Saturday, July 28, 2018

Etude for three pinhole cameras

One thing I think digital-native photographers will never understand is that sweet conflict when you've finished a project and you still have half a roll of film in three cameras - you're impatient to look at the pictures but it's an excuse to go out and play pinhole. Therefore, here is a piece in three movements.

First movement: Allegretto - North and east of the city.

Great Northern Stratagraph - a packaging digital printer.  Whaddya think they have in that giant white hopper?

Over at the county park, those clouds look a little peevish when you're under them.

Baseball backstops are almost as ubiquitous as schools and churches in the United States.  Zoom in and check out the resolved chain link.

Most of the north end of the park is wetland laced with disk golf fairways.

Following Sherman Road to the lake, I encountered this fallen giant being engulfed by vines.

A public fishing dock in about as good shape as the tree. Probably both victims of an ice attack.

Looking across Asylum Bay.  That's Asylum Point to the left.

The clouds got not only angry but downright aggressive and I had to hightail it home.  I made it to within two blocks before the rain began.

The Second Movement: Moderato - South and west of the Fox.

I seem to have weak spot around 700 nanometers.  This playground equipment is at the south end of where Knagg's Ferry crossed the Fox, the only way for 19 years. Noted on the nearby Official State Historical Marker: "Governor Henry Dodge and his party crossed on the way to the Council at the Cedars where the Menomonie Indians ceded to the United States all their lands between the Fox and Wolf Rivers."  It's called Rainbow Park, but I can't see any deliberate ROYGBIV or LGBTQ.

Mark Rothko and Franz Kline made me take this picture.

Not sure who to blame for this one - Joel Meyerowitz or William Eggleston.

Definitely Claude Monet egging me on here.

Can't put a name to this one, but it looks familiar.

Third Movement - Largo.  Sunbeams at home.

A new palm acquired in the endless quest to replace the privacy of the privet hedge.

The appropriately named Sun Room

The Evil Cube has a .3mm pinhole 6cm from Lomo 100.

Goldberry has a .33mm pinhole 8cm from Lomo 400.

The iPhone Box has a .26mm pinhole 36mm from Ektar 100.

All make 6x6cm negatives.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Faux on the Fox

Our city summer celebration, Sawdust Days, takes place in Menomonie Park. Across the lagoon from the carnival and rock and country bands, which you can hear anyway, is a Historical Village characterized as a Rendezvous by it's participants. It roughly has a theme of the Voyageurs of New France and is set around the time of the American Revolution.  Sawdust Days coincides with Independence Day. There are lots of American flags on display.

I took three cameras: the trusty Evil Cube, Goldberry for her narrower angle and the 10th Anniversary iPhone Box Pinhole Camera to be ironic. They were loaded with color film because it might be perceived that I was trying to imitate early photography, which would be really inaccurate chronologically anyway. I should know by now that I was going to get very documentary and it turned out to be about a bunch of modern Americans playing around with history, and trying to make a buck doing it.

I had ridden my bike by the village in previous years and the uniformly colored canvas tents in the dappled light under mature oaks seemed like an attractive subject.

It was hot and sunny. Most of the encampment was in the shade under the trees.

The locale is right next to Lake Winnebago, on the Fox/Wisconsin River trade route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, so it is likely that people gathered here in the 18th century. In the People of the Waters exhibit at the Public Museum there's a quote from my friend Jeff Behm: "If you're in Winnebago County and you can see water, you're standing on an archeological site."

I went there with the explicit idea that I was going to take pictures of people.  I'm usually reluctant to ask, but I reasoned these folks were kind of strutting their stuff and were habituated to having cameras pointed at them and that would make it easier.

As I approached the first campsite, it's occupant made eye contact with me and said "How are you doing?" I inquired if he and his compatriots would mind being asked if I could photograph them. He replied they really appreciated being asked, and said sure go ahead. This turned out to be the typical response almost word for word. While I fussed with tripod and camera he explained to me that he did this specifically to explain how the earliest white settlers and the Native Americans tried their best to get along and trade with each other.  He could trace his ancestry back to both groups on both sides of his family.  He also assembled little beaded jewelry to sell.  The film can was filled with brass beads. He seemed to consider my pinhole camera as nothing out of the ordinary.

The village was advertised as an educational experience and there were organized activities.  One of them involved tipis. I approached this guy because of his red shirt. A similar picture of him appeared in the weekly Oshkosh Herald.  He had made a pinhole camera for a Boy Scout merit badge and had worked as a photographer with a Bronica 6x6, so he knew what medium format was.

His tipis are examples of several tribal styles. He had two others and about a dozen 15 to 20 foot poles next to him that he uses to demonstrate raising one three times a day. This is his favorite because the door is wide open and easy to go through.

I continued down toward the lagoon and things transformed into a modern pastiche - kind of a colonial souvenir mall.

Some of the merchants were food vendors who were trying to make a historical hamburger.  Craft-brewed root beers seemed to be the dominant beverage. As soon as I got the camera set up, this publican got a call on his cell phone, and I waited ten minutes till he was done.  Despite several customers being served (in paper cups), no one said a thing about the iPhone Box on top the tripod.

There was one tent that was mostly closed.  There was a boom box playing heavy metal inside it. I went around to look at it from the other side and was taken by this huge, brilliant red wheel controlling a giant black corn roaster, with the gas supply on the ground behind it. It really captured the spirit of the area for me.

The pretext of being historically flavored meant lots of beaded crystal necklaces and cast metal rings and amulets were for sale, but in quantities and qualities that were indicative of mass production. In the bin of light colored objects in the foreground, their shoplifting policy is just barely legible.

In keeping with the fur-trading and hunter/farmer lifestyle that was the theme, there was a somewhat macabre aspect to a lot of it. I didn't see many firearms, except for the cannon they shot off every half hour. A lot of the merchandise consisted of toy wooden bows, cross bows, axes, knives and swords also seemingly factory produced, occasionally with a father and son pointing one at you.

There was a lot of what looked like fur around, but I was afraid to ask if it was real.

Returning back to the less commercial side. I asked if I could photograph this fire where a piece of sod had carefully been peeled back for it with an arrangement of axes and cookery ware. While I was setting up and making the exposure, a young man in historical garb came up to watch me. Since the first guy had spoken about why he was engaged in this practice, I asked if this one got into it because of a family connection or if he was just into history. He said had no ethnic connection to life in the colonial-era midwest and he came from a suburb of Milwaukee.  His family was just into it. He attended his first rendezvous when he was four months old.

I finished with a family relaxing under a canopy.  While I set this shot up, the patriarch, wearing loose white trousers, came up to the pile of supplies and rummaged through them bent over facing away from me.  I waited until he sat down to make the exposure and we all joked that I might have lowered the value of my photograph by including the south end of a horse facing north.

The Evil Cube has a .3mm pinhole 6cm from Lomo 100.

Goldberry has a .33mm pinhole 8cm from Lomo 400.

The iPhone Box has a .26mm pinhole 36mm from Ektar 100.

All make 6x6cm negatives.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Pinhole To Go

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. 

This is the kit I've been going with recently. The back pack is the one that I carried to, from and sometimes around work for 10 years, usually carrying an iPad, several folders, often a laptop and a book or two and occasionally bits of audiovisual gear like mics, cameras and cables.  And of course, pinhole cameras. (I have a different back pack for groceries.)

It has two compartments.

In the small zippered compartment on the front (which always has this stuff in it) is: a Nikon body cap with a pinhole carried in a Sennheiser headphone case, a level that I should use more often, the extra bushings that came with my quick release plates in case I ever want to mount a VHS camcorder or run into a 3/8 inch tripod mount, a pen, a little pair of pliers if it happens that I need a little force turning a film winder, a roll of the divine 3M #235, two extra rubber bands, and a Swiss Army Knife I found in the gutter on Cherry Street one morning riding my bike to work. It has the initials PTG engraved on it which I'm just going to think of as Pinhole To Go

In the main compartment recently I've been carrying: a Manfrotto Compact Advanced Aluminum Tripod, the Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper, the new Evil Cube, the Oshkosh Populist, and the slightly-too-small-first-attempt of the interior assembly of the Evil Cub template which I thought might come in handy as a preview device but which I haven't used. I'm pretty habituated to composing in my head and using the finders on the camera to get it where it needs to be.  Each camera has a quick-release plate attached.

I've learned a few things having all this stuff jumbling around on my back.

You may think the rubber bands on the cameras are just paranoia about light leaks, but they also have a function securing a camera in a backpack.  Despite the deliberate camera-design goal to secure the winders, I pulled the new Evil Cube out once and a winder was missing!  I also found a shutter open a couple of times   If you're going to toss one of these in a back pack, you should take some care to place the rubber bands so they're right up against the winders and over those collars, and pulled over holding the shutters closed. They need to be replaced occasionally when they lose their elasticity.

By far the greatest mass, stretched over 19 inches, is the tripod. My older tripod is an inch smaller and lighter, but I've become infatuated by the 12 extra inches this one gives me at full extension, not to mention that it's really strong.  It just barely fits when the flap is latched and it's important to tie the drawstring closed right around the head or physics can flip it right out at the oddest times or it can swing around and bash the cameras.

If you situate the tripod first and then make some effort to stack the cameras next to it before closing the flap, it's not too lumpy on your back, but on a sunny day it can get kind of warm.  I was out recently and was very comfortable otherwise, but my T-shirt was soaked under the black back pack.

In the past I've attached the tripod to the upper crossbar of my bicycle frame with a triple wrap of a bungee cord attached to the bottle holder on the lower crossbar. If I was only carrying one camera, I left it attached to the tripod and hence no need for a backpack. The problem was that the cameras got kind of beat up and the slightly greater length of this tripod leaves minimal room for a camera. I also got my hands whacked a couple times by that stretched bungee cord when it slipped my grip.

I could go back to this method for transporting the tripod. For the cameras and extras, a rack to attach my backpack to would work. My bike is a 1996 Timberlin Land Rover bought at Recycle Bike Shop in Kaukauna for $60 in 2007 when I realized if I had wide tires I could probably ride through the winter. (I was right, but I also needed a studded front tire.)

I went down to the local bike shop and found out you can't get a rack for a twenty year old bike.  The only options were an expensive one which clamped to the seat post that didn't look trustworthy, and one that attached to the clamp where the post goes into the frame, which on my all-year-round bike is terminally rusted together.

So my next idea was a bag that attaches to the handlebars with Velcro. There's a lot of options on the internet, most pretty small.  I ordered one that I thought, from the dimensions given, would hold at least two cameras. Well, it depends which two cameras. It wouldn't close with the Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper, and the roll of tape wouldn't fit in the map pocket so it had to go inside with the cameras. Not ideal, but I could work with it...until the Velcro on one of the handlebar straps failed completely the first time I detached it. It didn't come off, it just wouldn't stick together at all any more.  I've never seen that.  Back to Amazon.

I had initially rejected the only larger handlebar pack because I thought it might be too big, but it seemed like the only alternative to wearing that backpack I had left. Being a reassuringly boring Schwinn branded product helped and I ordered it.

It is a little big, but it turns out it to be manageable riding with it mounted on the handlebar.  It easily holds three cameras, and on a test ride this weekend, I also got two pounds of Oaks Chocolate in there.  The extra little toolset fits easily in the smaller zippered pocket. I left out the Nikon body cap and the tripod bushings even though I had plenty of room. Maybe I could carry extra rolls of film. The bungee cord can go in the map window on the top. I've got to get a controversial bumper sticker to put in there.

It has a shoulder strap that comes in handy if you venture away from the bike on foot which stashes neatly in a little net pocket on the side.

Looks like I'm all set for some rollin' pinholin'!

The last picture done with the Evil Cube, .3mm pinhole 6cm from 6x6cm frame on Lomo 100.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The cult of The Risen Pinhole

Here's more of my infatuation with rising front photography. More Oshkosh architecture, and this time all from the back of the buildings. I'm not just trying to be bleak. I try not to ride my bike on busy streets, so in a lot of places I'm looking across a parking lot on the streets a block on either side of Main Street.  I also snoop in passageways and alleys.

I seem to have a thing for junctions between buildings. Here, Merrill Elementary School joins its gymnasium.  The tripod is downslope a couple feet and I think I might have had the camera tilted a bit. The verticals look a little wonky. Still, it's a lot different than it would look with converging verticals. The building on the left is an addition that separated from the older building in the front of it and had to be repaired.  These walls might not all be plumb. For some reason this reminds me of a Bronze age fortified city wall.

The First National Bank Building - one of two notably tall buildings in downtown Oshkosh.  What I'm attracted to is this jumble of cuboids of various shades of grey, all carefully built at right angles to each other.  Seems only polite to keep the verticals parallel as possible. This one may have the verticals diverging, but I'm OK with a little of that. It gives it a bit of Looney Tunes character.

The intersection of the Oshkosh Northwestern and the Winnebago County Health Department (which was once Oshkosh B'Gosh). In my selfish photographer's heart, I love the sky reflecting in these perfectly smooth insulated mullionless windows stuck into the backs of these historic buildings. The vines do give it a bit of a rustic look.

Some rectangles at the new arena.

This one's not exactly architectural.  This bridge over a small inlet is where the new section of the Riverwalk on the south side of the river begins.  The old train tracks that used to run through downtown crossed the river here and they reused some of the iron.

And totally not architectural.  if I had pointed the camera up and if the tree was exactly in the middle there wouldn't be any converging verticals  but I think it does make a difference to have the off-center tree trunk perpendicular to the horizon by using the risen pinhole.

The above were done with the New Evil Cube. I was so taken with this rising front idea, I put a second pinhole and a new double shutter on the Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper, so I could work with things a little farther away.

I had to point the camera up to get just the top of the Mainview Apartments, the other tall downtown building. I still used the risen pinhole. The verticals noticably converge a little, but it doesn't look like it's falling over backward.

I thought there was an interesting contrast of shades and textures in the back of the old Mercy Hospital, now a senior housing establishment. I think I tilted the camera up just a little this time to crop out the parking lot although everything's looking pretty parallel.

My partner in crime, Camera Casino, our local camera store.  They used to develop my color film, but now they send it to a lab in Neenah. While taking this picture, for only the second time ever, someone came over to me to ask what I was doing. He was a newly retired guy who was just starting to ride his bicycle around Oshkosh.

With these two rolls of film, I had some of the worse problems I've had in years with double exposures, under exposure and accidentally-opened shutters. I think I'm going to take these cameras out again and be more careful.  I have to get over this devotion to The Risen Pinhole though.

The first six with The New Evil Cube. .3mm pinhole 6cm from 6x6cm frame located 15mm above the axis of the film plane, with Kodak TMax 100.

The last three with The Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper. .33mm pinhole 12cm from 6x6cm frame located 12mm above the axis of the film plane, with Ilford HP5.

Both developed in Rodinal 1:50