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Remembered Today:

telephoto lenses on 1914 cameras


Moonraker
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At the National Archives the other day, I came across AIR1/798/204/4/1025 of June-July 1914, which contains a War Office offer to RFC airfields of posters permitting the public to photograph aeroplanes, but only from a distance of at least 40 yards and without telephoto lenses. Wiltshire-based army officers queried where these were to be displayed, pointing out that "it is quite impossible to state definitely when where [sic] an aircraft will be forced to land".

Included in the file is a letter from the War Office to Southern Command observing that "Mr Fuller, a photographer of Amesbury, has been selling picture postcards of government aircraft taken during the concentration of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing) at Netheravon. From the size of the photographs, they have either been taken from within 40 yards of the aircraft or with a telephoto lens."

The War Office added it was keen to establish quickly the principle of photography only at a distance.

I don't suppose many members of the public had telephoto lenses in those days, though they may have been part of the equipment of a professional photographer?

A sample poster was on the file. I'm not sure for how long copies would have lasted outside and where they would have been placed - the sample was quite large and would have dominated any village notice-board.

Of course, a few weeks later war was declared, and tighter controls on photography of military subjects were introduced.

"Mr Fuller" was T L Fuller, probably the best of the Wiltshire photographers; I emailed his grandson abojut this, who was delgihted with the snippet - and said his grand-dad didn't have a telephoto lens. (Nearly all the local postcards of this period showing aeroplanes in flight - often very low over Stonehenge - were contrived by taking a photo from Flight or a similar maagazine and superimposing it on a scenic card.)

Moonraker

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I think good quality camera equipment was expensive in 1914 - but of course those German spy chappies would have access to all that lovely Zeiss equipment. I think the principle of the telephoto lens was discovered very early in photography and , of course, used in aerial reconnaisance.

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As a former photography studio manager, the most common means to see more information [see farther] in a negative would be to place the negative in an enlarger and project the negative at 2X, 3X ... 10X to create a print enlargement.

This process has been known since at least 1870. This technique would also overcome the slower camera shutter speeds needed for the lower ASA/DIN/ISO film speeds for the period.

Whereas, most images would have been direct-contact prints I would expect many intelligence sections would have had negative-print enlargers in regular use by the middle of the war.

Having said this, I have not researched the use of photographic enlargers in the Great War and perhaps someone else has specific and referenced information.

Borden Battery

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I think good quality camera equipment was expensive in 1914 - but of course those German spy chappies would have access to all that lovely Zeiss equipment. I think the principle of the telephoto lens was discovered very early in photography and , of course, used in aerial reconnaisance.

Thanks to IanW and Borden Battery for the input. The War Office poster strikes me as a vain attempt by remote people in "head office" to deal with a local problem (very reminiscent of my time as a regional civil servant). The file gives the impression that the idea was to stop a local person photographing a plane that had had to land away from its aerodrome (ie almost anywhere in England) rather than "plane-spotting" on the airfield itself. As it happens, it's not possible to seem much of the operational part of Netheravon Airfield from public rights-of-way, but I would have thought notices prohibiting photography placed on the airfield perimeter would have been more effective.

Ironically, military attaches from many countries, including those about to become Britain's enemies, were invited to the concentration of RFC planes and personnel at Netheravon referred to in the file.

Moonraker

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