Thursday, December 29, 2022

Solstice Domestica

I quite enjoyed using the little EyePA 30mm. Since the cloudy day that I exposed that last roll of film, the weather has been not just overcast but extraordinarily gloomy as well as a little windy and cold. I reloaded the camera with reciprocity-failure-generous FP4+ on the likelyhood I was going to have to use it for long exposures in less than pleasant conditions or interiors. I had to go downtown one day and took the bike and the camera but couldn't concentrate on looking for compositions. There was lots of Yule preparation to deal with as well.

Eventually, the always interesting light in the bathroom illuminated some hand-washable pillow cases.

It snowed on the 19th. The next morning, the sun flirted with coming through the clouds while I was shoveling. This is about 11:00 the day before the solstice so about the lowest the midday sun gets above the horizon.

Had to take advantage of the low angle of light modeling shapes and casting shadows. The house in it's festive outfit.

The new garage doors. Nice to be able to put the car inside this winter.

An hommage to Harry Callahan, vegetation in the midwestern snow.

Then the weather changed a bit as though the solstice were reminding us of the reason for the season. The clouds darkened again and kept up a drizzle of snow for a day and a half. The temperatures dropped to highs low b'zero (F) with a sustained wind over 20 miles per hour. It kept up for four days keeping that snow blowing around, right in your face if you had to be out in it.

The sun did pop out occasionally. More fine work by the bathroom window.

On The Lensless Podcast, while discussing one of Dave Eichinger's photographs, Andrew Bartram noted that he was happy with any photograph that included an empty chair. This chair and the books are normally in the living room and the table in the sun room, but during Yule make this interesting little still life at the top of the stairs.

Took advantage of the nook by the window to read the latest paper copy of Scientific American.

Yule duties include a little baking. My mother was never much for ethnic desserts, but Sarah's mother, of Norwegian descent, made these Polish Tea Cakes and I've made them ever since.

I did have to go out and had the sense to use a car but had to clear the driveway first. In this channel between the houses, the wind is at least twice the reported velocity.

The wind and I collaborated in making this miniature Himalayan peak next to the driveway.

The EyePA 30 has .23mm hand-drilled pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above the axis, 30mm from a 6x6cm frame. The FP4+ was semistand developed in Caffenol.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Inspired Me! Challenge

The Fox River Valley Photographic Group's challenge this month was "Inspired Me!" The concept was to choose an artist, in any medium, that you found inspiring and then make a photograph based on that inspiration. I didn't look for something new and go and then take photographs based on that, but it was constantly on my mind as I took and looked at the photographs I've taken in the challege period.

The meeting where these were going to be discussed was cancelled due to a snow storm and a new challenge has been presented. I was looking forward to this discussion but I'll just have to write about it here instead.

Everything I've put in these monthly challenges since I started participating has been done with 6x6cm cameras, mostly with black and white. The last few months I've been doing lots of the Roadtrip series using 35mm cameras with 24mm distance from pinhole to color film. The name that kept coming back to me as inspiration was Edgar Degas, specifically this painting, The Milliner's Shop, which he worked on from 1879 to 1886. I saw it in a special exhibition at the National Gallery in London in 2000 and I must have seen it several times in its regular home at the Art Institute of Chicago. We bought an exhibition poster of it which hung in our kitchen for a long time, featuring Degas' distinctive signature beneath the painting. My mother once asked when we had been in Vegas.

Take a look at this from a photographer's point of view. I want to be clear that I'm not suggesting Degas was working from a photograph. If this were camera work it would be pretty darn wide angle. At the top you're looking almost horizontally over the middle hat, and at the bottom you're looking rather downward at the desk. I'd guess we're dealing with something like 70 degrees. With a 6x6cm that's about 45mm from pinhole to film, in 35mm film equivalents, about a 24mm camera horizontally.  Lenses that wide-angle were not available at that time.

Our imaginary camera is tilted down quite a bit, but the verticals are perfectly parallel, as though a falling front was used. "Field" cameras with tilts, shifts and rising/falling fronts had been introduced twenty years before for wet plate photography. Degas was familiar with photography and probably knew about camera adjustments but parallel verticals were something painters had been obsessed about for years.

The Kodak wasn't introduced for another ten years, but there were still plenty of amateur photographers. Another thing Degas was familiar with were the sometimes random compositions in what was to become snapshot photography. 

We might think of the cropping as kind of tight, but cropping wasn't a concept in painting and drawing. You made the composition to fit your format. No painter would have cut part of the hat off and made the figure so secondary to several seemingly randomly placed piles of color. He also once did a painting with just the back end of a horse on one side of the composition.

Before the Race - 1893

This all reminds me a lot of the uncertainty of what exactly is getting through the pinhole with no viewfinder and just rough pointing measures like sighting triangles.

Another characteristic I percieve in Degas, and the Impressionists in general, is that they made artwork wherever they went. They didn't necessarily need a monumental or historic subject to make a painting. It was just places you saw everyday. Sort of street photography, hey, Mike?

Another more controversial observation is that the image quality is not particularly tack sharp. Impressionist, ya know. Despite exhibiting pictorialist work for over a decade, in the late 1910s and '20s Alfred Steiglitz promoted the concept that photography shouldn't be compared to painting and should be judged by it's own criteria, which it turns out is tack sharp. Group f64 with Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham grew out of that idea. This was the still prevailing dogma when I started in photography in graduate school. I worry about the ghosts of Stieglitz and Adams haunting me when I say my 35mm pinhole work reminds me of the paintings of The Impressionists and that I like it. To complicate matters, another Mike chose Steiglitz as his inspiration so that might have been an interesting conversation.

So here's the photo I submitted for the challenge, done recently during a trip to Massachusets.

It was done with Little Guiness, a 35mm format Populist, 24mm from pinhole to film. Whenever I go anywhere I try to operate under "Populist Rules," which basically say I have to take photographs wherever, despite the lighting and camera support situations not being optimum. It turns out that's not that hard but you do have to look for opportunities. It's hard not to notice an opportunity like this. The subject is my son Andy who isn't fazed by having a camera constantly pointed at him. Our table wasn't going to be ready for twenty minutes so he wasn't going anywhere. The sunlight was fortuitously streaming over the building highlighting his forehead and nose, and his arms and legs. I can just see one of those grad school professors demonstrating how to do this with studio lights. I had a flat table in front of me to put the tripod on. There's nothing blowing around. How could you not take this picture?

I have to admit my composition strategy consisted of just pointing the camera at him, not checking with the viewfinder triangles to see where the edges were. I don't remember doing it, but I probably spent a moment or two making sure the camera was level. I was aware of Andy's high contrast prominence in front of the diffusely lit background. What I didn't notice was the color with Andy's almost monochrome figure against the desaturated warmish background. I love the dark magenta of that clapboard wall. And all those lines, including the table corner and bracing forming an aggressive arrow pointing right at him and the geometric window framing his head - the verticals perfectly parallel of course. The reflection of the light-colored building is visible which was providing the just slightly directional fill light. 

And just enough motion blur to make an anonymous, but also, if you know him, recognizable figure.

It's not just recently that I noticed this association with the Impressionists, and for that matter all painting in general. It happened the first time I took color photographs with a 35mm pinhole camera in 2005.

I'd been aware of a lot about composition after typing Sarah's Art History papers and listening to her respond to paintings in museums all over the United States and Europe. I remember three expositions on Degas' more formal early work The Bellelli Familyin the 70's for me with a book and then twice in as many years standing in front of it in the Musée d'Orsay, once for her brother and once for Andy. 

I also have to note credit to famous polytech YouTube personality Joe Van Cleave for his series on One Photo Revisited. And about a million others who have influenced me.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Prototype of a Compact 30mm

In my continuing quest to make the smallest 6x6cm format camera, I reworked the template for the Compact 45mm down to 30mm from pinhole to film.

It's made on the same scheme as the Compact 45 and the Evil Cube with a film holder inserted into the back of the camera which is then covered by the front.

At this angle, a truncated triangular image chamber like those previous cameras would have to come to a point in the front with no place to put the pinholes. I had to rework it slightly with straight sides which then flare out over the film reels. A new feature with the previous Evil Cube and Compact 45mm was to create a part which would attach to the outside wall of the image chamber which created a bay to hold the film reel in place and keep it from twisting. I realized I could create a few extra folds and make that bay as part of the film holder rather than a separate part. One thing this new design did was change how the contact surfaces between the film holder top and the film holder sides met so they weren't big enough to utilize two-sided adhesive sheets. I had to revert to using glue to hold it together, which I'm fine with, but it bothers some people.

It is noticably smaller than the Compact 45mm and a 30mm 120 Populist, but still a little bigger than a 35mm Film Populist. 

It is pretty small for a medium format camera, and at 90 grams, pretty light. Sometimes it's mentioned that cardboard isn't very durable but something this light and flexible can fall to the ground from quite some height without any damage.

This is a prototype and some things need correction. I checked that the rising pinhole wasn't blocked at the edge by the filmholder but forgot to check with the shutter in front of it. It has the same shutter and 15mm rise as the Compact 45. The outside shutter blocked about 5mm of the top of the frame with this wider angle camera. Also, when out using it, that much rise seemed a little excessive. I've since repositioned the top pinhole to be only 11mm above the axis and the whole frame is now clear with the rising pinhole.

Another issue was that I made the front of the camera a millimeter too small and got another very tightly winding camera. It worked well advancing with both knobs at the same time, but it took a little more force than I'd like.

I'm reworking the template.

When I first saw the package design for this 👁PA, I thought maybe Lakefront Brewery had seen the other cameras made from cartons of their Bumble Bear Brown Ale and Hazy Rabbit IPA and did this to challenge me, but Andy tells me they've been making it for years. I did save a few of the cans, but didn't use them for the pinholes like my last two cameras. I found a pair of optimal .23mm pinholes in my stash and just used those. 

The weather was rather overcast with just barely directional diffuse lighting.

A stairway down to the lower courtyard at the library.

An alcove on the first floor overhangs the basement windows. 

The staff entrance next to the loading docks, actually used by someone during the exposure.

Just across the street, the entrance to the Fallout Shelter in the Masonic Temple.

The other side of the Masonic Temple looking a little post-apocalyptic.

Just across the driveway, the employee entrance on the original Wisconsin National Life Insurance Company building, now occupied by Winnebago County Social Services.

The main entrance is to the left where the Neoclassical building is joined to a slightly brutalist addition. This photo is of the other side of the building, which is another employee-only entrance, again put to use while the shutter was open.

This textured stucco wall and recently covered-over door seemed like a good subject for the extremely diffuse light.

A rounded corner of an otherwise rectangular building.

A tree growing in the back of the Time Theatre.

The entrance to the Winnebago Bicycle Shop.

Across the street, my favorite political party headquarters.

The EyePA has .23mm hand-drilled pinholes 30mm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is 200 semistand developed in Caffenol.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Abington, Gloucester and Greyson

We arrived in Massachusetts late on a Thursday. Greyson was very excited to see us but we were just part of the environment by the next morning.

For entertainment, Andy took us to Abington, an adjacent municipality in the South Shore suburbs to see the giant Christmas Place, stocked with everything merry that you can possibly imagine. They have a complex miniature village in the window. A giant nutcracker greets you at the door.

Around it at floor level is a skating pond with a few animatronic elves.

Lots of densely stocked shelves. Easy to leave a small, mostly black camera for a long exposure without being noticed.

Went to eat at Yaz's Table, an Egyptian restaurant that specializes in brunch. We had to wait outside for a table but it was 72 degrees and sunny. Pretty weird on November 4th, but it made the wait pleasant.

It was lovely and the Egyptian-themed food was interesting but they followed one of my least favorite fads. I can't fathom why anyone thinks it's cool to drink out of a container that you can screw a canning lid on. Is this some southern country thing? Ick.

Andy needed new strings so we stopped at Matt's Music, featuring a wide selection of high-end guitars.

Andy was cooking tonight so to Billy's Liquors to get the perfect wine pairing. 

I went to see if they had any interesting materials to make cameras out of.

Back across the shared city limits in Weymouth, a walk with Greyson was the first priority.

Most of the local Halloween decorating was gone except for this rather elaborate tableau.

This fall's tourist destination was the Hammond Castle Museum between Manchester by the Sea and Gloucester, built just under a century ago by a prolific inventor of electronic gear in the early days of radio and television. He wanted it to look like a medieval castle. 

As you come down these stairs to approach the gate, there is a nicely typeset bullet list of items which are not permitted on the grounds which included selfie-sticks and tripods. Well, it's a very small tripod. No harm, no foul, right? 

The building is a pastiche that includes design elements and actual parts of buildings from the Roman Empire through the early Rennaissance.

It was built intentionally to exhibit his European architectural collection, such as the facades from several eras in the courtyard with i-beams supporting the glass roof.

The library, full of leather bound books and archaic musical instruments. Hammond was a bit eccentric. Several of the descriptions of details of the rooms mentioned he was an inveterate practical joker. He designed the ceiling with special acoustics so he could hear whispered conversations from across the room.

It's rare to see a historic house with the kitchen restored. Hammond couldn't stop inventing things. Seeing his kitchen staff struggling to clean pots and pans, he invented this griddle which covered the cooking surface with aluminum foil they could just discard.

A pantry protected by an original medieval gargoyle.

It's located right on the Atlantic shoreline.

There are several manicured terraces overlooking the sea.

Visible to the south are "the rocks and the hard sea-sand" of the reef of Norman's Woe from Longfellow's The Wreck of the Hesperous. I'd never read it before. Kinda gruesome.

We went into Gloucester for a traditional sea coast lunch. Just about everyone else in eastern Massachusetts was also taking advantage of the unseasonable warm November weather. It's hard to make a place jam-packed with SUVs look quaint.

Andy and Kristin belong to a Run Club. They run together Sunday morning. Kristin went and Andy brought us later to the gathering after they'd finished.

The club is sponsored by Barrel House Z, one of two microbreweries in Weymouth, one door away from each other.

Another long walk with Greyson. Isn't he a good boy!

Relaxing under the gazebo. It turned out to be worth it to pack my shorts and sandals.

A good dog in the back yard.

Discussing how to deal with overwintering the winter wheat.

Our splurge night out at posh Grill 151 "right in Weymouth!"  Kristin and I attended Catholic elementary and high schools. We all thought the four gentlemen at the next table were priests.

Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse just happened to be right next to our gate at Logan. Notably we had cloth napkins everywhere we went.

All our flights both ways were in these two-by-two, single aisle Embraer 190s. Much more comfortable than a 737 or A320.

Little Guinness has a .17mm hand-drilled pinhole 24mm from a 24x36mm frame. The film is Kodak Gold 200. The tripods are the pocketable Pro-Master table-top and the easy to pack KF Concept KF-25.