Surveillance photography 1960s

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mscott842

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I happen to be familiar with government photographic surveillance of our enemy outposts (embassies/consulates) in Latin America. I was told by a family member that the photographic surveillance in the early 60s was done manually, in other words, operators had to take shifts clicking and winding the cameras around the clock. But later, in mid-sixties, an intervalometer mechanism was adapted that allowed the cameras to trigger automatically (I assume at a prescribed interval) and a human agent was only required to interact with the camera to reload film. Does anyone know when the first intervalometers were made? What cameras might have been used? Does this story have any truth to it?

Thanks to anyone that can shed light on this.
 

AgX

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That taking regularly photographs by hand as you describe seems absurd to me.

But instead the operator in hiding more likely waited for an interesting person (e.g. yet unknown visitor) to take photographs of him. Thus a operator would be benefitial over an intervalomter, as he would guarantee that such person would be photographed, instead slipping through most likely using an intervalometer.

A intervalometer could have been useful in establishing instead activity at certain office rooms at certain times, like light burning or people showing inside. Or similarily surveiling other activies that take a long time as freight handling in a harbour. Thus activitiues where it is less about details, but rather the activity as such.
 

AgX

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A means to even substitute the operator by an automated mechanism, but still only take photographs on demand would have been to install a light- trap release, but this would necessitate gaining approach very close to the object (like a door, gate) and design it the way that it hardly would be detected. The latter likely even the bigger problem. Other release mechanisms are imaginable too, but I assume you got my point.
 
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mscott842

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I know for a fact that a camera were trained on a foreign embassy backyard from a rented apartment to capture activity of people in conversation so they could be subsequently identified. The apartment was on a long term lease and selected specifically for a telephoto lens to cover the embassy yard. The camera was manned by agents on shifts. But I heard that an intervalometer subsequently reduced the number of agents required. My hypothesis is that maybe intervalometer would shoot a frame every 10 minutes (?) (assuming that any stroll in backyard of embassy which might be of interest would take at least that long). With 100 exposure rolls of film feeding the camera, that could cover 16 hours. This is all very hypothetical, but I was curious about the state of intervalometer technology at the time.
 

AgX

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What is true? Operators idiotically winding and releasing a camera?
 

AgX

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The first series 35mm cameras to take automated photographs in series, electrically released that come to my mind were the finder camera Robot from the 30's and the SLR with bulk magazine Praktina from the early 50's.

Building an intervalometer then already could be done by a schoolkid tinkering with a common clock.
 

momus

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I didn't know we were at war. We spy on foreign powers.

When I worked for C.I.S.P.E.S. in S. F. at 24th St and Mission (the Committee In Solidarity w/ the People of El Salvador), we had CIA and Feds crawling all over an adjacent building, as we were funding arms for the rebels who were fighting government soldiers funded by Reagan. They probably have laws that would nix that these days.

We studied everyone's surveillance as they studied us, occasionally waving or giving them the one finger salute, it went both ways.

The folks in the other building favored Nikon cameras w/ motor drives w/ long lenses. Must have been Tri-X, there was seldom a tripod in sight.

Finally Jimmy Carter went down there and brokered a cease fire. That put us out of business, which was our idea from the beginning. Hopefully the government people across the street were reassigned to another plum, gravy train job. We used to eat lunch w/ them sometimes at La Victoria. A chicken burrito w/ everything was $3 and you couldn't eat it all.
 

Don Heisz

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The only reason you would have a human operator taking scheduled photos was to prove the human operator was awake. You don't want someone sleeping for 6 hours and subsequently claiming nothing noteworthy happened.
 

Sirius Glass

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The only reason you would have a human operator taking scheduled photos was to prove the human operator was awake. You don't want someone sleeping for 6 hours and subsequently claiming nothing noteworthy happened.

🙄
 

BobUK

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I must admit that I have never heard of an intervalometer until now.
If it is the same as TIME LAPSE photography then it has been going on since 1872 when Eadward Maybridge was hired to take the now famous sequential photographs of a running horse in order to prove if it had all feet off the ground whilst running.
It was then used for trick special effects in the old silent films, flick books of moving characters and modern day films such as the classic Time Machine by Wells.

So are INTERVALOMETER and TIME LAPSE the same thing?
 

MattKing

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So are INTERVALOMETER and TIME LAPSE the same thing?

One uses an Intervalometer in order to be able to do a number of things, including time lapse photography.
 

AgX

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A intervalometer most strictly speaking is a device for releasing a camera in definite intervals for definite number of exposures.
The latter could be achieved by either by controlling over a definite number of single exposure or by controlling the time the release is activated.

For a lab situation this would be sufficient. Moreover if you start the run at a definite time of day you would achieve exposures at definite times of day too... For surveillance work a true clock obviously would be benefitial. But see my hint at tinkering with a common clock.

To my understanding intervalometers series-produced by still-SLR manufacturers were first introduced in the 70's and got no true clock, but our catalog-experts may know it better. But of course any secret service could have made a respective device themselves.
 

juan

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The only thing I know about is a couple of photographs taken of a man outside the Russian Embassy in Mexico City in October, 1963. The CIA sent these photos to Washington as being of Lee Harvey Oswald. Clearly, they are not him - even the Warren Commission investigating John Kennedy’s assassination said so. According to the Warren Commission, these photograph were taken by some automatic means, the means not specified.
 

reddesert

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I am sure that the concept of intervalometers would have existed for aerial surveillance photography. Whether this was useful for backyard snooping, or whether the one intelligence agency is willing to adopt a method used by another intelligence agency, is another question.

A little googling reveals this note in a paper about Harold Edgerton's work during World War II (the paper is a research paper for an MIT class): http://web.mit.edu/6.933/www/Fall2000/edgerton/EdgertonWW2.pdf

On page 36 there is a quotation from a letter written by Edgerton:

As the war ended, he resumed his role as a​
professor at MIT, asking the army for aerial​
units to be used for education losing no time to​
get back to his passion for teaching:​

"I should like to recommend that a complete​
D-5 unit be permanently assigned to MIT for​
use in educational and experimental work in​
night photography… There is one K-19​
camera, two intervalometers, two spare​
condenser banks for D-2, and several other​
small items here at MIT… I suggest that this​
material likewise be permanently assigned to​
the institute for the educational and​
development projects, which will​
undoubtedly come up in the future."​

Although I think Edgerton's D-2 aerial unit was triggered by the pilot, he was using the word "intervalometer" in 1945 or so.
 

jimgalli

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Nikon's with 250 exposure backs and motors go all the way back to the Nikon F I believe. 1965 ish? With a motorized Nikon any old time clock that can close a set of points every 5 minutes or whatever was desired could have been built way back in the 1920's and earlier. The technology is simple and analog. But a Nikon 35 with motor and 250 exposure back would have been nice. Before the Nikon "off the shelf" system 35mm movie cameras could have easily been built to advance one frame at a time with an interval clock timing it. Those could hold 1200 feet of 35mm film and the gate was half frame 35 so do the math. One of those could run for days at a time. That technology would have been available in the 1930's.
 

AgX

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I am sure that the concept of intervalometers would have existed for aerial surveillance photography.

What is called intervalometer at aerial surveillance has a completely different function as we are discussing here.

There it was/is used to control the correct overlapping of exposures, most important at stereographic series.
 

reddesert

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What is called intervalometer at aerial surveillance has a completely different function as we are discussing here.

There it was/is used to control the correct overlapping of exposures, most important at stereographic series.

But there were intervalometers for aerial photography to trigger a camera repeatedly at set time intervals. It's relevant because the OP wanted to know when the concept developed and when the first intervalometers were made. And it's clear that the concept was around long before the 1960s. An aerial intervalometer wouldn't directly attach to a 1960s SLR, but if someone had wanted to, they clearly could have constructed such a device. (It's possible that the spy agencies didn't want to.)

Here's a couple of aerial intervalometers. I'm not sure of the dates but I think the Abrams is WWII era.
https://airandspace.si.edu/collecti...ervalometer-type-b-7-camera/nasm_A19880554000
https://collection.motat.nz/objects/47356/b-3b-intervalometer-aerial-photography

Here's a page with a lot of Abrams WWII-era aerial photography equipment including intervalometers, stereography, and a purpose built airplane.
https://usautoindustryworldwartwo.com/abramsinstrumentcorporation.htm

Wars are gruesome and not to be celebrated, however when discussing the history of recent technology, including photography, it is clear that much of what we handle has its roots in WWII-era development.
 

AgX

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But there were intervalometers for aerial photography to trigger a camera repeatedly at set time intervals. It's relevant because the OP wanted to know when the concept developed and when the first intervalometers were made. And it's clear that the concept was around long before the 1960s. An aerial intervalometer wouldn't directly attach to a 1960s SLR, but if someone had wanted to, they clearly could have constructed such a device. (It's possible that the spy agencies didn't want to.)

Here's a couple of aerial intervalometers. I'm not sure of the dates but I think the Abrams is WWII era.
https://airandspace.si.edu/collecti...ervalometer-type-b-7-camera/nasm_A19880554000
https://collection.motat.nz/objects/47356/b-3b-intervalometer-aerial-photography

Here's a page with a lot of Abrams WWII-era aerial photography equipment including intervalometers, stereography, and a purpose built airplane.
https://usautoindustryworldwartwo.com/abramsinstrumentcorporation.htm

Wars are gruesome and not to be celebrated, however when discussing the history of recent technology, including photography, it is clear that much of what we handle has its roots in WWII-era development.

You overcomplicate things by hinting at controls for bombing photography at bomb release.
As I repeatedly hinted at, for the use this thread is about a common clock in the hands of a tinkerer already is sufficient. No need for any war science. We are talking of a primitive time switch.
 
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