Thursday, February 21, 2019

Two New Understudies for The Populist

On road trips, I carry two of the 35mm Populists. When one runs out of film, I switch to the other. The clicker indicates how far I've advanced for each exposure, but I'm not even close to organized enough to keep track how near the end of the roll is. The cameras are reloadable in the field, but it takes a few minutes and there are multiple parts to keep track of. Also, there usually are others along who shouldn't have to wait for me. Carrying two of these little cameras isn't much of a hassle in most circumstances, especially if you're wearing a jacket.

I got sick of reloading in less than ideal circumstances and built the New Glarus Populist two years ago to be this second camera. Alas, last fall it stayed on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum after we left. 

I built a replacement with the plain brown cardstock facing out. As with Mars rovers and trans-Neptunian objects, when there are several of a thing to consider, it helps to give them a name. When painting the inside for opacity, I oversprayed one side of the camera which dried onto the newspaper. When I picked it up the outermost layer pealed away leaving half the side a much lighter brown. It looked horrible. We had just visited Edward Gorey's home on Cape Cod so, inspired by his drawing I redarkened this bit with crosshatching. Trying to decide on a name, I thought of Gorey's work "Gashlycrumb Tinies," a somewhat dark alphabet book. The only one that sticks in memory is for my own initial: "N is for Neville who died of ennui." Let's call this camera Neville.

Several weeks later, Sarah made cheesecake for the holidays. Confronted with three empty cartons from Philadelphia Cream Cheese, fate deemed I should use them for a replacement for the New Glarus camera. The name for this one is obvious.

Both cameras have a .15mm pinhole. The reason the naming is important is that one of them has a Gilder electron microscope aperture, and the other the product of my humble skills.  Let's see if you can tell which is which.

Neville began with the sugar bowl.


Gluing Philadelphia's front together.


The first frame for Philly was a bouquet of alstroemeria.


Surfing the net with what appears to be three hands and differently colored legs on my jeans.


I put out several cameras for the eclipse. These two identical cameras were strapped to a board angled so the images should slightly overlap to give about a 140° panorama. This method didn't work out that well but the following images will give you a chance to make a side-by-side comparison.

These cameras are about the same speed as Thin Lizzy and the film is faster but the trail of the fully eclipsed moon isn't visible, as it was with the larger format camera. Probably because the fully eclipse phase was near the center of the frame with that one and with this, is at the vignetted edges.

     Philly on the left, Neville on the right

Since they were rigged up like that, the idea deserved another try in the kitchen. 

      Philly on the left, Neville on the right

A last attempt in the living room

     Philly on the left, Neville on the right

I had recently been using the 120 Stereo Populist and the stereo front for the 6x9 Variable Cuboid. One of the principles of stereo photography is the relationship between the baseline and how close you can get to something and get a viewable stereo image. Normally, the baseline between pinholes with a 35mm stereo camera is 36mm and you can get within about a foot of your subject. With the cha-cha method – where you move the camera between two successive exposures – you can make the baseline whatever you want and get really close up. I taped a ruler to the table to keep the camera parallel and with a 10mm baseline did a closeup of one of the alstroemeria that had fallen off the bouquet. (Set up for crossed eyes.)


The clicker on Philadelphia failed and the back up method of one-and-a-half revolutions of the winder left giant gaps. So, I ran out of film in that camera, and continued on with Neville and a dried up lemon.


Both of them together with a 15mm baseline.


Returning to two dimensions, a sunbeam in Mrs. Paine's dressing room at the Paine Art Center.


Since it's still winter, it's hard to go out to take pictures without snow being involved. Here's our Radio Flyer lying on it's side so when the snow melts it won't provide a breeding ground for the mosquitos.


Pots under the snow.


A little abstract expressionism with an Amarylis in front of a mirror.


So can you tell which pinhole is the perfect Gilder and which is the home-made Nickon?

The original Populist is still in the rotation but now I have to be careful that Neville doesn't get too bored.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Wide winter

In December, for what I anticipated would be holiday photos, I loaded Thin Lizzy and the Evil Cube with Lomo 100. The Evil Cube is still on frame one but I've finished the roll in Thin Lizzy.

Since it was sitting around full of film, I put it out for the lunar eclipse in addition to the 120 Stereo Populist.

The 90 degree angle of view includes more foreground which to me, makes a more interesting picture than the stereo version but of course without the 3D. The film is slower but the camera a little faster and again, the trail of the fully eclipsed moon is recorded and even a little of it's famous redness is apparent.

The only exposures prior to the eclipse were done during our annual lefse event when Andy and Kristin were here for the holidays.

A little closer view of the action.

After I finished the roll in the Stereo Populist, I went to Camera Casino in a snowstorm to get it developed. These variously colored ladders, next door at Kitz and Pfiel, covered in snow seemed like a good subject for color film.

The wind filled the screens with snow which turned our lanai into a soft light box. Note the transparency of the lee side.

Later in the day, the snow stopped but the wind didn't and cleared the screens again.

It is, of course, pretty. The shiny holiday spheres in the window box really stand out, reflecting all that brilliant snow.

Two days later the Polar Vortex drooped down on this side of the planet. We'd had a few hours of these temperatures a week ago, but four days of it, two of which had highs in the minus 20's (F), is a different thing altogether. Not just frost but layers of ice formed on some of the windows. (In case you're wondering, there is a storm window over this.)

Who needs an infrared camera to tell where the cool spots are?

I did one that had nothing to do with the time of year. Sarah did a more interesting version of the scene on Pinhole Day in 2012.

And to finish, I thumb my nose at Old Man Winter with some sun-lit produce in front of the frosty window.

Thin Lizzy has a hand-drilled .20mm pinhole 30mm from a 6x6cm frame.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Deep Winter

It had been gloomy and overcast for months but it was totally clear on the night of the total lunar eclipse in January. With all the hype leading up to it which I contributed to myself, something a little different was called for. I got out the 120 Stereo Populist with it's pair of 6cm long 6x6cm chambers and loaded it with Portra 400. The exposure was from 6:30 pm until 6:30 the next morning.

These pictures are all set up for viewing with crossed eyes, scanned and inverted just as they came out of the camera.  Here's a link to an exercise to learn how to view them, and once again, you probably can do it.

Unlike other pinhole images I've seen of the event, this did manage to record the trail of the moon while it was fully eclipsed, although it's not "blood" red. This was a very thin negative and there was some fogging in the right hand frame and some odd flare which I burned in and used the clone tool to miminize. The trail in this picture is almost entirely of the partially eclipsed moon. You can see at the beginning and end how overexposed and blown out the trail is when the moon is full so later, when the moon got at the right angle it caused flare just like the sun would. There's not another complete total lunar eclipse visible from my house until 2025, but that one's in March so it won't be so high in the sky and may have better opportunities for an interesting foreground.

This was before the Polar Vortex event, but it was still pretty cold in Wisconsin, so the rest of the pictures are in the house. There's a relationship between the angle of view of the camera and how close you can get for a successful stereo image and these are kind of pushing the limit.

A self-portrait cutting out the parts for the shutters of the 6x9 Variable Cuboid.

Doesn't it look like I have a full beard?

A little further on in the construction without so much of me in it.

This bouquet seemed like a good 3D target.

My favorite stereo photo of all time is of a harvest of habeneros on the countertop, a scene that doesn't have much depth. When the temperature dropped to -25°F (and this was before the Polar Vortex), we decided to console ourselves with Beef Bourguignon and the chunks of meat in the bowl reminded me of the hot pepper photo. The knife was lying sideways in the bowl with the edge exposed but it slipped into this position just after the shutter was opened.

 Stay tuned for more lunacy and stereo but not at the same time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A 6x9cm Variable Cuboid

I wasn’t going to make a 6x9cm Variable Cuboid. My relationship with the 6x9cm format has been rather lukewarm, maybe because my early experiences with it coincided with the development of the 35mm Populist. I was besotted with the pinholey image quality from the smaller negative, which has the same aspect ratio. The 6x9s seemed a little dull. Looking back on those pictures, they’re not bad and lately 6x6cm has gotten to be an obsession so maybe another try is warranted.

One other thing that discouraged me is with 6x9cm format there is the option of choosing a vertical or horizontal format. In order to have a rising front (another infatuation) in both orientations, there has to be a third pinhole and shutter. That's how it is with the Pinhole Lab Camera with tape shutters and with Reality So Subtle cameras with precision engineering and manufacture. It's been done with flaps that swivel away on a screw to uncover the opening. Except for tripod mounts, metal fastener technology isn't part of my repertoire. The flaps might catch on something and bend and they seem a little fussy to open and close for a quick exposure. My standard cardboard sliding shutters are too big to be close enough to operate for three holes without making the rising distance a little too far up for normal use on that third pinhole.

Not to mention it would need another identical pinhole drilled.

The thought crossed my mind that my normal shutter would work if it could just rotate 90 degrees. Making something that rotates isn't that different than something that slides back and forth. The result is the same double shutter from the Evil Cube Template, with the corners rounded off to make a circularized shape mounted on a turntable of a larger radius, inset in a base with a hole the same size, which is then held down by a cover with a slightly smaller radius opening.Wherever it moves it's greased with pencil graphite.

The two pinholes have to be offset from the center because the on‑axis pinhole has to be, well...on‑axis so it’s in the middle whichever way it’s rotated. The top sliding shutter gets a little wiggly when it’s opened because the channel is now shorter on the top but it’s OK if you’re half-way careful when opening it.

Putting some stops at the 90 degree positions would make it really quick and easy to get it square when you turned it from horizontal to vertical, but then it occurred to me that it could now rotate all way over for a falling front in case you were high in a building and wanted to keep the verticals parallel on the building across the street. Oh well, it’s pinhole, so taking a few seconds to line the shutter up with a mark isn’t out of the question.

Another random thought about the 6x9 format was that it was the same size piece of film as two 4.5x6cm frames. Hmmm. Side by side frames. That sounds a lot like stereo. There could just be two pinholes (well, four with rising pinholes, but oh well) on a front separated by 4.5cm, with a septum running down the middle of the inside.

On my older stereo cameras there are two single Populist shutters connected by a bar so they opened at the same time, but that wouldn’t work if you had a rising front pinhole.The new one has a double shutter, with two openings on the outside, with a wide slider that has a slot in it which uncovers the second hole when the shutter passes the first hole and hits it’s stop.

I made a 55mm stereo front. For view finding it has a line of black card stock to define the image plane and beaded pins in the front to mark the pinholes. Something with depth makes view finding easier for me than just drawing lines on the camera.

For the whole 6x9 format with the rotating shutter I made a 70mm front.

One problem with the 360 degree rotating shutter is now there are three places on each side where there might be a pinhole. I was sick of covering the shafts of those beaded pins with tape on the inside of the camera and repeatedly sticking my fingers. The rising pinhole is 15mm from the axis, so instead this front has pieces of card stock 30mm wide, with a notch in the middle to show me where the pinholes could be.

The 55mm stereo has .3mm hand-drilled pinholes and .34mm for the 70mm. It was surprisingly easy. It's always been hard for me to hold the needle with my big fingers to prevent it from bending while drilling down and to keep it vertical. In another moment of what seemed to me as brilliance, I had the thought that the needle could be held straight by holding it stuck through a piece of foam core. It works great.

First up was the 55mm stereo front and the back loaded with 100.

The following stereo pairs are set up for crossed eyes, which is really easy because the negatives can be scanned together just as they come out of the camera, left image on the right and right on left. If you don't think you can do crosseyed stereo viewing, check out this exercise. You probably can learn to do it right away.

Here's an Amarylis in front of a mirror portrayed with the on‑axis set of pinholes. Try to line up the flowers.

Well, this is interesting. You'll note the left image is wider than the right.

I have to confess that I just made up the divider as I put it together. The result is a kluge of several odd pieces of foam core bracing the divider and making sure it was square. These parts don't extend all the way to the edge because they might block some of the image. Also, the front and back of the camera meet 10mm in front of the image plane and this septum needs to go all the way back to the film. The result is that it's a little flexible. When I put the front on the back it bent the divider one way by about 5mm. It went together easily and nothing seemed wrong until I saw the pictures.

You can still get it into stereo with crossed eyes, but it distracts from the 3D effect and I don't think it would work with a stereo viewer or anaglyph.

Next, the 70mm full frame front for this close up with the on‑axis pinhole.

With the camera oriented vertically and the shutter rotated, here's the First National Bank building with the rising pinhole.

Just down the block, the Oshkosh Public Library with the camera horizontal, again with the rising front which of course required the shutter to be rotated back.

Later the 55mm stereo front went back on to try out the rising pinholes. The divider didn't bend as much this time, but the left image is still a little bigger than the right.

The great oaks at the Merrill Soccer Field.

The passage between Merrill Elementary School and Gym.

The shutters operated well, the film transport was smooth and it was easy to change the fronts. I'll have to see what can be done about keeping that divider straight and give it another try.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Eclipse Lunargraphy and other trails

A couple of things prompted this post. Recently on the Pinhole Photography Facebook group, Janet Neuhauser posted an all night exposure of the trail of the full moon and noted that it didn't pick up anything but the moon's trail. The other thing is that a total lunar eclipse will occur next Sunday night that's visible from all of North and South America.

In April 2014 there was a total lunar eclipse in the wee hours of the morning. I couldn't bring myself to stay up all night to see it. I just put The Populist out after dark and before twilight began the next morning, closed the shutter. I never saw the eclipse at all.

That night Mars was shining at magnitude -1.4 and pretty near opposition so it also passed all the way through the scene during the night. In the full frame you can just barely see it. It's easier to see in a close up detail.

This image is also notable because even in eclipse, the moon was bright enough to be recorded and the reddening is clearly visible. The extremely overexposed full moon trail on the little 35mm negative shining through the pines also makes for a dramatic image.

Encouraged by my success in April, I tried again later that year in October. This time the moon set while it was still in eclipse.

A year later at the end of September there was another total lunar eclipse that began not long after moonrise. I decided to go over and sit in Menomonie Park to watch it. I thought maybe I could get a reflection of the trail in Lake Winnebago. The eclipse was just beginning its partial phase before the sky was dark enough to open the shutter

Duh! Angle of incidence equals angle of reflection. After the moon rose a bit, the reflection was no longer bouncing back to my position on the lake shore. This is a fairly severe crop of The Populist's 35mm negative which really emphasizes the overexposed full moon trail. The film was Walgreen's 400 film so it was even more blown out than the earlier moon tracks done with the 200. The red color of the lower lobe is curious. I would ascribe it to haze and light clouds but it doesn't look like that in other pictures done that night.

I also had the 6x6cm Glenmorangie Evil Cube to see what it looked like with a larger negative.

This was with Portra 160, slower than the film in the Populist and it's about a stop slower camera. So the trail is less extreme and there's just a bit of a glow reflecting in the lake. Without the overexposure of the moon's reflection near the opposite shore, it captured a few lights over in Calumet County.

I had my 10x50 binoculars along to entertain myself during the long event. I took advantage of the darker skies and just scanned around the sky. A notable memory was my accidental discovery of Uranus just few degrees from the moon (verified by Sky Safari). It's hard to believe no one noticed this kind of odd fuzzy green star moving around before William Herschel.

This next image is not an eclipse, but again referencing Janet's post on Facebook, I was shoveling snow one morning before dawn with the moon and an extremely bright Jupiter setting in the west. It was also near opposition, shining at -2.5. As usual The Populist was in my pocket. I set it on the big pile of snow next to the driveway and opened the shutter while I finished shoveling. In addition to the moon trail, I also picked up the trail of the giant planet.

Twilight was beginning so although it was brighter than Mars during the eclipse, it's not much clearer in the whole negative but you can see it in a full resolution detail. The beginning of the moon trail looks like it might be the shape of a waxing crescent but it had to be full to be setting just before dawn and I can't really explain why it looks like that.

I wasn't the first one to do get a lunar eclipse pinhole photo. In 2007, on f295, a participant with the nom-de-internet Monophoto posted a lunar eclipse image. A year later, Gregg Kemp posted a picture of an eclipse in his gallery of landscapes with moon trails. Working on this post, I also found a gallery of Lunargraphy by Csaba Kovacs.

These weren't my first experiments with pinholing the moon. On the Pinhole Visions forum, therefore prior to 2004, there was an occasional special assignment topic. The theme for one of these was "motion" and I remember thinking it would be cool to do it on the largest scale possible. With a 4x5 camera and photographic paper I did an all night shot of the moon rising over the house. I no longer have that image, but a decade or so later, I recreated it with The Populist, this time adding interest with a Mustang in the foreground.

The current prediction for the weather next Sunday is mostly sunny so I may get another chance at a total lunar eclipse. (Although it hasn't been clear for more than an hour or two since mid-December.) Winter in Wisconsin is usually a pretty good time for pinhole lunargraphy. The sky will be completely dark by 7 PM and stays that way until at least 6 AM, even facing east toward the rising sun. At mid-eclipse the moon will be almost due south and quite high in the sky. Venus rises at 3:54 AM at magnitude -4.4 and Jupiter at magnitude -1.8 rises at 4:40 AM so they might be at least partially within the angle of view as well by the time I have to wake up and close the shutter.