My Largest Print: An 80x90 cm Photographic Print


One day, my boyfriend got me a huge old aerial photo. Here's the story behind it.

One day, my guy came home with a large cardboard tube containing a photograph. My mouth fell open: it was 80 × 90cm. And not just printed on a laserprinter, no, this was an actual photographic print, on glossy thick photo paper. Awesome, right?

Some details of the print. VERY glossy paper, so the pictures are a bit reflective I’m afraid. The print is rather too big for my scanner…

He’d gotten it from his office, when they were cleaning out the proverbial attic. It came from the Topographical Service, the Dutch cadastre, and originally was used for surveying and map making. It’s the perfect blend between my photography hobby and my boyfriend’s map collecting hobby.

It was made with an big aerial camera from a small aircraft. I’ve seen old ones at the museum, the camera’s are pretty big as well, as befits a monster print like mine.

This picture doesn’t really convey the size of the camera. You can get an idea from looking at the grip on the left.

Let’s take a closer look at the picture. We see the Dutch town Maarssen, perched on the side of the river Vecht. The canal is the Amsterdam–Rhine Canal. Modern day locals may not recognize their town, since this picture was taken in 1967. There’s a lot more Maarssen these days.

On the side of the picture, we see a few different kinds of meters and data. Clearly, it was taken on Kodak Safety Film. This film got the epitaph ‘safety’ because it was acetate based, a much safer material than the old nitrate, that was highly flammable. The funny notches on the side are the so-called notch code. In theory this lets you determine the type of sheet film. I’m thinking this film was Kodak Super-XX Pan 4142. I have no idea what the dials mean. One seems to be just a clock, but the other one? I’m guessing it has something to do with altitude.

Want to take aerial photos yourself? Consider going on a balloon ride! Super fun, and you can take the same straight-down type of pictures as these old aerial photo’s. Now start drawing your own maps.

Credits: stratski

written by stratski on 2013-09-16 in #lifestyle #large-format #aerial-photography #map-making #print #airplane


  1. -l
    -l ·

    The second "clock" is an altimeter, indicating at which exact altitude the picture was taken: 4.3km. The ciphers possibly equal as a serial number of the picture: 2250.
    It's quite unlikely that they used Super XX Pan here, also the "notch code" doesn't indicate this. Super XX Pan showed sole double v-shaped notches; this pictured "code" shows additional curved ones, one each on the outsides, just like tooth bites.
    To be exact: This can't be a notch code. Notch codes are to be found at the OUTsides of sheet film to, firstly, indicate in the dark, where the emulsion side is, and secondly, making it possible to tell apart different emulsions.
    But as this is right in the emulsion and the picture "reaches" into these tooth bite-like gaps, these notches simply tell us where the film lay. If there was some kind of possibility telling something from this, it maybe would give a hint on with which camera this picture was taken.
    My guess on the film would be some kind of Kodak ESTAR Base film for high altitude, spooled on rolls of more than 100ft. That's why we don't find a notch code. And that's also why the camera shown above (intended for hand held photography/rather small aerial pictures -> quick'n'dirty) only gives us a very idea of what size the camera, which is capable of these huge rolls, really is.

  2. stratski
    stratski ·

    @-| Thanks for that info! You obviously know much more about this than I do. :) Now I have to go and spend some more time on the internet doing better research...

  3. -l
    -l ·

    @stratski I know some former aerial photographers and labs specialized on films in these dimensions, that's all. ;-) Some of "their" rolls are in my fridge.

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