Saturday, August 18, 2018

Long John Pinhole

I've been carrying around the Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper lately and came to think the camera wasn't completely opaque. It seemed to be fine in lower light situations around the house and on cloudy days, but out in the summer in bright light there seemed to be a few very dense, low-contrast negatives which were denser at the top and bottom of the negative than in the center as if there were photons sneaking through the back and over and under the opaque backing of the film.  If an image was done just after another so it wasn't in the bright light as long, the problem wasn't apparent. The inside of this camera was painted with black interior latex paint. It sure looks opaque, but it could pass some light in the bright sun or when the camera is out for a while even in cloudier situations.

So I put four heavy coats of black Krylon on the inside.

I recently wondered why long image forming objectives were called by the greek-derived word telephoto and short objectives were just referred to by their wide angle of view. It turns out that a telephoto lens is one with a special group of lenses that makes the overall device physically shorter than it's nominal focal length.  I can't use that term for a pinhole camera.

When painting it, I didn't mask off the outside and got quite of bit of paint spatter on it, so it's not in a Plain Brown Wrapper anymore. The punk look of the paint spatter is kind of cool.

So henceforth it shall be called Long John Pinhole!

There's a long tradition of long things being named John.  There's Long John Silver, the archetype of a pirate whom we all speak like in September. Long John Baldry was a favorite member of the British Blues movement.  The one piece union suit workers wore to deal with unheated factories and farms are Long Johns.  An elongated cuboid of fried pastry dough covered with icing is called a Long John.

So out around town in the sunlight to see how this worked out.

I've noticed the way the morning sun lit this back wall of The Light Of The World, Church Of The Living God, Pillar And Ground Of The Truth, on previous bike rides and returned several times to try to photograph it.  On separate occasions I encountered: three children playing in the front yard next door; an ugly giant SUV parked in front of it; garbage day, an occupied police car parked across the street; and the entire congregation restoring the inside. Finally, last week I got there and the light was perfect and the whole block was deserted.  With just Long John Pinhole along I needed to be out in the street a bit to get the wall parallel to the film.  I worked out the distance, leveled the camera and measured the exposure while still on the curb. After stepping out in the street and starting to adjust the camera pointing, a young women came out to let her dog pee, which appears in the lower left corner.  I explained that I was taking a photograph of the church.  She didn't reply.

While on the subject of churches and putting a tripod in the middle of the street, I've photographed this scene before, but with a 45mm camera.  With Long John, it's much safer on the curb and the compression of the narrow angle makes the proximity of Boots Saloon and St. Mary's school and church more pronounced.

The Howard is a newly restored event and performance venue.  It used to be the Eagles Club.  When Andy was in high school the Madrigal Dinners were held there, the first gig of his band Independent Rain took place in one of the smaller rooms in the front and for a few years the Winter Farmer's Market was held there with a full bar available. It's visible for a mile with the First National Bank looming behind it when you look straight down School Street. As you get closer and the relative distance to them changes, the bank recedes until it's just a detail in the background.

I had noticed the stairway and various balconies on the side and came back to photograph them in the morning light.  When I saw the ladder leaning on the wall, the spirit of William Henry Fox Talbot overcame me. I parked my bike near the street, set up tripod and camera, and then walked into the parking lot toward the building to frame the picture. Turning around after closing the shutter, there were three workers I hadn't noticed sitting on the back of a furniture truck taking their coffee break, watching me. Assuming they wondered about the cardboard box, I told them I was taking a photograph.  One replied that he guessed that, and wondered of what.  I said "Lines, shapes, shadows. A historic building. It tells a story."  He said he could understand that.

Practically across the street from Merrill School is Firehouse No. 8, most recently housing a public relations firm and two posh apartments, and now for sale. I wonder if the tower is part of one of the apartments.

There's an apocryphal story that at the meeting to incorporate the city in 1853, it was named after Chief Oshkosh because the recent settlers from the east, who called their settlement Athens north of the river and Brooklyn to the south, split the ballot and the otherwise minority earlier French and Indian residents voted for the name of the chief and won. This memorial to Chief Oshkosh was created in 1926, 68 years after his death. It's currently being restored.  There's some doubt that it's his body buried there and just about everything about whole memorial is erroneous.  He had a pretty challenging life. In 1827, The U.S. Government got impatient dealing with a loose conglomeration of Menominee leaders spread over half of Wisconsin and appointed him chief so he's the one who shows up on some pretty sketchy treaties.  He did keep his people from being relocated to Minnesota and on the reservation he negotiated for, set up a sustainable logging operation which is still running.  Later in life, he got pretty disillusioned and died in a bar fight. In an ironic twist, between the logging and casinos, the tribe has done quite well in the 21st century and purchased the naming rights to the new Menominee Nation Arena on the south side.

So did the extra layers of paint fix the problem with my negatives? I'm not sure. The dense areas on the bottom are gone, but there were a few negatives that had the issue at the top and overall fogging.  I now think what's going on is plain old fashioned overexposed skies being diffracted by the smaller than optimum pinhole.  I did the digital equivalent of burning through the density and using a number 4 filter and got some kind of dreamy looking scenes people often associate with pinhole.

I wanted to show both sides of the north inlet to Miller's Bay but I missed and you can just barely see the tip of Ames Point on the left.

The south end of Miller's Bay is enclosed by Monkey Island, a settling pond for the city's water supply.  There's a second inlet between it and the park.

All with Long John Pinhole. .33mm pinholes - one on-axis with the film plane and one 12mm above the axis - 120mm from a 6x6cm frame on Ilford HP-5 developed in Rodinal 1:50.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Summer in the City

This July we have had almost continuously partly sunny skies with all sorts of dramatic clouds.

I set forth on several rollin' pinholin' adventures to take advantage of the interesting backgrounds.

Built as a response to Wisconsin's first-in-the-nation legislation establishing technical schools, The Beach Building was the Orville Beach Manual Training School from 1912 until the '70's. It was converted to offices, and now apartments. It was designed by noted local architect William Waters, but the front is probably more typical of his work than this back corner.

The Mainview Apartments, originally the Hotel Raulf, looms over the local office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

You can always depend on the Catholic Church for architecture. While I was taking this a preschooler was clinging onto the playground fence thirty yards away yelling "What are you doing?" over and over as loud as he could.  I told him I was taking a photograph. He ran away toward an unseen companion repeating "He's taking a photograph!" at similarly high volume.

Where the hotel parking structure joins the hotel.

The loading docks at the Convention Center.

The Canadian National railroad bridge in it's normal raised position silhouetted against the sky.  This was about a 4 second exposure.  There were at least two boats in the picture that moved too much to be recorded, but the ducks in the lower right stayed put.

This one cloud seemed to make a composition all by itself.  Looks more like a ducky than a horsie to me.

Sailboat masts at the Yacht Club.

Clouds over the four backstops at East Hall Field.  This cloud looks more like an Angry Bird.

The front of a building for a change.  Merrill School. This is the elementary school side.  The second floor windows on the right were Andy's fourth grade classroom where we did a pinhole experience. This is the door they came out of to take their photographs and go back to the improvised darkroom in the copier room in the basement.  What originally caught my eye was the little garden plot planted by students and now completely overgrown in mid-July,

The corner of the middle school side under the shade of this really giant oak.

Our unruly magnolia doing it's impression of a Picasso sculpture

The above were done with the new Evil Cube.  I confess that I used the rising pinhole for all of them.

I also had the Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper with me.  As with the last roll through this camera, in addition to clumsy double exposures and bumping the camera, I also had what I thought were some pretty odd low contrast exposures.  I now think this camera is not totally opaque but I did get a few exposures that were OK.

The Mainview Apartments again, although this time the slight fogging changes the tone and makes it look like it's about to be flattened by an alien death ray.

The Canadian National Bridge lowered with a train going over it. The barriers came down just as I got there.  I tried to get the tripod detached and set up with the camera on it while still sitting on the bike and nearly fell over three times. The train was nearly done by the time I was ready. I held onto the tripod to keep upright and seem to have given it a bit of a shake, but that gives it a kind of ghostly historic vibe.  This was the location of the first railroad bridge to cross the Fox in 1861 carrying all those wood and paper products from the factories powered by the river between Oshkosh and Green Bay to markets in the rest of the country.

There was another railroad bridge up river a mile, but it was dismantled around the turn of the millenium. The area across the river used to be pretty heavy industry centered around the Universal Foundry. It was a brownfield contamination site for years. About the time the bridge came down, the state and city created a program to clean up such sites and provide tax incentives and it's now all giant apartment buildings. The water tower is brand new. They just took down the old one last month. The tripod was sitting on a rocky breakwater on the riverbank.  My first attempt was ruined when I nearly fell in the river and grabbed the tripod for support again. I also took a second exposure before I realized I had turned the camera a little and so took this third one. A good bit of why I think the camera isn't totally opaque is that these exposures made rapidly one after another don't show much sign of the fogging.

Seduced by another cloud. Again, the previous frame was very dense and low contrast, but I was under a pretty thick cloud when I made this seconds later and it's a completely normal exposure.

The first twelve (!) with The New Evil Cube. .3mm pinhole 6cm from 6x6cm frame located 15mm above the axis of the film plane, with Kodak TMax 100.

The last four with The Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper. .33mm pinhole 12cm from 6x6cm frame located 12mm above the axis of the film plane, except the one of the train which was done with the on-axis pinhole, with Ilford HP5.

Both developed in Rodinal 1:50

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Etude for three pinhole cameras

One thing I think digital-native photographers will never understand is that sweet conflict when you've finished a project and you still have half a roll of film in three cameras - you're impatient to look at the pictures but it's an excuse to go out and play pinhole. Therefore, here is a piece in three movements.

First movement: Allegretto - North and east of the city.

Great Northern Stratagraph - a packaging digital printer.  Whaddya think they have in that giant white hopper?

Over at the county park, those clouds look a little peevish when you're under them.


Baseball backstops are almost as ubiquitous as schools and churches in the United States.  Zoom in and check out the resolved chain link.

iPhone Box

Most of the north end of the park is wetland laced with disk golf fairways.

iPhone Box

Following Sherman Road to the lake, I encountered this fallen giant being engulfed by vines.

iPhone Box

A public fishing dock in about as good shape as the tree. Probably both victims of an ice attack.


Looking across Asylum Bay.  That's Asylum Point to the left.


The clouds got not only angry but downright aggressive and I had to hightail it home.  I made it to within two blocks before the rain began.

The Second Movement: Moderato - South and west of the Fox.

I seem to have weak spot around 700 nanometers.  This playground equipment is at the south end of where Knagg's Ferry crossed the Fox, the only way for 19 years. Noted on the nearby Official State Historical Marker: "Governor Henry Dodge and his party crossed on the way to the Council at the Cedars where the Menomonie Indians ceded to the United States all their lands between the Fox and Wolf Rivers."  It's called Rainbow Park, but I can't see any deliberate ROYGBIV or LGBTQ.


Mark Rothko and Franz Kline made me take this picture.

IPhone Box

Not sure who to blame for this one - Joel Meyerowitz or William Eggleston.

iPhone Box

Definitely Claude Monet egging me on here.

iPhone Box

Can't put a name to this one, but it looks familiar.

iPhone Box

Third Movement - Largo.  Sunbeams at home.

A new palm acquired in the endless quest to replace the privacy of the privet hedge.

Evil Cube

The appropriately named Sun Room

Evil Cube
The Evil Cube has a .3mm pinhole 6cm from Lomo 100.

Goldberry has a .33mm pinhole 8cm from Lomo 400.

The iPhone Box has a .26mm pinhole 36mm from Ektar 100.

All make 6x6cm negatives.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Faux on the Fox

Our city summer celebration, Sawdust Days, takes place in Menomonie Park. Across the lagoon from the carnival and rock and country bands, which you can hear anyway, is a Historical Village characterized as a Rendezvous by it's participants. It roughly has a theme of the Voyageurs of New France and is set around the time of the American Revolution.  Sawdust Days coincides with Independence Day. There are lots of American flags on display.

I took three cameras: the trusty Evil Cube, Goldberry for her narrower angle and the 10th Anniversary iPhone Box Pinhole Camera to be ironic. They were loaded with color film because it might be perceived that I was trying to imitate early photography, which would be really inaccurate chronologically anyway. I should know by now that I was going to get very documentary and it turned out to be about a bunch of modern Americans playing around with history, and trying to make a buck doing it.

I had ridden my bike by the village in previous years and the uniformly colored canvas tents in the dappled light under mature oaks seemed like an attractive subject.

The evil cube

It was hot and sunny. Most of the encampment was in the shade under the trees.

The Evil Cube

The locale is right next to Lake Winnebago, on the Fox/Wisconsin River trade route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, so it is likely that people gathered here in the 18th century. In the People of the Waters exhibit at the Public Museum there's a quote from my friend Jeff Behm: "If you're in Winnebago County and you can see water, you're standing on an archeological site."

I went there with the explicit idea that I was going to take pictures of people.  I'm usually reluctant to ask, but I reasoned these folks were kind of strutting their stuff and were habituated to having cameras pointed at them and that would make it easier.

As I approached the first campsite, it's occupant made eye contact with me and said "How are you doing?" I inquired if he and his compatriots would mind being asked if I could photograph them. He replied they really appreciated being asked, and said sure go ahead. This turned out to be the typical response almost word for word. While I fussed with tripod and camera he explained to me that he did this specifically to explain how the earliest white settlers and the Native Americans tried their best to get along and trade with each other.  He could trace his ancestry back to both groups on both sides of his family.  He also assembled little beaded jewelry to sell.  The film can was filled with brass beads. He seemed to consider my pinhole camera as nothing out of the ordinary.

Iphone Box

The village was advertised as an educational experience and there were organized activities.  One of them involved tipis. I approached this guy because of his red shirt. A similar picture of him appeared in the weekly Oshkosh Herald.  He had made a pinhole camera for a Boy Scout merit badge and had worked as a photographer with a Bronica 6x6, so he knew what medium format was.


His tipis are examples of several tribal styles. He had two others and about a dozen 15 to 20 foot poles next to him that he uses to demonstrate raising one three times a day. This is his favorite because the door is wide open and easy to go through.

Iphone Box

I continued down toward the lagoon and things transformed into a modern pastiche - kind of a colonial souvenir mall.

Some of the merchants were food vendors who were trying to make a historical hamburger.  Craft-brewed root beers seemed to be the dominant beverage. As soon as I got the camera set up, this publican got a call on his cell phone, and I waited ten minutes till he was done.  Despite several customers being served (in paper cups), no one said a thing about the iPhone Box on top the tripod.

Iphone Box

There was one tent that was mostly closed.  There was a boom box playing heavy metal inside it. I went around to look at it from the other side and was taken by this huge, brilliant red wheel controlling a giant black corn roaster, with the gas supply on the ground behind it. It really captured the spirit of the area for me.

The pretext of being historically flavored meant lots of beaded crystal necklaces and cast metal rings and amulets were for sale, but in quantities and qualities that were indicative of mass production. In the bin of light colored objects in the foreground, their shoplifting policy is just barely legible.

The evil cube

In keeping with the fur-trading and hunter/farmer lifestyle that was the theme, there was a somewhat macabre aspect to a lot of it. I didn't see many firearms, except for the cannon they shot off every half hour. A lot of the merchandise consisted of toy wooden bows, cross bows, axes, knives and swords also seemingly factory produced, occasionally with a father and son pointing one at you.


There was a lot of what looked like fur around, but I was afraid to ask if it was real.


Returning back to the less commercial side. I asked if I could photograph this fire where a piece of sod had carefully been peeled back for it with an arrangement of axes and cookery ware. While I was setting up and making the exposure, a young man in historical garb came up to watch me. Since the first guy had spoken about why he was engaged in this practice, I asked if this one got into it because of a family connection or if he was just into history. He said had no ethnic connection to life in the colonial-era midwest and he came from a suburb of Milwaukee.  His family was just into it. He attended his first rendezvous when he was four months old.

The Evil Cube

I finished with a family relaxing under a canopy.  While I set this shot up, the patriarch, wearing loose white trousers, came up to the pile of supplies and rummaged through them bent over facing away from me.  I waited until he sat down to make the exposure and we all joked that I might have lowered the value of my photograph by including the south end of a horse facing north.

The Evil Cube has a .3mm pinhole 6cm from Lomo 100.

Goldberry has a .33mm pinhole 8cm from Lomo 400.

The iPhone Box has a .26mm pinhole 36mm from Ektar 100.

All make 6x6cm negatives.