Sunday, September 30, 2018

From f295: My second pinhole bike ride and my last post.

f295 was an international discussion forum begun and administered by Tom Persinger. Originally just about pinhole photography, it expanded into all kinds of alternative methods. It was active from 2004 until 2015 but it remains on-line. Recently it disappeared from the web for a few days, and that prompted me to decide to reprise some of my favorites here at Pinholica, for backup if no other reason. 

Although I'd been carrying around The Populist for eight years, I didn't use it riding around on my bike until I retired.  This was the second ride where I deliberately set out to take photographs, roughly in the same area as the first movement of An Etude for Three Pinhole CamerasIt concludes with one of my favorite jokes.

About a month later, new photographs could no longer be uploaded to f295, so I started this blog. 

It was posted under the title "A bike ride to Asylum Point" on September 24, 2015.

I had such a good time with my bike ride I thought I'd do it again. This time I'm going out northeast to Asylum Point.

Through Fairacres again, this time to the right through the tidy little townhouse collection on the east side.

You have to go through the Northeast Industrial Park, passing one of three Oshkosh water towers. This is probably where my water comes from. Anybody else remember that Kodak booklet that recommended framing scenes with tree branches?

When I was a kid in South Bend, Studebaker, Bendix and Singer Sewing Machines were huge multistory brown monsters in the middle of the city that came right up to the sidewalk. Now even some pretty heavy industry has a huge lawn and a little office complex fronting a massive flat building surrounded by cornfields on the outskirts of town. It's not as photogenic as Aramco Steel, but it's probably a lot easier to live around. 

Now we're really out in the country. In flat Winnebago county, that often means you're looking at a wall of corn.

Here's why it's called Asylum Point, the gigantic Winnebago Mental Health Institute, which also houses the state facility for the criminally insane. It's been here since 1871. Sarah's aunt was here briefly during World War II for something that at the time would have been described as a nervous breakdown.

Asylum Point itself ends with a little island you have to cross this bridge to get to.

A prime feature is the lighthouse. It was built by the Works Progress Administration during the depression, but the the Department of Transportation decided it was unnecessary for navigation, and it's never been lit.

Looking ten miles directly east across Lake Winnebago toward the much hillier Calumet County.

At the northern end of the park is a pathway that leads into the woods.

At the end of it is the Picnic Point Boy Scouts' camp. I was here once when Andy was a kid for the Klondike Derby. In addition to sub-zero (F) temperatures, there's always a stiff wind off Lake Winnebago. Andy's face got slightly frost bitten and we spent much of the event in first aid.

It's pretty isolated and I thought I was the only person around, but as I looked for scenes of the lake, I ran into this fisherman who consented to adding interest to the foreground.

Going out the access road, you come across the Asylum Cemetery, in use from 1872 to 1973. For me cemeteries are usually just quiet parks, but this one out in the middle of the woods sort of gets to me.

A mile or so north I ran across this other historic graveyard that must have been way out in the middle of the section when it was active.

I was going past it to go through the fairgrounds, for those of you who winced nostalgically a little bit when I said Fairacres by my house used to be the county fairgrounds. I always thought it was the ugliest fairgrounds in the state so I didn't mind when they moved it out here. This is the horse barn, which they were cleaning when I took this photograph. Good thing I hadn't brought my Smell-o-vision adapter. I don't know if it counts as dairy air when it's horses, but you get the idea. This has to be the shittiest photo I've ever posted.

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Color around town.

While riding around town working in black and white with the new rising front cameras, I occasionally saw some scenes with colorful elements that seemed more appropriate in RGB so the Evil Cube went in my bag loaded with Lomo 100.

One day, Miller's Bay was full of sailboats.

There was some kind of regatta of a specific model of sailboat and they were putting them in the water as fast as they could from the three launch ramps on Miller's Bay. Later on, I counted 39 of them out on the lake. It was a bit chaotic and two nearly collided right in front of me. The action was too fast for pinhole. As I walked off the pier, this backlit boat on a dock nearby was paused to adjust something.  After it sailed away, the man standing in profile asked if the pictures would be posted somewhere. I showed him my pinhole camera and cautioned about the uncertainty of analog pinhole and the time it might take before the film was processed. He found Pinholica on his phone and bookmarked it. Hi!

On my normal route downtown, it's hard to miss these bright red bollards protecting the door in the entirely black back of The Dollar Store.

I usually don't indulge in this sort of thing, but sometimes the randomness and simulation of the passage of time get to you. When setting up the above picture, after measuring the exposure close to the wall, I went back to the camera and found the shutter was open. It must have gotten pulled when it came out of the bag, stayed open and recorded four distinct steps before the shutter was closed.

Behind the Romanesque chapel in Riverside Cemetery, I noticed this red door in the dappled light.  As I measured the exposure a fellow came around the building and remarked about my use of a light meter. He was surprised to learn it was an app on my phone.  He told me he was tending his ancestors' graves from the 1800's. I told him I was photographing the red door. He said he didn't think it was open. I thought "But it's still red."

On what used to be busy Highway 110 but now is sleepy County S, there is a discount construction materials store. Displayed by the road are many giant sculptures of animals and other characters they also sell. It was once featured in Zippy the Pinhead. It's a weird sight but a little creepy and oddly not very interesting to photograph.

I was listening to the Lensless Podcast the other day and Justin Quinnell, my Pinhole Day colleague and owner of the vintage web site, waxed on about how more interesting pinhole photos were from cameras placed right on the ground and not the ubiquitous viewpoint five feet up. I can do that.

All with the Evil Cube.  .3mm pinhole 6cm from 6x6cm frame on Lomography 100.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Variable Cuboid Pinhole Camera System

Evil Cube film path
My favorite camera recently has been the new Evil Cube, and the original Evil Cube before that, admittedly for the silly reason that I like the cuboid shape over the more rectangular aspect of my other cameras. I set out to make a camera that's similar in shape, but more wide angle, 45mm. The problem is that if you divide up a shorter box into a triangular image chamber, there's not enough room left for your 24mm film reels.  You'd have to make the box a little wider, and pretty soon, you might as well just have the original Populist scheme with the film beside a rectangular image chamber.

However if you could put the film plane in front of the reels, you could make the camera as short as you want.

So in order to figure out how to do this, the obvious thing was to check out how it's done in a medium format SLR, my youthful envy of which is driving this whole thing.

In most film cameras you've ever seen with the film plane in the back of the camera, the film path is pretty straight from one reel to the other, although as above, it might have to make two turns.

Medium format SLR film path
In an interchangeable back medium format SLR, the film leaves the right reel clockwise at the top going toward the right, makes about a 140° turn over a roller riding against the backing paper, crosses the image plane with the film facing out and turns around again, to be taken up by the left reel – a little more tortuous path.

Hasselblads have exquisitely integrated, precisely engineered mechanisms made from the best material to make the film move through the camera smoothly. I have a slightly more limited repertoire.

Experience has taught me that the 90° turn the film has to take in the Evil Cube required a little more engineering than the straight path of a Populist, so this meandering path was going to be another step up. That usually means more layers of cardboard.

Another revelation was that once the film was behind the film plane, the camera could be any length you wanted, shorter or longer. If it included a Pinhole Lab Camera style light trap, you could make interchangeable fronts with a variety of distances from pinhole to film. Don't even think about calling them lenses.

Suddenly I have a Variable Cuboid Pinhole Camera System.  Take that, youthful envy!

The back is designed sort of like the Evil Cube Template: a film carrier assembly, inserted into a back-of-the-camera box, with the front box overlapping the back.

The first attempt just used cardboard for the edge that the film rides over. I'm always impressed by how rugged film is being dragged across my cardboard dividers, but this was too much. I could barely nudge it a few millimeters at a time and I was sure there would be marks on the negatives from the compression.

Since 3/8 inch dowels are already part of my pinhole pantry, they might provide a more gentle curve for the film to follow.  I thought about placing plastic drinking straws around them, but they're narrower and I didn't want to reduce the radius of that curve. I did sand the dowel as smooth as I could and gave it a good coat of pencil graphite to make it as slippery as possible.

These are held in place by layers of foamcore above and below the film holder.

The film reels have to be kept parallel, and even with the lubricated dowels, the forces on the take-up reel to twist out of line are considerable. To keep the bottom of the reels in place, I whittled a shorter version of the winders and held them in a double layer of foamcore, and applied more graphite since it has to rotate with the film.  This violates my dislike for small pieces that can get misplaced, but I'll just have to be careful when loading.

One issue with having the film on the image plane in front of the box is that the back of the film with the numbers on it is now an inch and half inside the box with the film reels. I made light proof dividers for the film chambers with as wide a middle bay as possible and used a double-wide shutter to let more light in to see the numbers. In the first prototype, out on a sunny day, it was hard to see them when winding so I glued white paper to the sides to reflect more light.

This part also provides a little structure which helps keep the reels from wandering while you're loading the camera. A t-nut tripod mount is installed in the foamcore layers at the bottom.

The film holder goes into a frame which has a film gate in front of the film to keep it from spooling out into the front of the camera. It also provides an exactly 6x6cm opening so images don't overlap.

The winders are inserted and the frame is placed into the camera back which overlaps the winder collars.

The internal frame extends 10mm out from the back.

The fronts are made to the length you want optically, which slides over the frame and right up against the back.  There's a layer of foamcore (or a couple layers of corrugated cardboard) in the front, 10 mm shorter than the outside, which stops the two parts from sliding any further together.  The entire joint is covered by a light trap which extends over the back all the way to the winders to make it that much more difficult for the sun to sneak through to make mischief.

The camera fronts need to each have a shutter, but Hasselblad does it that way as well. They can, of course, have pinholes sized appropriately for the distance to the film. The viewfinders have to go on the front as well.

The film moves easily enough. It requires a loosen-first-then-wind technique and I've found that it tends to jam up if you tighten the take-up too much so it tries to pull film off the supply.  Better to let it stay loose until you get to the number, and then retighten the supply to flatten the film against the image plane.

When the camera is loaded with film, the fronts have to be changed in the darkroom or a changing bag. I didn't have any trouble doing it in the dark. I get a little dizzy thinking about trying to make a removable dark slide that would allow the front to be changed in the daylight.

I made three fronts.

A 45mm, which started the whole thing, has one of my double shutters and two .29mm pinholes, one on-axis and the other rising 10mm. There is a cardboard triangle on the top for viewfinding.  On the sides the axial and rising pinholes are marked with beaded pins and the image plane with cardboard lines.

Here's the back of The Ruby Owl Tap Room and an acupucturist/holistic health store, with nicely parallel verticals.

The loading bays of the new addition to the Oshkosh Public Library. The film gate is something I have to work on because it obviously didn't prevent the film from bowing out.  The rising front isn't really worth it, to keep your verticals parallel, if the horizontals are wonky.

Another neoclassical building in Oshkosh with a modern addition is the Wisconsin National Life Building, now housing more of the Winnebago Dept. of Human Services. More pinhole fun with the curvy film. A guy came out of the building and we spoke about the contrast between the two structures, but he never mentioned I had a cardboard box on the tripod.

I made a 20mm front as an extreme example, although you could go as short as a 10mm. At this short a distance, in a regular camera with a 24mm film reel limiting the depth of the camera, you'd have to inset your pinhole into the camera body. I have seen this done. While trying to make the matched pair of pinholes for the 45, I made a .23mm, so I just used it for this one despite it being a hair big for this distance. At a 117° angle of view, it didn't seem worth it to put a rising pinhole on it. I reused the original shutter of Long John Pinhole and was surprised to find the edges of the shutter appeared in the images.

Here's my standard test shot of the entire north wall of the living room. Exposure was apparently five minutes from a quarter before until ten to nine. I could touch the mantle from where the camera was. I have long arms, but still... 

It's always fun to see how close you can get. This is about two and a quarter inches from Minnie's Nose.

The camera is just over my head with the tripod strapped to the shelf of the baker's rack with a bungee cord. This was adjusted for overall brightness and contrast, but otherwise left alone so it's a fair representation of the the degree of vignetting. I was expecting a circle with totally black edges.

As high as the tripod would go looking up under the arbor covered with morning glory vines. Surprisingly it was close enough to not have the rest of the yard visible.

On the extreme other end, I made a 200mm.  In the Some Assembly Required column on the Boston based Don't Take Pictures website, I saw a 600mm long 6x7cm format pinhole camera with a Pro back and an old box camera front. The camera maker, Jeff McConnell, had a really big pinhole on it because he wanted it fast enough to hand hold for street photography. That's the only other pinhole camera I've seen with a length to film format ratio this extreme. I just used a trusty #10 needle-diameter .5mm pinhole, which really isn't that small for this long a camera.

A long camera let's you close in to relatively distant compositions. The camera is tilted up a bit but the slightly converging verticals aren't the first thing you notice. I didn't think it worth it to put a rising front on this long a camera either.

Don't Take Pictures did a post on Long John Pinhole. She used a photo I took of a water feature in the Paine Garden and quipped that the long camera allowed me to get the shot without getting into the pool. Well, I had one leg of the tripod in the water for this one. The thing that caught my eye were the reflections of the vines in the water, and with a shorter camera, I would have had to have suspended the camera on a boom to get it to the right spot. This is at f400 with 100 so this was about an hour exposure. I made lunch.

Long cameras also make getting closer easier without getting the camera in your light (although I didn't have any trouble with Minnie and Mickey).  Not really a problem with this backlit dahlia in any case. The flower is about 120mm across so this is a 2:1 macro shot. This is probably heresy but I'd like it to be a little crisper. I think I'm going to change to a .4mm pinhole and see what develops.

I found several dumb errors in the template which I have to fix, and then the ultimate test will be to see if I can build a new back that fits into the fronts I already made and new fronts fitting into this back as well.

I'll probably do a "building-of" post when I make those, but it might be awhile.  This much engineering takes a lot of cardboard and we have to eat enough cereal and crackers to get the materials. (Here’s the link to that “building of” post)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Testing's just another word for playing pinhole.

I'm testing a new concept for a camera. Building and using a prototype revealed lots of little improvements and errors on the template, so I'll tell you all about it when the new revision is built and tested.

Until then, I can tell you these pictures were done with a 45mm long 6x6cm camera, with an axial pinhole and a rising front pinhole 10 mm above the film axis. Mr. Pinhole says the image diameter is 86.4mm at this distance, so with a rising front I might see some vignetting in the top corners.

I also didn't install any three-dimensional viewfinders, I just drew pencil lines.

It's really hard to tell where you're pointing when you're in the photograph, but I used a long piece of dowel to point to where the edges of the image were.  My intention was to portray my bicycle tan, but this might not be the best film to capture that.

One objective, and actually what started the whole thing, was to see how the rising front behaved with this wide an angle. Any tilt or otherwise off-kilter alignment of a wide-angle camera is always exaggerated, and it looks like the camera is tilted down ever so slighty so the verticals diverge. The art deco Winnebago County Courthouse was built in the roaring twenties. They recently put all the high tech security screening stuff in what was the back of the building facing the parking lot, so the old main entrance is preserved but isn't used much.

Another rising pinhole test, another little used entrance to the courthouse. Looks like I got the camera more level on this one.

With just the pencil lines for viewfinders, with the camera as high on the tripod as it can go, with the sun in your eyes, it's really hard to tell exactly where the edges of the frame are. Several times I made that most common error of pinhole rookies: not getting close enough with a wide angle camera. This is the side of the Public Safety Building on very busy Jackson Street.  If the camera had been in the middle of the street to get the composition as previsualized, I probably would have ended up inside.

I wonder if the Greeks had any idea how persistent the architectural styles they developed would be? This was the original entrance to City Hall, formerly Oshkosh High School, now missing the massive staircase that lead down to the street. Like the courthouse, people now go in from the parking lot on the other side. A slight tilt down again. I gotta start using that level.

The front of Camera Casino.  Kind of looks like a theatre box office, doesn't it?  It was the Bijou Theatre from 1905 to 1912.  The owner and a staff member, standing at the front counter, noticed me and waved so I went inside to advance the film in the air conditioning and show them the camera. They're both roughly the same vintage as me, and have seen just about everything photographic, but neither has ever told me they had used a pinhole camera.

Speaking of vintage, an eight minute self-portrait on my sixty-ninth birthday with a new t-shirt and headphones from Sarah and a flat pick in my hand.

.29mm pinholes, one on-axis and the other 10mm above the axis, 45mm from 6x6cm frame on 100 developed in Rodinal 1:50.