Thursday, August 25, 2016

Boston & environs: A portly day

We started in Milwaukee. When I went through security and emptied my pockets, I forgot I had two rolls of film that I didn't want to go through the radiation in checked baggage.  They got caught by the full body scanner (knee replacement, ya know).  The TSA guy asked me what they were.  I think that's just part of the procedure. He was old enough to have seen film before. He took them over to the electronic sniffing device just to make sure.  We put them in Sarah's purse on the way back so that didn't happen again.

For days Weatherbug had been predicting 50 to 70 per cent chance of storms for our departure time, and the expected storm had been moving across Wisconsin all day at what seemed to be a variable rate.


Got boarded and the storm held off so, out on time though.


Andy and Kristin thought going to Maine was a good thing to do on a hot summer day in Boston.

First stop for lunch was in Portsmouth, N.H.  Very historic town, but also some rather new looking hip passages. That's the restaurant to the left, but no one was outside in the heat.


The restaurant was Friendly Toast, which also has a location in Cambridge.  They describe it as eclectic, but that actually means they exhibit a large collection of often kitsch memorabilia.


We sat right next to this rather long fellow.


Which foreshadowed our next stop. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's childhood home in Portland, Maine.


Not the best day to tour an authentic 18th century house, except the authentic cooling systems like opening windows weren't used and all the windows were covered by shades to protect against UV damage to the furnishings which were the actual ones from the family. Kind of seered the experience into your brain somehow though.

Lovely garden in the back, begun by Longfellow's sister, Anne, who lived there with no modern renovations until 1901, when she gave it to the historical society.


The Historical Society is just off Monument Square. Even after all these years it's still a little odd to see pictures of what was a rather busy street deserted by a 6 second exposure.


Before the internet, time and temperature signs used to be the only other way to find out how hot it is was other than by calling on a land-line phone. Must still be a big deal in Portland because they have a whole skyscraper named the Time and Temperature Building.  Anyway, this device changed on a one second cycle.  I tried to get two temperature appearances and one time so you could see it was 98 degrees (F), but it didn't quite work. (Duh, I could have just covered it with my finger when the time was displayed?!)


We figured we would at least imagine it was cooler in the Scandinavian Import Store.  Actually, Andy needed a lefse-flipping stick. Kind of interesting trading being-raised-with-Norwegian-traditions in the Northeast and the Midwest stories with the owner.


Proceeded to the also cooly named Portland Hunt and Alpine Club, a cocktail and inventive appetizers establishment nearby for refreshment.


Kind of rustic decor, but with a sophisticated menu. Inspired by the Scandinavian experience Sarah and Andy had browned butter-washed Acquavit cocktails. The very tasty flatbread with slabs of locally sourced blue cheese and honeycomb hors d'oeuvres seemed appropriate too.


While we were there the hot humid air we had been sitting in met with some colder air from inland and clashed overhead, dropping an impressive amount of rain.



There was a break so we headed out again.  Here's the view of the harbor with the still threatening clouds.


Headed down to the Portland Museum of Art which had an enlightening exhibition of women in modern art and abstraction in the early 20th century..


The museum had a rather impressive collection for a regional institution. Didn't display any photography, but I saw my second painting by Steichen.


While there, the rain started up again - a little more consistently this time.  This scene out the third floor windows reminded me of impressionists paintings of evenings in Paris, but the long exposure erased the taillights which gave great highlights to the scene, and the overexposed sky disguises the gloomy aspect of the weather.


All with the Populist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x36mm frame.

Monday, August 22, 2016

ArtsCore Summer Colony

My pinhole workshop for teachers was part of the 3 day ArtsCore summer colony.

To see how I fit into the whole program, and meet the participants, I attended the opening session on Monday morning.

It was held at the Paine Art Center and Arboretum carriage house and conservatory.


This might show a lack of editorial discipline, but here's a closer shot with the sun rising over the conservatory. It was the first time since I retired I had to be anywhere except the hospital first thing in the morning.


Introductory remarks and introductions were held in the carriage house side.


The director of the Art Center just happened to be standing right behind me and gave a few welcoming remarks.


The actual workshop was held in the conservatory.  During the presentation, the art center director was spotlit by a sunbeam from the skylight.  I wonder if he was aware of it?



The exercise used a history/sociology lesson about Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers Union. A painting by Octavio Ocampo was used to stimulate discussion and the small-group, active-learning, arts-integrating method was to create a tableau vivant with a six or seven word script to interpret his life and accomplishments. The instructor's caveat to think about how you were going to hold a pose for a minute or two sounded like it would be useful for working with pinhole tomorrow afternoon.

Started out on chairs, but with a room full of twenty-somethings, when the active-learning group work started, there was a lot of sitting on the floor.


The morning ended with lunch.


The next afternoon was my turn. No darkroom at the Paine, so we were two blocks down Elmwood Ave. in the Arts & Communication Building at the University.

Tried to have everything ready when they arrived.


It was kind of odd to be introduced as someone who for a long time has had pinhole photography as a hobby. That's what I get for my lack of ambition and conceptual discipline.

Drilling the pinholes and installing them on the cameras.


I spent most of the afternoon in the darkroom and looking at the pictures as positive images on a document camera and discussing them with the participants.  With 23 of them, it felt like I hardly got to work with them at all. When I did get out side, there was only this one group nearby to capture with the Populist.


I got him to get closer.


We had looked through the cameras before installing pinholes to get an idea of the angle of view and had gun site indicators on the camera to determine what was in the frame.  Despite the cameras being about the angle of view of the cell phone cameras they use all the time, when setting up a picture without a viewfinder, most of them seemed to revert to framing the picture about the way how they thought they would frame it with the normal perspective of their eyes instead of getting as close as they needed to with these wide angle cameras. Pre-visualizing the pictures with a wide angle pinhole camera seems to be something that you have to learn to do (...the zen of pinhole?).  I wish I had another day with them.  You can only accomplish so much in a one-day workshop.

It was a brilliant, bright sunny day. I was distressed that there were so many issues with light leaks that had to be fixed.  I think I'm going to get a tattoo that says "The sun is a vengeful benefactor" Anyway, the only picture I took with the workshop materials, in order to test the light-tightness of a camera, was this self-portrait, posed so I could hold it for a minute or two.


All the color with the Populist, .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x36mm frame.

The black and white with a .5mm pinhole 5 inches from a 4x5 frame.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Inspired by Victorian Stereoscopy

I just took a short MOOC (massive open on-line course) on Victorian Stereoscopy from the University of Edinburgh.

Stereoscopy was the virtual reality of it's day in the late nineteenth century, and just about everyone had a viewer and collected stereo cards.

After looking at hundreds of black and white stereo images, I decided to haul out the 120 stereo populist and load it up with some Arista 400 and try my hand at it.  I've done lot's of stereo in color but in black and white only did one or two experiments with 4x5 cameras a long time ago.

The Victorians were big into genre scenes in quaint villages, spectacular landscapes, and humorous images of women negotiating hoop skirts.  I didn't have access to those things, so I went out into the garden.

These are all set up for crossed eyed viewing (which is the easiest way to set them up - you just scan the pairs as they are).  If you're not familiar with that method of stereo viewing, try this little instructional piece I did several years ago.

Some of my favorite stereo images are scenes with relatively little depth, so I started with Sarah's pet oaks on the side of the driveway.


The effect is more obvious when there is a bit of depth to play with.


I think it does help when the image itself has the standard 2D methods to create the illusion of depth such as this sunlit papyrus in front of the shaded garage door.


Although sometimes the effect is most impressive with a messy composition where you almost can't tell what's what until it's viewed in stereo.


It's pretty rare in victorian stereoscopy, I think close-ups are particularly fun in 3D, but maybe this one is a little too close.


One of the popular themes for the Victorians were scenes of ghosts, and there's a particular connection to pinhole.  The first instance of anybody actually taking a pinhole image is recorded by the Scottish scientist David Brewster in his book, The Stereoscope. Brewster is also the person who first suggested you could record ghostly figures by having the model move out of the scene half way through the exposure.  I thought this striped chair would be a good background for a ghostly image and I was hoping the image on my Motorhead t-shirt would show up more, but I think I may have moved out of the scene a little too soon.


All with the 120 Stereo Populist, side by side chambers with .3mm pinholes 6cm from 6x6cm frames. Arista.edu 400 developed in Microphen 1:1.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Road Trip: Alderley, Wisconsin and the West Bend Jailhouse.

Sarah's family lived on their farm in Pierce County since 1867.  Her great grand parents immigrated from Norway, but we knew they had spent some time in southern Wisconsin somewhere around Watertown.  Recently Sarah uncovered a handwritten note her grandmother had written for her for an assignment in grade school about her ancestors experiences.  It contained the line "Shortly after they were married they left Alderley, Wis. in a covered wagon pulled by oxen, which took them about 30 days."

A few minutes on Google Maps, and sure enough, Alderley still exists in eastern Dodge County. Curiousity overwhelmed us and we had to go take a look.

Alderley turns out to be like a lot of unincorporated villages in Wisconsin, about eight houses and a bar, who's main feature is a small dam on the Ashippun River, with a golf course next to it.


Just east of Alderley is Norwegian Road.  Probably has something to do with Rasmus Hanson spending some time here.  Here Sarah photographs a house that looked like it might have been around at the time they left for Pierce County.


Norwegian Road crosses an unnamed intermittent tributary of the Ashippun River.


On the other side of the road, several cows watched Sarah take pictures.


West Bend is only about 20 miles away, but most of the route we took goes through several small towns with stop lights and it took us about an hour to get there.  We were planning to visit the Washington County Historical Society's museum in the old courthouse, but it was pretty late and we just had time to go on the tour of the old jailhouse next door. It included not only the lock-up, but the front of the building was also the residence of the Sheriff and his family. Must have been an event for them when miscreants were brought in through the front door, the only entrance to the building.


I tried taking pictures inside, but we had to follow the tour which included a family with some really curious children, and I only could get about 30 second exposures, which only yielded this rather dark image of one of the cells, which I guess is kind of appropriate for the subject.


All with the Populist.  .15mm pinhole, 24mm from 24x36mm frame.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Under the heat dome

Well, the northern end of it anyway. I don't think the temperatures can compete with most of the country, but anytime you have a dew point in the upper 70's, it seems like a little oven-like.

It's always a little surprising that someone with such a great deal of fluff isn't uncomfortable in these conditions, but I guess it's the same insulating quality that leads him to sit around out here in the Wisconsin winter.


This whole series began when I noticed these really tiny flowers in the diverse ecosystem that is my lawn. I wondered what it would look like if I got as close as possible.

I'm surprised at how few close-ups I see on pinhole forums despite the ease of doing it. One of the facets of the digital photography revolution that's often overlooked is how easy close-ups have become.  With most digital cameras, you can almost set the lens on an object and still get it in focus. It hasn't been that long since everybody had to use film cameras, and I'm not sure how aware people are that it use to be fairly complicated to get a closeup at much less than two feet, even with a professional SLR.  Either you had to have a specifically micro lens, which even then only got down to 1:2, or a set of extension tubes or a bellows. Exposure had to compensated to account for the additional distance of the lens from the film. Full aperture built-in light meters still had to be stopped down in order to get an accurate reading.  With pinhole, no focusing is going on, so you can put the camera as close as you want.  There is the issue of diffraction, and you probably can get a better closeup with a smaller pinhole before Lord Raleigh's equations blur your photograph. but you don't otherwise have to make adjustments for getting as close as you csn.

Anyway, the camera was about a half inch from these flowers, so its at a magnification of about 2:1. Kind of tricky to keep the camera from shading the subject, and I blew a couple frames when I opened the shutter and it cast a shadow on the scene.


I then noticed that these were only the buds of these flowers. Even this close to the ground with a short exposure, the wind got in my way.  When you're this close up, it doesn't take much movement to blur things.  It's also a little tricky to accurately pre-visualize what you're doing, and I missed the blade of grass in the foreground.


Another humble little flower that's very profuse on the lawn is the clover.  Even moving out to two or so inches away, there was a enough trembling from the wind to prevent a really sharp image.  But does that really matter? Occasionally on the f295 forum there would be a post about how to achieve maximum sharpness with a pinhole, and inevitably the discussion would end up with numerous exhortations to not get too hung up about sharpness – the pinhole aesthetic was about something else.


The pictorialist movement, begun by the Linked Ring in England, argued that emphasis on technical achievements, one of which was sharpness, was limiting photography's acceptance as a medium of art, and that more emphasis should be put on subject, composition and lighting.

A prime objective of composition is to direct the viewer to a center of interest. One of the tools you have with a lens to accomplish this is reduced depth of field by using a large aperture, but this isn't available to the pinholer, so you have to use composition, light and albedo to ensure that center of interest pops out from the background.  This weigela blossoms rather profusely fairly early sometime in May, but this one flower was still left in late July. The color contrast definitely contributes to it's prominence in the picture, but what really pops it out is that it's sitting out in the sunshine against the shaded foliage.


Sometimes albedo is sufficient to highlight the center of interest.  In this case I had a little trouble keeping these white monardas from blocking up, and I did a good bit of burning them in. I admit to spending quite a bit of time burning and dodging and otherwise manipulating contrast to get my pictures looking the way I want. Sometimes I encounter the argument that anything but a straight scan is somehow inauthentic. Ansel Adams is often idolized as the ultimate photographer and he unabashedly promoted how he manipulated negatives.  Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico is famous for how unrecognizable a straight print is from the final exhibited print. I don't see any difference in doing it with digital software.  (Although Edward Weston used to brag that most of his images were unmanipulated prints)

Lighting isn't the only tool for giving the illusion of depth. Scale can be another tool.  The two blossoms flanking this double decker in the center provide a cue to the depth in this picture.  I also like the way the cluster creates this triangular shape in the center of the composition and the way it's framed by the areas of somewhat lighter green foliage on either side of it contrasted against the darker corners.


My posts about flowers get by far fewer hits than others.  I suppose that's because it's perceived as being trite. I guess I've often told budding photographers that they should just express themselves and make photographs they like and the audience will decide what is important art or not. I think Imogen Cunningham and Robert Mapplethorpe pulled off getting artistic recognition using flowers as subject matter, and I'll just let you decide about these.


All with the Populist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x36mm frame.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Midsummer garden

Another day with just enough of a lack of wind to tempt me into the garden.

Always impressed by some of the volunteers that come up in the driveway.


A red volunteer among the purple petunias


Some calabrachoa sneaking out among some sweet potatoes.


A lily sneaking though some invasive tree.


It doesn't take much breeze to make flowers tremble, but in this case it was a big bumblebee that landed just after I opened the shutter and stomped around for the whole exposure.


Cherry tomatoes in the middle of a cage in various shades of ripeness,''


An old rose pushing up through the hostas.


And staring down the throat of a yellow lilly.


All with the Populist .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x36mm frame (I can't wait till they quit referring to Trump's approach as Populism - and it bothers me to see that Stratocaster in the RNC logo)