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?

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