Thursday, August 1, 2019

Menomonee Park Infrastructure Project

In the last post, where I was testing the camera I made to replace the pictures for the 10th Anniversary Populist plans, it sounds like I went to Menomonie Park with definitive plans to test how it worked. What really happened is that I took that first picture of the concrete bunker on the shoreline and then rode around town for two days looking for something I thought worth photographing and never quite found anything inspiring enough to bother with.

Contemplating this problem while soaking in the bathtub several days later, I thought of that ubiquitous solution of photography clubs and internet instructional vendors - The Project. The basic idea is a concept or subject that will force you to get out and take some pictures. Getting things done is easier when you have a list of tasks to accomplish rather than just waiting for inspiration.

Since I had made the first image of the city water bunker already, it occurred to me that there were at least 12 structures of one sort or another in the park. I could just take on the challenge of taking one image of each building until I exposed the rest of the roll. That first run through the camera turned into a bit of a comedy of errors and I was only really happy with a few of those images. I did enjoy the challenge of finding an interesting composition of each location. After fixing the shutter, installing the pinhole hood and swearing to remember to tighten the film before making each exposure, I set off to try it again.

Nevada Street runs straight from my house to the lake, near the north end of the park. That’s where the little pumping station is which I had so much trouble with in the last roll with the loose shutter and double exposure. (Why do they put in the window openings if they're just going to fill them with bricks?)

One difference from the first day was that instead of a completely blank sky, there were some puffy cumulus clouds on the horizon. I kept finding myself seduced into trying to include them instead of just concentrating on the buildings.

One of the reasons the buildings in Menomonie Park appealed to me with this camera is that they’re only one story. To keep it simple for the how-to post, I didn’t put a rising front pinhole on this camera. I thought the low buildings would allow me to keep the camera level so they didn’t look like they’re falling over backward. The other solution to keeping your verticals parallel with a wide angle is to get higher up so you don't have to tilt the camera. When I got to the softball fields with their tall backstops, I couldn’t help myself climbing up the bleachers to get a level point of view.

The other side of the concession stand is the station for the miniature train ride which circles the lagoon. Seems like a boring little trip but the attraction must be enduring, I remember one of these going around the little zoo in South Bend's Rum Village Park when I was a child.

Another common amusement in parks are Merry-Go-Rounds, so often featured spinning in pinhole photographs. No longer in service, this one was still in operation as recently as June of 2015 since it still appears in Google Maps satellite view. (I know that’s when the image was done, because I was repairing my back porch and when you look at my house, one of the screens is lying in the driveway.)

By the way, notice the effectiveness of the pinhole hood in preventing flare while pointed toward the sun in these last four photographs.

By this time I realized the interesting clouds were only near the horizon and I was getting lots of empty sky. I thought I could use the roof and picnic tables in Shelter No.1 to create a one point perspective composition framing just the interesting part of the view. When I got there it was empty except for one guy sitting with a bicycle, drinking some sort of beverage. Thinking he was a casual biker like me pausing in the heat, I mumbled something like “Do you mind if I take a photograph?”  It turned out he was a noisy drunk and went on quite loudly about how he “don’t pose for no pictures for nobody.” I tried to reassure him he wasn’t in the frame but he kept expounding on the theme. I don't think I captured the clouds and I screwed up one frame from the distraction.

There was a lively family gathering going on in Shelter No. 2 and after the experience with the drunk I wasn’t ready to risk asking if they minded if I took a photograph. I was about to just pass it by when I went around the back and was taken by the dappled light and the shiny new Cadillac.

This gate into the zoo’s wolf enclosure seemed to call out to the square format of my camera.

There’s a second concession stand in the entryway to the zoo named after the short-lived flying visitors whose biblical swarms prevent any use of the park in early May.

I did the back side of the beach house in the last roll. I liked the way the corners of the buildings  created contrasting shades and also thought including the lake would place it in context. Someone in the past had commented that my cardboard cameras reminded them of Miroslav Tichý's. I didn’t want anyone to think I was also imitating his behavior by including the girls in their swimwear on the other side, so I thought this composition of casually parked bicycles and one fully dressed mother watching her kids frolic on the beach was a safer bet.

I’m usually not much of a fan of those internet challenges but this project was kind of interesting. I’ve just built two fronts for the Variable Cuboid with adjustable rising pinholes and might use this scheme again to get them tested.

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