On Wednesday 12 October club members were entertained and educated in equal measure by our very own Roger Gage.

He gave us a fascinating presentation on the lives and photographic achievements of “A Pair of Pioneers” – Eadweard Muybridge and Harold “Doc” Edgerton.

First Eadweard Muybridge, born Edward Muggeridge, 1830 to 1904.

Muybridge was born in Kingston upon Thames but emigrated to the USA at the age of 20 where he set up a bookselling business.  In 1830, as he journeyed back to England, he was involved in a stagecoach crash in Texas and suffered severe head injuries.  (These apparently caused a marked change in personality.)

It was while recuperating in Kingston upon Thames that Muybridge became a professional photographer.  He learned the wet-plate collodion process and in due course returned to the USA.

In 1866 using a “fly studio” (basically a mobile darkroom on a converted carriage) he photographed the Yosemite Valley.  The stunning pictures he took there, way before Ansel Adams, made him famous.

His mantra for landscape photography was simple.

  • Find the right view.
  • Find the right viewpoint.
  • Wait for the right light.

Some years later, he was asked to prove that when a horse galloped all four feet would at some point be off the ground simultaneously.  The inherent speed limitations of photography at that time meant his initial attempts were unsuccessful.  He therefore spent several years developing a suitable technique, and the necessary equipment such as faster shutters, for higher speed photography.

In 1878 Muybridge was able to take a sequential series of photographs of a horse galloping by using a battery of twelve cameras automatically triggered when the legs of the horse tripped wires connected to an electromagnetic circuit.  The pictures showed that all four feet were indeed off the ground simultaneously.   But this was not, as previously thought, when the horse’s legs were extended to the front and back.  It was when the horses’ legs were collected beneath its body.

Muybridge subsequently produced other sequences of people and animals in motion.

Some years later he was tried for murder after shooting dead his wife’s alleged lover!  He was acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide.

After Muybridge, Roger moved on to Harold “Doc” Edgerton, 1903 to 1990.

Egerton, born in Nebraska USA, was a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He used stroboscopes to study synchronous motors and was inspired to use these strobes, flashing many times a second, to photograph everyday objects.

In 1957, after many years trying, Egerton finally produced his famous colour picture of a perfect “milk drop coronet”.  And, using the same techniques or (sometimes) slower shutter speeds to produce multiple exposures, he also produced images of a bullet slicing through a playing card, balloons at various stages of bursting, water streaming from a tap, and other similarly rapidly moving subjects.

Egerton described this use of short duration electronic flash to photograph fast events as “making visible the invisible”.

Roger’s two pioneers lived at different times, were very different people, and developed different techniques.  But both these ground-braking techniques used a version of “stop motion” to enable movement that could not be followed by the naked eye to be explored through photography.

Roger is of course an experienced photographer and has used multi-flash strobes in his own photography.  His telling of these two stories was both entertaining and absorbing.  It was very much enjoyed by the assembled members.

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