canada". This, I presume, was to avoid import tariff's. Other clock companies like Seth Thomas did exactly that. As far as I know from my research, the only clock company that made the movements and built their own cases was Arthur Pequegnat. It is no wonder that Pequegnat clocks command much higher prices today. A similar two train Arthur Pequegnat mantel clock would typically sell for about $450.00CDN.
Two train movement, time and strike with coiled gong
 Back to the Ingersoll-Waterbury mantel clock. It was built in 1943 (the movement was probably made before 1941, however - see below) and reflects the style of the period.

It has a pendulum and standard escarpment. There is a small hole in the front for adjusting the speed of the clock but the key does not fit the hole leading me to believe that the key is not original. A winding key usually has a little box wrench on the other end for adjusting the speed.

I have other keys that might just fit. I have been bench-testing the clock for 12 hours now and it appears to be gaining about 5 minutes during that time. Curiously the label says  that the pendulum is adjustable (it is not) but after looking at the label a second time I realized that it is likely the same label they put on a wide variety of clocks to save on printing costs.
Swinging front panel
 The swinging front panel door is something I have not seen before and unique. Seems that after a lot of opening and closing the hinges would loosen and guess what, they were loose.
Original hands or added later?
Upon first inspection I thought that the hands were not original. They look like something from an older era. Closer inspection as well as a search on the net reveals that indeed they are original. The hands on mine look like they have been repainted but the original colour was not that different. I think the paint simply fell off. In another clock I saw during my net search the hands were all white whereas on mine the tips are black. As well as winding the clock each week the owner would also adjust the time, hence the wear and tear on the paint. I plan to address that later today.

The case is in decent shape. The veneers on either side of the back panel are splitting but a clamp and carpenter's glue will fix that. Typically in clocks of this age there are pieces missing from the veneer, after all the manufacturer did not go to any great expense to build these things.

A little history. In 1922, the Waterbury Clock Company purchased the Ingersoll operation whose business had begun to decline after 1910 and had gone bankrupt two years previously due to poor management. Waterbury's operation was particularly hard hit by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

By 1932, their huge factory complex was almost idle. They avoided bankruptcy, but the firm was reorganized as the Ingersoll-Waterbury Company with investors raising half a million dollars in new capital. During this period the popular "Mickey Mouse" character watch was made and electric clocks were added to the line thereby reviving the company.

After America entered World War II, the Ingersoll-Waterbury Company switched almost 100% to manufacturing war products. In 1942, the operation was purchased by a group of Norwegian investors and a new factory was built at Middlebury, CT. In 1944, the firm became known as United States Time Corporation and introduced the popular "Timex" watch shortly after the war. In November, 1969, U.S. Time was succeeded by Timex Corporation, which continues business at Middlebury, CT. to this day. Ingersoll-Waterbury are therefore known more for their watch production than the production of clocks.

The Waterbury name has been around since 1857, however.

I hereby present my newly acquired Ingersoll-Waterbury time and strike mantel clock.