Many visitors and Loch Ness enthusiasts still pin their hopes on surface photography as a means of conducting research into surface anomalies. One sad fact of photographic life is that, left to their own devices, camera specifications get worse with the passage of time. An amateur photographer in the 1930's would possibly have had a quarter plate camera producing negatives around 4 inches by 3 inches, but by the 1950's an "8 on 120" roll film camera made negatives only 3"x2". 35 mm cameras became popular in the 1960's, giving negatives 1.5" x 1" followed soon after by 110 film giving negatives about 3/8" x 1/2". Lenses in general use have not changed for the better since the 1940's, and in many cases manufacturers are now selling "bottle" they would have been ashamed of 50 years ago.
In the earlier investigations it was thought that the elusive quarry
would be better captured with the aid of long focus lenses, and lenses
with focal lengths of up to 36" (915 mm) and even 2000 mm were used both
on still and on cine cameras. The headquarters camera at the Loch Ness
Investigation headquarters was nearly always a 36" lens model. These lenses
were readily available on the surplus market having been used in Williamson
aircraft reconnaissance cameras, where they covered 9" square negatives!
Photo by Dick Raynor, Copyright 1970, 2000.
In 1969 I had made a 35 mm Newman Sinclair motion picture camera with a 19" ( 480 mm) f3.8 lens, and a 35 mm still camera with a 36" (915 mm) Wray lens for the Loch Morar Survey. These were used on the Survey in 1970, and have been hired intermittently since. In due course, I hope to make more details of these earlier forays available, as they are excellent examples of amateurs working with establishment zoologists in the field.
Bracora Camera Site, Loch Morar, 1970
One happy result of the venture into cinematography
by amateurs short of cash was their reluctance to fire off the cameras
unless they were fairly confident that they could not recognise the object
in their sights. 35 mm cine cameras use 90 feet of film per minute, and
this costs, at today's prices, around £100 per minute. For the price
of a magazine of film, we could buy excellent binoculars! So we got careful.
We used binoculars to examine the disturbances briefly but decisively.
The result of this was that in the early 1970's we were able to identify
more and more disturbances in terms of ordinary phenomena. To the public
we may have seemed like inattentive incompetents, when they were seeing
"monsters" here there and everywhere, and we were not. The reality was,
of course, that with our superior optics, our "barrage of optical artillery"
as Tim Dinsdale described it, we were recognising as ordinary objects which
the others were not resolving, and so not recognising, at all. This was
milestone along the road to the present position, where anything not recognised
automatically "defaults" to being Nessie. The more
deficient your eyesight, equipment and common-sense, the more "successful"
you are! This does not deter the serious investigator.
Throughout the photography the target boat was directed by radio, and its range was measured with accuracy using a Barr & Stroud FT37 80cm base Optical Rangefinder.
The above image is a single frame from an experimental film taken by Richard Carter with a 16 mm Bolex cine camera fitted with a 135 mm lens. It shows a typical anglers boat crossing the loch towards the far shore, which is about one mile, or 1600 metres, from the camera. In most frames the object is not recognisable as a boat.
For comparison purposes, this is one frame from the film taken by Loch Ness Investigation Bureau member Dick Raynor in 1967 using a 35 mm cine camera fitted with a 17 inch (430 mm) lens. The range is again about one mile, but the combination of larger film format and longer focal length lens gives a different field of view. The "quality" of the 35 mm picture is visibly higher than that of the 16 mm picture, but neither is good enough to resolve the objects causing the disturbance, as the enlarged insets demonstrate. This would naturally suggest that even longer lenses should be employed, but experience indicates that with lenses beyond 1000 mm the combined extra requirements of increased camera stability and (usually) worse maximum aperture defeat the objectives. Poorer light transmission must be countered by faster film or longer exposures, both of which will reduce the detail in the image of a moving subject.
It now seems rather unlikely that long-range photographs will ever enable
us to recognise any unidentified animals, it is the inescapable conclusion
after 67 years of failure. Groups of small objects close together will
continue to be "seen" as one large object, perpetuating the "legends".
Only close range pictures will be of any value to science, and in such
a vast environment the most important factor governing success or failure
might simply be Chance.