Flash bulbs

(Response to thread about light bulbs)

Piffle. #25 bulbs? Peanuts, we used to call them. Mere childs' play
to have one of those go off in your hand. You want real pain, try a
#2 or #22. Same bulb by different manufacturers.

I had a #22 go off in MY hand when I was jamming it into a Heiland
flash gun on my state of the art Speed Graphic. That's about the size
of a 150 watt incandescent lamp bulb. It fried itself onto my hand
so I couldn't turn loose. Had to have a surgeon cut it out of my
hand. No novocaine, either. He didn't have any.

Ever see a Mazda #75? There was a box of them in the back of the lab,
left over from the old days. About the size of a ... uh ... hmmm ...
nothing around here that size. Well, they were pear shaped like just
about any other bulb, but about 7 inches high and maybe 3-1/2 to 4
inches in diameter at their equator. They didn't have that tungsten
wool in them ... instead they had sheets of tungsten foil suspended
between electrodes, like little hammocks. They were slow burning to
synchonize with focal plane shutters, and were used to illuminate
very large interiors, and even exteriors, sometimes.

When I was at White Sands in the early '50's they had me shooting
rocket firings with a Speed Graphic. That was the best the Army had.
Can you imagine? For combat duty, they took off our rangefinders so
and took away our light meters, so we wouldn't become dependent on
them. I can still make a decent exposure by just squinting at the
scene. The Speed Graphic was one of the most versatile cameras ever
invented, if you were willing to whittle on it a bit. The Army
couldn't figure out what was going wrong with their Nikes, and none
of the cameras had a fast enough shutter to get a clear shot of one.
They really scooted out of town fast ... totally out of sight in
about two seconds. You couldn't hit the shutter release fast enough,
so I strung a string across the launch pad so the rocket blast yanked
on it and tripped my shutter, and got some pretty good shots, but
lost a couple of cameras doing it. Had them sand bagged on heavy
wooden tripods, but the gravel would perforate them. I was in a
trench, ducking. Better the cameras than me. Well, anyway, one day I
opened up the back of my Speed Graphic, and over one of the focal
plane shutter slots, glued a piece of aluminum foil with a carefully
sliced and candle smoked slot cut in it ... something like a tenth of
a millimeter ... the smallest I had the tools to do ... which was an
exacto knife and a machinist's straight edge ... and then wound out
the shutter spring as tight as it would go.

I think I got somewhere between a 10,000th and a 15,000th of a second
exposure. Fastest film we had was Ansco Triple "S" Pan, which was
rated at 200 Weston ... about 320 on the ISO scale, I think.
Something like that, anyway. I pushed it as far as it would go in
D-76. Not a really fine grain developer, but one that gave the most
acutance. I had no way to measure the effective film speed or shutter
speeds I was getting, but I got a negative that showed smoke coming
out of a joint in the Nike, and that told the engineers why their
rockets were blowing up before they got to the targets.

Ah, those were the days.

Ever shoot without a lens? Like with a pinhole camera?