Friday, September 20, 2019

The long game with the Variable Cuboid.

When I made the Variable Cuboid Pinhole Camera System my intent was to make a camera shorter than the Evil Cube but with a similar form factor. When I realized the design also allowed for as long a camera as I wanted, I made a 200mm front as an extreme example. I only made three exposures with it.

Recently on Facebook, someone inquired if anyone had done any pinhole work with a medium format camera longer than the ultra-wide angles that are ubiquitous among popular pinhole camera makers. (James Guerin describes 24mm as "a long focal length" in the description of one of his cameras.)  I responded with pictures I had done at 60, 80 and 120mm. That got me to thinking about that 200. I got it out and went out about town with it. If I can't find 12 pictures suitable to the ultra-narrow view, I can always change it - it's the Variable Cuboid.

The little lighthouse at Bray's Point, where the Fox flows into Lake Winnebago, is part of someone's private residence. To get this limited composition with a wider camera, I would have to be in the back yard. Not very polite. From right by the street with wide angle, the lighthouse would have been diminished and it would have included a lot of distracting surroundings. But it's reachable with the extra air between the film and the pinhole.

In order to get close enough to compose with a short camera, sometimes your mere presence will disrupt the scene you were after. I've failed trying to photograph groups of sea gulls before. They didn't mind me if there was a bit of the lake between us.

Some things you just can't get close to. The machinery and counterweights for the Canadian National Railroad Bridge are way out in the middle of the Fox River.

You'd have to be rather high to get this perspective with a wider angle.

Riding around downtown, I often see interesting juxtapositions of the eight story First National Bank Building and it's two and three story neighbors, but when I get close enough to frame the scene, the nearer building is blocking most of the bank and the relationships are completely different. Getting just a narrow angle of view allows me to take advantage of those more distant viewpoints.

Popular myth has it that widow's walks were intended for families of sea captions to watch for the appearance of the ship. This house was built by a steam ship captain 200 feet from the Fox which gives some credibility to the story.

It turns out that they were just a popular feature of Victorian Italianate architecture. This one is a half mile from the river and the chimney blocks the view in that direction.

The Exclusive Company has been a chain of recorded music and stereo equipment stores since the '50s. If you're from eastern Wisconsin, you're probably already thinking "Say it with me!" The owner was everywhere on rock radio using that line to end his ads. You can just read it above the door. They still have a huge selection of DVDs and LPs. They moved to this location only about 10 years ago. It used to be a Woolworths. I used to buy records in a Woolworths when I was in high school. The camera was almost too long. I was backed right up against the door of the Blue Moon Coffeehouse on the opposite corner and barely fit the building in the frame.

I could get as close as I wanted to these giant oaks in East Hall Field but I wanted to include the houses to put them into context. The well known compression of space by long objectives helped me feature the houses which are half a block beyond the trees. It was really windy and I wanted to capture the trees moving, but it looks like the camera was vibrating a little as well. It's kind of a big sail.

Another big tree across the softball field from near home plate. It looks to me like one of those compositions where you leave a lot of sky to put book titles into.

So whaddya think of the image quality? The pinhole is a classic #10 needle hole completely piercing .002 inch brass for a .5mm aperture. At 200mm, that's f400. Mr. Pinhole says .596mm is optimal. I think I detect a little diffraction. It has a very distinctive look. Detailed enough but with a bit of zone plate glow.

Looked at in terms of 35mm camera lens equivalents, it's not that long - about 110mm. Think how often you zoom out a digital camera to that angle of view. I think it seems odd because medium format glass that big is really expensive and, of course, nobody makes pinhole cameras this long.

Tmax 100 stand developed in Rodinal 1:100.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

from f295: A camera I didn't make–with a pinhole sieve.

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. 

One thing that's notable about the current world of pinhole photography is that it has become dominated by the use of cameras that have been purchased rather than made by the photographer. On Facebook and Twitter anyway, it's less frequent to see someone using a camera they've made or modified themselves, or even drilled their own pinhole.

I've got nothing against this practice and I admire the small-scale craftsmanship of the people who make and sell these cameras, but I've never used one myself.  I've only taken photographs with a lensless camera I didn't make myself a few times.  

Occasionally in workshops I would take pictures with cameras the participants built to test that light leaks had been successfully overcome. In The Pinhole of Nature, I included a Camera Portrait with Self done with a camera made by a 6th grader that was left behind after a workshop.

I shot half a roll in my Canon F-1 but I did make the bodycap and pinhole. When I was working with Barnes and Noble on their version of the Populist, they sent me a P-Sharan as an example of what they wanted to compete with and I shot one roll with that.

A couple times, someone organized a project where a camera was sent from one photographer to another. As part of his Pinhole Geocaching project, Pinhole Doug sent around an Argus C-3 with a pinhole on it that each participant took one frame with.

The most notable example was a traveling camera that didn't have a pinhole - it had a pinhole sieve.  

For those of you who have never heard these terms,  a zone plate is a piece of opaque graphic arts film with special pattern of concentric circles.  A pinhole sieve is a similar device with the circles replaced by a pattern of pinholes. The driving force behind both of these ideas is to deliver more light to the film than a single pinhole.  The disadvantage, or charm depending on how you're looking at it, is that the images include a significant amount of diffraction which provides a particular diffuse glow to the images. Although the optimal size of a pinhole is correlated to the distance from the film, zone plates and sieves have a specified focal length and the already diffuse image degrades very quickly away from the distance it was designed for.

That's another difference I've noted lately. I haven't seen anyone post a picture done with a zone plate or a pinhole sieve for years.  On f295, there were forums dedicated to zone plate photography, that although not as active as the pinhole forums, had fairly regular contributions.

Daryl Duckworth from Pennsylvania was a particularly eccentric member of the f295 forum.  The location on his profile was Earth.  He also had a second account in the guise of the drill sargent Sarge who would demand in all caps that everyone shoot more film and submit pinhole images to lens based contests and exhibits.  He was a prolific modifier of cameras.

On a 6x6cm camera that was covered in red leatherette, he replaced the lens with a pinhole sieve which he dubbed the Lady in Red. I don't remember and can't find anything on f295 where he or anyone else specified what the camera was, except that it was 90mm. Maybe one of the forum members who remembers will read this and let us know. After posting pictures with it for several months he offered to send it around to anyone who'd like to try it out. I signed up. 

I shot two rolls of film with it submitted in two separate posts.

The first was posted under the title The Lady in Red in Oshkosh on September 6, 2006.

Here are five from Daryl's fancy lady.

Fuji realia 100.

The door is a combination of late evening sunlight and tungsten. Don't remember the exposure, but it was long.

The roses were on a cloudy morning, a minute and a half, I think.

The brushes were a pretty short exposure, about 4 seconds

The faucet quite long, about three minutes. I started the exposure and the sun went behind a cloud so I just left it open until the sun came back and then exposed for what I'd measured originally, a minute and a half. Got seduced by the viewfinder and kept forgetting about parallax.

One last one- I put her on the ground to face the similarly outfitted habaneros. Also about a minute and a half.

BTW, these are all from one roll.

I'll probably send her off to Eddie now. I did buy a second roll, but think I'll make a cardboard 6 x 12 for that.

I changed by mind and also shot that second roll with the pinhole sieve camera and posted under the title More from the Lady in Red on October 10, 2006.

Five from my second roll through the lady in red.

The white clematis was about as fast as I could open and close the shutter.

The habaneros about 12 seconds.

Sculpture - a minute and a half.

Yellow tree about a half second.

And my favorite of the lot, my trusty south kitchen window, 12 seconds.