Telephotography, especially applied to church architecture, was Ernest’s first love photographically and was the branch for which he was best known in his time. It was also the subject of the only book which he wrote single-handed – Elementary Telephotography (1901).
At the time telephotography was a strange and fascinating field which few tried their hand at. It was technically demanding and practitioners tended to have to make their own equipment, or at least adapt what was commercially available. The first important book on the subject was Thomas Dallmeyer’s Telephotography of 1899 – a much bigger work than Ernest’s, with a lot of theory as well as practical advice. Ernest’s slimmer volume was aimed at photographers who just wanted to get on and do it. During the period 1901 to 1921 when Cyril Lan-Davies’s Telephotography appeared, it was probably the most useful practical handbook in the field. It must have been printed in reasonable numbers, as copies still turn up regularly today
We have few pictures of his equipment, unfortunately. Two slides in the RPS collection, however, are worth seeing here. The first shows a setup just like that described in his 1898 article in “The Photogram”, with a tilting table and tilting back. This is his basic outfit of the time, and was probably used on his regular expeditions to French and Italian cathedrals around that time.
The second is described on the slide mount as a “sun camera” standing in the back garden of his house – Doneen, Algers Road, Loughton in Essex.
The site of his house has been positively identified by modern inspection by Chris Pond who says “The photo is definitely in the garden of Doneen (the bit which has had a 1970s house plonked on it). The house in the photo is Hartwell, which was occupied at the time by the splendidly-named Rev Thomas Toovey Hedges. The photo must have been taken between 1905 and 1909 when some houses were built next to Hartwell. Hartwell is still there, not much altered, though the angle of shot now has a large evergreen in it.”
The house (Doneen) was built 1903-1904 and he moved there when he married in 1904. The garden was presumably started then and seems to have grown a bit, say 2-3 years, so the picture is probably 1907-1909.
The wonderful object above shows considerable use of cardboard and string. On a large wooden tripod we see an assembly of square and round tubes lashed to a batten, propped on the crate at the bottom, with a sighting tube to align the whole to the sun, its target. Did he build this to photograph a solar eclipse? The only total eclipse of the sun around this period that he might reasonably have been able to visit was visible in northern Spain on August 30th 1905. The first total eclipse of his lifetime in Britain was April 8th 1921 (Northern Scotland) and then June 29th 1927 in northern England. So probably not, maybe he was after sunspots.
I have in my possession just a little of his original equipment. The large lens in the picture is his Dallmeyer 2B Patent Portrait lens, on the rear of which is attached a Dallmeyer No. 3 Compound Tele-photo adaptor (Patent Dec’r 1891). The portrait positive lens is a 7 inch f/3.1. The rack and pinion focusing mechanism would be used for normal focusing when the portrait lens is used on its own, but with the telephoto adaptor (a negative lens) on the back, it serves to vary the magnification, and movement of the camera front standard would be used to focus. Also in the picture is another adaptor to go on the rear, with a different negative lens. The positive lens has a full set of Waterhouse stops, with a matching serial number. The use of Waterhouse stops suggest a date for this lens a little earlier than EM’s book – in the back of the book the same positive lens is advertised but with iris diaphragm only.