The Photography of Francis Blake

High-Speed Photographs

In 1885, Francis Blake began experimenting with fast shutters, testing the workings of various commercial shutters with the purpose of improving shutter design and speed. His address before the Boston Camera Club in October 1886 on the measurement of shutter speeds and exposures immediately established him as an expert in high-speed photography. From 1884 to 1890, Francis Blake worked to perfect own focal-plane shutter, and the photographs that he took with this shutter garnered him critical acclaim.


Eadweard Muybridge, the internationally-recognized high-speed photographer, praised Blake's 1888 series of images of a horse and rider galloping on the grounds of Keewaydin and anticipated that Blake would soon surpass his own efforts as a photographer. "I am greatly pleased with your appreciation of my work," Muybridge wrote to Blake in 1888, "but shall be equally resigned to take a back seat when you get your new exposer in operation." Blake also experimented with capturing pigeons in flight at Keewaydin.


In the summer of 1891, he photographed some of the country's leading lawn tennis athletes in action, including Edward L. Hall (pictured below). Some of these unusually detailed photos eventually appeared in James Dwight's 1893 book, Practical Lawn Tennis.


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