Urban Legends and Photography

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by kevin_bourque, Mar 17, 2003.

  1. Hi everyone –
    I just got through reading a very entertaining book on urban legends,
    you know, the kind of story you hear from a friend of a friend
    (FOAF). They’re usually at least slightly plausible, but the source
    is always impossible to track down. An example would be the business
    traveler who lets a good looking stranger buy him a drink, and then
    wakes up in his hotel with his kidneys missing. They’ve
    been “harvested” by a ring of organ thieves that sell to wealthy
    recipients. This one made the rounds on email few years ago and still
    turns up from time to time.

    I wonder how much of what we think we know falls into the same
    category. Because it’s a difficult and specialized art, photography
    tends to generate a great deal of voodoo and hearsay (kind of like
    high-end audio). Stuff gets repeated over and over (especially on the
    internet) and we begin to take it as gospel. Maybe it’s true and
    maybe it’s not.

    Here’s one: everyone knows that today’s film and paper contain much
    less silver than they used to. That’s how the great printers from the
    middle part of the century got such rich blacks in their prints.
    Sounds reasonable, but is it true? Anyone ever seen this documented,
    or had direct experience with photographic manufacturing over the

    So, everyone chime in with your own favorite photographic urban
    legend. Maybe we can lay a few to rest.

    By the way, if you buy chicken at KFC and there’s a beak in it,
    they’ll give you free chicken for the rest of your life. It happened
    to my cousin.
  2. Kevin...Interesting post...that same thing happen to my cousin too...are we related?
  3. How about the famous Campbells Soup commercial photo legend. Marbles were put in the soup to make all the chunky goodies riise to the top thereby making the soup more appetizing.
  4. Here's another: Edward Weston's Parkinsons disease was caused by exposure to pyro.
  5. "By the way, if you buy chicken at KFC and there’s a beak in it,
    they’ll give you free chicken for the rest of your life. It happened
    to my cousin."

    Since when did cats have beaks? (now go watch Gummo...)
  6. Legal urban legend: It is illegal to take photographs of Superfund sites, bridges, post offices, homes, famous buildings, crimes, arrests, children, schools, industrial facilities and trademarks (except possibly for Smokey the Bear).
  7. Bert,

    What happened with that "it's illegal" to photograph power stations, bus stations and railway stations thing. Students getting arrested, people being told it's under the 1947 National Security Act or somesuch...?
  8. Urban legend: You can tell a lot about the size of a man's, ahem, "zoom lens" by the size of his tripod. Inversely, that is.
  9. How about "Deardorffs are made from recycled mahogany from the back bars of saloons that were closed down during prohibition" and that "Deardorff made a tripod with bayonets instead of spikes for marine combat photographers in the island hopping campaign across the pacific during WW2" and that a "used filmholder bought on ebay had a sheet of exposed film in it that was developed by the new owner and it was a picture of a) Jimmy Hoffa b) Elvis with a calender from 1999 in the background---clear as day because it was shot on 8x10! c) Pamela Anderson d) a sniper on a grassy knoll, e) Ted Kennedy nude with Marilyn Monroe, f) Ted Kennedy nude with Bobby Kennedy's Newfoundland, g) J. Edgar Hoover in drag, h) a Giant Rabbit named Harvey, or i) ???
  10. Tim, I think Bert has got it right. Last week I was right in front of the Federal Courthouse here with my 4X5 and tripod and no one said a word to me. Walked back and forth across a very busy street, moved the camera 3-4 times. No one said a word. Right by the front door, right there in all the crash barriers. No one asked a single question. Heck, no one even looked at me hard. (they did dodge a bit when they realized they were walking in front of a camera) I've used my camera in airports several times since 9/11 and never been questioned. (damn, they do always make me take my shoes off after I ask for a hand check of my film though)

    Unless I hear first hand from someone I discount these "they harassed me/my buddy for having a camera in the train station" stories as urban legends. Last one I recall posted here was by a photo.net member who claimed to have been bothered by the police -twice- yet when I asked him the particulars I got no response.
  11. Bert was part of a discussion of this on another list - I don't know what became of it:

    "At the faculty meeting at Bryn Mawr College on 12 Feb 2003, we were informed
    that a student at Haverford (our affiliated College) was arrested over the
    weekend when he was trying to do his homework assignment in Philadelphia.
    As part of the Cities project, he was taking photographs of SEPTA (our
    regional transit authority) facilities when he was arrested, detained for a
    few hours, and eventually released. Haverford administration is working to
    try to ensure that this event not be a part of the student's permanent
    police record. Apparently taking photographs at transit facilities is
    cause for arrest during "Code Orange" alert, the authorities explained.
    Faculty were advised to be careful about assigning "field trip" projects
    during such alerts."

    NOT and urban myth

    Somewhere I had a link to a newspaper story about it, but don't know the outcome.

    This was one of the responses - I was wondering if this part was an urban myth?

    "The National Security Act of 1947(? date could
    be wrong but it's close!) made it illegal to photograph in airports, train
    stations, bus stations, shipping terminals, etc. That it's being enforced
    in post-9/11 America where it once wasn't is no surprise to me."
  12. f8 @ 1/60 and f5.6 @ 1/125 will create negatives of the same density.
  13. I believe Richard Henry, in his book "Controls in Black and White Photography," dispelled the notion that silver content has anything to do with the richness of the blacks or anything else in printing paper. He dispelled a variety of other myths in that book by subjecting them to genuine scientific testing. The book is out of print now but if you can find a used copy at a reasonable price it's well worth the money for anyone interested in black and white photography.
  14. Suggestions and personal favorites: 1. Super X was the greatest film ever made, better than anything you can get today 2. Using a lens which isn't multicoated will cost you a grade of paper 3. Any lens with the name Goertz on it is supernaturally sharp, much better than anything you can get today 4. Anything you can think up re: pyro 5. Kodak could care less about ____________, they're going to _______ to save 2 cents (And I'm going to stop using Tri-X after 30 years because I heard from somebody before the film hit the market that I might have to change my development time or dilution) 6. You can't make a sharp enlargement with a 4 element enlarging lens 7. The right filter selection really makes the picture 8. You can't handhold 4X5's 9. Bigger prints are better, that's why you use bigger film 10. The Zone system gives you negatives you can usually print straight
  15. Tim,
    The fact that you can be harassed, questioned, and even taken into custody for taking photographs is not an urban legend. Lots of photographers are dealing with this issue. The assertion that it is illegal to take photographs of the subjects listed in the previous post is an urban legend.
    Some information about the student arrested for taking a photograph of a bus station can be found at City Paper. I don’t know if the student is seeking damages although a photographer arrested last summer by the Philadelphia police for taking photographs of a refinery settled his case for $2500.
  16. No this is not an urban legend. Here in australia we have a company that sell correctly weighted rocks for putting in the ballast bag that you hang from your tripod to stabilise it with LF cameras in strong winds. You only have to specify what the wind strength will be you expect to be experiencing, the height of your tripod above ground level, the weight of tripod, the weight of the load, and the fulcrum distance the camera load will be above ground level and you can buy the perfect weighted rock. It is handy if you also specify the size of the bag you will be hanging from the tripod so you can get the correct density of rock: heavier densities will give a correspondingly smaller rock so you can be usre it will fit the bag. For a special order item you can specify any particular color you want too. You may need to buy more than one rock if you expect different wind speeds or tripod heights. If you want to buy some please email me the details as listed above and I can advise rock and freight costs. If you have any special color requirement please advise.


    p.s. I have just completed a three month application to our local government train organisation getting a permit to shoot (photographs of course) on their train property.
  17. That digital is better than film....
  18. Urban legend; that tri-X came out in 1954.<BR><BR>It is in my Kodak 1946 databook in sheet film.
  19. Taking photos at the Super Bowl (from Section Nosebleed, Row 99, Seat 200) will turn out best if you remember to use the flash on your disposable camera.
  20. That you can make enough serious coin making LF art prints to a) pay for the film, b) pay for the camera c) pay for a lifestyle that actually allows you to spend money on LF gear :)
  21. I dont know if this is urban myth or fishing story...either way...

    My 35 mm negative developed in___________enlarged to 16x20 looks exactly like a 16x20 contact print.
  22. Everything Dagor 77 claims in his Ebay ads is verifiable. There are no prevarications or other exaggertions in his ads. Indeed, or any other Ebay ads either. Especially mine.

    OK here's a favorite; There is no gains to be made in LF because a 35mm camera can resolve 160 line pairs, a medium format camera can resolve 80 and LF cameras can only resolve 40. So it all evens out.

    Or how about: Kodak B/W films have fine grain.
  23. Re Taking photos at the Super Bowl (from Section Nosebleed, Row 99, Seat 200) will turn out best if you remember to use the flash on your disposable camera

    The old instamatics of the 1960's were not disposables; BUT they did have a longer exposure time when a flashcube was in place. My Kodak Instamatic 104 manual says to use an expired flashcube to get a longer exposure; this was in 1965. The shutter speed is 1/90 without the flashcube; and 1/40 with a flashcube in place. Glueing a LARGE weight on a dead flashcube adds alot of mass moment of inertia; which can really slow the shutter; IF the weight is well balanced. OK I'm giving away some cool ancient secrets! The lens is a 43mm F11; it needs a longer speed in dimmer light.

    The disposables may or may not have longer shutter speeds when a flash is used; probably not. The longer 1/40 sec speed on the flash cube cameras was to grab alot of the flash cubes light.
  24. Not exactly urban legends, but in a similar vien: “I have nothing but the sharpest lenses that money can buy, because as everyone knows, owning them is a sure path to success”…… Not only that, “due to my superior powers of observation and way above average bargaining skills they all came into my possession at virtually no expense”……or: “My wife has the deepest respect and the highest regard for all of the hours, days, months, and dollars spent in this higher calling sometimes referred to as fine art photography
  25. My personal favorite photographic urban legend: that the stops on modern packet films won't work with the old Polaroid #500 holder. While modern Polaroid films have this problem, the Quickloads and Readyloads I have tried in my #500 work pretty well.
  26. ...A Deardorff is a babe magnet...
  27. ..... that "shooting digital is so much cheaper than shooting film"....... and by mostly the
    same people........ "the prints made from my EPSON (always newest model) super duper
    printer are 'better' than any 'regular' prints" (oh, and cheaper, too).....
  28. Instamatics came with an owner's manual AND two shutter speeds??

    So much for those myths!
  29. Henry , if you took the time to read all the threads of that post
    about the photographer's bill of rights , you would have noticed
    that i did explain some of the details .
    Furthermore , although it was in the years when i would inhale
    an occasional " sigarette" to prevent glaucoma , ,what
    happened to me wasn't the product of my distorted imagination
  30. Hey! I thought this thread was "photographic" urban legends.

    Here's the one I heard long ago.

    One day, towards twilight, St. Ansel was out for a drive near Hernandez, New Mexico. Upon seeing the beautiful moon light peeking in and out of the clouds over the town, St. A. A. stopped his station wagon and set up his camera. Being the absent minded professor that he was, he had forgotten to bring along his light meter. So he guessed. And guessed wrong. His negs were dramatically over exposed yielding images so thin that trucks would have no trouble driving through.

    But, of course, the print was excellent.

    Any of you silverbacks there with him at the time?
  31. Henry must be another urban legend....seems he is not around here...
  32. Tim, ...Y...you...mean a Deardorff in NOT a babe magnet?? OH THE HUMANITY!
  33. " Moonrise over Hernandez." <P>
    The "Moonrise" negative really, really sucks . i've seen it, and it is at least two stops underexposed and everyone who ever worked for Adams says it was a bitch to print, usually taking two days to get an acceptable print. If you look at several prints side by side (I have) there are significant variations from print to print , especially if yu lookat prints made at different times fro mthe 1940s through the 1970s: the earlier prints are lighter in tone and as Adams got older the skies were printed in with a heavier and heavier hand to great a more dramatic effect. <P>And no the print is not a darkroom composite.<P>Sorry to burst your bubble.
  34. "The "Moonrise" negative really, really sucks . i've seen it, and it is at least two stops underexposed and everyone who ever worked for Adams says it was a bitch to print, usually taking two days to get an acceptable print. If you look at several prints side by side (I have) there are significant variations from print to print"

    If Ansel was around today he'd have made a digital master, then he wouldn'ty have had to worry about it...
  35. And the value of a print would go from $XXX,000.00 to $4.00
  36. So what did they sell for at the time?

    I'm sure, if he were around today, St. Ansel would be very much into digital, especially printing...
  37. A Century Universal has got to be a babe magnet! Edward Weston had one!
  38. that you're not a real photographer unless you have images uploaded on photo.net
  39. I don't know why you people bother lugging those big cameras around.
    You know that you can enlarge 35mm as big as you like without any
    noticable loss in sharpness as long as you keep backing up to the...

    'proper viewing distance'.
  40. " ...A Deardorff is a babe magnet... "

    They aren't?!?!? I still hope to get one SOME day, guess I just need a different excuse ;)
  41. "Henry must be another urban legend....seems he is not around here..."
    Wow! I finally made it, a legend at last.

    ; >)
  42. I'm sure Mrs. Deardorff must have thought Laban was a "babe magnet" ;<)
  43. That when it comes to prints, bigger is better.
  44. I'm glad you only limited it to prints...
  45. Thanks Ellis. Another near myth debunked.

    BTW - Everyone knows that the true "Babe Magnet" is a 4x5 Crown Graphic. But you gotta wear the hat with a PRESS card in the hat band.
    NOT a myth.

    Oh, myth.

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