Thursday, April 20, 2017

Shut-in challenge

Since I did my usual 35mm, Populist, documentary schtick for my last knee surgery, I didn't want to repeat myself.  I loaded two 6x6 cameras, the 45 I made last fall and the Evil Cube, with Portra 400. I imagined I would be doing interiors. I ended up only taking the 45 with me to the hospital, and took only one picture there, the rest done in the upstairs in my house.  I was kinda whiny about it in that post, but I did enjoy taking the pictures.  When I finished the roll in the 45, I still had 11 frames left in the Evil Cube.

A challenge!  Can you find 11 more interesting pictures in three adjacent rooms?

I did take one picture downstairs with it before we went to the hospital - the black folder from the lawyer with the Power of Attorney and Living Will. They do include death as one of the possible outcomes in the agreement which gives them permission to do surgery, and ask that they have copies of these documents on record.

I survived. Didn't need them.  I am actually healing. My physical therapist applied this modernist pattern of thin strips of tapes to my knee which is suppose to minimize swelling a couple weeks post-op. It seems to work. I was intending to feature the surgical leg in this picture, but I missed.  I like the composition that resulted though.  Pinhole serendipity.

If you're supposed to sit in bed all day, you need pillows, and an iPad helps.

Sitting here I'm looking right at the closet door handle, upon which Sarah occastionally hangs a blouse.

Right next to that is the curtain tie.

I usually sleep on the other side of the bed so I must view this scene often going around the bed, but for some reason I never visualize the room from this angle.

The temperature has varied considerably, and this fuzzy blanket has seen service.

Occasionally a sunbeam falls on the moldings between the bedroom door and the hall closet.

My short walks every hour or so during the day go seven steps, due east and west, from one end of the hallway and Andy's bedroom and back repeatedly. This is the western end looking out the back through the prismatic wind chime whose magic was featured last week, and announcing the season, several bunnies.

About halfway is the quilt rack with Sarah's grandmother's quilt, crowned with more bunnies

Directly across from it, the laundry chute.  Planned to get this more square, but, and maybe this is rationalization, I kind of like the crazy off-center, twisted composition.

And at last, reaching the eastern terminus at the front windows, the magnolia has been in the process of blossoming.

All with the Evil Cube. .29mm pinhole 6cm from 6x6cm frame on Portra 400.

I'm really enjoying this camera.  You can keep your Hasseblad.

It would be interesting to see others do the three adjacent room challenge. What room are you in?

Friday, April 14, 2017


Guess which one they did this time? Before surgery.

Sorry about not taking more pictures in the hospital, but I was strapped to a bed. Dawn, Wednesday morning, the third day. The half hour before my pain medication was due.

15 steps. Otherwise, I've always enjoyed living in a two-story house. Needed the walker to reach the shutter and I couldn't move my hand and the walker out of the sunbeam fast enough before they exposed the film.

In order to minimize swelling which inhibits healing, you're not supposed to get out of bed for more than 40 minutes at a time and only a couple of those.  Exercises in bed four times a day. Ice for 20 minutes after each session. This is most of my world.

Visited by a pillow. This is what I'm looking at most of the time. I'm suppose to use a chair with arms to do some of the exercises.

I enjoyed having these two windows to illuminate the room, except when I could hear people enjoying the outdoors through them. Sarah tied the curtains back to make more light.

You're also supposed to walk 5-10 minutes every hour. This is the entire length of our upstairs hallway.  Seven steps. Then you have to turn around. If there's anything wrong looking here - yes, I've read the manual.  It's OK. I've done this before.

Being around a lot, some times you find yourself in the right place at the right time.  These little spectrally smeared refracted images of the sun are projected to the front of the house from a prismatic wind chime in the west window. Did you notice it in the picture of the stairway?  Also smeared into ovoids a little bit by the sixty second exposure. The chair has three separate shadows.

Sarah's been growing fresh herbs in there.  Everything has been delicious.

You never know what you're going to find in there.  OK, I admit it.  This was over on the bed and I moved it to where the light was better.  I'm bored.

And, in the bookcase, the busking bear on Baker St.

All with Portra 400. .28mm pinhole 45mm from 6x6cm frame.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

All sixteen Pinhole Days

You may know that Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day resulted from a post on Gregg Kemp’s Pinhole Visions email discussion list (which by the way had a feeling of community that I don’t think exists much on the Internet these days). Zernike Au, who makes Zero Imaging Pinhole cameras, somewhat off-topically wished everyone a happy Valentine’s Day and then mused that it would be cool if there was a day for pinholers all over the world. It resonated with the group, and a small band led by Gregg immediately cooked up a plan which came to fruition less than three months later on what has become its traditional day, the last Sunday in April. Tom Miller is the only one still involved from that original group. We have kept the event going for 17 years now, although there were some close calls, most notably losing Gregg last year. I have to give a shout-out to my son Andy, who, when Gregg was trying to get someone to continue maintaining the site, volunteered without me even knowing about it.

That pinhole-day-idea thread came in on a Wednesday, and I remember following it in my office, but other than contributing a few comments, I wasn’t involved in that extraordinary development effort.

I did submit an image in that first event, and have submitted an image every year since. I tried to explain why last year

I don’t remember much about that first day, except for the image I eventually submitted. It was a sunny morning and I was soaking in a hot bath. I noticed the sun casting the pattern of the lace curtains and was struck that light traveling in straight lines casting shadows was really the essence of pinhole, and the fact that it was casting them on my eyeglasses was an ironic detail on a day dedicated to lenslessness.  I immediately jumped out of the bath like Archimedes and ran down two floors to grab a camera and tripod desperate to get the shot before the sun moved away. Except for the fact that I wish I would have pointed slightly down, it turned out exactly as I envisioned it. The camera was a 4x5 format, six inch, single shot foam core box that was my main camera at the time, using Ilford Multigrade IV.

The second year was a miserable, cold, rainy day. Since the defining characteristic of Pinhole Day is that all the photographs are taken on the same day all over the world, I think it’s interesting to see the different conditions participants have to work with, and thought that was captured by the raindrops on the handlebars of my bicycle, again using my six inch camera with Multigrade IV.

In 2003 my bathtub was again featured in my submission, but I don’t think I was in it at the time. I am just a fool for a sunbeam, this time using a 4x5 three inch camera on Multigrade IV.

2004 was the first year I was involved on the team. The previous fall, Tom Miller had invited me to talk about my photographs at an event at the Minnesota Center for Photography (for which I went totally overboard), and in conversation I asked if there was anything I could do to help with WPPD. Later Tom asked me to help work on the publicity efforts in the U.S. This was well before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I remember doing what was probably a Yahoo search for photography clubs, and sent the press release to as many as I could find email addresses for.

When I got up on Pinhole Day and looked out the window to see what the weather was like, the first thing I saw were these emerging tulips covered in raindrops.  This time I used my 4x5, 10 inch single shot foam core camera, once again with the black and white paper.

The following year, 2005, I was asked to be part of the coordinating team. I had the choice to be either events or support coordinator.  Since I had written a manual for teachers to use pinhole to teach general science and my day job was essentially to help people use computers, I figured support was the best role for me.

I decided to get adventurous that year and packed up several single shot 4x5 cameras and my changing bag and went to Menomonie Park. My original objective was the large stone globe (worldwide, ya know), but walking around the park, I came upon this classic s-curve composition where the little railroad ride passes through the pines with the sunshine filtering through the branches that I remembered seeing often when I used to run through the park. It looks like the image was toned, but I don’t remember if I did that intentionally or just happened to leave the scanner on color. 4x5 photo paper again, again in the three inch camera.

I had been getting a little frustrated with the limited latitude of photographic paper for awhile, and sometime in early 2006, Earl Johnson posted on f295 about a simple jig to hold four sheets of film at a time for tray processing. I made one and jumped on eBay and bought some 2¼ x 3¼ film holders, ordered a box of 400  and built a very simple 60mm foam core box using rubber bands to hold the film holders on. I took the image I submitted right at the end of Pinhole Day, when I went into the kitchen to get a beer and thought the light above the sink in the otherwise dark room made a nice composition.

2007 saw the introduction of the Populist and my new infatuation with color, and when Pinhole Day came around, I had just built the 120 Populist, and thought the larger format would be special for the holiday.  I must have done a lousy job with the rest of the roll, because my submission was this crabby looking self-portrait,  easily my least favorite submission to the Pinhole Day gallery. I reloaded with black and white film later in the day, but got impatient to submit before I finished and developed that roll, and missed out on submitting one of my favorite pinhole pictures ever.

My son's Master's recital took place in late April in 2008, and Sarah and I were in Boston for Pinhole Day. We got up Sunday morning and took the T out to the Arnold Arboretum.  It was still a little early in the Spring, but there were already a few trees flowering, and luckily a nice reflecting pond to fill the foreground since I just had my little table-top tripod on the ground to support The Populist.

It was cold and wet again in 2009, and this red maple leaf which had wintered under the snow, shifted to magenta by reflecting the sky caught my eye, again with The Populist.

Since Pinhole Day is a holiday, I like to mix it up and do something a little different.  I built the Pre-Populist in the beginnings of my adventures in 35mm in 2006 and hauled it out again for Pinhole Day in 2010.  This image has always reminded me of a painting by Degas.

In 2011, I used both the Populist and Pre-Populist, but my submission was again from the wider format camera, and as in the year before, portrayed me reviewing submissions to the WPPD gallery, this time just after washing my hair.

In 2012 I pulled out the Glenlivet Vertical Populist which I hadn't used since 2009 when I built it, and recreated the black and white image I hadn't waited for in 2007.

For 2013, I pulled out my first 35mm camera which had been such a transformative experience, and although I swore I wasn't going to take a self-portrait reviewing submissions, toward the end of the day I got a little desperate for material and it turned out to be my favorite of the day.

Another dark, cold, windy, rainy day for 2014, and I captured Sarah bundled up on the couch. I used the Nickon, my second 35mm camera. I put a new shutter on it for this occasion.

I spent most of the winter of 2014/2015 building special cameras for Sarah and I to use for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day which I didn't test ahead of time which both turned out to have some serious light leaks, fatal in the case of Sarah's camera.  I had better luck and got this one shot at Mosquito Hill with the Glenmorangie Evil Cube.

And finally last year I dragged out the more trusty Glenlivet Vertical Populist and went back to Menonomie Park. It was the first Pinhole Day I got to blog about.

I have some ideas what I'm going to do this year, but I've got a few weeks yet to think about it.

It's April 30th. Are you ready?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Winnebago Mental Health Institute Museum

On the same bike ride when I was testing my cheerios cameras, I rode past the Winnebago Mental Health Institute Museum. I had actually been there once in the nineties as part of a Leadership Oshkosh Training Program. (Aren't I special?)

When I mentioned to Sarah that I had taken this photograph, she said she had never heard of it and so we went out there several days later.

One of my last posts on the late-lamented f295 forum was about a bike ride to Asylum Point, so-called for it's proximity to what was originally named the Northern State Hospital for the Insane.

It's been around since 1873.  It's a pretty modern up-to-date facility now, but this yard full of Adirondack chairs behind a ten-foot fence still lends an air of creepiness to the place.

The museum was the home of the superintendent of the hospital from the time the house was built in 1929 until sometime in the 1980's. The main living room of the house on the first floor includes a memorial to the original superintendent who is somewhat notable in Audio-Visual history.  He was the first one to stick thin brain sections in a projector for teaching and research purposes. The room also displays records about the nature of the patient population.  There was a list of occupations they came from during the last several decades of the 19th century which included two photographers.

This was a state bureaucracy and the porch on the side held a display of business machines that had been in use over the years. 
(I took statistics in 1968 in a lab full of mechanical calculators like this. There was one electronic calculator the size of a suitcase with two memory registers up near the faculty offices and I flunked one assignment for using it to store the sum of the squares and not writing down all the steps!)

As you ascend these elegant curved stairs to the second floor, there are portraits and bios of all the superintendents.


One of the upstairs rooms features medical equipment that had been used to treat the general health of the patients, and sometime to attempt to cure their mental afflictions, including the tools used for lobotomies.

Another upstairs room featured other less invasive therapies. Prominently featured in front of the window, was their most modern electroshock therapy machine, but there were also several other more vintage models nearby. I was a little surprised to hear this is something that is still done, although less indiscriminately and for a very narrow range of conditions. The room also featured displays about more benign practices like occupational and music therapy. Just to the left of the camera in the corner were a rather fancy accordion, and an empty guitar stand that normally held what we were told was a guitar built by one of the patients, but which was now on loan to the Historical Museum in Appleton for their current exhibit "Asylum: Out of the Shadows."

So we thought we should make the experience complete by going up there. The Appleton museum is in a former Masonic Lodge. Ironically, in a room with a rather disturbing exhibit about the experience of minorities in Appleton (home of Senator Joe McCarthy and the John Birch Society) was this rather fanciful stained glass window depicting Chief Oshkosh cheerfully ceding his tribal lands to Governor Dodge.

Prominently featured in a display case in the Asylum exhibit was the guitar from Winnebago.  I think it might have just been the guide we had, but the museum in Oshkosh emphasized the benevolence of the hospital, the appreciation of the patients for the treatment they received, and the difficult life of the employees, but this exhibit was a little more grim.

The first monochrome image with a .28mm pinhole 45mm from 6x6mm frame.

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