Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Self-adhesive labels and double-sided adhesive sheets.

Glue has been an essential component of making my cameras but it puts some people off and it does have some disadvantages. The most obvious is that you have to wait for it to dry but there is also the necessity for lots of clamps, dangers in overwetting parts and keeping stray glue from sealing your shutter shut.

The Fantasy Factory Cube was made with double-faced adhesive carpet tape from the local hardware store. It worked but had a few negative properties. It’s kind of thick and gummed up the blades of the scissors. A cut edge with several layers of the adhesive was sticky and had to be scraped clean. It only had one side with a release layer so there was always a sticky, instantly-bonding surface when cutting and handling it.

I looked for alternatives.

To replace gluing the template to the card stock, I had them printed by a local digital press on permanent self-adhesive labels. Twenty-seven pages cost less than $5.00 USD.

To replace the glue and carpet tape, I searched the internet and found letter-size ArtStar Polar Sheets with release layers on both sides. Twenty-Five sheets are $22.95. It took just under two sheets to make the two cameras above.


You know these labels are permanent if you’ve ever tried to peel one off a mailing package. They’re made of thicker paper which contributes to the strength of the camera.

The labels are very nice to work with. They have slits in the release layer so it’s very easy to peel larger parts. With the release layer only removed from part of the template, it’s simple to align parts where you want them, press down where the adhesive is revealed, and then peel off the release layer for the rest of the part.

With smaller parts you have to sort of worry an edge with the point of a craft knife to separate them but you develop a skill after a few tries. 

In addition to the adhesive properties, it’s a really good dense print from the digital press. As good a print as this is, it’s not completely lightproof in the full sun. I only used one layer of card and the template on the back of the 35mm camera. The dark package printing and the template seemed enough, but the name Guinness, which is white on the back of the camera is imprinted on all the negatives where the camera spent time in the sun.

On the 120 camera, with a lot of white on the packaging, I used two layers of the template on the camera back. That and the backing paper of the film should be enough. I hope.

When assembling the camera, it’s easy to trace the part you’re working with on the adhesive sheets and cut it out with scissors.

Peeling the release layer from the adhesive is another learned skill. When it comes away it’s kind of a 50/50 chance that the adhesive will stick to the side you’re prying on with the Xacto knife or it will stay on the piece on the bottom. It’s pretty easy to feel once you have them separated. All the places where parts are attached are horizontally symmetrical so once you determine where the adhesive is, it can be flopped to attach it to the appropriate part.

 I seemed to always cut the adhesive a little bigger than necessary. The edges can be trimmed exactly with an Xacto knife.


It’s quite easy to peel away the release layer once attached to the cardboard. The glue is visible in case you lose your place.

It’s best to rehearse what you’re going to do once you have wet or dry glue on something. These sheets bond on contact. You’ve got one shot. I did peel one set apart immediately after sticking it together, and that did damage one side. Otherwise, it was no trouble getting things lined up and adhered. 

In several steps with glue, parts have to be separated with wax paper to keep them from accidentally sticking. It was really nice not to have to do that.

In a few places I held parts temporarily with clothes pins or tape to keep them aligned while attaching another part.

Another advantage, with both the labels and the adhesive is that it doesn’t matter if the surface is glossy printing or plain card. No need for roughening surfaces, which contributes to a more finished look. 

With glue, double layers have a tendency to curl. With these they stay perfectly flat.

Because the layer is so uniform the edges are a little more finished.

The adhesion is quite strong. I broke off the shutter handle on the little Populist taking it off the bike rack (and ruined a frame of film), but it was the cardboard that had delaminated and not the glue letting go.

There is a specific order some parts have to be made. The adhesive has to be attached and trimmed on both sides of the interior channel of the shutter or you’re likely to glue the shutter into immobility. Of course the release layer on one side can remain while you adhere the other.

One accessory that’s indispensable is a waste basket. There seems to be thousands of pieces of that release paper exactly the same size as the piece of template you’re looking for.

With glue there are so many built-in pauses to wait for it to dry, it’s easy to overlook how long you actually worked on making it. With the labels and adhesive sheets, you can go continually. It turns out it’s about seven hours including the winder and pinhole. It’s not hard, but it’s careful work. Do you think that workshop participants would put up with that?

I’ve only run film through the 35mm camera. It performed exactly as specified. It did get dropped several times, by itself and when the tripod fell over. It still looks OK. What can I say? It's a Populist. I hand-drilled a .17mm pinhole. Only three frames didn't get the Guiness imprinted on them.

An example of why a privet hedge is so hard to deal with.

Some leaves in a ditch.

One of the historic fishing huts on the Fox.

The 120 camera has a few unique features and I'll do another post on that.

That print order included templates for another 120 Populist at 45mm, an Evil Cube, and the 4x5 Pinhole Lab camera. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Cutting Edge Pinhole Photography

Every description of pinhole photography includes some kind of statement like it’s not very sharp. I suppose that depends on what you photograph.

The diverse ecosystem in our front yard has done very well in the heat, punctuated by the occasional gulley washer. I sharpened the Classic 20” to deal with it.

Sarah used Father’s Day as an excuse to replace a serrated slicer that came with a cheap knife set we got as a gift. The new one makes quick work of a baguette. 

It’s a little intimidating but we were so impressed that we also replaced a smaller bar knife we’ve had since the 70’s.

This exhibition of cutting effectiveness reminded me to sharpen my favorite, the six inch chef’s knife.

We usually have three scissors in the kitchen, interchangeably used for cooking, gardening and making pinhole cameras.

I’ve been trying out some new materials and methods for making cameras, which requires a craft knife with a new blade.

Using my little coping saw to cut the notch in the winder for a 35mm Populist.

After decades of managing our privet hedge with an electric trimmer and never being satisfied with it, I finally went totally manual, adopting the method recommended by This Old House’s Roger Cook. For the straight line trimming of new growth, I got a pair of hedge shears with a power lever and extendable arms to reach all the way to the middle. The locks on the arms are exactly like tripod leg locks. It’s actually easier than wrestling with the electric machine while trying to hold the safety switches on and not cutting the cord in half.

Most of the work within reach is done with a pair of hand clippers, gathering handfuls of new stems and cutting through them at once. 

We have had this pair of long-handled loppers for at least a decade. You can see the wear and tear on the blade but it can be brought back to an effective edge in a few minutes with a file.

Most of the work in maintenance of a privet is removal of the dead branches that are woven among the living. Some of them require a pruning saw to supplement the loppers.

I admit to cutting my fingers with the new knives, but the privet itself and squeezing around rose bushes to get to it drew much more blood than the human-made implements.

So, sharp enough?

All with the The Evil Cube, .30mm pinhole 6cm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is Ilford Delta 100 semi-stand developed in Rodinal 1:100.

Friday, July 9, 2021

A Difficult Month in Monochrome

To take to Massachusetts in my back pack, I bought a new tripod that folds down to 14 inches. It arrived a few days before we left. To try it out before the trip, I set out with the Variable Cuboid.

I had seen some scenes of interest on my bicycle rides and knew exactly where to go. I was in an Armco Steel kind of mood. It was very hot and muggy, partly sunny weather when I set out with the 200mm front mounted on the Variable Cuboid. There was also about a 20 mph wind. This camera is kind of a big sail. These tank cars and the towering tubes are in the Northeast Industrial Park. They make medical packaging. What do you think they have in those silos?

Wanting to be closer to my next destination, I stopped in a new conservation area made up of part of the old landfill and changed to the 45mm front in the accessible public toilet, the only shade available. I had a short sleeved white t-shirt on and wasn’t sure that would seal the sleeves in the changing bag. It’s really hot in a changing bag that’s been in a black backpack in the sun, by the way.

Until last week I had never been down Stillman Drive. It’s a no-outlet street serving four or five factories. When I first saw this cement plant it had been in full sun. I liked the clouds behind it and tried to wait for the sun to shine on the foreground. A young man who looked just out of college came out inquiring what I was doing. I explained and gave him my card. He said “And you find this interesting?”

This massive manifold was a little further down the road at a plant where they make windmills and solar panels. About the time I opened the shutter, someone behind me asked if I needed help. I said he had a really interesting looking piece of machinery. He was much more cheerful and explained to me that it controlled all the dust in the plant. I told him my Dad used to design things to control dust in fertilizer mixing plants.

These weren’t distressing interactions, but I’d just as soon avoid them, so I went out next on a Sunday to the far south side. Just as hot and not windy at all, which is differently relevant whether you’re a pinhole photographer or an overheated bicyclist. This was the back of a building so no one might have seen me anyway. I thought the OSHA required exit next to the toxic-looking exhaust was interesting. I don’t know what to say about the curved film. My intention is always for it to be perfectly flat. It is totally random and a kind of interesting thing which you can’t do with a lens. Maybe a little distracting, though.

This attracted my eye because of the way it was at the bottom of a little berm which would hide the chaotic factory lots behind it. It’s done with the camera very low with the front all the way up. Then when I couldn’t completely hide the tree and the fence, took advantage of the famous infinite depth of field of pinhole. 

The next Sunday I went back down to the South industrial area. It was again very hot, and I got nothin’ because of over and double exposures and advancing past one frame because I couldn’t see the numbers inside the Variable Cuboid very well with sweat in my eyes.

I didn’t have the patience to wait until another Sunday and thought there might be some industrial compositions on North Main Street a little further from the front door and a lot nearer my house. These triangular protrusions probably have something to do with power management.

Another mysterious machine mounted outside a building.

After developing this roll, it was discouraging to discover how screwed up so many of the exposures were. I was also in the middle of scanning the pictures from the trip to Massachusetts, so put these negatives aside.

Sarah had to have cataract surgery in Appleton where they’re still adhering to COVID protocols. I couldn’t wait at the outpatient surgical center so I went downtown to take pictures. 

There is a photograph from my Hello Walls blog post in a juried show at the Trout Museum of Art. My picture is in the last gallery on the last floor of the exhibition. There was no one there on a hot, muggy and a bit rainy afternoon. Just after opening the shutter, a gentleman, whom even compared to me I would describe as old, came around the corner. I thought he had a lanyard around his neck and mistook him for a docent. When asked if it was okay to take a photograph, he said he didn’t know why it would matter if he cared. We had a nice conversation about pinhole photography and some other photographs in the show. It was kind of interesting to be able to show him the pinhole since it was in the middle of a 20 minute exposure.

Spenser’s response to the heat has been to grow more hair and shed it immediately, covering everything and trailing a cloud of it as he moves around the house.

Elwood is a metal, trumpet playing rabbit and has served as the fountain in our water feature for seventeen years. He was featured prominently in The Pinhole of Nature. Last fall the two bolts that held him to his armillary rusted through and he broke off in a storm. We were despondent for awhile until we realized the remaining stubs of the bolts would keep him in position so we could hold him to the armillary with a jubilee clip and some padding from an old inner tube.

We have been observing No Mow May in the garden well into June and the ferns have kind of taken over so that when walking back there I inevitably pick one between my toes.

Once again this camera sat idle while I exposed and processed the color film in the Tenth Anniversary iPhone Box Camera. Then I went out to continue the industrial theme with the Variable Cuboid. It's a little hard to tell with this film, but all this stuff was various shades of black and white. About the time I got the tripod extended, a large overhead door just out of the frame on the front of the building opened and a guy walked out to his truck, casually glanced my way and went back in and closed the door.


Shortly thereafter I accidentally shifted the 100mm front and exposed several frames and didn’t realize it wasn’t remounted correctly so it wasn’t really pointed at what I wanted for the rest of the roll. You’ll have to imagine the grimace I would be making if I were a vlogger.

With Ilford Delta 100 stand developed in Rodinal 1:100 in the 6x6cm Variable Cuboid with the 45mm, 100mm and 200mm fronts.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Random Acts of Color with the Tenth Anniversary iPhone Box Camera

This could have been included with the Remainders from our trip to Massachusetts. I had also taken the Tenth Anniversary iPhone Box Camera with me, but because of the unseasonably crappy weather, I never used it.

On our return, I left it on the kitchen table as is my wont with any camera that has film in it and a few that don’t. A summer sunbeam falls on a selection of fruits and pinhole cameras.

Sarah picked a bunch of pansy blossoms to decorate a cake and left a saucer full of them on the table when she was finished. The camera is less than an inch from the closest flower.

In a more active attempt to expose the film I took it on my bike to Lake Winnebago. This unusual little mound has a plaque in the ground dedicated to a park volunteer and benefactor. Just behind me is a historical marker identifying it as sort of the place where Father Allouez celebrated the first mass in Winnebago County.

Water lilies near the boat launch ramps on Miller’s Bay.

This was the weekend of the Miss Wisconsin pageant that takes place every year in Oshkosh. In the past they’ve had the contestants at the Farmer’s Market to meet people, occasionally with crowns on, and once under umbrellas held by pageant volunteers behind them. They were nowhere to be seen this year.

I walked the entire length of the Market and just couldn’t see anything that really compelled me. I saw millions of people I would love to take a portrait of but never will have the gumption to try that. Finally, getting quite frustrated going down the sidewalk behind the vendors, I saw this busker with her yellow violin case and blue violin.

A few stalls down was the Oshkosh Food Coop table with my friend Maureen Muldoon, with whom I crossed Lake Winnebago on foot.

I didn’t have much of an opportunity because she was in continual conversation with potential and current members, informing them of the state of the store which is soon to open. I went ahead and made another exposure when she introduced this person as a member of the board of directors.

I was somewhat emboldened by now. Nearby was the Menomonie Nation Arena booth featuring members of the Wisconsin GLO women’s professional basketball team, interacting with the crowd and taking selfies with fans. They very graciously posed for me and seemed to take it for granted that my camera was a cardboard box. Their first game was that night. They’re now 3 and 1 and leading the league. That included a 115-35 rout over Chicago. Here’s a link to their schedule if you’re into pro basketball.

They were right in front of the Time Theater which shows vintage films on weekends. I turned to the left and saw this masked lady registering people for COVID vaccinations inside the theater. I told her I had done a piece on the testing site last fall. I didn’t think of it at the time but she might have been holding up her phone like that to take a picture of me.

When I got home, the sun was nicely filtered through the pines on this Dracaena next to Elwood’s Pond,

The Tenth Anniversary iPhone Box Camera has a .26mm hand-drilled pinhole 36mm from a 6x6cm frame.  The film is Ektar 100.