Saturday, June 4, 2016

Workshop camera

  For the teachers workshop I'm doing in August, I considered several camera designs, but I ended up deciding to use the trusty 4x5 inch format, 5 inch long camera I've used in almost all the workshops I've done. Before Ruth Thorne-Thomsen gave a workshop at the small liberal arts college on the praire where I was working, she sent me a handwritten sheet with illustrations (which I really wish I still had) with the directions for how to build it so participants could make it ahead of time. It's essentially the same camera she had used for the work she has in major museums (except hers was covered with several layers of tape when I saw it.)

The one on the left was made by a 6th grader who accidentally took home a camera I made instead of his own. (They do look a lot alike).

Yesterday, I picked up the card stock for the August workshop, and made the one on the right.  (Very grateful to Jim Evans of the Art Haus for cutting it into 5 inch strips for me). I love the professional black body look. I haven't made one of these since 2006.  It took me a little over a half hour.

It's basically a 4x5x5 inch box with one end open, and a back that fits snugly into the box. Most of the people whom I've made these with get it light-tight on the first try, and I did too. (Looks like the piece of paper is a little too big.)

If you're interested you can read all about it and how it's made starting on page 5 of my 1991 Guidebook for Teachers.

I chose this camera for a lot of reasons. I don't have any contact with the participants until the workshop happens so I can't get them to bring existing containers, and we don't really have time to mess with lightproofing a bunch of different boxes.  It's long enough there's not much vignetting. I'm kind of a fuddy duddy about curved camera backs. Particularly for beginners, the curving geometry really puts a stamp on the image which I often find distracting from the subject and composition.  Give me a rectilinear, flat film plane any day. It's also very simple to vary the length of this camera, although we won't have time to do that in this workshop.  Rookies often can't previsualize well with extremely wide angle cameras, so the 5 inch length minimizes this, about equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera. (Still pretty wide angle though.)

I drilled the pinhole with a .5mm #10 needle in a piece of a Leinengkugel's beer can.  Looks like it's got a little bit of a burr at the bottom, but I was afraid I'd bend it if I got too aggressive with the emery paper.   It's very close to Mr. Pinhole's optimum for this pinhole to paper distance.  That makes it f250. A little slow with sunny day exposures about 1 minute, but I've never had a problem with people not being able to deal with long exposures.
Another thing I haven't done for ten years, except for a few exposures about a month ago, and a few experiments yesterday with a couple other cameras,  is take pictures with black and white photographic paper, so I loaded it up and went out and took some photographs.

Here are some irises that got knocked over by the rain and are leaning on a wire plant support.

Sarah discovered these volunteer grass lilies that some bird apparently planted in the herb garden,

And a peony, also pushed down by the rain conveniently firmly supported by some apparently stiff weeds below it. Since it's pink, I expected it to be darker with photographic paper insensitive to red light.

Looks like it still works. Hope we have a nice, still, sunny day like this when August rolls around.

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