Saturday, October 19, 2019

Full system field test of The Variable Cuboid

I've conducted field tests of certain parts of the Variable Cuboid Pinhole Camera System and was pleased with the results. It's time to bundle up the whole thing, head out on the bicycle and change to the appropriate angle of view as I find scenes to capture.

Everything fits comfortably in my backpack, with some room to spare.

To review:

The format is 6x6 centimeters. I have two backs. In the mid-mission review I noted that the fronts from Back No.1 wouldn't fit over the slightly larger Back No.2. I've since modified the light traps so that all the fronts fit both backs.

I have six fronts: 20mm, 35mm, 45mm, 60mm, 100mm and 200mm. The 20 and 200 have a single pinhole. The 35 and the 100 have axial and risen pinholes, and the 45 and the 60 have adjustable rising fronts.

I got the changing bag free in the late '70's from an ad agency that was converting from 16mm movies to video.

Changing the fronts in the bag is pretty easy. I found lots of places to set the bag so I could do it comfortably.  The 200mm is the tightest fitting front and once, when I opened the bag I could see that it wasn't fully seated. I snapped it closed as fast as I could but the frame was partly fogged. I also lost another frame when I couldn't remember if I had advanced the film. I had and wound past a unexposed frame.

I often ride by this old school building that now houses a small construction company. I left home with the 200mm mounted to get this cupola framed by two other buildings. The camera and tripod were set up and ready to make the exposure when an employee in a big van backed up to the door of the building at the lower right. I asked if he was going to pull into the building. He told me no but he would only be a minute and he was true to his word. He didn’t seem to notice I had a cardboard box on the tripod.

Otherwise there was nobody around.  I changed to the 45mm sitting on a pile of concrete blocks. I had plenty of room to get farther away, but I chose the 45 to pull out the little entrance structure a bit.

Like most buildings, St. Mary's is surrounded by wires of one sort or another. There's one just out of the top of the frame that kept me from getting any farther away. This was done with the 100mm. I made the change sitting on the side of a planter.

A giant oak in the back of the Morgan House. I already knew I wanted the 60mm because I had screwed up an attempt at this scene when testing the adjustable rising fronts. I made the change sitting on the steps of the porch on the left.

Also with the 60mm, another redo from that earlier roll was this stairway in the back of the old Chief Oshkosh Brewery.

Last summer I photographed a nicely lit back wall of this church in a slightly decayed state. In that post I explained that I had tried to get that picture several times. One of the reasons I couldn’t was when the whole congregation was there restoring the church. They kept that up throughout the year and the place looks very nice now, so I thought they deserved an update. Too bad about the wires. This was still with the 60mm.

Back across the river to the brutalist City Center former shopping mall. This atrium entrance on the river gets used a lot by employees, and several walked past while I made the exposure. In this case some planters that separate the river walk from this plaza kept me from going farther back. I changed to the 45mm sitting on one of those planters. The verticals look parallel , but it seems it was pointed a little to the right. Getting a wide angle camera perfectly level and parallel is easy to screw up.

Continuing with the 45mm and much more successful with the alignment and framing, here's the back of Britton's Walkover, squeezed between Camera Casino and Kitz & Pfeil Hardware.

I changed back to the 200mm on a track of a giant front end loader. That was the one where I fogged the frame. Coincidentally, the next frame was the one I advanced past because I couldn't remember if I had already done it.

I had already been planning to do this bridge tender’s house with the 200mm. I had to wait for a bridal photography session using the Riverwalk as a background. They were still just about 20 feet away when I took the picture but they didn’t seem to notice me.

When I got home, to complete the range,  I switched to the 20mm and took this rather sinister view of my hand.

It's an odd experience sitting in public with your hands in a changing bag. Swapping the fronts takes about two minutes, only about thirty seconds of that with your arms in the bag. The most tedious part is opening and closing the two zippers. If you're not self conscious about it, not in a hurry and comfortable with the bag supported on your lap or some counter-height surface, it's not that bad, I did have an episode or two where I raced the light and lost, but I wouldn't have gotten the shot I wanted without changing the angle of view anyway.

I did learn to check that the new front is seated correctly. I've since learned that you should put a rubber band around the camera while you're in the bag. A clumsy move getting it out can pull the front off. The good news is that only one frame was ruined.

It's a little tricky to load. The key is to get a good two or three wraps around the take up reel before putting it in the camera to make sure the film is winding straight on the spool.

To summarize the assessment of the system, I think I may have discovered the best way possible to take pinhole photographs.

Kodak TMax 100 stand developed in Rodinal 1:100.

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