Friday, April 29, 2016

My Pinhole Day

I loaded up two older 120 cameras. It was a cold, dark, rainy and windy day, but that's no excuse.

I hadn't shot anything with the 120 populist since I originally posted the plans in 2008. I've mentioned before that I just didn't get the extra kick from the larger film format.  Maybe Pinhole Day will bring out the charm in this format for me.

For Pinhole Day, I like to find pictures that both feature the conditions that day, and feature my Wisconsin location.

I started in the garden with a long shot.  It definitely identifies the time of year with just the beds of daffodils providing color, but it's kind of a boring shot.

I did get this extreme close up of a daffodil, which is certainly an indicator of the time of year. This is 6x9cm film so this is at least one to one magnification.  The somewhat low contrast doesn't do it any favors in this case, and the house in the background in the upper right hand corner bugs me a little bit.

Sarah recently got these silver candelabras for a song, so that kind of pinpointed the moment in time for me. It was pretty dark, so when we left to go out for brunch, I set the camera up and left it for about two hours until we got back. This is a close contender for the WPPD gallery.

I went around to the front of the house to capture how plantings on the north side of front door, which gets a little more sun, are more advanced than the south side which gets shaded by the pine tree.  We should do something about straightening out  those few concrete steps.  I never notice it except in a photographs, and then it drives me crazy.

Here's another finalist for submission, the magnolia in full blossom.  This has been a great year for it. We had a few warm days which made it blossom, but it's been kinda cold ever since so it's persisted in this state for almost two weeks now.  With the flowers blowing around it's pretty pinholey and I love the petals on the ground among the wood violets (which drew me to this composition) .  I hate the truck parked across the street. Wish I'd noticed it at the time.

We went for a walk in Menomonie Park.  The custom whittled winder fell out in the back yard earlier and totally vanished among the rest of the twigs etc, so I covered the hole with black tape and ducked into dim light to wind it after that.  I couldn't really do that in the park, so only took this one shot of the giant marble globe, which  I thought a pretty appropriate subject for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.

In the evening I still had one frame left, so I set the camera on the kitchen table pointed at the stove and refrigerator for about two hours while we watched Masterpiece Theatre.

So it's on to the Glenlivet Vertical Populist.  I built it shortly after Sarah gave me the Scotch for Christmas in 2008, got it out again for Pinhole Day in 2012, and shot a roll with it last fall.

The thing that captured my eye in  Menomonie Park were the still leafless trees on the already green grass that grow along the shore of Lake Winnebago.

If anybody saw my images of the total lunar eclipse last September, this is where I took them from. This shot could be a contender.

The rocks along the shore placed to prevent erosion and the curve of the shoreline make for some compositional interest.

This S curve of the path as it winds under the trees is another classic compositional element.

There was supposed to be a full moon and thinking of Gregg Kemp, I was inspired by his moon photos to try this with the streak of the moon rising through the magnolia blossoms. Unfortunately it remained cloudy all night, and the two hours I left it out there was only enough to make a very thin negative.

So this portrait of a single tree bent by the near constant wind coming off Lake Winnebago is now my leading choice, primarily because of the composition and it kinda captures the mood of the day.

I still have three exposures I took on Pinhole Day in the Populist, but I really want to feature one of these cameras, so I'll probably pick one of these.  Go to the 2016 Pinhole Day exhibition and search for me to find out.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I have no defenses against flowers at the best of times, so I can't help myself photographing the appearance of Spring's first blossoms. Following my recent confinement, Spring has an extra dimension this year.  (It was really only about two weeks.  I should make a terrible pun about spring in my step here, but....)

The crocuses always win by about two weeks. They got snowed on three or four times, but by the time I got out for this picture, someone had snacked on it a little bit.

The little scilla's are next by the corner of the back porch.

Way out in the back under the crabapple are the lungworts.

There were lots of daffodils just getting ready to blossom.

But a few were already busted out. Fluttering in the wind on even the most mild days is always a problem this close up, so it was nice of this one to lean up against an old stalk that got missed in the fall cleanup.

 A backlit yellow flower is about the shortest exposure you could ask for though.

The magnolia in front of the house was just about in the same state.  Lot's of buds...

But already had numerous blossoms also.  It's fully open now and pretty spectacular.  Pedestrians stop to photograph it and smell the fragrance, and comment how nice it is.

I always describe our lawn as a diverse ecosystem.  A sentimental favorite, which even occupies the more chemically manicured lawn next door, is the state flower, the wood violet.

As you might expect from a wood violet, they are particularly profuse under the pine tree.

Have a great Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day everybody!

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Workshop test

I get to do a workshop for public school teachers this summer.  Most of the workshops I've done were with elementary and middle school kids.  I've done two with adults.  One was part of a graduate course and a few of the students who were high school science teachers were really mad because I hadn't been told to assign them a grade and I didn't have any criterion for doing that.  The other was a "Faculty College" that was offered during off-semester times for general professional and sometimes just personal development of the faculty and staff.  The group that day was small and really into it, but the weather was extremely dark overcast and rain - over 10 minute exposures.  They got in a few shots anyway. (Later edit: I forgot about two sections of Art Education Students I worked with)

The one this summer is part of a program called Arts Core that emphasizes integration of art objectives anywhere in the curriculum so the teachers could be from K-12 and in any discipline. Should be interesting. I've got a four hour block in the middle of a three day event, which is actually the beginning of a year long experience that includes two more sessions in the fall and spring. They want to include "storytelling" in the workshop.  I can dig that.

The last workshop of any kind I did was in 2006.

Yesterday, I went over to the Art Department darkroom at the University we'll be using  (the last one on campus) which I hadn't seen for ten years. It turned out to be much as I remembered it.  I also had a 10 year old box of about 80 sheets of paper that I wanted to find out if it was fogged or not.  Turned out OK - I couldn't tell the difference between a sheet I developed and one I threw directly into the fixer.

So I made a few test exposures with my old f130 two and a half inch foamcore camera, again, something I haven't done for ten years.

It was a bright sunny day.  I started with a 20 second exposure. I didn't measure it with anything and I just counted so it might have been a little long.

A little overexposed, so I cut the second back to 12 seconds.

Still a little denser than I would like, but that curve in the upper left had corner is kind fun.

When I reloaded and came out for the next one, a bit of haze had come over the sun, so I did 9 seconds.

Just right!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Why I love Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.

We love to celebrate holidays at our house.  We go to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, carve numerous jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, just go nuts at Christmas, make pies on March 14, and spaghetti and meatballs on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

So Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day is another reason to have a special celebration.

It sometimes seems like Pinhole Day is kind of a funny little relic of an earlier time on the internet.  I mean, the idea grew out of a post on an email list serv. The role of the Dude's rug is taken by the on-line gallery of photographs, one per participant, all taken on the same day. It was not common to be able to post photographs at all in 2001 when this started, so just sharing your work with other Pinholers was kind of a special thing.  The only rules are it must be a lensless photograph, and it has to be taken on the last Sunday in April.  This sometimes seems like a really silly criterion.  There are now millions of ways to get your work on the internet, so this restriction to one day really focuses the mission of the gallery.  I grew up when instant world-wide communication was not available to regular people.  If you had contact with someone across the globe, it was either by an expensive telegram, an very expensive telephone call, or a very slow letter. It was really special.  So this coordination of behavior of people all over the world on one day still gets to me.

The other major function of the Pinhole Day web site is to list a variety of events which people organize in preparation of, or on Pinhole Day. I have never participated in a group activity on Pinhole Day, but I have done workshops at other times of the year and they're really fun.  I like the idea that Pinhole Day gives people the excuse to set up events, especially ones that give people their first experience of pinhole photography, and in a lot of cases their only experience ever of photographic chemistry in a darkroom.  I get kind of a negative reaction when people talk about "promoting the hobby," but I get a kick out of the idea of others experiencing something I think is pretty cool. Particularly exciting are the thought of this going on in school settings.  Pinhole Photography meets a lot of learning objectives (can you tell where I spent my career) in Art, History, Math, Optics, Physics, Chemistry and Manual Skills.  Kids tend to do things together so it's collaborative. It's naturally active learning, and then the cherry on top, it's really fun.

I have fun doing it. I get off on having to come up with a great photograph on that one day.  Cold, dark and rainy? Too bad.  Shoot interiors or use an umbrella. Not inspired? Tough.  Go find something to photograph. It's got to be today.  And then, you have to pick one.  Which of these photographs do you really like?  This all gives the whole thing a bit of an adrenaline rush.  But it's not competitive at all.  Everybody gets to submit one photograph.

I also tend to pull out old cameras for the day or occasionally build a new one. Variety is the spice of pinhole, I guess.

Full disclosure - I've been on the coordinating team (of at most seven people) since about 2005.  I'm the support coordinator (I answer the emails) and now I'm coordinator coordinator, too. We review every photograph before it goes in to the gallery (People can be really weird on the internet.) It's always amazing to watch the gallery build and see the crazy variety of cameras that people use, and as noted earlier, that gallery ties the whole thing together.

I've submitted a photo in every gallery since the first one in 2001. I've got plans for several different cameras I made years ago, which I recently refurbished a little.

It's April 24th this year.  The website is .  You can list an event or put a group on the list on the form so you can sort your images together with your friends at .  The submission form for Pinhole Day images will become available on the home page on April 24th (make sure it's after midnight in your time zone), and stays available until the end of May to give you plenty of time to process your work. (Don't dawdle, it closes on an automated script, so if you miss it, it would take a lot of work to restart things).

This year the event is dedicated to Gregg Kemp who created and managed the web site until shortly before he passed away earlier this year. His contribution cannot be over stated.

I hope you have fun on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.  But you've been warned.  You could fall in love.

My submission to the first Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day in 2001.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Total Knee Replacement Surgery

I recently went into the shop and had some parts replaced. My only previous experience with this sort of thing was having a lens replaced in my eye, and if I my vision hadn't been noticeably better, wouldn't known anything happened while I had a nap at the hospital.

This was a little different. I mentioned in my last post that my lower extremeties had been dominating my life lately.  Here's why.

The culprit.

According to the X-rays, both knees are really shot. Doctor picked the left one to go first, but in the two weeks before surgery when you're not allowed to take anti-inflammatory drugs, it became became pretty obvious this one was the choice for renovation. (They won't do both at the same time).

Pre-admission testing is one week prior to surgery.  First thing they put you into a room by yourself and roll a video of a nice little lady standing in a hallway talking to the doctor (Why don't they let this woman with bad knees sit down? Doesn't the doctor have an office?) explaining some of the necessity, benefits and risks (Haven't I already agreed to this?), and a little about the surgery and recovery.

I've been doing the pre-op exercises every other day for about eight weeks.  They consist of several isometric exercises.

Some dynamic exercises.

and some that combine both.

You have to arrive at the hospital at 5:30 am.  They do six of these a day and don't tell you what order you're in until you get there, but they get you prepped right away.  My turn was pretty early at 9:00, but that still left several hours to wait.

The only thing they really attach before going to the OR is the all important IV (Does anyone else hear "Sister Morphine" while looking at this picture?)

The surgical leg about an hour after surgery. The leg is strapped into a CPM machine that flexes and straightens it on about a five minute cycle.  For the first day I also have attached the aforementioned IV, now with fluids, antibiotics and a self-administered (but limited and closely monitored) morphine injector, a femoral nerve block, surgical site drainage bag, pulse monitor, respiration and gas exchange monitor, catheter and a pulsing cuff on each ankle to help circulate blood out of my feet that feels oddly like a cat walking over my leg when they start a cycle.

Later in the afternoon, with all this stuff attached, they get you to stand up on a walker, take two steps and strap you to a chair sitting up.

Dinner the first night is clear fluids - apple juice, jello, and chicken broth, but to be honest, all this sort of spoils your appetite.

They remove most of this stuff the second day including the femoral block, which has rendered the leg pretty numb and immobile, and the morphine injector.  They switch you to two Vicodin every four hours (if you think you need it. Ha, ha, ha). The Vicodin reduces the pain quite a bit but doesn't really eliminate it right away. The hospital really isn't a great place to sleep in any event. Here's a picture of the flowers my son sent silhouetted against the glow of the monitor lights of the CPM machine and the circulation cuffs, and the fully lit hallway from 2 to 6 am.

Made all the benchmarks to be checked out as scheduled on the third day.  After the occupational therapy guy taught me how to get dressed, I still had to wait a couple more hours to be released.

Sent home with a few little helpers. A common bit of advice from others who had experienced this was to "stay ahead of the pain". The lead story on the local news the night I had surgery was about the dangers of addiction to painkillers.

Bed rest is specified for most of the day the first few weeks.  The bedroom and bathroom in our house is on the second floor, so once I got up the stairs with much difficulty,  I was pretty much confined up there.  The helpful little manual they send you home with warns you that you might be a little more tired than usual.

Sarah did a great job of making it homey. We had meals at a little table she set up in the bedroom. It only turned out to be two days before I could get down and back up the stairs for meals.

You still have to do exercises -  fewer, but more often.  Everybody warned me how important these were.

You're only supposed to get up for thirty or forty minutes at a time.  Sarah brought the Telecaster up stairs. Luckily no problem sitting with a guitar.  Here I'm playing "Sister Morphine" to mark the occasion.

The bed rest is to prevent swelling.

The incision was looking good a week post-op.

Part of recovery is professional physical therapy three times a week.  A big revelation was that most of what you're recovering from is the damage they do to the muscles and tendons in order to fix the knee.

Almost all physical therapy locations are part of retirement homes and care centers. It was kind of odd to be a fairly healthy guy doing exercises among the rest of the patients who had much more severe problems. (Note the double duty of the walker as a camera support.)

It worked though.  I made the flexibilty measurements for a healthy knee by the second week (although nowhere near the muscle strength). I graduated from the walker to a cane by about two weeks.

I had my follow-up appointment yesterday morning and everything is doing fine.

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