Saturday, February 4, 2023

Yule Fortnight with The Populist

My favorite desktop tripod ever was a little ProMaster which folded into a flat 110mm x 45mm x 10mm slab, easy to fit in almost any pocket. A few years ago, after a day out in Boston, I took it out of my pocket and discovered a leg had broken off.  Although I previously had several of a similar, but a little longer design, there wasn't anything like it on the market any more. I've bought six or seven others trying to replace it but nothing as convenient or as usable. 

After being bugged for weeks to come up with a list of hints for Yule gifts, I saw a Facebook post featuring exactly what I was looking for! Without looking who the vendor was, I copied the link and added it to my wish list. It turned out it was from England but Sarah just held her breath and paid more for shipping than the tripod cost.

It's wonderful. In addition to the extremely compact folding, it has a few other features that make it the ultimate support when operating under Populist Rules. It has non-slip feet which allow you to hold it firmly against shiny surfaces. The ball and socket can be variably tightened so you can adjust the pointing while holding it against a wall yet it keeps the camera in place when you pull open the shutter. This one seems more robustly built and sturdy than my old one and it's solid black until you extend the legs.

I had to give it a spin and loaded the original Populist to document the Yule festivities.

Like many American families, our holiday visits are constrained by the availability and cost of airline tickets. On Christmas morning, Sarah made a special brunch we enjoyed by ourselves.


The monthly challenge for the Fox Valley Photography Group was holiday lights – later changed to just "Lights" when nobody submitted anything. (I didn't get my film back in time.)

Sometimes the sun reflects off the neighbor's window and creates sunbeams through the north window in our dining room.

Two survivors from the previous dining room bouquet accompany the crystal candy jar in the kitchen.

Sunbeams in the sun room.

The view from the other corner of the room.

Some oversize sparkly balls and bells.

I had to get to Oaks Candy to replenish our supply prior to Andy and Kristin's arrival. I thought it would be quick the day after Christmas but the place was packed with people visiting the home town and just having to stop at Oaks and pick out a selection. It took forever but there was plenty of time for the exposure.

Their flight came in to Appleton in the late morning, so we went straight to lunch at Pullman's at Trolley Square. We use to drive right by the location all the time when Andy went to school here early in the century. It was an empty lot then. The terminal for the trolley system was there when that still existed.

It's right under the Oneida Street Bridge.

It's along the Fox in an otherwise nicely renovated factory district.

Just before the pandemic, we all went to the theater to see Knives Out so we were kind of excited to watch the sequel Glass Onion together.

At some point during their visits, Andy will pick up my Alvarez acoustic and make it sound a lot better than it ever did when I was playing it.

For the novelty, we went to have lunch in one of the domes at the Fox River Brewing Company.

Not as scenic as downtown Appleton, but there is a bridge in the view.

Beer battered cheese curds should probably be the official appetizer of the state of Wisconsin, and to be different, fried pickle chips.

The red onions made my sandwich visually appealing, but I didn't eat them.

Luggage waiting for an hours-before-dawn departure.

After the sun came up, reading What if? 2; Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. Hey Randall, how big of a shade and what size pinhole would you need to project an optimally diffracted image of the earth that covered the moon?

On the theory that if it was better lit, we might get around to organizing the basement, we went to Lowes to get a fixture. Short exposure, but not really anywhere to place the camera.

With Yule duly celebrated I could get back to obsessively making cameras. Stopped at DPI Printing to get the latest templates.

A thick fog covered Oshkosh one morning.

It was accompanied by reasonably tolerable temperatures. Couldn't pass this up and went for a bike ride with a new camera.

Speaking of my bike, riding around to look for pictures seems to be an integral part of my photography. To extend the reach of my pinholes, Sarah got me a rack for the '99 Mustang so I could take pictures in other municipalities without having to ride 30 miles to get there first.

The Nutcracker in the Castle at the Paine Art Center doesn't change much from year to year but it's still worth a visit. I believe they serve treats during the highly produced guided tours at these tables. No one cared if there was a pinhole camera sitting on one for a while.

The Great Hall is where most of the dancing part of the tour takes place. At the far side of the entrance, a small camera on the floor is out of the way.

What looks like the grisly result of a nutcracker battle in the gift shop.

We proceeded to the Conservatory for the Sugar Plum Fairy's Cafe.

Just next to our table, an extraordinarily patient young dancer, staying in character, interacting with several children, one of whom did several pliés with her.

After the pastries, a stroll through the frozen formal garden was called for.

A normally submerged planter in one of the water features.

The Populist has a .15mm Gilder electron microscope aperture 24mm from a 24x36mm frame. The film is Kodak Gold 200.

Friday, January 27, 2023

The Glenlivet Pair

I'm the kind of old man for whom it's hard to buy presents, so I often get bottles of single malt Scotch for gifts. Unlike other craft whiskeys, Scotch always comes in these really sturdy, nicely designed boxes. I've made several cameras from them including my first 6x6cm camera, the Glenlivet Vertical Populist and one for Joe Van Cleave last summer

Working on refining the templates for the Compact series of cameras with the new folded film bay scheme, gave me a chance to use the four Glenlivet boxes that have been living in the basement for a few years.

They became a Compact 45 and a 60mm Evil Cube. The front of the 45 features the turquoise logo from the back of the box, and on the 60mm the main, beige label. On the camera backs are the opposite scheme. I also saved the corks. It looks like they changed the design on those at some point. Nice that I had two of each.

As always, the first run through a new design identified numerous mistakes in the template, but nothing I couldn't adjust on the fly. The ease and reliability of the film transport, which is the whole point of the redesign, was very good.

They both have hand drilled pinholes - .27mm on the 45 and .30mm on the Evil Cube.

I set out to test the 45mm on a very foggy day.

The 1911 monument to George Washington was originally located near the lagoon in Menomonee Park. Critics felt it wasn't prominent enough and in 1957 it was moved to the north end of the park near the newly posh Memonomee Drive. It's a bronze copy of a marble sculpture at the Virginia Statehouse, said to be "the most perfect delineation of the first President of the United States that was ever made." It's one of several monuments given to the city by Colonel John Hicks, the owner of The Oshkosh Northwestern.

The Chief Oshkosh monument, another of Colonel Hicks' contributions to the city, was about as imperfect a delineation of the person it was suppose to depict as you can get. It looks nothing like his face or figure and includes a barely disguised racial slur. Some additional signage to illuminate the real historical figure has been approved but that was three years ago and nothing yet.

The temperatures have gotten to more temperate levels. The polar vortex of late December only made the ice on Lake Winnebago traversable by foot or small vehicles. There were several people fishing out on the ice in Miller's Bay, some in tents and some sitting on a bucket next to the hole they drilled in the ice

Taking pictures of people's homes, although perfectly legal from a public space, tends to make them a little nervous. Recently I realized that if I set up the camera and then looked the other way during the exposure, they wouldn't realize the camera was actually pointed at them. Two of the grand Victorians on Washington Avenue.

You can tell the thickness of the ice from the slabs that push up onto the shore. It was weird hearing people's voices coming from the misty void out on the lake.

The Canadian National Railroad bridge fades into the fog.

It's surprising how easy it is to make Senator Johnson's local office look creepy.

When I finished the 60mm, I went over to campus for a little architectural fun on a Saturday morning between semesters.

The Preibe Gallery juts out from the side of the Fine Arts Building.

Once again my square format camera insisted on this subject. I wonder if the sculptor intended this thing to be leaning a degree or two to the left. 

Before they moved to Lincoln School, this was the exit to the playground of the Children's Center in the basement of Swart Hall. Back then it was surrounded by a fence and you couldn't get this close to it.

I used to give presentations in Buckstaff Planetarium. They had a great stereo system. I started with "Ten Thousand Light Years from Home" while the audience was being seated and closed with Jiminy Cricket's "When You Wish Upon a Star." It was fun to operate the Spitz projector with about twenty-five dials. It had a bazillion gears and it was fiendish to maintain. I once helped a physics professor calibrate it so the planets were in the right place in the sky. The Student Technology Fee once approved a new digital projector, but that's apparently fallen through because they've pried the name off over the door. Now it looks like some alien script and the sign next to it says Buckstaff Hall.

The passage between Harrington Hall and Halsey Science Center.

This might be some kind of hazardous material storage. I've photographed it before but couldn't pass up that Talbotesqe ladder.

This pit was built in the 60s to accomodate the emergency generator to keep the data center, behind the basement windows on the left, going through occasional power outages.

The west door to Dempsey Hall.

Oviatt House, formerly the President's house and then the Foundation, it now houses the University Scholars Program. The tower and the tree were on the University logo, but it was too detailed to stitch on a baseball cap, so they changed it.

Don't you wish I'd just point the camera up at something occasionally?

For three decades I labored served in Polk Library. Both the Chancellor and the Director of the Library have told me it will likely be razed and replaced in the next three years. They both said it was because "the building is shot." This door has not been used since the secure entrances were limited to just one after the 1988 renovations. I wonder about the fate of that mosaic, original to the 1963 building.

Polk was built in two parts. This is the front of the first building. After the remodeling, those expansive windows along the colonnade were the librarian's offices. My office was in the interior suite in the basement of the 1972 South addition.

The Glenlivet 45 has .25mm pinholes, 45mm from a 6x6cm frame. The Glenlivet 60 has .30 pinholes 60mm from a 6x6cm frame. Both have pinholes on the axis, and 15mm above the axis. The film is Ilford FP4+ semistand developed in Caffenol.