Saturday, April 10, 2021

Efficacy of Neopan 100 Acros II in treatment of Manic Expression

Last fall, I went into Camera Casino to buy some film. When I approached the display on the counter I noticed they had Fuji’s Neopan 100 Acros II. I said to the young guy behind the display: “People have been really raving about this being reintroduced because of the generous reciprocity characteristics.” He kind of shrugged. I then noticed they only had it in 35mm 36 exposure rolls. I have only done 35mm pinhole with black and white film a couple of times. I went ahead and got three rolls anyway.

A week or two ago, I was riding around with the 20mm front on the Variable Cuboid and kept passing up scenes because they were trite or didn’t illustrate some special feature of ultra-wide angle. I ended up not taking any pictures. I recognize this sort of pathology. The only cure is to take a lot of pictures as fast as I can. One easy little camera, small inexpensive negatives. The Manic Expression Cube is designed expressly for this type of experience and here was a perfect use for the Acros.

The negatives are weird. My previous experience with monochrome in the Manic Expression Cube was with Tri-X. It is stunning how grainy little pinhole pictures can be. Acros claims to be Super Fine Grain but it’s pretty apparent in these pictures. For one thing, they’re really overexposed. Most of this was in brilliant sun and measured exposures were in the range of a sixth of a second (This is at f140). The fastest I can reliably do waving a black card away from the pinhole and back is about a half second and slower than that when I’m trying to be careful. I also think they might be a little over developed. I was trying to measure 3 grams of Rodinal to make 300ml of 1:100 developer and ended up pouring out 4. It later occurred to me that I could’ve just mixed 400 ml and not used it all. It might just be my imagination, but I think grain is more noticeable in pinhole photographs which you’d never notice when using a sharp lens.

I really don’t care if the images are grainy. In grad school I was once told by a professor that I had a grain problem. I worked in the cataloging department in the library and had just processed a book of Max Waldman’s theater photographs and was especially taken with his Marat/Sade scenes. I started developing 35mm HP5 in Diafine pushed to 800. Grain is really an essential quality of film and I don’t understand why people object to it being noticeable.

I headed out north on Harrison Street. The WRVM radio tower on the other side of the railroad, pointed at by the receding line of storage unit doors, caught my eye.  I love the way the white sections of the tower merge with the sky and it becomes this floating dotted line that bisects the composition.

The gates came down just as I approached the crossing. The trains that use the Canadian National line through town go about 45 miles per hour but are miles long. I had plenty of time for a picture. I didn’t put on a show for the waiting motorists by setting up the tripod. I had the little flexible Joby in my pocket and wrapped it around the handlebars. My front wheel is pressed against the No Parking sign for stability. The gaps between the cars nicely illustrate how a focal plane shutter works.

Another storage unit facility on the other side of the railroad. It’s amazing how many of these things there are.

Back behind the abandoned studios by the WRVM tower.

Those two big black parallelograms seemed like interesting compositional elements.

The Pepsi plant has several of these high-bay doors behind a fence with only a person-sized door accessing them.

Halfway down the plant, another fenced in door with no access at all.

The sun had just gone past the back wall of the AT&T building but the fire escape and other railings were still sticking out in the sunshine. Despite putting some effort into it, I had a lot of trouble getting the little camera level and had to rotate and crop these quite a bit. This one really shows it.

Looking down from one of January’s Eight Small Bridges at the special dock for launching kayaks into the Fox.

There were a lot of fishing boats on the Fox. 

One of the special little lighting fixtures along the Riverwalk.

One of the first and biggest of the wood manufacturing companies in Oshkosh was Morgan Door. This Old House did two location shoots here. They closed in 1999 and the factory was torn down shortly after. Most of the time since the property has been full of Oshkosh Trucks. For the last couple years, there have been plans to build four apartment buildings and it’s been empty except for this giant pile of gravel.

An odd little patch of paint on the wall of one of the Sanitation Department’s buildings.

Farther down river the rest of the Sawdust District is in these differentiated piles.

The back of one of the establishments in the Oregon Street business district.

It is a little ironic that the big deal about Acros is it’s relative lack of reciprocity failure in dim light and I did most of this in full sunlight.  I did do this late sunbeam in the corner of the room and expected a 20 minute exposure, but it measured at only three minutes and that seems to have been accurate.

I went to the Farmer’s Market early enough to get the sun reflecting off my favorite sidewalk where they wove it around the hydrant and poles rather than move the utilities.

The wall to the right is the Mercury Marine Engineering Lab. It’s white cement block and is usually pretty non-descript.  The light was just raking along it and popping out any relief. I had never noticed these circular decorations in it before.

The regular pattern of the blocks stands out.  I lowered the camera and used the rising front to get the top of a trailer on the other side of the wall out of the picture.

I suppose this is probably a fire escape route from the basement of the court house.

In the shadow of the shiny new water tower downtown.

The sun reflecting off the metal bleachers at the softball field at Menomonie Park.

The great white hulk of The Waters.

The storage shed of The Waters.

There were about five frames that were overwhelmingly overexposed and several times I did a second exposure of a scene when I wasn’t sure if I’d moved the camera opening and closing the shutter. I did two double exposures and advanced past about four empty frames because I couldn’t remember if I had wound the film. It took a little over 26 hours to expose the roll.
The Manic Expression Cube has a hand-drilled .17mm pinhole 24mm from a 24x24mm frame.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Random Acts of Color in the Evil Cube

One morning I was looking at some pictures I had done with the Evil Cube and thought about what a nice convenient, reliable little camera it was. With such nice pinholes. Then I looked up and saw the sun shine in the corner of the room shortly after dawn. I had just finished Sun and Shadows and had the Variable Cuboid loaded for North Main Street. What harm would it do to load the Evil Cube with color film and just carry it along? I must have been expecting to do more interiors since I chose Portra 400.

Later that afternoon I had to go to Oaks to get some Easter chocolate so I went down Main to scout for the black and white project. I couldn’t pass this sophisticated bit of color. A long shot from across the street two days later ended up in North Main Street.

The next morning I was riding my bicycle down Bowen Street/Highway A and I noticed this radio tower. For as long as I’ve been a pinholer, I can still be seduced into pointing the camera straight up at some tall object, in this case contrasted with the dried vines which surround it.

Lining up with a link looking through a chain-link fence again. I always try to imagine seeing these things all lit up in radio waves. I wonder if this thing is lit up in the radio band?

It’s right behind what used to be the studios of a top forty light rock station. It’s now just a repeating translator for WRVM, the Radio Voice of the Master, a christian station with transmitters all over Northern Wisconsin. I know of at least two other FM transmitters in the area and they’re much more neatly maintained than this one.

Later that day I photographed the east side of North Main. I was going into Camera Casino to change the front of the Variable Cuboid on the comfy couch when I heard chanting coming from Opera Square, half a block away. There were Black Lives Matter activists drawing attention to the Brianna Taylor case and the upcoming George Floyd trial. They were chanting pretty consistently and I couldn’t get anyone’s attention to ask if I could photograph them. I just started extending the tripod and mounting the Evil Cube. It’s fairly wide angle so I had to be right in the middle of them. They finally paused and I asked one guy if they minded me doing a photograph. He said “You don’t even have a camera.” I explained about pinhole photography. He lost interest and moved out of the frame before I got ready.

A sun beam on some spring decor in the morning.

And now for the abstract expressionist portion of our program: spring surf on Lake Winnebago. 

Oh darn! I spent some time setting this picture up with the axial pinhole and leveling it. I was concerned about how close the sun was. And then I opened the rising pinhole instead and got all this flare and not the picture I wanted at all.

I had photographed the back wall of the Dollar Store several days before. The next day someone put this brilliant lime green dumpster in the front of that black wall.

Andy got to go to Kindergarten in the one of the neatest classrooms I’ve ever seen. His teacher, Mrs. Leffin, sat in the sun in front of those windows with the children around her. Interesting scale with those large windows and little children and their furniture. Wish I could photograph that.

We were watching this sunbeam move across the room as the sun set and I waited about 10 minutes to see if this little group would be centered when I realized I could just move them over into the sun and do the photograph now. 

 All with the Evil Cube. .3mm pinhole 6cm from 6x6cm frame. Kodak Portra 400.

Saturday, March 27, 2021


When I taught photography, in order to emphasize the importance of the individual point of view, I gave one assignment that was a vague concept that would have to be interpreted by the students. One semester it was "Power." I don't remember much about the photographs they turned in. On my bicycle rides around the city I occasionally see some bit of infrastructure of the electrical grid and think of that assignment.

I specifically chose this overcast weather to pursue this exercise. I knew the locations where I wanted to take the photographs but I didn't want to be limited by the direction of the sun. The clouds also provide some relief from a plain sky.

I left the house with the 35mm front mounted on The Variable Cuboid. My first destination was the Bowen Street Substation on the east side of town. When I got there and looked at it, I had to include those two dominating vertical poles. It was too close to the busy street so I needed to photograph it from the other side. I discovered that I had left the 60mm front at home and the 100mm was too long, so I used the 45mm front.

It wasn't that out of my way, so I stopped at home, found the 60mm front and headed to my next subject, the historically named Oshkosh Substation downtown next to the river. I put on the 100mm, held it right up against the fence and aimed through a link.

The Pearl Avenue Substation at the University. I had scouted around it in the past so I already knew which side I was going to photograph. There's a telephone pole roughly in the way in this direction and I thought it might limit my options. I put the 35mm on. I was surprised that the picture as I wanted it was well in front of the obstacle.

The Sunset Point Substation. It's right next to an overpass on the highway so I could get a bit above it and use the axial pinhole. I switched to the 60mm.

A 138 kV transmission line along the Highway 41 causeway. It's part of a major north/south route connecting The Fox Cities and Fond du Lac. I had already figured out that the most dramatic way to illustrate a line of power towers was to concentrate on the closest one and make sure you get at least one other behind it. Also my position on the overpass gave me an advantageous angle. I was a little concerned because I had to point the camera directly into the sun. It seems to have worked in a day-for-night kind of way.

A 345 kV line runs north and south about 10 miles west of town and is connected to the city by this 138 kV line. It goes through the part of the city known as Westhaven. The city limit was at Highway 41 in the 50s when the highway was routed that way. Now the city limit is over a mile and a half west. This is about the west edge of town. The line goes over Fox Fire Drive through a rather broad right of way with suburbia on either side.

A lot of the route takes advantage of the parkland of the flood plain of Sawyer Creek to stay out of anyone's back yard.

In the earliest west side neighborhoods, the towers can seem quite close and menacing overhead. The 60mm was too wide for this so I changed to the 100mm sitting on the curb at the intersection of two quiet residential streets. No sooner did I get my arms in the changing bag when people started appearing. As I was lining up the camera, a woman, probably about my age, came from behind me and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was taking a pinhole photograph.

"Of what?”

"Of the transmission tower among the houses." I said.

She said she just asked because it was her house and it seemed strange. I explained I usually avoid people's homes but thought just the roofline would be OK. I gave her my card. I agreed it was strange. 

She repeated that she thought it was strange.

The line eventually reaches the Ellinwood Substation next to the Highway. There’s a clear view and a big lawn next to the road, but the angle that I thought best was behind a line of dried cattails that I had to squeeze through. It's surrounded by a little ditch. I changed to the 45mm.

A 69 kV line connects to it from the east side of the highway on Osborn Avenue. I was taking advantage of another high viewpoint at the top of the berm around the Viking Quarry. I had the 100mm front on and was backed right up against the fence on a steep slope so I couldn’t see what I was doing very well. I was also afraid of falling in view of what was moderate traffic. I neglected to pull the shutter out all the way and obscured the top half of the negative. I first got this idea of power distribution looking at this scene while doing the Truck post with the Manic Expression Cube, so to honor that moment, here’s a 24mm detail from the of the bottom of this negative.

The line goes to the 12th Street Substation, surrounded by another nice little neigborhood from the 30s and 40s. I had a clear view from across the street with the 100mm, but it just looked more interesting with a wide angle of view. I sat down on the curb in front of a line of pines across from it and changed to the 45mm. This time, just as I had popped off the front, a guy about my age and his little dog came up behind me from the left. I couldn’t pull my hands out. He asked me if I was OK. I had to explain myself. I joked that he probably hadn’t seen someone use a changing bag before. I was a photographer and the way I did it, I had to sometimes prepare in the dark, hence the changing bag. At about that point I got the new front on and pulled my hands out. I said I was a crazy photographer who liked to take pictures of Oshkosh and maybe tell a story.  

“And today it’s substations” he said. “I just asked because this is my house.”

This is a regular city distribution line across the river at the location of one of my eight little bridges from January. 

Before I left the house, I had made a list of what I was going to photograph and the most efficient path to get from one to the other, although slightly out of order. It was about a 20 mile ride. I followed the plan until almost the end. When I had gone by it on the other side of the river earlier, I decided my last idea wasn’t that interesting and had seen a couple better prospects as I rode down the shore. This alternative last photo also cut a few miles off the path home.

Kind of odd, after years of cursing powerlines, that I'm going out of my way to preserve them in these images.

Done with the 6x6cm format Variable Cuboid with Ilford Delta 100 semi-stand developed in Rodinal 1:100