Saturday, March 30, 2019

Manic-expression conclusion and summary.

The first roll in this manic episode, with the Philadelphia Populist, took three days to expose. The second, in The Populist took six days. This last one with Neville took a little over two weeks but I made it through the rotation. The mania appeared to be abating and until yesterday, I hadn't taken a photograph in a week.

The first image in that first post was cropped to a square because I hadn't advanced the film far enough when loading. This amarylis dropping its pollen was deliberately cropped to improve the composition. I don't do that very often except to make the image level. I've been toying with the idea of making a 24x24mm populist.

An adventure from the last roll was getting caught putting my camera on top a display case in the Oshkosh Public Museum.  One of my strategies to manage this mania has been to use unusual angles, which turned out to be all high ones. I decided I should explore the view from near the floor.

Upstairs in the museum, the camera is sitting on the lowest step of a ladder leaned up against the wall opposite these frames, but that still makes it a pretty low perspective.

I continued the low point of view on the lanai during another snowfall.

Sunlight filtered through the trees in the late afternoon. A less extreme approach to the lowered point of view, but with the camera deliberately made level to keep the verticals parallel. Maybe I'll put a rising front on that 24x24mm camera.

In an intentional attempt to make the snow look awful, back to the mouse-eye view.

Normally when I put the camera this low, it's usually for a closeup of something on the ground.

I was a little disappointed that this leaf wasn't centered better, but as pinhole will serendipitously do, it yielded a kind of nice rule-of-thirdsy composition. I really like the glacier blue and the translucent ice.

Back inside the house, these white alstromeria outlasted their red and purple compatriots and became their own bouquet in the kitchen next to a selection of pinhole cameras.

Stewart, one of our cats, can hear a pinhole camera coming from the next room. One day, walking through the living room with the camera in my hand, I saw him sleeping on the footstool and tried just setting the camera on the top of the scratching post behind the couch. It worked but only a bit of his back and an ear ended up in the bottom of the picture.

He will sometimes let me come over and pet him and then he will go back to sleep. Later I put the camera on the table pointing directly at the footstool, and the next time he was asleep, succeeded in opening the shutter without him noticing. It was a dim afternoon so the exposure was pretty long and it looks like he left after about a third of it.

I liked the image that started this whole manic episode of the snowstorm from the windows in the front of the house, so I tried that again to catch the dawn from the sun room.

I tried again a few days later from the living room after a snowy night, this time a little earlier. I love the trail of the snow blower fairy's headlight as he passed by. He must have come early in the exposure because you can see the cleared path across the driveway. It doesn't look like much but this was really wet, heavy, icy snow.

I gotta quit getting up so early in the morning. Notice the unabashed exploitation of the wide angle to make me look taller.

When the sun is out there's always a sunbeam to catch. I like the crazy mix of sunbeams and reflections on the right side of the frame.

A sunbeam upstairs.

Burt leans into a sunbeam to bid you good-bye.

So, what have we learned?

You knew this already, but taking photographs with a pinhole camera, even a little one like this, is different from a fast lens and digital sensor. It takes some effort and time. The exposures are long and you have to get the camera in the right place on a stable support. You have to keep track of when you have to go and close the shutter.

It was interesting to try to force the process to see what I could come up with. It was fun and I think I ventured a few places I don't normally go. 35mm is cheap and easy so you can experiment freely with it. There are some things I might follow up with, using medium format.

One of the reasons I think people don't want to use 35mm is because the magnification makes the dust and other flaws more prominent, and they're a little shocked when they see the original scan. Retouching that dust and a few edits like rotating and cropping to make a picture level and adjusting the color balance and contrast can transform an image. It takes time, but I never really spend more than five minutes on one - less than I'd spend in the chemistry in a darkroom. I work on one while the next one is scanning.

I still love the image quality of 35mm pinhole that got me hooked on it in the first place.

What I'm trying to do seems to be to catch the quality of the light. You can make a composition out of anything but light is a transient thing you have to keep a look out for.

The snow is all melted and I'm free to roam the city with my medium format cameras and tripod, so this mania may be contained for the time being. However, I just bought two new desktop tripods and there is that idea of the square format camera that would get 12 more frames per roll of film.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Further notes on manic-expression.

One of the things that triggered this frenzy of photography was that when I got out The Populist to take a photo with the new understudies, I discovered I had reloaded it right after our trip last fall. This camera has been the faithful enabler of my mania for 12 years.

I've recently heard criticism of digital photographers taking numerous variations of a scene without knowing what they really wanted and I didn't want to do that. Nor did I want to just redo photographs I've done before, but there are some things you just come back to. Here's Buddha's corner with that unusual angle trick to make it a little distinctive.

Sunbeams in the living room are another continuing theme.

The overhead angle thing again.

A sunbeam and a high angle.

Remember pictorialism? Haven't I seen an Autochrome of this?

Mickey has been casting spells on top of my computer in one basement or another for two decades. At Halloween he got to perform on top the piano and now has the main stage on the mantlepiece. Weird how the pendulum is well rendered in the center and barely there at it's extreme positions. I expected it to be a continuous streak from one side to other. Looks like it shakes the clock face a little.

There's some crazy pinhole stuff going on here. The door frames make it look like the camera is tilted up a little but otherwise level. However, the curve of the top of the mirror and the angle of the top of the dresser are a little weird.

Sarah got a new soap dispenser which I thought played well with the light.

She also just put some new little succulents on the window sill.

I made bread one day and it had this huge blister on the top. This frame was also unintentionally, very briefly double exposed which picked up just some highlights. It sort of puts dynamic sparkles on the loaf. Does this remind anyone else of a scene in Alien?

One morning I got to the Museum early and the door wasn't unlocked yet, so I took the opportunity to feed the obsession.

The room referred to as the library is lined with display cases but is otherwise empty. It's where they set up for speakers and special events.  It always frustrates me because, in order to photograph these windows, there's no place to put a desktop tripod except the floor. In my maniacal state, I realized that standing on tiptoe I could just reach the top of the cases to put my tripod up there. My supervisor at the Museum just retired. This was the first day that it was her replacement's turn to open the museum. After waiting for the gift shop operator to arrive, as she walked back into the museum, she looked down the hall and saw this weird old guy stretching to reach the top of the display case! I had to explain what I was doing and apologize for startling her.

Since the cat was out of the bag, I set the camera on the mantlepiece in the parlor down the hall, right in front of her.

I try to use the stairs instead of taking elevators. This is the staff-only third floor landing in the back of the Museum.

It snowed again.

I shovel a path back to the compost barrel and the bunnies use it to traverse the back yard. As I opened the shutter, just by chance a narrow sunbeam fell right on top the closest track and really fouled up the exposure.  After burning and dodging to regain highlight and shadow detail, it left this odd but interesting color shift on the sides of the trench.

The hydrangea exploding out of the garage with another random sunbeam brightening the middle of the frame.

A roof over the arbor.

There's always a danger with manic-expression that you're going to do something that you've never done before that might be philosophically unsettling.

That's another snow picture that kept getting red and blue casts to the shadows and highlights that I couldn't get to look natural so I just converted it to grey scale. Did you notice right away?

We went to visit Laura and Gene in Eau Claire. I took a full size tripod, but when I tried to take pictures of morning sunbeams in their house, I couldn't find the quick release adapter! (It was in the pocket in my blue jeans.) The desktop tripod was just right for Arthur.

Back home, playing with light. There's a lot of refraction going on to make this crystal candelabra visible.

Variable transmission of light though fabric, with sunbeam.

Another sunbeam. If you're a cat, this is a good place to sit to watch what's going up and down the neighbor's driveway.

In case anybody's been counting, that's 23 images. The clicker on The Populist is the most reliable and loud example I've ever made. Not wasting film makes these manic episodes much less nerve wracking. Editing however, is problematic with manic-expression.

When this all started the voices in my head told me I had to go through the whole rotation of 35mm populists. Hopefully Neville will bring some closure.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

A diagnosis of 35mm manic-expression.

I go a bit mad when people bad-mouth 35mm pinhole photography.

The most benign expression of this is with statements like: "I don't know, I just can't get into 35mm pinhole." At worst it's directly pejorative such as: "If I'm going to go to the trouble to learn pinhole, 35mm isn't an option because I sure don't want to just get shitty pictures." Sometimes it's stated as understood dogma: "35mm isn't appropriate for pinhole photography." Occasionally it's looked down upon because it's too cheap and easy.

There's usually not much discussion of why it's bad. The usual problem specified is that it isn't sufficiently sharp. Another criticism is it can't be enlarged, lest viewers discover that film has grain. Both of these seem to me to be unsubstantiated and somewhat antithetical to pinhole thought.

I'm not dissing large formats and recognize that large pieces of film have unique and desirable visual qualities. I love medium format but I don't understand the dismissal of 35mm.

My reaction, in this case combined with a bit of cabin fever and late-February ennui, was to shoot a bunch of film and see just how awful it is. This was on Sunday and Camera Casino's deadline for going to the lab is Thursday morning. I'd better get going.

Philly was up in the rotation. Don't be afraid to zoom in on these to see if the grain and sharpness bothers you.

This all began during another snowstorm, viewed from the window sash in the living room. This first frame is inadvertantly cropped to a square because I didn't advance the film far enough when loading the camera.

Technical note: I thought I had it fixed but the darn clicker was really quiet and failed again after about five frames. This time, instead of winding one and a half revolutions for each frame, I just trusted my muscle memory on what it felt like to advance eight clicks. None of the negatives overlapped and the gaps between frames were minimal.

Another view of the storm out the back window.

All the pretty snow is getting boring and I couldn't bring myself to go out in the cold and wind to take pictures.  I've taken a lot of pictures around the house, so this is going to be a challenge.

Finding a new angle is a common trick. Over the peace lily in the living room window.

The top of the faux ficus in the sun room, with Valentine regalia.

A sunbeam on the throw on the couch

Don't take pictures has a feature where they solicit photographs of reader's bookshelves.

A backlit Kirk's Folly Seaview Moon wind chime glowing in front of the bookshelves.

One of the cool things about this moon is it changes color dramatically with even a small change in angle. In this case even the expression on the face looks different to me.

The spice rack in the pantry is mounted high on the wall. Too high for a tripod. The camera is on top of the door frame. Try doing that with your large format camera.

Pointing straight down at some tomatoes.

A more conventional angle.

One my oldest kitchen utensils and my newest. The stainless bowl was a wedding present from my sister and Sarah gave me the butter warmer for Yule this winter.

The kitchen sink with some red stripes in the corner contrasting with the all the white and stainless steel.

Continuing with the red theme upstairs.

One of the second set of blossoms on the amarylis.

The amarylis bulb is also interesting to look at. Normally I don't even scan double exposures, but occasionally one surprises me and seems to work in kind of a psychedelic way.

Getting over myself at my subterranean work station.

Well, I'm not convinced.  I still like 35mm pinhole. It looks like there's a few others who do also.

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day is coming up on April 28.  You should build a 35mm camera or adapt an existing one and go crazy.

Philly has a .15mm pinhole 24mm from a 24x36mm frame.

Next more mania with The Populist.