Thursday, August 15, 2019

Loading and film advance for the 35mm populist.

In order to load the 35mm Populist, you'll need an empty 35mm cassette.  Cassettes made specifically for reloading are available from several vendors.  If you've taken film to a photo store to get it processed, even if they send it out to a lab, if you ask them they'll probably be happy to return the empty cassette.

If you are using an empty cassette from a roll of film, carefully, going around the rim in several places, pry off the cap that the spool doesn't stick out of with a bottle opener, trying not to bend it. Reloadable cassettes have caps that are made to be removed and replaced.

Remove the spool and with the extended part facing down, tape your film securely to the spool. I find it easier to cut off the leader so the end is square.  When you take the film to be processed, it doesn't make any difference to the lab if the end of the film is square, and if you're developing the film yourself, you'll have to cut it off anyway to load it onto the processing reel. Make sure it's firmly attached to the film so it doesn't come off when you start to advance the film, and that it's firmly attached to the spool so when you rewind, you don't pull the tape back into the original cassette.

Slide the cassette back over the film spool, and if you succeeded in keeping the cap straight, close it. Note that the spool will now stick out of the end you removed, opposite the way a film cassette normally goes.  If you can't get the cap back on, it probably doesn't matter. The point of putting it back in the cassette is to prevent exposure to any light that might leak through the winding hole.

An audible clicker let's you know that the film is advancing, and how far.

Place the film in the camera.  If you're using an unexposed roll of film, be careful not to pull it any farther out of the cassette than necessary. On the take-up side, make some kind of mark on the internal divider where the sprocket holes ride over it. It's a little tricky to find something that will make a visible mark on the black divider, but I find it's sufficient to put a couple scratches with the tip of my Xacto knife.

Cut a narrow strip about 3mm wide from a plastic milk jug or similar plastic container at least 35mm long.  Hold it against the internal divider with the bottom against the front of the camera, and cut it with your scissors as close to the divider as you can.

That should leave a bit extending above the divider a millimeter or two.

Trim the end so that it's narrow enough to go through the sprocket holes.

Carefully align it with the mark you made where the sprocket holes line up and tape it to the internal divider. It should just protrude through the sprocket hole. Once you have it in position, reinforce it with a few more pieces of tape to keep it in place.

When you advance the film, it should make a clearly audible click.  A standard 36mm wide frame is 8 clicks.

You've exposed at least one frame loading the camera, so advance at least 8 clicks before starting to take pictures.

There is no way to count how many frames you've done.  You're out of film when you can no longer advance the film.

The rewinding hole is in the bottom of the camera. (I usually cover this with a bit of cardboard between the front and back of the camera just because I'm paranoid about light leaks.) When you've finished the roll, in subdued light (not in full sun anyway) remove the winder, place it in the rewinding hole and rewind the film.

You should hear the clicker so you know when it's moving.  Be careful not to pull that tape off when it stops. Remove the film from the camera, and remove the take-up spool.  I usually leave a bit of film sticking out of the cassette to make it easier for the lab to process it.

As always, please let me know if there are any questions or comments.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

From f295: Madtown Getaway

F295 was an international discussion forum begun and administered by Tom Persinger. Originally just about pinhole photography, it expanded into all kinds of alternative methods.  It was active from 2004 until 2015 but it remains on-line. Recently it disappeared from the web for a few days, and that prompted me to decide to reprise some of my favorites here at Pinholica, for backup if no other reason. 

It's the time of year for getaway weekends and I've recently had to start taking Allopurinol again and that reminded me of this piece.  Posted on August 8th, 2012 under the title: Madtown Getaway.

Last weekend went to Madison for a weekend getaway with college friends Laura and Gene and their daughter Mac and her new boyfriend.

First stop Saturday morning was the Farmer's Market, a huge weekly event around the Capital. Very hot day. Here Sarah and I and our veggies sit on the lawn enjoying fruit slushies while everybody else catches up.

Waiting at the bar for a table for lunch at The Old Fashioned with a pint of El Hefe Bavarian Style Hefeweizen.

Drove up to Praire du Sac to tour the Wollersheim winery. Here's "The House" from the window of "The Winery".

The store and the "Flight Bar." Hard to get out of here without becoming a member of the case club. A lot of snobs dismiss Wisconsin wines, and midwestern wines in general, but I like them.

A cruise up and down State Street to peruse the uniquely Madison shops is a regular feature. Here Sarah and Laura check out at the Soap Opera. The clerk looked up when I set down the camera and opened the shutter, but despite carrying on a conversation with Sarah and Laura, never said anything about it.

I sat out some of this on the benches that line the street, and not entirely because of a stereotypical male ambivalence about shopping.

My left foot has recently decided to swell up and require a decided limp to walk. I'm not sure if this is the same as Tom Sawyer showing his friends his sore toe. I don't expect any favors in return from you guys.

Final event was a visit to the Olbricht Gardens. Here's a water lily in the Sunken Garden. Coincidentally the last frame on the roll.

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

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Menomonie Park Infrastructure Project

In the last post, where I was testing the camera I made to replace the pictures for the 10th Anniversary Populist plans, it sounds like I went to Menomonie Park with definitive plans to test how it worked. What really happened is that I took that first picture of the concrete bunker on the shoreline and then rode around town for two days looking for something I thought worth photographing and never quite found anything inspiring enough to bother with.

Contemplating this problem while soaking in the bathtub several days later, I thought of that ubiquitous solution of photography clubs and internet instructional vendors - The Project. The basic idea is a concept or subject that will force you to get out and take some pictures. Getting things done is easier when you have a list of tasks to accomplish rather than just waiting for inspiration.

Since I had made the first image of the city water bunker already, it occurred to me that there were at least 12 structures of one sort or another in the park. I could just take on the challenge of taking one image of each building until I exposed the rest of the roll. That first run through the camera turned into a bit of a comedy of errors and I was only really happy with a few of those images. I did enjoy the challenge of finding an interesting composition of each location. After fixing the shutter, installing the pinhole hood and swearing to remember to tighten the film before making each exposure, I set off to try it again.

Nevada Street runs straight from my house to the lake, near the north end of the park. That’s where the little pumping station is which I had so much trouble with in the last roll with the loose shutter and double exposure. (Why do they put in the window openings if they're just going to fill them with bricks?)

One difference from the first day was that instead of a completely blank sky, there were some puffy cumulus clouds on the horizon. I kept finding myself seduced into trying to include them instead of just concentrating on the buildings.

One of the reasons the buildings in Menomonie Park appealed to me with this camera is that they’re only one story. To keep it simple for the how-to post, I didn’t put a rising front pinhole on this camera. I thought the low buildings would allow me to keep the camera level so they didn’t look like they’re falling over backward. The other solution to keeping your verticals parallel with a wide angle is to get higher up so you don't have to tilt the camera. When I got to the softball fields with their tall backstops, I couldn’t help myself climbing up the bleachers to get a level point of view.

The other side of the concession stand is the station for the minature train ride which circles the lagoon. Seems like a boring little trip but the attraction must be enduring, I remember one of these going around the little zoo in South Bend's Rum Village Park when I was a child.

Another common amusement in parks are Merry-Go-Rounds, so often featured spinning in pinhole photographs. No longer in service, this one was still in operation as recently as June of 2015 since it still appears in Google Maps satellite view. (I know that’s when the image was done, because I was repairing my back porch and when you look at my house, one of the screens is lying in the driveway.)

By the way, notice the effectiveness of the pinhole hood in preventing flare while pointed toward the sun in these last four photographs.

By this time I realized the interesting clouds were only near the horizon and I was getting lots of empty sky. I thought I could use the roof and picnic tables in Shelter No.1 to create a one point perspective composition framing just the interesting part of the view. When I got there it was empty except for one guy sitting with a bicycle, drinking some sort of beverage. Thinking he was a casual biker like me pausing in the heat, I mumbled something like “Do you mind if I take a photograph?”  It turned out he was a noisy drunk and went on quite loudly about how he “don’t pose for no pictures for nobody.” I tried to reassure him he wasn’t in the frame but he kept expounding on the theme. I don't think I captured the clouds and I screwed up one frame from the distraction.

There was a lively family gathering going on in Shelter No. 2 and after the experience with the drunk I wasn’t ready to risk asking if they minded if I took a photograph. I was about to just pass it by when I went around the back and was taken by the dappled light and the shiny new Cadillac.

This gate into the zoo’s wolf enclosure seemed to call out to the square format of my camera.

There’s a second concession stand in the entryway to the zoo named after the short-lived flying visitors whose biblical swarms prevent any use of the park in early May.

I did the back side of the beach house in the last roll. I liked the way the corners of the buildings  created contrasting shades and also thought including the lake would place it in context. Someone in the past had commented that my cardboard cameras reminded them of Miroslav Tichý's. I didn’t want anyone to think I was also imitating his behavior by including the girls in their swimwear on the other side, so I thought this composition of casually parked bicycles and one fully dressed mother watching her kids frolic on the beach was a safer bet.

I’m usually not much of a fan of those internet challenges but this project was kind of interesting. I’ve just built two fronts for the Variable Cuboid with adjustable rising pinholes and might use this scheme again to get them tested.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Quality assurance, user experience testing and some minor modifications.

The camera I made to redo the pictures in the 10th Anniversary Populist Plans was 45mm from pinhole to film, 6x6cm format with a .31mm pinhole. I didn’t mention it in that post but there were a couple things I did differently, and they needed testing. In any event, you just can't build a camera and not run some film through it. It turns out I learned a lot.

I usually lightproof a camera with black spray paint or opaque photographic tape. Everyone doesn't have those options, so I’ve included a piece on the template to make a double layer in the back of the camera to ensure that it’s opaque. There's a similar piece to lightproof the front, which also serves as a removable mount for the pinhole. I’ve never used the extra layer in the back and when I did use the pinhole mount, I’ve never depended on it to make the camera light proof. I didn't do any other lightproofing on this camera other than the extra layer from the template. I’d better find out if it works.

I rode my bike to Menomonie Park to do some quality control and user experience testing. The first frame was this concrete bunker that has something to do with the city water supply. The railing was full of birds when I first stopped but by the time I was ready for the exposure only one was left. Seems like the camera works well. However, it wasn’t a particularly bright day and I’ve been fooled by that before.

To give it a more analytical test, I advanced directly past one frame and then left the camera out in full sun for a day and a half on the next one. Looking at those two frames I can hardly tell the difference. There is a little bit of a fogged spot on that second frame but if it was overlaid on a negative, I don’t think I would have noticed.

Looks like the extra light proofing layer is a workable solution. (There’s already a double layer everywhere else.) 

I went out again on a completely clear day with brilliant sun.

After I had taken one picture, I decided to try to get some shots with the Manic Expression Cube. In my haste switching cameras, I forgot to wind the film. I realized what I had done but when I got back to my bike, I noticed when I had put the new camera on the bike rack the shutter had come open and ruined the picture.

User tip #1: When you’re not actually taking a picture, use one of the rubber bands to secure the shutters, especially if you’re going to be bouncing around on a bike. It seems I have to relearn this lesson at some point every year.

The picture that got ruined was in the shade with an exposure of 5 seconds. When reshooting it, I looked up from the timer on my phone and noticed that the shutter was kind of loose and had slipped back down a little covering the pinhole. You can see this in the double exposure above as well.

That prompted the first modification. I glued a few small pieces of cardstock behind the shutter to make it a little tighter and add some friction. At first I made it a little too tight. I could still open and close it, but you don’t want to have to use so much force that you move the camera when you open the shutter. In order to get the pressure just right, I had to split a piece of my cardstock. It’s not too sticky to open now and stays up when making an exposure. 

If you notice the shutter is a little loose after making it, another solution is to mount it on the camera so it slides out to the side instead of up and down.

My next stop was the maintenance shop a little farther along.

User tip #2: If you’re bouncing along on a bicycle, retighten the film so it’s flat in the back of the camera before making your next exposure. Although this sort of random curve is sometimes seen as charming.

The little gazebo at the south end of Miller's Bay was my next subject.

While I was taking this, there was a car full of people parked right across from it, just sitting there the whole time. Being watched while I take pinhole pictures always makes me a little nervous. When I went back and attached the camera and tripod to the bike rack, I didn’t noticed that my front wheel was facing nearly backward, and when I turned to grab for the handlebars, the bike fell over away from me. Leaning forward to catch it, I went over with it, right on top of the camera. My dignity didn't survive but other than getting a little wrinkle, the camera was still intact.

I once bragged that my cameras could probably survive a fall off a ten story building without exposing the film. Having an oafish old man fall directly on it is at least as much force.

I couldn't tell if the frame in the image chamber got exposed by my fall. The next exposure was of the little concession stand. It’s on the shady side of the building and the exposure was over a minute. Although everything in the picture was in the shade, until I opened the shutter, I hadn’t noticed that the sun was shining over the building directly on the pinhole. What I got was a lot of very overexposed flare bouncing off the edge of the pinhole.

That’s also often seen as charming. Today I saw an ad for an app that would add lens flare to an image “for dramatic effect.” I’m a little old-fashioned and I hate flare. Sometimes you get some interesting diffraction effect but most of the time it’s impossible to distinguish between flare and a light leak. My biggest mistake the last time I did a workshop was failing to warn the participants not to face into the sun when making a picture. I couldn’t tell whether that was the problem or if they needed work on their cameras. 

With a wide angle camera like this you almost have to face away from the sun to make sure it’s not reflecting off the edge of the pinhole.

One way to control this a little is to tarnish the pinhole with liver of sulphur, but you can guess what that smells like. 

A common approach with a lens is to make a hood to prevent the sun from shining on it in the first place. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a pinhole camera with a hood around the pinhole.

The solution, of course, is more cardboard. I didn’t want to create something that was flimsy and might get bent or crushed as the camera tumbled in a backpack, so I made my hood by laminating layers of card stock around the pinhole hole opening. It’s easy to tell when you’ve gotten enough layers because you can just look from inside the camera and see if the pinhole is still unobstructed. That turned out to be six layers of cardboard with this camera. 

After I had made the hood, I set up a few compositions facing the sun, even in one case where I had the camera tilted up a bit. The sun is shining on the front of the camera in all three cases but the pinhole itself is shaded. I've just developed that film and it seems to have worked.

After the concession stand, I continued on to the beach house with the sun at my back. It appears that the camera survived the fall with it’s opacity intact.

One other change was using black duct tape to make the smooth edge over the dividers of the image chamber the film rides over. I generally don’t like using it because it’s hard to cut or tear really accurately. It’s a little shiny, kind of thick and not particularly repositionable. I’ve always had opaque black photographic tape around that works really well but black duct tape is opaque, almost universally available, and comes in small rolls. I also taped down the pinhole with it. It worked fine. I think regular black masking tape would work as well for this purpose.

The film for this test was 100. As if I wasn't experimenting enough, I used stand development with Rodinal 1:100 for the first time and that seems to have worked OK as well.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

from f295: That Toddlin' Town

F295 was an international discussion forum begun and administered by Tom Persinger. Originally just about pinhole photography, it expanded into all kinds of alternative methods.  It was active from 2004 until 2015 but it remains on-line. Recently it disappeared from the web for a few days, and that prompted me to decide to reprise some of my favorites here at Pinholica, for backup if no other reason. 

I was reminded of this by Andrew Bartram of the Lensless Podcast's plans to be more rigorous about documenting the experiences of the last six months of his copious hotel room stays. I had minimal need to spend nights away on business but it did happen and I can sympathise with his predicament and maybe provide some inspiration. Also, Andy and Kristin are planning to spend time in the second city next month. It was posted under the title "That toddlin' town" on April 15th, 2008.  

Long time f295 members may remember me complaining about being edited to death preparing the documents for our reaccreditation. We must have done all right because we got reaccreditted with no ifs, ands or buts and the Higher Learning Commission invited us to the conference this year to show off our materials and reassure those with upcoming reaccreditations that they could pull it off too.

The conference is held at the giganto-conference "luxury" Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago

After driving through every kind of precipitation available, we arrived kind of late. My room was on the 21st floor of the west tower (I told you it was a giganto hotel)

It's located right where Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River. You know, where, in The Fugitive, Harrison Ford makes the phone call that allows Tommy Lee Jones to figure out where he is. I think Dogtakesphotos may have posted pictures of the Wrigley Building.

Here it is literally at dawn. I woke up at 5:30 and put the camera in the window again and kind of forgot about it, and it was light by the time I remembered.

As far as I could tell the difference between a luxury hotel and a regular one is an extravagant excess of pillows and you have to pay extra for things that are free in a regular hotel, like internet access and breakfast.

We got to the conference a little early and set up in the first row. It was funny how many others came in and set up further back. You'd think a bunch of educators, after bugging students for years to sit in the front would naturally gravitate to the front.

Breakfast was provided by the conference.

Didn't take too long for the action to get going pretty consistently for the three hours. Here I am probably answering the question "What would you differently if you could do it again?" Just about everybody phrased it that way.

After the session, we met up with my colleague's daughter for lunch at the Bongo Room on Milwaukee Avenue. They couldn't seat us for forty-five minutes, so we went to a thrift store across the street.

While we were waiting, Mabel (the daughter) entertained us all by trying on "vintage" clothes. Unfortunately, I ran out of film so no shots of the Bongo Room.

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

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Oshkosh Plein Air Festival

For the last two years, the Oshkosh Fine Arts Association has sponsored the Plein Air Festival. Artists paint or draw a work in Oshkosh over a four day period in the open air. This year they publicized several event venues where the artists would be clustered and the public could visit, watch them work and interact with them.

One of the things that has attracted me to pinhole cameras with small negatives is that the low resolution, grainy images they produce are reminiscent of painting. In case Alfred Steiglitz or Ansel Adams is reading this, I really don’t want to get into an argument. The photos from my little cameras are, I think, still distinctly photographic.

On Friday and Saturday the air was particularly plain and the big star high in the midsummer sky had free rein.

I thought my new Manic Expression Cube was particularly suited to capture this event. Despite the fact that it hadn’t been tested in full sun, I optimistically ventured forth to see what I could get. It turns out this camera can’t be trusted out in the brightest conditions and some of the exposures were fogged to some degree. I’ve never been one to give up on a negative. It turned out that the editing required to bring back these fogged frames produced images that had an abstracted quality. That seemed appropriate for this theme.

The venue on Friday was The Waters on the shore of Lake Winnebago. The rising front, which is the culprit in the questionable light-tightness of this camera, demonstrates it’s value in this first image.

There was one family with young children that was going from artist to artist. By the time I got the tripod set up, the older ones had run off with dad in pursuit and left just mom and baby to watch the painting.

As a photographer with just one angle of view available, I was a little surprised when I saw how narrow an angle this painter was rendering. I asked her about the opaque umbrella.  She said it did modify how the colors and detail of the painting appeared but admitted that a good deal of it’s value was just shading her from the heat of the sun.

The umbrellas were very popular but some chose to brave the deluge of photons.

A variety of media were eligible for the competition but this was the only person I saw working in pencil.

Although each day a particular venue was specified, they could paint anywhere in certain designated areas of the city. As I rode downtown, I encountered this fellow in the dappled light among the grand Victorian houses on Washington Avenue. The distorted colors and contrast caused by the fogged negative turned out to be serendipitously appropriate. There was a guy cutting up the sidewalk with a concrete saw just out of the frame.

Saturday’s location was the weekly Farmer’s Market on Main Street. I started at what turned out to be the most popular spot to paint, the intersection of Church and Main.

Exposures in the shade were five seconds and I was hoping I could record the artist looking back and forth from her subject to the painting. It appears she spent more time looking at the work than at the scene.

When I first heard about the location, I expected tables of colorful vegetables to be a common subject but no one I saw was facing the farmers.

I first walked south down Main Street and didn’t find any more participants in the festival. When I passed Jim Evan’s Art Haus, although it wasn’t associated with the festival at all, it seemed an appropriate subject.

When taking the previous picture, I was right next to a face painting booth. Works on flesh weren’t eligible for the festival, but she was painting in the open air.

Returning to the north end of the market I found the rest of the painters. As usual, I was surprised when asking people if I could take their photograph how unremarkable it seemed to them that I was doing it with a little cardboard box. I did speak to one or two about pinhole photography, most of which consisted of them asking if I was familiar with some other pinholer they knew. When this one heard me extending the tripod, he said “Oh, you have a real camera“ before he turned around to see what I had. “Oh, yeah,” I said, “I have a real camera.”

The painters themselves were generally ignored by the crowds around them but occasionally you would find someone pausing to study how they worked.

The pencil artist from the previous day was also being unusual by choosing this low angle of view.

I usually only take one exposure of a subject but decided to also get close up to this painter to capture the colors of his palette. I forgot to wind the film and got a double exposure, which is often considered artistic.

The Fine Arts Association had a booth with materials for the public to try their hand at painting but it was a hard sell with the passers by.

I really liked the way the sky and the reflection off the front of Roxy’s Supper Club highlighted this painter’s face.

Her image included a turret at the corner of Main and Park but everyone else I saw that morning was depicting the round Queen Anne turret of the 1895 Webster block back at Church and Main.

All with the Manic Expression Cube.  .17mm pinhole 24mm from 24x24mm frame on Kodak Colorplus 200.