Friday, March 31, 2017

More studiousness


This time trying out the 60mm Cheerios box 120 Populist that was portrayed in the pinhole test photos. I can report that three coats of matte black spray paint is plenty sufficient to make this camera opaque

As you can tell from my profile picture, I'm enough of a nerd (and fan of holidays in general) to feel compelled to bake a pie on Pi Day. In recognition of Isaac Newton's significant work with Pi (although they didn't call it that back then) I chose to make it out of apples. To get as pinholey as possible I piled them into an arrangement, and removed them one at at time as I peeled them, closing the shutter when there was only one left.


This image of the pile of peels looks for all the world to me as though it was done with a large aperture. As this exposure was going on, I was mixing the apples and preparing the pie plate nearby and maybe I bumped the table and the edges of the pile shook more than the center.



I descended into the underworld of Polk Library through this door every day for thirty years. I wonder if I would have remained more sane if I'd worked somewhere with a window. It used to drive me crazy to sit on building planning committees and listen to them insist that it was cruel to make faculty work in an office without windows. The image has got another mysterious impression of limited depth of field. The foreground consists of the eight stairs which at this angle and with their similar concrete grey look more like a gradient of focus.


I started the roll just after I finished the one from my previous batch of studies, turning to the left to the bench where the disk golfers wait for the rest of their foursome to finish. There was about a twenty mile-per-hour sustained wind. Not sure why I got away with the last exposure in the other camera, but the first image on this roll was ruined as I could see the camera vibrate in the wind during the exposure. I used my body as a windbreak for this one and that seems to have worked. Another illusion of large aperture – the muddy foreground and the bench were not affected by the gale but the prairie grass and the trees certainly were. The image is confirmed as pinhole by the clouds which were so distant they didn't move enough during the sunny day exposure to significantly blur and remain sharp.


This building in downtown Oshkosh, designed to give the impression of an old German castle, is known as Pabst Square because it was built to bottle beer in Oshkosh. The beer was brewed in Milwaukee, but refrigeration wasn't sophisticated enough at the time to transport and store bottled beer. They could ship the kegs successfully and bottle just enough to be sold before the beer spoiled. Until the late 1990's, the street in front of it was a railroad track.


I'm not sure what this little building was in the former industrial area next to the river. One of the tricks of the successful photography student is to be inspired by the greats, and this one reminded me of Walker Evans.


We're probably beyond the season of ice and snow, but in Wisconsin you can never tell, so the shovels still stand at attention next to the back door.


The disappearance of the snow has revealed our somewhat cavalier cleaning of the garden last fall.


Arista.edu 100 is slow to start with and has terrible reciprocity characteristics so this interior was about a two hour exposure. If you can stay out of the room, you can photograph what otherwise would be a pretty wiggly subject. Can't quite put my finger on why, but this one reminds me of Clarence White.


All with Artista.edu 100 developed in Caffenol with a .32mm pinhole 6cm from a 6x6cm frame.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Studies in black and white.

One result of all this camera making lately is I feel the need to run film through them and actually try to experience what it's like to use them.  This is how I learned about using two layers for the shutter to make it stiffer, and not to trust the template print and card stock to be totally opaque.

But, I've always been the kind of person that can't just fire off a roll of film without wanting to get the best pictures I could, and I'm also a little impatient to see the results, so I find myself in the not unpleasant situation of approaching the task as a student of basic black and white photography again. And I'm not unpleased with the results.

You never know what you're going to find at the farmers market.  I've been finding myself calling to vegetables a lot lately, and it looks like they're responding. Obviously one way to study something is to emulate the classic genres. According to his Daybooks (which come to think of it I emulate a little in this blog), before he took the famous funnel photograph, Weston held on to that pepper and kept photographing it for a week until it almost withered. I still haven't had the nerve to cook these two entwined carrots, but the other two have already been in the other kind of soup.  


Here are the cameras I've been talking about. Obviously the camera that took this picture is not in the image. It's a little different and there will be another post about that camera eventually

The one on the left is The 10-year-old Populist.

The 60mm black one on the bottom right is what I used to take the snowy day pictures and the test with 6 different pinholes - note how the black top layer of the paper on the front has torn away by taping all those pinholes to it.  It's also got the single-thickness middle layer shutter which is too easily bendable. The one on the left on the bottom is a 45mm which I discovered needed more light-proofing when I tested it with a strip of paper.  The 60mm one on the top, made out of the same Cheerios box card stock, I just finished a roll in, and the three coats of paint seem sufficiently opaque, but I haven't scanned the negatives yet. 


One thing interesting about photography mentioned by Henry Talbot in The Pencil of Nature is how the same Bust of Patroclus can look different when illuminated with different angles and qualities of light.  Here's the corner of the sun room in the afternoon.



And just after dawn in the morning.


Looking for a new angle is sometimes all you need. I've done a million pictures of the dining room from the kitchen door and from the living room, but I don't think I've ever put the camera on top the piano.  This was just before sunset.


Taking advantage of the weather is a strategy. We had one extremely foggy day, but it was also misting pretty heavily.  Not the weather you want to expose a paper camera to but there are ways around that.  Our magnolia after it was ratted on by a neighbor for blocking their view from backing out the driveway (funny it never blocked my view) and was forcibly pruned by the city.


A classic genre for me is the sun coming in the south kitchen window.


The 7th hole on the yellow disk golf course at the Winnebago County Park. The sun is only maybe 15 degrees above the top and shining straight onto the camera with no flare. This is the first pinhole I've ever tarnished with Liver of Sulfur. I only had a little lump, but I've bought more and look forward to experimenting with it.


All with Arista.edu 100 developed in Caffenol with a .28mm pinhole 45mm from a 6x6cm frame.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pushy and cold

Lake Winnebago is a large, shallow lake, so it freezes pretty well to about two or more feet thick, and in the spring when it starts to break up, the wind drives great sheets of it to pile up in various places on the shore, which are called ice shoves.

Sarah and I went for a walk in Menomonie Park after seeing a report on the local news that it was happening.

As we got there we were surprised to see a lot of traffic on what was still a cold windy day in late February (right after the unseasonable warm spell).  As we got near the lake we could see what was going on just down the shore from the park.


We weren't the only ones with this idea. It's quite the social event, with lots of people crossing the ice to get to it.


I remember telling Sarah that this never works, but I took a shot at making one of those multi-frame panoramas that are so popular with the digital cameras. I individually rotated and edited each image before I remembered what I was doing, but it turned out OK after all.


The shove had piled up on the jetty and dock that extends out from the Yacht Club.


This is right next to The Waters, coincidentally designed by William Waters, an event facility formerly owned by the Yacht Club and the American Legion at different times, who both still have offices in the basement.


Going back to the park we had to pass by our greatest German-American, Carl Schurz, a participant in the 1848 revolution that also got Karl Marx kicked out of Germany. He moved to Wisconsin and studied law and became a Senator and Secretary of the Interior. Probably a bad dude.


The ice fishing clubs mark roads around the lake, which have makeshift bridges over the bigger cracks in the ice, with peoples' discarded Christmas trees.  These two by the shore were about the last still above water.


Back in the park was another shove that had pushed right up to the shore.


Some of the chunks had shattered on impact into shards the size of your finger.


You didn't have to cross the ice to climb up on this one...


to take a picture to post on social media.


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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

10th Anniversary edition Populist plans


This post has been significantly revised and updated in summer of 2019. 

In winter of 2006 and 2007 I developed what I thought was a camera everyone can make. Photography has changed a lot since then and some once simple things, like getting your hands on an empty 35mm cassette or 120 reel, have gotten a little more difficult, and analog photography has gotten to be even more of a niche category, and requires a more committed practitioner. So now it's a camera most people can probably make. 

I've updated the templates for 35mm and 120 cameras and I think made improvements in function, particularly with the shutter, as well as eliminating the need for opaque photographic tape. (Although that makes a terrific outer covering of the finished camera).

This link leads to new templates for a 6x6cm camera in 45mm and 60mm lengths, as well as the old 24x36mm, 24mm. and 6x9cm, 60mm cameras.  By changing the lengths of the sides of the camera, you can modify these to any distance to the pinhole you'd like.

They take a hair more care to make than the original, but not that much.

I've recently seen commenters on the Facebook group "Hand-made film camera," when looking at some precision rare-wood and brass beauty, wish they had the skills to make their own camera, and to be honest, a significant array of woodworking and machining tools, and a dedicated place to use them. I don't have any of those nor the skills to use them and I do all this on my kitchen table, but what I do have is some limited experience making paper models and years of experience as a graphic artist when an Xacto knife was the tool in your hand more than anything else, so that is where this concept comes from.

I don't know if there's really any need for another plan for a do-it-yourself pinhole camera on the internet, but I'm going to write the rest of this as though you were going to make one. If you are building one, be sure to look over this whole post before starting.

The template

Measuring precisely to cut and fold pieces is extremely tedious and error prone, so the idea is to print a template on paper, glue it to some appropriate card stock, cut the pieces out, fold them and glue them together.

Make sure your PDF reader is printing at 100% or full size and not "fit to page" or things won't fit. I've set the file to print that way, but some readers (cough, Chrome, cough) don't recognize that setting. I've put a 1 inch and 25mm scale on them so you can check. The pages are US letter sized, but the prints should fit on A4 paper.

You'll need foldable card stock of some sort. Cereal boxes (for 120 one and a half or two giant family size depending on the pinhole distance, for 35mm one regular cereal box is enough) or 24 packs of beverages in aluminum cans are good and often colorful sources. 

Glossy printed surfaces need to be roughed up in order to give the glue something to grab on to. If you're pasting the template on the printed side (the inside of the camera), sandpaper is an effective way to prepare it.  If you're using the printing on the outside, you can be more precise roughening areas that get glued with the tip of your exacto knife.



I've made the parts of the template that will be glued light grey so there's plain paper between the dots. (I forgot a couple places with the copy I used for this build so they're sanded instead.)

Not all combinations of your computer print and the box are necessarily going to be light proof, so if you're not interested in playing with the printing on the card stock, material usually referred to as poster board in arts & craft stores, in black, is the premium material. Remember that it has to fold so something like matte board isn't going to work. If you're not completely convinced your print and card stock is completely opaque, you can paint the interior with three or so coats of matte black paint, and I've included another option if you can't do that.

I use Aleens tacky glue, but almost any white glue for paper or wood will work. For gluing the template to the card stock, permanent spray adhesive is quick and gives a quick bond, but it's messy, and you're going to need the white glue anyway to put the camera together. Permanent glue sticks are alright for glueing the template to the card, but I'd avoid using it to glue the parts together - the resulting joint isn't flexible and parts tend to pop off. Whatever glue you're using, let it dry completely before continuing. Overnight is best. Patience is a virtue we can learn from pinhole, and one you'll need taking pictures.

The template, in most cases, is intended to be the inside of the camera.

If you're using white glue, spread it with your finger and make sure it's covered very thinly and completely covering the surface. Too much glue will get the paper wet. 



Keep a damp paper towel around to wipe off excess glue. Clean your finger with a wet paper towel immediately.

Squeegee the template down with a credit card or something. The template has to be completely attached to the card stock all the way to the edges or your camera is liable to peel apart at some unfortunately timed point. Make sure you wait until it is completely dry to continue - wet paper doesn't cut very well. If you do notice something separating later on, just stick a drop of glue between the layers, smooth them back together and let it dry a few minutes.

A couple parts, specifically the middle layer of the shutter, need to be stiffer so you need to laminate two layers of your card stock together to make those parts. I also like viewfinders, winder collars, and the winder minder to be double weight.


Glued cardstock tends to warp when drying, and that's liable to create gaps, so when gluing the two layers together and when gluing the template on, dry them under some kind of weight to keep them completely flat.



Cutting and folding the template

Most of the cutting out of the template once it's glued to the card stock can be done with a good pair of scissors. Obviously it's important to cut accurately. The holes for the tripod mount, winders, shutters, film counter, pinhole, and maybe the thumb grips need to be done with a craft knife like an Xacto. You'll also need some kind of cutting mat. Don't push too hard or you'll break the tip, let the knife's sharpness do the cutting.  Better several light strokes. Probably more accurate, too. Buy extra blades and change it whenever you break the tip or start feeling it getting hard to cut. You probably shouldn't need more than three blades and I've actually done it with one.


The holes for the winders should be cut a little on the small side and then use the dowels for the winders to enlarge them so they fit very tightly. Those holes are an opportunity for light leaks. Always be paranoid about light leaks. The sun is a vengeful benefactor. For the winder collars, cut those holes with a bit of the cardboard matrix around them, and then cut out the collar itself with a scissor.



Score all the folds with a ball point pen against a straight edge. When you do fold them, crease the fold all the way in both directions so the card isn't trying to straighten itself back out. Make sure the folds are square.




The camera body

Start with the internal assembly and the inner box.

I favor using clothes pins as clamps.  They're not very strong, but they have a pretty deep jaw and using many of them adds up to keep things tight together. They come in packages of 50 so you should have plenty. Always practice putting parts together and clamping them before gluing them together.  You don't want to have to figure it out with them covered with wet glue.

First glue the flaps on the internal assembly that will become the sides of the image chamber to make them double weight and stronger.




One of the main differences with the older versions of the Populist is that the boxes are held together with glued flaps instead of opaque photographic tape. With the inner box, the flaps should go on the inside and with the outer box the flaps go on the outside so you have a smooth continuous surface where they slide together (light leaks, ya know).

The inner assembly and the inner box are glued together in series of steps.

First, apply glue to the bottom flaps of the internal assembly and attach it to the bottom of the inner box. Make sure it's aligned with the vertical lines on the front of the front that define the image chamber, and the tripod mount hole is lined up.



Then apply glue to the top of the internal assembly. If you run a bead of glue on the front of the internal assembly as well, it will make for a stronger box if those are glued to the front.



Fold the front of the camera over, and checking that it's aligned with the image chamber lines on the front,  glue and clamp them together.


Then one side at a time, glue the sides of the front and clamp them. Make sure the flaps meet in the middle and are aligned.


Wait for all this to dry.


Fold the film reel spacers that hold the film up near the back of the camera and place them in the film bays. You really don't even need to glue them. (There are none in the 35mm film camera.)



In order to make sure the outside box fits tightly - ergo light doesn't sneak between the two - you have to glue the outside box while it's wrapped around the inside box. Make sure you have it fitting as tightly as possible. In order to make sure the two don't get glued together by some stray glue squeezing out, put a bit of wax paper between them, folded as neatly as possible so it doesn't create a gap.



Fold the outer box over it, turn it over and glue the flaps, which this time go on the outside.



The flaps won't come together like they do in the front, but try to make them square. The back should fit as tightly over the front as it can. Then clamp them with rubber bands.



When you take them apart after the glue is dried, you may find bits of the wax paper will have stuck that you'll have to peel off.

The two boxes should be a little hard to get apart.  The thumb holes should make it a little easier to get a grip on the inside box.

The tripod mount
There are two possible ways to make the tripod mount, with a T-Nut or a square nut. Tripod screws are universally 1/4 by 20 threads.  I think the threads are referred to as 1/4"-20 BSW (British Standard Whitworth) thread outside the US.

I'm using the T nut with the shortest shaft which is I think is 1/4" (6mm?). 

For the T-Nut there are three layers. For the bottom layer of the tripod mount, I use 3/16 (5mm) foam core that you can drive the prongs into. It doesn't need to be black foam core since it will be covered. The second layer is a spacer to accommodate the top of the nut, and the top layer holds it down so the tripod screw doesn't just push it up into the camera.

Here are the four parts of the T nut tripod mount.


The shaft of the T-Nut should protrude a little through the bottom of the camera.


If you can't get a T-Nut and foam core, you can use a square nut. Use the template to cut 7 or 8 layers of your card stock to make the thickness of the nut. Make sure to cut them all and the holes before you glue them together, because you're not getting through that stack with an Xacto knife. Put the nut in the holes when you glue them together.

Notice the hole is not in the center. The wider side is toward the front of the camera, so there's a gap toward the back so it doesn't block the image getting to the edge of the film.

As with the internal assembly, you can add a bit of strength by gluing the edges as well as the bottom.


Place it in the bottom and clamp it while it dries.



The shutter

The shutter is a three layer sliding shutter. 

Here are the parts of the shutter. The one with the square hole is the taking shutter and the round hole is for the film counter. The 35mm camera only has the taking shutter.



The middle layer, which includes the actual moving shutter should be made with two layers of your card stock laminated together with glue to make it stiffer so it doesn't bend when you open and close it. This is probably the fiddliest part to cut because of the double layer. Most of it can be done with a scissors if you're careful, but the inside of the middle channel has to be cut with a craft knife. Use a new blade and go slow with several strokes. Let the knife cut because it's sharp. When you're cutting the sliding part, be careful not to cut those little tabs off.

Start by gluing the back to the channel. Check the fit of the slider and carefully trim the tabs if it's too wide. 

Then apply the glue to the top of the channel, place the slider in place, place the top on and clamp.
This is a moving part so when you glue it together you have to be very careful not to glue it into immobility, yet it's important that it doesn't come apart. Remember to roughen shiny surfaces, be careful to use enough but not excess glue, spread the glue into a thin layer, leave a little gap near the inside channel where the parts move.



The shutter handle is made from two pieces of your double layer of cardboard the same width as the sliding part of the shutter. After you have the shutter clamped, you can glue and clamp them on.


I always move the shutter right away after putting the clamps on and move it every several minutes until I'm sure I haven't glued it in place.

Once they're dry glue them over the corresponding holes on the camera and clamp them with several rubber bands.  The rubber bands have tendency to move the parts with the wet glue around, so make sure they're still where you want them to be and adjust the rubber bands accordingly if they're pulling the shutter out of place. Make sure you don't glue the sliding shutter in place!



The winders

You'll need a 120 reel or 35mm cassette at this point. You used to be able to get handfuls of these from photo labs which were in almost any city. You can buy them from photo suppliers (You're probably going to have to get the 120 film by mail order anyway). And you might have one of those lensed cameras that takes 120 and you already have lots of them.

For 120 film, I use two winders so that if the film gets a little crabby about moving you can loosen the supply side and then tighten the take-up side, and I recently accidentally wound past the number with a single winder camera. With a second winder you can just roll it back.

The winders are made out of 3/8 inch dowels. which are probably 10mm outside the US. If you had to buy one I'd get oak since it's the strongest option, but I've used anything I can get my hands on. The previous owner of our house left a stash of dowel sticks that had been used as the handle for little flags people wave at parades that I used for years.

I do this with a really cheap little coping saw, but I have done it with a keyhole saw, mitre box saw, a dremel tool, a hack saw and even a full size cross cut saw once.



The 120 and 35mm winders are slightly different. 

First the 120 winders, I use a 30mm piece and draw a line around the circumference 6mm from the end.  I then hand draw where the tab will be on the end of the dowel. I always like to err on the wide side and then whittle it down to fit into the slot with my Xacto knife or a pocket knife. I hold the dowel in a scrap of wood with a shallow 3/8" hole drilled in it, but I've done it with a vise-grips or pliers. I start the cut with my finger guiding the saw. Make sure you keep the cut vertical and cut exactly to the 6mm line. You want to have both shoulders at the same level.




Then turn the vise-grips, line up the cuts you just made parallel to the table, and cut down the 6mm line. Be careful to stay level and stop before you cut into the tab you're trying to make. Then, as I said, whittle to fit. You want them to insert all the way into the slot, and they should be a little tight.



The 35mm winder has a slot that engages the tab inside the film reel.  Make sure this is wide enough that the tab will go completely into it.  If it's not wide enough, it may seem like it's engaged, but might slip if you encounter any resistance.  Also, some times the central shaft of a 35mm film reel may be a bit narrow and you may have to sand the end a little bit to make it fit.

Then with the 120 reel or 35mm cassette in, with the boxes together, insert the winder so it's fully seated into the slot, and draw a line around the winder which will only be a millimeter or two from the shoulder. Whittle a shallow groove where the line is to give the glue somewhere to grab on.






Apply glue around this groove and slide the winder collar on from the bottom, black side down, so that it's exactly aligned with the groove. You want that collar to sit right on the top of the camera. If the hole in the winder collar is a little tight, you might feel it catch the groove. Make sure any excess glue on the bottom is wiped off so it doesn't dry into little bumps.




Then remove it and let it dry.


Light proofing


Now, if you're not really confident your print and cardboard combination is truly opaque, is the time to add a little additional barrier. The easiest and I think a very effective way, is to paint it with three or so coats of matte black paint. If you want to preserve the design on the outside from your cereal box, you should probably use some masking tape and paper to cover that. Not a bad idea to paint the outside of the inside box from about the middle to the back to make it harder for light to get down that way. You could blacken the sides of the inner box with a Sharpee.

If you can't do spray or some other paint, I've included a template for another layer for the 6x6 imaging area in the front, which can double as a pinhole mount, and the entire back of the camera. Everywhere else you've already got several layers. Remember everything on the inside of the camera has to be black. If you've beaten up the template leaving light spots, blacken them with a Sharpee.

The film rides over the folded edge of the internal assembly which could be a little rough.  Cover that edge with something smooth like black tape or glue a bit of old black T-shirt over it. Make sure you glue it flat so it doesn't get in the way of your image.

The pinhole

Drilling the pinhole can be done in several ways.  I do it by inserting the dull end of a #10 quilting needle in a pencil eraser. I use a small bit of foamcore or several layers of corrugated cardboard to hold the needle perfectly vertically while I drill with it. Use a small piece of .002 inch brass shim stock or drinking can aluminum. Place it on a hard surface the needle can't penetrate. For a .15mm pinhole place it on one sheet of paper.  For a .2mm, two pieces of paper and for .3mm, on four sheets or thin cardboard like a matchbook cover.

Rotate the needle to drill into the metal. A burr will form on the opposite side. Sand the burr off with fine sand or emery paper, at least 400 grit. Dust from the sanding tends to end up in the hole, so if you can, blow it out with compressed air, or run in under the faucet at full blast. (Make sure it's completely dry before mounting it.)

To measure really accurately you'll need a flat bed scanner. You might be able to do it with a microscope attachment for your phone camera. If you don't have a way to measure it, do your best and just try it out and you'll probably be within a stop.  If you end up too overexposed or your images are too blurry, try again. It's easy and cheap.

The optimal pinhole size is .2mm for a 24mm camera, for a 45mm camera is .28mm and for 60mm is .33mm. The F ratio is going to depend on the size of your pinholes, but with the ideal pinholes on these it's f116 for the 24mm camera, f159 for the 45mm, and f183 for the 60mm. 

In any event, tape the pinhole on the inside of the camera. If your tape isn't black, blacken it or cover it with the light proofing layer. You can leave a little shiny metal around the pinhole, but minimize it. With the longer cameras it's hard to get your fingers in there to mount it, so the front light proofing layer can double as a pinhole mount. Make sure the pinhole mount lines up with the front of the camera when you glue or tape it in there. If you use tape to secure it, that makes it easy to change the pinhole if you need to.

The viewfinders.

Glue the viewfinders on the top and sides of the camera. I like a little bit of 3D in my view finding lines and find it worthwhile to put the viewfinder on a double layer of card stock. Be careful that they're square with the back and the points are aligned with the pinhole.




The winder minder

There's really nothing but friction holding the winders in, and losing one will probably result in a light leak on your film.  (If you do lose one with film in the camera, put a piece of black tape over the hole, and wind it in subdued light with a key)  The winder minder slips over the winders and holds them on and is itself held on with two rubber bands.

Advancing the film.  

Film advance should be smooth if you've gotten the film bays the right size.  If the film gets a little sticky, loosen with the supply side and then take it up with the take-up.  Make sure the winders are both tight or you might have a bit of curved film inside the camera.  By the way, it shouldn't make any difference which is the supply side and which the take up, but if you put the supply on the right, the numbers will be right-side-up in the film counter window.

If you're mounted on a sturdy tripod and coordinated enough, advancing with both hands turning the winders at the same time is particularly smooth.

For film loading and counting in the 35mm camera follow this link for instructions

Then you go out and take pictures.

Paper cameras are not waterproof, and paper doesn't wear well, but I've got one that is covered in opaque black photographic tape that I've had in my pocket for 10 years.

It probably takes about 4 hours work, but there's a bunch of times you have to wait for glue to dry, preferably overnight.

Have fun.  Let me know of any comments or questions or if you find a mistake or something that needs clarification.

If you make one of these cameras, I'd love to feature it and the pictures you make with it on the blog.