Monday, August 28, 2017

A moderately telephoto pinhole camera

A couple things got me thinking about a camera with a longer pinhole to film distance (I refuse to use the refractionist term focal length) in the moderately telephoto range.

The first was the eclipse. I toyed with the idea of trying to directly image it with a pinhole camera. With a 24 inch camera you'd get an image of the sun almost a half inch wide. I didn't do it but I thought about it. 

The other was the problems I've been having making exposures short enough to not overexpose Tri-X on a sunny day.  The thought crossed my mind that a longer camera with a higher f ratio would require longer exposures that would be easier to time accurately.

I didn't do it for either of these reasons, it just got me thinking about it.

Nobody makes telephoto pinhole cameras.  Probably because of the high f ratios which leads to even more extreme exposure times than we're used to. The other thing is Lord Rayleigh's equations tell us the longer the camera, the bigger the "optimum" pinhole is, and although we repeatedly tell ourselves sharpness isn't a primary objective, the size of the pinhole is really what determines the resolution of a pinhole image, and most of us want a reasonably clear picture.

I have done this sort of thing before. In the 90's when I was doing my Guide for Teachers, I made 4x5 cameras 3, 5 and 10 inches long to show how that affected the angle of view and the effect on exposure times.

In my 4x5, black and white period in the early 2000's I made a 10 inch camera out of foam core.

One afternoon last week I decided to make one for 120 film. 

I had a 6x6 cm, 60mm long camera laying around that was the first prototype for the 10th anniversary Populists. (I used it for the Snowy Day pictures and the pinhole comparison post).

I cut a hole in the front of it, made a 60mm long box and a new shutter, and taped it on to make a 6x6cm camera, 120mm long.

The "optimum" pinhole for a camera this length is .462mm.  I don't mean to be too disrespectful of physics, but I decided to use a .3mm pinhole.  That sounds crazy, but I had some evidence that it wouldn't be too bad.  All the pictures above were made with the same size pinhole, .5mm, which is only optimal for the middle one, the 5 inch camera. I also did this with the foam core camera. Some of the pictures I did with that camera seemed as sharp as any pinhole image I've ever done, despite being 75% of optimum for that distance.

This 120mm long 6x6cm camera is roughly the same angle of view as those 10 inch 4x5 cameras, about 28°.

I had a .3mm pinhole in my box, probably from the bunch I made working on the pinhole comparison post. That makes the camera f400. Even using ISO 100 film, exposures are just 10 seconds or so on a sunny day. Once you start getting into reciprocity failure territory, they do get pretty long, but you can just open the shutter and go do something else.

I loaded the camera with 100 because it's inexpensive and I wasn't that confident I would like the results.

So what's a moderately telephoto camera good for.

Most obviously, you don't have to get as close to things.  One of the problems I've been encountering is that to shoot some architectural pictures with my wider angle cameras, I'd have to be standing in the middle of the street. Kind of embarrassing to be in the lane of traffic when somebody in an SUV comes around the corner while you're standing there with a tripod.  This is the side door of the Masonic Temple, a formerly very elegant structure which is now in need of a little restoration. It drew my attention because if Trump starts a nuclear war, I know where to find a fallout shelter. I wonder if they still have the cases of crackers in the basement.

The telephoto compression of space is well known effect.  When I'm using the wide angle Populist and I fill the foreground with these trees on the shore, the trees on the causeway which encloses Miller's Bay are hardly noticeable on the horizon. (If you're remembering the shot from the recent post about panoramas, remember that cropping out a small portion of a wide angle shot will recreate all the effects of a telephoto - it's the angle of view that creates the perception of space.)

Probably the most common use of this effect is in "portrait" lenses, to reduce the impact of a large schnozzola.

Very often, I'll see some abstract composition of lights and shadows and if a wide camera is close enough, the expansion of space will change the relationships of elements, and include background which detract from the design. A narrow angle makes it easier to exclude extraneous distractions.

If you do want to get a close-up, you don't have be so close you can't get your fingers in the front of the camera to open the shutter.

And you can get really close if you want to.

Another advantage with architecture is you can get as close as necessary to compose the shot the way you want to without having the camera tilted up so the building looks like it's falling backward.  In order to do this shot with a wide angle, I'd have to be about 20 feet in the air.  By the way, there's also no vignetting since the distance to the center of the shot isn't that much different than to the edge.

I have to admit that these pictures are little softer than I was hoping, and I forgot that this early prototype, made by adding flaps to the original template made the film chambers a little small, so it's a bit of a struggle to advance the film.

I think I'm going to make one from scratch.  I spent part of the afternoon extending the template to this length.  I think I'll probably drill another pinhole a little bit bigger to see if those equations really make a difference.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Roadtrip: Two one-room school houses

On a Friday several weeks ago, the day before we were going to set out for the farm (again!), I went for a bike ride in the country northwest of town. That evening Sarah inquired about where I went, and my description included going down Skeleton Bridge Road. That got us wondering where the Skeleton Bridge was, so we asked the internet. One of the search results was for the Skeleton Bridge School, a restored one-room school that was open for visits only from 10 am to noon on Saturdays during July and August. (I had ridden past it but didn't notice.) Our route the next morning took us right by so we decided to stop and take a look.

It was active from 1858 until 1957 as noted on the sign above the door.

Since these schools served children from about age five to about thirteen, each row of desks got successively larger.

The smallest children sat at a table near the windows.

Hosting visitors were two gentlemen who had attended the school in the 1940's.  One of them was the owner who spent years trying to acquire the place as it faced removal or conversion to a residence. (The one-room school Sarah's mother attended is now someone's home). He had remained in the area all his life.  He did most of the restoration himself and somehow tracked down many of the actual items from his school days, many of which were bought by his schoolmates' families when the school closed.  He gave us a very short (hence the underexposure) performance on the school's piano he had learned to play on as a child.

It's hard to imagine this little wood stove could keep the room warm through Wisconsin winters. We were told how they would go ice skating on the nearby creek during recess.

By the way, it's Skeleton Bridge School and Road because it's just next to the bridge on Highway S over Dagget's Creek, originally known as the Skeleton River because early European settlers found human bones in it.

Since I spent my career in what is now called Learning Technologies, but which was Audio-Visual Communications when I started, it was interesting to see the technology they had - this wind-up record player, on which we heard the William Tell Overture. The little doors on the front were how volume was controlled. Without any sort of electronic amplification, it was surprisingly loud with them wide open like this.

Somewhat ironically, the site also includes the owner's collection of classic cars. The red 1967 Mustang was the first, which he had bought new.  The pink 1956 Thunderbird with a turquoise interior was Sarah's childhood dream car when she saw one exactly like it on a family shopping trip to Minneapolis.

The earliest and by far the rarest is this Ford Model S from 1908 just before the introduction of the more well known Model T later that year.

The reason we were so interested in this visit was because Sarah attended a school like this for one year before it was closed in 1957. Her father and grandfather went there and her great-grandfather probably helped build it in 1885. Originally on the corner opposite her family farm, it was moved to the Pierce County Fairgrounds, complete with her brother's initials carved into one of the desks.

It's open only during the Fair, which coincidentally was happening while we were there. Unfortunately when we went there on Sunday, no one from the Historical Society showed up to open it.

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Smaller pinhole and more discipline with Tri-X in the Oshkosh Populist.

Earlier this summer, I started to use up some old rolls of Tri-X by experimenting with them in the panoramic Oshkosh Populist.  It did not go well.  I learned that you can't overexpose Tri-X the way you can color film.  

So in order to make it easier to physically make the short exposures,  I made the camera about a stop slower by replacing the .27mm (f130) pinhole with a .2mm (f175). I also made a point to actually measure exposures and practiced trying to do sub-second exposures by holding a piece of black card over my sliding shutter, opening the shutter and then removing and replacing the card, which I can do much faster without shaking the camera.

It worked fairly well.  I think I got better results.

It wasn't my intention, but I ended up doing more skyscapes than landscapes.

I intended to point the camera slightly down to get this line of little sailboats, but the sky looks pretty good.

Turning around, there was kind of a storm building over Menomonie Park.

When we were over on the west side of the state, we climbed to the top of the hill on Sarah's family farm.

And my favorite is this shot across Millers Bay.

One thing that really has struck me, and it may be just my innaccurate exposures, but Tri-X really seems to have a lot less latitude than the color film I've been scanning lately. Most of the time I can pull some detail out of shadow areas by using the Dodge tool on the Shadows setting in Photoshop, but with these I seem to just make a grey smudge.  On the Facebook post about that earlier blog post, someone made the comment that this increased dynamic range of color film was because it was designed to be used by unskilled amateurs, like that was a bad thing.

I still have about four rolls left, so I'm going to give it another go.  I've got a lot to learn.  I think I'll wait until I get a dark cloudy day so I can get exposures in the multiple second range which I can perform with a little more accuracy.

All with the Oshkosh Populist. .2mm pinhole 35mm from 24 x 72mm frame.  Tri-X developed in Microphen 1:3.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Roadtrip: Scenic River, UFO Days Parade, and back to the Joynt

Drove with Andy and Kristin down the scenic river road to Pepin to go to the Harbor View Cafe. This is the harbor they have the view of.

There are many scenic overlooks along the river so we stopped at one on the way back as the sun set.  I had no intention to do it, but I did two exposures pointed slightly different directions so I edited them together to give you a panorama of Lake Pepin.

Elmwood is a small community nestled in the Eau Galle River valley.  In the mid-70's a veteran police officer reported seeing a UFO hovering and flying off over a hill east of town,  followed by numerous other folks reporting similar occurrences. Ever since, the local summer festival has been known as UFO Days.

In the parking lot of the local supermarket, one is greeted by this little fellow with it's flying saucer.

We came to see the Grand Parade on Sunday. Before the parade, other than the inevitable carnival rides, there wasn't much going on except the inevitable beer tent, so we sat down to await the beginning of the parade.

For some reason, the only thing available were several brands of light beers.

The parade began with just about every emergency vehicle in Eastern Pierce County.

Most of the parade consisted of floats pulled by a variety of tractors and pickup trucks promoting the weekend festivals of all the other little communities in Pierce and St. Croix counties featuring six or seven young women with titles of Queen or Princess.  About the most colorful was the somewhat generically named Hudson Fest.

It's been a long time since I've attended one of these local parades, but nowadays one of the main attractions is tons of candy thrown from the floats and scrambled for by the local children.

We asked if there were any sights relating to the UFO landings and were told that the only one was the aforementioned flying saucer, but there would be lots of others in the parade.  Alas, the only one we saw was mounted on the back of Elmwood's own float.

After the parade we opted to skip the pig wrestling event and country music concert, and proceeded to Eau Claire, where Sarah and I met, to meet up with Gene and Laura and let Kristin experience the Joynt.

Andy's high school friend Katie, who works in Eau Claire,  came down to join us.  She is one of the eleven people who purchased a paper copy of The Pinhole of Nature.

While we were there, the owner of the Joynt, Bill Nolte, stopped by. Frustrated with his academic career, he bought the 322 Club and from the mid-70's until the 90's got many of the greats of jazz and blues to perform there in between gigs in Chicago and Minneapolis, now pictured on the walls behind him.

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Roadtrip: The Weisman Art Museum

Andy and Kristin flew into Minneapolis in order for Kristin to experience Andy's ancestral homeland, western Wisconsin. As long as we were in the Twin Cities we thought we'd take the opportunity to visit a museum we had never been to, the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.

The building is designed by Frank Gehry and is reminiscent of some of his other metal clad structures such as the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

In case you're wondering what those reflections are, it's located right on the Mississippi River with a fine view of downtown Minneapolis.

Their flight arrived at 8:45 in the morning, so we got to campus before the museum opened. Coffman Memorial Union is right next door, so we had a cup of Starbucks while we waited.

An unexpected exhibit was the world's most beautiful top fuel dragster which was built in the 70's, stolen (how do you steal a top fuel dragster?), found in decay in 2005 and restored to it's original condition.

The building is almost as unique in the interior as it is outside.

After viewing the rest of the exhibits, we walked across campus over to Dinkytown to go to the elaborately decorated Loring Pasta Bar for lunch.

One of the highlights of the Loring Pasta Bar are the unique restrooms, but the zen of pinhole intervened and I ran out of film.

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The New Glarus Populist

June 2019. When my university retiree account disappeared with a new change in policy, the pictures I uploaded to this blog while logged into that account disappeared. I'm working on fixing that but it's going to be at least a summer long project. 

When I did the new templates for the Populist, I was a little obsessed about the 120 versions, and have to confess, I never tried the new 35mm template. I've finally gotten around to it. With my new obsession of utilizing the printed surface of the card stock the camera was made out of,  this one was made out of a six pack of New Glarus Beer. (Probably Spotted Cow, but it doesn't matter which one since they all come in the same carrier.)

The design is a little large scale for a 35mm camera, but I was careful to use the Wisconsin Brewery Guild label for the shutter, and the horses from the beer wagon on the back. It strikes me that the New Glarus package design isn't terribly obvious and it sort of looks like camo at first glance.

Instead of gluing the printed viewfinders from the template, I cut triangles of the right shape to give a little depth to sight down rather than the two dimensional line, and it does give it a cleaner look.

Making the box with glued flaps seems to make a bit more of a rigid box contributing to a cleaner look.

I mentioned in the post about measuring pinholes with the Teslong USB microscope that I needed a .15mm pinhole which was for this camera. I haven't tried to drill a pinhole this small since developing the original Populist in 2007.  I am pleasantly surprised how well this one turned out.

I also coated it with about 5 coats of clear Krylon. It got caught in a little bit of a rain shower, and that seems to have worked.

The cardboard, although it looks brown, is actually white and not opaque at all. I intended on light proofing it, but forgot and loaded and shot a roll of film in it and as suspected it wasn't opaque and left a vague impression of the printing on the box on every frame that wasn't totally exposed. The sun is a vengeful benefactor.

I covered the interior with 3M 235 black opaque photographic tape and that of course worked great.

I know you're thinking a tour of microbreweries would have been the thing to test it out, but I'm afraid it's down the garden path again.

On first glance the results don't look too different from the Gilder electron microscope aperture I've been using for years.

A monarda mixed with the phlox.

Spiky purple cone flowers are a good choice to test the pinhole

A couple of wet lilies.

Close up to a white rose.

And getting as close as possible to a white lily.

It looks like the new design works.  You should make one and try it out. This world could use a pinhole in every pocket.