Friday, March 31, 2017

More studiousness

This time trying out the 60mm Cheerios box 120 Populist that was portrayed in the pinhole test photos. I can report that three coats of matte black spray paint is plenty sufficient to make this camera opaque

As you can tell from my profile picture, I'm enough of a nerd (and fan of holidays in general) to feel compelled to bake a pie on Pi Day. In recognition of Isaac Newton's significant work with Pi (although they didn't call it that back then) I chose to make it out of apples. To get as pinholey as possible I piled them into an arrangement, and removed them one at at time as I peeled them, closing the shutter when there was only one left.

This image of the pile of peels looks for all the world to me as though it was done with a large aperture. As this exposure was going on, I was mixing the apples and preparing the pie plate nearby and maybe I bumped the table and the edges of the pile shook more than the center.

I descended into the underworld of Polk Library through this door every day for thirty years. I wonder if I would have remained more sane if I'd worked somewhere with a window. It used to drive me crazy to sit on building planning committees and listen to them insist that it was cruel to make faculty work in an office without windows. The image has got another mysterious impression of limited depth of field. The foreground consists of the eight stairs which at this angle and with their similar concrete grey look more like a gradient of focus.

I started the roll just after I finished the one from my previous batch of studies, turning to the left to the bench where the disk golfers wait for the rest of their foursome to finish. There was about a twenty mile-per-hour sustained wind. Not sure why I got away with the last exposure in the other camera, but the first image on this roll was ruined as I could see the camera vibrate in the wind during the exposure. I used my body as a windbreak for this one and that seems to have worked. Another illusion of large aperture – the muddy foreground and the bench were not affected by the gale but the prairie grass and the trees certainly were. The image is confirmed as pinhole by the clouds which were so distant they didn't move enough during the sunny day exposure to significantly blur and remain sharp.

This building in downtown Oshkosh, designed to give the impression of an old German castle, is known as Pabst Square because it was built to bottle beer in Oshkosh. The beer was brewed in Milwaukee, but refrigeration wasn't sophisticated enough at the time to transport and store bottled beer. They could ship the kegs successfully and bottle just enough to be sold before the beer spoiled. Until the late 1990's, the street in front of it was a railroad track.

I'm not sure what this little building was in the former industrial area next to the river. One of the tricks of the successful photography student is to be inspired by the greats, and this one reminded me of Walker Evans.

We're probably beyond the season of ice and snow, but in Wisconsin you can never tell, so the shovels still stand at attention next to the back door.

The disappearance of the snow has revealed our somewhat cavalier cleaning of the garden last fall. 100 is slow to start with and has terrible reciprocity characteristics so this interior was about a two hour exposure. If you can stay out of the room, you can photograph what otherwise would be a pretty wiggly subject. Can't quite put my finger on why, but this one reminds me of Clarence White.

All with 100 developed in Caffenol with a .32mm pinhole 6cm from a 6x6cm frame.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Studies in black and white.

One result of all this camera making lately is I feel the need to run film through them and actually try to experience what it's like to use them.  This is how I learned about using two layers for the shutter to make it stiffer, and not to trust the template print and card stock to be totally opaque.

But, I've always been the kind of person that can't just fire off a roll of film without wanting to get the best pictures I could, and I'm also a little impatient to see the results, so I find myself in the not unpleasant situation of approaching the task as a student of basic black and white photography again. And I'm not unpleased with the results.

You never know what you're going to find at the farmers market.  I've been finding myself calling to vegetables a lot lately, and it looks like they're responding. Obviously one way to study something is to emulate the classic genres. According to his Daybooks (which come to think of it I emulate a little in this blog), before he took the famous funnel photograph, Weston held on to that pepper and kept photographing it for a week until it almost withered. I still haven't had the nerve to cook these two entwined carrots, but the other two have already been in the other kind of soup.  

Here are the cameras I've been talking about. Obviously the camera that took this picture is not in the image. It's a little different and there will be another post about that camera eventually

The one on the left is The 10-year-old Populist.

The 60mm black one on the bottom right is what I used to take the snowy day pictures and the test with 6 different pinholes - note how the black top layer of the paper on the front has torn away by taping all those pinholes to it.  It's also got the single-thickness middle layer shutter which is too easily bendable. The one on the left on the bottom is a 45mm which I discovered needed more light-proofing when I tested it with a strip of paper.  The 60mm one on the top, made out of the same Cheerios box card stock, I just finished a roll in, and the three coats of paint seem sufficiently opaque, but I haven't scanned the negatives yet. 

One thing interesting about photography mentioned by Henry Talbot in The Pencil of Nature is how the same Bust of Patroclus can look different when illuminated with different angles and qualities of light.  Here's the corner of the sun room in the afternoon.

And just after dawn in the morning.

Looking for a new angle is sometimes all you need. I've done a million pictures of the dining room from the kitchen door and from the living room, but I don't think I've ever put the camera on top the piano.  This was just before sunset.

Taking advantage of the weather is a strategy. We had one extremely foggy day, but it was also misting pretty heavily.  Not the weather you want to expose a paper camera to but there are ways around that.  Our magnolia after it was ratted on by a neighbor for blocking their view from backing out the driveway (funny it never blocked my view) and was forcibly pruned by the city.

A classic genre for me is the sun coming in the south kitchen window.

The 7th hole on the yellow disk golf course at the Winnebago County Park. The sun is only maybe 15 degrees above the top and shining straight onto the camera with no flare. This is the first pinhole I've ever tarnished with Liver of Sulfur. I only had a little lump, but I've bought more and look forward to experimenting with it.

All with 100 developed in Caffenol with a .28mm pinhole 45mm from a 6x6cm frame.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pushy and cold

Lake Winnebago is a large, shallow lake, so it freezes pretty well to about two or more feet thick, and in the spring when it starts to break up, the wind drives great sheets of it to pile up in various places on the shore, which are called ice shoves.

Sarah and I went for a walk in Menomonie Park after seeing a report on the local news that it was happening.

As we got there we were surprised to see a lot of traffic on what was still a cold windy day in late February (right after the unseasonable warm spell).  As we got near the lake we could see what was going on just down the shore from the park.

We weren't the only ones with this idea. It's quite the social event, with lots of people crossing the ice to get to it.

I remember telling Sarah that this never works, but I took a shot at making one of those multi-frame panoramas that are so popular with the digital cameras. I individually rotated and edited each image before I remembered what I was doing, but it turned out OK after all.

The shove had piled up on the jetty and dock that extends out from the Yacht Club.

This is right next to The Waters, coincidentally designed by William Waters, an event facility formerly owned by the Yacht Club and the American Legion at different times, who both still have offices in the basement.

Going back to the park we had to pass by our greatest German-American, Carl Schurz, a participant in the 1848 revolution that also got Karl Marx kicked out of Germany. He moved to Wisconsin and studied law and became a Senator and Secretary of the Interior. Probably a bad dude.

The ice fishing clubs mark roads around the lake, which have makeshift bridges over the bigger cracks in the ice, with peoples' discarded Christmas trees.  These two by the shore were about the last still above water.

Back in the park was another shove that had pushed right up to the shore.

Some of the chunks had shattered on impact into shards the size of your finger.

You didn't have to cross the ice to climb up on this one...

to take a picture to post on social media.

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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

10th Anniversary edition Populist plans

In winter of 2006 and 2007 I developed what I thought was a camera everyone can make. Photography has changed a lot since then and some once simple things, like getting your hands on an empty 35mm cassette or 120 reel, have gotten a little more difficult, and analog photography has gotten to be even more of a niche category, and requires a more committed practitioner. So now it's a camera most people can probably make. 

I've updated the templates for 35mm and 120 cameras and I think made improvements in function, particularly with the shutter, as well as eliminating the need for opaque photographic tape. (Although that makes a terrific outer covering of the finished camera). This link leads to new templates for a 6x6cm camera in 45mm and 60mm lengths, as well as the old 24x36mm, 24mm. and 6x9cm, 60mm cameras. They take a hair more care to make than the original, but not that much.

I've recently seen commenters on the Facebook group "Hand-made film camera," when looking at some precision rare-wood and brass beauty, wish they had the skills to make their own camera, and to be honest, a significant array of woodworking and machining tools, and a dedicated place to use them. I don't have any of those nor the skills to use them and I do all this on my kitchen table, but what I do have is some limited experience making paper models and years of experience as a graphic artist when an Xacto knife was the tool in your hand more than anything else, so that is where this concept comes from.

I don't know if there's really any need for another plan for a do-it-yourself pinhole camera on the internet, but I'm going to write the rest of this as though you were going to make one.

The template

Measuring precisely to cut and fold pieces is extremely tedious and error prone, so the idea is to print a template on paper, glue it to some appropriate card stock, cut the pieces out, fold them and glue them together.

Make sure your PDF reader is printing at 100% or full size and not "fit to page" or things won't fit. I've set the file to print that way, but some readers (cough, Chrome, cough) don't recognize that setting. I've put a 1 inch and 25mm scale on the first page so you can check. The pages are US letter sized, but the prints should fit on A4 paper, except the 6x9, 60mm which had a part that wouldn't fit and is on 11x17 inch pages.

You'll need foldable card stock of some sort. Cereal boxes (you can get one camera out of a large economy size box, but I'd have two handy) or 24 packs of beverages in aluminum cans are good and often colorful sources. Not all combinations of your computer print and the box are necessarily going to be light proof, so if you're not interested in playing with the printing on the card stock, material usually referred to as poster board in arts & craft stores, in black, is the premium material. Remember that it has to fold so something like matte board isn't going to work. If you're not completely convinced your print and card stock is completely opaque, you can paint the interior with three or so coats of matte black paint, and I've included another option if you can't do that.

I use Aleens tacky glue, but almost any white glue for paper or wood will work. For gluing the template to the card stock, permanent spray adhesive is quick and gives a quick bond, but it's messy, and you're going to need the white glue anyway to put the camera together. Permanent glue sticks are alright for glueing the template to the card, but I'd avoid using it to glue the parts together - the resulting joint isn't flexible and parts tend to pop off.

The template, in most cases, is intended to be the inside of the camera.

If you're using white glue, make sure you spread it very thinly and completely covering the surface. Too much glue will get the paper wet. Squeegee the template down with a credit card or something. The template has to be completely attached to the card stock all the way to the edges or your camera is libel to peel apart at some unfortunately timed point. Make sure you wait until it is completely dry to continue - wet paper doesn't cut very well.

A couple parts, specifically the middle layer of the shutter, need to be stiffer so you need to laminate two layers of your card stock together to make those parts.

Cutting and folding the template

Most of the cutting out of the template once it's glued to the card stock can be done with a good pair of scissors. Obviously it's important to cut accurately. The holes for the tripod mount, winders, shutters, film counter, pinhole, and maybe the thumb grips need to be done with a craft knife like an Xacto. You'll also need some kind of cutting mat - those are available at Walgreens for a couple bucks. Don't push too hard or you'll break the tip, let the knife's sharpness do the cutting.  Better several light strokes. Probably more accurate, too. Buy extra blades and change it whenever you break the tip or start feeling it getting hard to cut. You probably shouldn't need more than three blades and I've actually done it with one.

The holes for the winders should be cut a little on the small side and then use the dowels for the winders to enlarge them so they fit very tightly. Those holes are an opportunity for light leaks.  Always be paranoid about light leaks. The sun is a vengeful benefactor.

Score all the folds with a ball point pen against a straight edge. When you do fold them, crease the fold all the way in both directions so the card isn't trying to straighten itself back out.

The camera body

Start with the internal assembly and the inner box.

When gluing a surface like the printing on a cereal box that's somewhat glossy, roughen up the surface with the tip of your Xacto knife. If your print is a laser print, that should be roughened too if it's the surface that's getting the glue.

Keep a damp paper towel around to wipe off excess glue.

Clamp glued parts together with binder clips. If I was buying them specifically for this project, I would get one and a quarter inch ones, but I've got a lot of 3/4 inch ones and they work all right. They sell packages with both sizes. You could also use clothes pins.

One of the main differences with the older versions of the Populist is that the boxes are held together with glued flaps instead of opaque photographic tape. With the inner box, the flaps should go on the inside and with the outer box the flaps go on the outside so you have a smooth continuous surface where they slide together (light leaks, ya know).

When the internal assembly is dry, put it inside the inner box and glue everything together. Make sure that the internal assembly is centered in the box, aligned with the lines on the inside which define the 6x6 image area, and the bottom of the internal assembly aligns with the tripod mount hole. In addition to the clamps, you can clamp the front of the box with a couple of rubber bands.  You don't want to crush the box with them and make sure the corners are square and the flaps come together on the inside.

Fold the film reel spacers that hold the film up near the back of the camera and place them in the film bays. You really don't even need to glue them. (There are none in the 35mm film camera.)

In order to make sure the outside box fits tightly - ergo light doesn't sneak between the two - you have to glue the outside box while it's wrapped around the inside box. Make sure you have it fitting as tightly as possible. In order to make sure the two don't get glued together by some stray glue squeezing out, I put a bit of wax paper between them.

The two boxes should be a little hard to get apart.  The thumb holes should make it a little easier to get a grip on the inside box.

The tripod mount
Previously, I've used square nuts for the tripod mount, and I've included the shape on the template for those, but I think it might be a little more secure to use a T nut. Tripod screws are universally 1/4 by 20 threads.  I think the threads are referred to as 1/4"-20 BSW (British Standard Whitworth) thread outside the US. I'm using the T nut with the shortest shaft which is I think is 1/4" (6mm?). 

You'll have to use the template for several separate parts so don't glue it on until you put it on the cap at the end. (Don't cut holes in the cap!)

With this type of nut, for the bottom layer of the tripod mount, I use 3/16 (5mm) foam core so I can drive the prongs into it. It doesn't need to be black foam core since it will be covered. You could use wood if you had some that thin. If neither are available, use a square nut instead and laminate 7 or 8 layers of your card stock together to make the thickness of the nut. Make sure to cut them all and the holes before you glue them together, because you're not getting through that stack with an Xacto knife, and put the nut in there when you glue them together. 

The middle layer is just a spacer for the top of the T-nut to make it easier to glue the cap on. 

Here are the four parts of the tripod mount. When glued together, glue it to the bottom of the camera. Notice the hole is not in the center. The wider side is toward the front of the camera, so there's a gap toward the back so it doesn't block the image getting to the edge of the film. Clamp it. If you don't have a big enough clamp, put some rough holes the t-nut will fit through in a few layers of card stock. With those between the camera and the tripod tighten it on the tripod. You will want the cap on this to be matte black (the template, paint or Sharpee).

The shutter

The shutter is a three layer sliding shutter. The middle layer, which includes the actual moving shutter should be made with two layers of your card stock laminated together with glue to make it stiffer so it doesn't bend when you open and close it. This is probably the fiddliest part to cut. It's probably a good idea to have a steel rule to cut against to make sure your cuts stay straight and use a new blade and go slow with several strokes. Let the knife cut because it's sharp.

Here are the four parts of the shutter (Well, seven, the shutter handle is made from three pieces). This is the film counter shutter. It's got a round hole. The front shutter has a square hole. 35mm only has one shutter.

This is a moving part so when you glue it together you have to be very careful not to glue it into immobility, yet it's important that it doesn't come apart. Remember to roughen shiny surfaces, be careful to use enough but not excess glue, spread the glue into a thin layer, leave a little gap near the inside channel where the parts move, and clamp immediately, but position them so the shutter still moves.

I always move the shutter right away after putting the clamps on and move it every several minutes until I'm sure I haven't glued it in place.

Once they're dry glue them over the corresponding holes on the camera and clamp them with several rubber bands. Make sure you don't glue the shutter in place!

The winders

You'll need a 120 reel or 35mm cassette at this point. You used to be able to get handfuls of these from photo labs which were in almost any city. You can buy them from photo suppliers (You're probably going to have to get the 120 film by mail order anyway). And you might have one of those lensed cameras that takes 120 and you already have lots of them.

I use two winders so that if the film gets a little crabby about moving you can loosen the supply side and then tighten the take-up side, and I recently accidentally wound past the number with a single winder camera. With a second winder you can just roll it back.

The 35mm winders are slightly different. Refer to the original Populist instructions.

The winders are made out of 3/8 inch dowels. which are probably 10mm outside the US. If you had to buy one I'd get oak since it's the strongest option, but I've used anything I can get my hands on. The previous owner of our house left a stash of dowel sticks that had been used as the handle for little flags people wave at parades that I used for years.

I do this with a really cheap little coping saw, but I have done it with a keyhole saw, mitre box saw, a dremel tool, a hack saw and even a full size cross cut saw once.

I use a 30mm piece and draw a line around the circumference 6mm from the end.  I then hand draw where the tab will be on the end of the dowel. I always like to err on the wide side and then whittle it down to fit into the slot with my Xacto knife or a pocket knife.

Holding the dowel in a vise-grips or pliers, I start the cut with my finger guiding the saw.  Make sure you keep the cut vertical and cut exactly to the 6mm line.  It's better to have both shoulders at the same level.

Then turn the vise-grips, line up the cuts you just made parallel to the table, and cut down the 6mm line.  Be careful to stay level and stop before you cut into the tab you're trying to make.

Then, as I said, whittle to fit. You want them to insert all the way into the slot, and they should be a little tight.

Then with the 120 reel in, with the boxes together, insert the winder so it's fully seated into the slot, and draw a line around the winder which will only be a millimeter or two from the shoulder

Whittle a shallow groove where the line is to give the glue somewhere to grab on.  Apply glue around this groove and slide the winder collar on, black side down, so that it's exactly aligned with the groove.  You want that collar to sit right on the top of the camera. If the hole in the winder collar is a little tight, you might feel it catch the groove. Make sure any excess glue on the bottom is wiped off so it doesn't dry into little bumps.

Light proofing

Now, if you're not really confident your print and cardboard combination is truly opaque, is the time to add a little additional barrier. The easiest and I think a very effective way, is to paint it with three or so coats of matte black paint. If you want to preserve the design on the outside from your cereal box, you should probably use some masking tape and paper to cover that. Not a bad idea to paint the outside of the inside box from about the middle to the back to make it harder for light to get down that way. If you can't do spray or some other paint, I've included a template for another layer for the 6x6 imaging area in the front, and the entire back of the camera. Everywhere else you've already got several layers. You might as well use a layer of your card stock as well for this additional light proofing. Remember everything on the inside of the camera has to be black. You could blacken the sides of the inner box with a Sharpee.

The film rides over the folded edge of the internal assembly which could be a little rough.  Cover that edge with something smooth like black tape or glue a bit of old black T-shirt over it. Make sure you glue it flat so it doesn't get in the way of your image.

The pinhole

I'm not going to give directions on how to drill a pinhole. I'll link to a post I did about pinholes earlier and a second one. Both have a cursory set of directions on how to drill and measure a pinhole. To measure really accurately you'll need a flat bed scanner. You might be able to do it with a microscope attachment for your phone camera. If you don't have a way to measure it, do your best and just try it out and you'll probably be within a stop.  If you end up too overexposed or your images are too blurry, try again. It's easy and cheap.

The optimal pinhole size is .2mm for a 24mm camera, for a 45mm camera is .28mm and for 60mm is .33mm. The F ratio is going to depend on the size of your pinholes, but with the ideal pinholes on these it's f116 for the 24mm camera, f159 for the 45mm, and f183 for the 60mm.

In any event, tape the pinhole on the inside of the camera. If your tape isn't black, blacken it or cover it with the light proofing layer. You can leave a little shiny metal around the pinhole, but minimize it.

The viewfinders.

Glue the viewfinders on the top and sides of the camera. I like a little bit of 3D in my view finding lines and find it worthwhile to put the viewfinder on a layer of card stock.

The winder minder

There's really nothing but friction holding the winders in, and losing one will probably result in a light leak on your film.  (If you do lose one with film in the camera, put a piece of black tape over the hole, and wind it in subdued light with a key)  The winder minder slips over the winders and holds them on and is itself held on with two rubber bands.

Advancing the film.  

Film advance should be smooth if you've gotten the film bays the right size.  If the film gets a little sticky, loosen with the supply side and then take it up with the take-up.  Make sure the winders are both tight or you might have a bit of curved film inside the camera.  By the way, it shouldn't make any difference which is the supply side and which the take up, but if you put the supply on the right, the numbers will be right-side-up in the film counter window. For film loading and counting in the 35mm, refer to the original Populist instructions.

If you're mounted on a sturdy tripod and coordinated enough, advancing with both hands turning the winders at the same time is particularly smooth.

Then you go out and take pictures.

Paper cameras are not waterproof, and paper doesn't wear well, but I've got one that is covered in opaque black photographic tape that I've had in my pocket for 10 years.

Gregg Kemp had a strong preference for Pinhole Day images that were made on film with homemade cameras. You've still got six weeks to get it done. It probably takes about 4 hours work, but there's a bunch of times you have to wait for glue to dry, preferably overnight.

Have fun.  Let me know of any comments or questions.  I'd love to see pictures.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Museum volunteer

I've always been interested in museums.  I remember the no-longer-existing one-large-room Natural History Museum in South Bend when I was a child. Sarah's and my idea of a vacation is usually to go to a city and visit several museums.  And I was a history major as an undergraduate.  So when thinking about somewhere to volunteer, The Oshkosh Public Museum seemed like a good fit.  It's a department of the city of Oshkosh.  I had to fill out an application for city employment. They actually have volunteer job descriptions. "Collections Assistant" stated that you would probably be expected to work alone much of the time, and that seemed like a good fit too. This was in mid-November and I couldn't guarantee I would be in a sufficiently good mood to interact with other people.

It's in the former home of the Sawyer family, one of the lumber barons and a major political family in Oshkosh.

Most of it has been converted to exhibit space, but a few rooms at the front of the building are still as they were when it was somebody's home. A collection of glassware and porcelain is usually displayed in the Library, but this was during the holidays when it was full of ornaments.

I work on the staff-only third floor and have a window nearby which is nice to have even when it's snowing.  It's the middle dormer if you're looking at the earlier pictures.  It's on the corner of Algoma and Congress, right across the street from the Paine Art Center.

Every workspace in the building is wedged between storage and curatorial areas.  Just behind the computer I use, the cabinets are full of Civil War uniforms.

They're developing a new "People of the Waters" exhibit which will include several iPads to search the collections of artifacts associated with the exhibit.

They're all laid out on tables in the lecture room down in the basement.

I've been working on the projectile points.  The first artifact I was handed was a 13,000 year old Clovis Point.  I'm not sure if she was just trying to impress me or that we were just starting at the beginning.

I take a box full of about 20 at a time up stairs to be photographed for the virtual exhibit.

The little studio area is in the next dormer to the east.

I work on an old home-made plywood copy stand, but the zoom range of the digital camera is sufficient that I don't have to adjust it up and down very much.

It's one of those jobs that is somewhat repetitive and requires paying close attention to details, making sure the artifact and the scale are square with the edges of the frame.  Since I don't have to move the lights, I just lock it on manual.  Kind of irritating that it changes the f-stop as you zoom, but it only varies between f8.3 and f7.6 so it's less than half a stop and keeps me in the dynamic range the camera has available.

I then crop for efficiency, adjust the levels to the full range and to make sure the image matches the point itself, and then add the images to the catalog. Not the most challenging photography but it's what they need doing and I can get into kind of a shop yoga mode.

When it's done there's a largely uncatalogued collection of photographic equipment and a meteorite collection that's been out of view for twenty years since they remodeled in the 90's that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on.

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