Cameras and rockets

I should have been born a millionaire. (smile) Did I ever tell
you about my collection of old Graflexes? I had a 5 x 7, a 4 x 5
Super D, and I used to use an 8 x 10 belonging to the studio I worked
for to shoot prize cattle. The mirror was so heavy, I had to brace
the thing against my hip so the camera wouldn't twist when the pushed
the shutter lever.

And then there was the Speed Graphic I destroyed one afternoon
while photographing a Nike SAM firing. The things disappeared in less
than two seconds, they were so fast, so I glued aluminum foil
reduced slot to the focal plane shutter, blackened it with soot
from a candle, and wound up the spring all the way. I tested it by
trial exposures, and figured it was giving me about a 10,000th of a

Then I ran a string under the Nike, so the rocket blast would cut the
string, releasing a drop rock which would fall and pull down the
shutter lever. That focal plane shutter did't have a little bitty
shutter release, it had a flat piece of metal about two inches long
and half an inch wide, so I was able to tie a string to it so the
rock could pull it down. None of that miniaturization they go for
now. Those cameras were big. To stabilize the camera, I put it on
a heavy TV tripod and sandbagged it.

Then I got in the pit and waited. The rocket took off, perforated the
camera with little rocks, and totally ruined it, but the sheet of
film survived and I got my shot. Clear and crisp, even though the top
film speed we had was only 100 ASA (same speed in ISO), and I had to
push the heck out of it in the developer to get it up to 800 ASA so
I could shoot at f4.5, the biggest aperture the lens had. The image
showed a fuel leak coming out of the booster stage that gave the
Army the clue to why they kept blowing up, so they didn't say
anything about the shredded camera.