Photography had been a hobby of mine since grammar school. I remember borrowing my mother’s Brownie Hawkeye camera for class field trips. In high school I was one of the school photographers working with a Speed Graphic camera; the kind you would see newspaper men using in vintage movies. Now I was about to learn the rest of the photography business. Leon S. had set up the lab to handle any photo contingency. Cameras ranged in size from the 9mm Minox, the famous spy camera, to the 8x10 inch Deardorff view camera. He had darkrooms set up to handle the processing of black and white and color negatives, slides, and prints. I soon learned all of these processes. Although we could process any photographic media, everything was done manually. Color film and print processing often meant working in totally darkness for more than an hour, moving baskets of prints or reels of film from tank to tank, while closely timing the processing steps by watching the glowing green hands of a darkroom clock. There was no room for error. Losing a roll of film to a processing mistake could mean destroying the critical evidence in a court case, or the historical documentation of a one-time national event at the White House. The experience of working in total darkness, where exact procedure and timing was critical, gave me a level of self-confidence not often experienced in typical office environments. I think everyone should try the darkroom “stress test.” We had a variety of cameras, in a range of formats. The Deardorff view camera used 8x10 inch sheet film and was one of our studio/portrait cameras. The Minox “spy camera”, only 3 1/4 inches long, had the capability of taking up to 36 images on a strip of 9.2mm film; about one-fourth the width of 35mm film. We started with Beseler 35mm, single-lens reflex cameras, or SLRs, and eventually moved up to motorized Nikons. For medium format cameras, we liked the Hasselblad and Rolleiflex. There were “old fashion” twin-reflex Leicas which, when carried on the streets of Washington, instantly gave one the persona of a savvy, European tourist. For motion picture work, we had the super 8mm Beaulieu and the 16mm Arriflex. Our lenses ranged from macro to fish-eye and wide angle. Telephoto lenses included some of the first mirror lenses as well as the Canon super telephoto, fondly referred to as Big Bertha. 
Nikkor reels were the bane of every new lab technician. In total darkness, roll film had to be removed from its cannister, trimmed with scissors, wound onto the reel, from the inside out; making sure the edges of the film slid smoothly into the coiled wire grooves; cut off from its plastic spindle with scissors (tearing the film off of its spindle could result in a static spark), and finally placed into the processing tank. Any wrinkling or bending of the film would result in partial or total loss of the images.
35MM Nikkor Film Processing Reel
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