Ken Miner lines up his next shot of Fisgard Lighthouse on Sunday morning. Miner uses an early 20th century camera and ambrotype photography to create vintage images around Victoria. (Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff)

Photographer captures vintage shots of Fisgard Lighthouse

Colwood man uses ambrotype photography to create 19th century-look

As the photography world transitioned from film to digital, Colwood’s Ken Miner went in the opposite direction.

Miner felt that this simplified way of taking pictures eliminated the deeper connection he used to have with his photos.

“You lose that tactile nature of it. You don’t get to develop film. You don’t get to stand there with the chemistry … it’s the hands-on thing that I missed,” he said.

He found an even deeper connection with his work when he got into ambrotype photography, a multi-step, 1850s-era process.

The end result is a negative image on a glass plate which can then be viewed positively when placed on a black backing.

By staying true to the original chemistry, Miner creates vintage-looking shots that appear to have been taken a century ago. It’s the ultimate “Throwback Thursday.”

While the final product is undoubtedly cool, it’s the process that really makes Miner tick.

To get the perfect shot with his 1902 Century View camera, he must first coat a glass plate with a layer of collodion – a sticky, viscous substance made up of gun cotton and dissolved in ether. From there the plate goes into a silver nitrate bath.

“When it comes out it’s light sensitive so it goes into a holder that goes into the camera,” he said.

The plate has to be wet during exposure, which can last anywhere from five seconds to a minute or two.

“Once the exposure is made it’s back to the dark room to develop it,” he explained.

For Miner, his dark room happens to be in the back of his Chevy Express van.

Once developed, the image is no longer light sensitive and is then placed in a film fixer, before being placed in water.

On Sunday morning his van was parked roughly 100 metres from Fisgard Lighthouse as he took a series of shots, each resembling something you’d sooner find in a museum archive rather than a contemporary studio.

One of the four pictures will be given to Parks Canada.

“It’s a privilege to be able to maintain those locations so that they are like they were 150 years ago … a project like this, it’s kind of neat to put the two together,” said Sophie Lauro, Parks Canada promotions officer.

The historic lighthouse may have been the subject on this day, but Miner’s portfolio includes a range of shots, from portraits to antiques to old-time cars.

Sunday was his first attempt at capturing a historical site, and he said he was ultimately pleased with the results.

“I think it went great. I would love to do more of that. Actually, I would like to shoot as many lighthouses on the coast as I can. I think it’s really neat and fits the process really well,” he said.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

Ken Miner eyes a shot of the Fisgard Lighthouse with his early 20th century camera. Miner spent Sunday morning taking vintage, Ambrotype photographs of the lighthouse. (Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff)

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