Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Creative Color Challenge

 In a post-pandemic attempt to become adept at interacting live with other humans, I've been participating in the Fox Valley Photography Meetup Club of Northeast Wisconsin. One of the features of this, and most other photography groups, is a monthly challenge. The resulting photos are discussed at the meetings. I've been known to give myself a challenge topic before, so I can get into the group activity.

A Hazy Rabbit and the Bars on North Main Street •  Cutting Edge Pinhole Photography •  LUMP East in a local sculpture garden

The challenge this month was creative color.  My film was supposed to come back on Tuesday, but Camera Casino has changed their courier schedule with the lab to only once a week, so my negatives weren't ready for the Wednesday meeting. This didn't happen to anyone else. I was the only one using film. I submitted an older photograph that I thought said something about color and also was a sight gag for my light-refracting companions.

We had a full agenda with a presentation. There was a request that each member only submit one photograph for the discussion so it was kind of a Worldwide-Pinhole-Photography-Day-like necessity to pick one favorite. Now that I have the negatives back, which one of these would it have been?

Although I was concerned about the cliche of pretty flowers, I started in the garden. The exuberance of the wild daisies has always appealed to me, especially combined with the dappled light. Even on the calmest days, it's hard to get a second or two when they hold still at the end of their long stalks. At least four other people submitted pictures from the challenge which featured visibly apparent long exposures, and one was even with a pinhole. 

The peonies were putting on their show. This white one was the only one situated where the breeze couldn't get at it.

Trying to outwit the wind is a losing proposition and I could easily use up the whole roll, so I spent the next hour and half in the garden finishing a roll of film that's been in Philly since spring, but that's another story.

Having nothing to do with the creative color challenge, my 80 year old garage doors, whose mechanisms couldn't be repaired because of liability issues, were going to be replaced the next day. It worked out pretty well for my knees, so I guess I can handle it for the garage. It's been about a month now, and I still reach for the handle to close the door when I get out my bicycle.

I'd  better get serious about this challenge. I went out with a couple scenes in mind.

The Jackson/Oregon St. Bridge will be out of commission for several months. I was hoping they had more flashing red lights.

Color is a nebulous concept. Is rust a color? This garage-like structure is sided with COR-TEN steel with which the surface oxidizes in a special way so it prevents additional internal rusting. The style otherwise matches the very modern, grey and rectangular title company to the left.

A much more vintage little building just to the right with an unusual fuschia paint job, unfinished door and window frames, and two different colors of address numbers.

Is brick a color? My intention was to include the empty rust-colored planters which defined a courtyard, but in my obsession with the level camera, the bottom got cropped a little tight. The first block south of the river on Main has more well maintained historical structures before you enter the now-being-redeveloped industrial sawdust district farther south. This building used to be a fashionable clothing and gift shop and is now a photographer's studio.

I was drawn to the green awnings, but now, seeing that bright strip of grass at the bottom and the green covering on one of the basement windows, it kind of has that creative color vibe. I wonder why the one window with shades doesn't have an awning?

All with Ektar 100 in the Evil Cube, .3mm hand-drilled pinholes, on the axis and 15mm above the axis, 6cm from a 6x6cm frame.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Celebrating Stereoscopy Day


The Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy has led a movement for June 21st to be established as Stereoscopy Day. When I first heard the date and who was behind it, I thought that's what happens when your lead guitar player is also a solar system astronomer. But it turns out it's when Sir Charles Wheatstone first presented his paper on the stereo effect in 1838. 

Pinhole Photography and Stereoscopy are linked almost at birth. The first mention of someone taking a pinhole photograph is in Sir David Brewster's 1860 book, The Stereoscope. Although I don't think he questioned Wheatstone's precedence, what I remember about reading the book was frequent, sometimes a little snarky, criticism of Wheatstone. He might've been a little miffed that Wheatstone got credit for the date. Brewster also decided pinholes weren't practical and used lenses for his investigations.

In my modest historical collection of articles on pinhole is one in French from 1889 which is illustrated by a stereo pair.

Like pinhole, stereoscopy is as simple as it can be. It's always surprising how little it takes. You just take two images, coplanar and level, with a bit of a distance between them. You can do this at once in a camera that takes two pictures side by side, or one regular camera, moving it over carefully for the second exposure, often known as cha-cha.

I loaded three pinhole cameras - all with 6x6cm formats - a 45mm stereo camera, a 60mm stereo camera (both with 6cm baselines between pinholes) and a regular single chamber camera at 100mm with which I intended to play with cha-cha, both for too close and too far away stereo.

There are several ways to present stereo pairs for viewing. I'm going to use two in this post. 

First is the most natural method, cross-eyed viewing, with the left view on the right and vice versa. You cross your eyes to make a double image. As the left and the right sides of the pair overlap in the middle, they fuse into stereo and depth is revealed. Note that you still see three pictures. It's the one in the middle that's 3D. That may seem unnatural to you, but they're just scanned (or printed) as they appear together on the negatives with no other manipulation or equipment. It does take some learning to view them. I created an exercise with simplified graphics at this link and have been told it does make it easier to learn.

The second is with anaglyphs, where the left and right views are rendered in red and cyan and overlaid on top of each other. Viewing through a red lens on the left eye and a cyan one on the right eye tricks the brain into calculating the depth. You of course need an appropriate pair of spectacles.

 If you want to play along and you've got a lorgnette, Brian May's Owl, Google Cardboard or an Oculus rift, here's a link to a PDF with the pictures set up for stereo viewers, in the same order they're in the blog. If you've got a regular Stereocard Viewer, they should print 7 inches wide.

I started with the 45mm stereo camera with paired 6x6cm images. I built and used it primarily for the Then and Now exhibit at the Oshkosh Public Museum which was suppose to compare (not recreate) archival and contemporary views. Looking through the archives, they had hundreds of stereocards. In addition to pinholes on the axis, it has additional pinholes 10mm above the axis in order to maintain parallel verticals in the buildings I intended to photograph. They were presented with the old picture on one side of a card, and my new interpretation on the other. 

Our giant hosta and the daisies seemed like the kind of a 3 dimensional object that would benefit from stereoscopy. Not the most dramatic in-your-face depth, but it does reward a quiet look around.

One thing that always impresses me is how stereo viewing can change a composition. The tomato plants seem like a canopy over the bed, but stereo reveals them as individual plants.

After ruining four frames by advancing only one frame before I made my next photo, I wrote 2-4-6-8-10-12 on the counter shutter.

At least I could still recreate that second picture. I used the rising front for the fire escapes from the floor and mezzanine levels of the Grand Opera House.

They're building a new middle school across the street from it so the fate of historic Merril School is uncertain. There's a movement trying to preserve it and they say they've got the interest of a developer to convert it to apartments. I could see having those leaded glass bay windows of the kindergarten in my living room.

To mimic the distance between human eyes, most stereo cameras have a 6cm distance between pinholes, or the focal center of the lenses (how complicated). As you move away from an object, the parallax, which creates the depth, becomes reduced making the stereo effect less noticable. Things also get smaller. That can be countered with a narrow angle of view, but flattening of depth with magnification makes things worse. You can keep the narrow angle of view in order for it to look close up and maintain the illusion of depth by moving the viewpoints looking at the scene farther apart. Some of my favorite stereo views of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko by the Rosetta spacecraft and the Trans-Neptunian Object Arrokoth by New Horizons were done with a telescope with the spacecraft traveling miles between pictures.  For the Arrokoth picture, New Horizons was 28,000 kilometers away for the left frame and 6,600 kilometers for the right and were scaled to match for the stereo view. The stereo effect is extraordinarily robust.

Nearer to home, I loaded the 100mm front for the Variable Cuboid. I had done this for the Then and Now stereocards so I could get whole buildings in and still have a significant 3D effect. To practice my method, I chose the most benign environment possible, the front of my house. I used a long stick of screen molding to keep the camera parallel when I moved it. The baseline is 45cm (three iPhone lengths actually). I somehow neglected to pull the shutter all the way out for one exposure, so it will have to be cropped to a rectangle, but that doesn't matter at all for the stereo effect.

For the grand entrance to the Public Library, I also used the 45cm baseline, this time just eyeballing the parallel line and marking the new location for the tripod legs with pebbles.

Again a 45cm baseline. One trick with a normal photograph is to align foreground distractions with edges of buildings to disguise them. In this case I think this power pole interferes with the depth between the two buildings. A few feet to the right would have made a better stereograph.

If you get too close, the images can be too different for the mind to put them together. With two 6x6cm chambers you can't get any shorter baseline than 6cm, so this limits how close you can work. But with cha-cha, you can make the baseline anything you want. One of my tripods has a slot so you can slide the quick release adapter back and forth horizontally with a scale to measure how much you've moved it. This is from about 30cm away with a baseline of 12mm. I think I can see the depth.

One common perception with stereograms is that instead of continuous depth, the image seems to be made up of a series of planes. One way to counter that effect is to photograph a series of planes, here with a baseline of one of my feet.

You only get six pictures to a roll with stereo. I was upset that I destroyed three pictures on those rolls. I loaded my original 6x6cm stereo camera, 60mm long, which I had made in about 2008. The last time I used it was for the February, 2019 Lunar Eclipse.

It's always nice to be able use a simulated depth cue like the movement of the ferns in the background to exaggerate the stereo effect.

One point perspective is another enhancement.

Minimalism isn't that common in stereography.

Dappled light on another scene without the wow effect but which is worthwhile to look around.

On Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day I always have this snooty reaction to people who only take pinhole photographs on Pinhole Day. I hope I'm not being that guy for the regular stereographers. Thanks for the nudge. Happy Stereoscopy Day!

The 45mm 120 Stereo Populist has hand-drilled .30mm pinholes, one on the axis, and one 10mm above the axis of each chamber. The 60mm Stereo Populist has .30mm Gilder Electron Microscope Apertures. The 100mm front on the Variable Cuboid has a .35mm hand-drilled pinhole on an adjustable rising front. All three cameras were loaded with Arista.edu 100. The first two were semi-stand developed in Caffenol and the last in Rodinal 1:100. The anaglyphs were done with Anaglyph Workshop.

Monday, June 6, 2022

See globally, pinhole locally

I watched a recording of "The Hole World," a global zoom meeting featuring notable pinholers in support of the Pavlovka Pinhole Festival in Kiev, which remarkably is going on despite everything. The videoconference was organized and hosted by that lovable goof, Justin Quinnell. I had to view a recording because technology

It was a bit disappointing not participating live, but overall I was impressed by the program. I admire the amazing display of organizing ability of the participants who put on some of the bigger festivals, particularly Yulia Belska who transformed Pavlovka from just a celebration to a major statement. It was interesting listening to zen-of-pinhole master Ed Levinson about nearly losing interest in photography because of the continual technical and marketing advance of the industry and then discovering the ultimate simplicity of pinhole. Wayne Belger backed into pinhole from a background as a machinist which led to major art world status and really dedicating, and sometimes risking, his life to pursuing emotional projects integrating camera and image. Tom Miller gave a very concise statement of the inclusive philosophy of Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, and a description of his dedication to Jay's large potato chip cans. Justin concluded with a coherent explanation of how the lack of a viewfinder strengthens your previsualization muscles.

I had to download a recorded copy. The file is no longer available at the link I eventually was sent. I'll update that if it gets a new home (later edit. The file has been on YouTube for a few months, but I was never told.) . The fundraiser for the Pavlovka Festival is at this link.

One notable theme was that pinhole wasn't some cult philosophy to be adhered to but seemed to conform to the individual artist's background. Diane Bos and several others in the call with backgrounds in other visual arts noted being inspired by the more dreamy and distorted imagery available with pinhole. Alas, I'm an old guy who got my early lessons from William Talbot, the Photo Secession, group f64, the FSA documentarians and the fashion stars like Avedon and Penn. I often worry that people think I'm trying to make lens-like photographs with a pinhole, and to some extent that's true. I'm trying to do the same thing I did before with lenses, just with a pinhole. My current photographs have a similar tonal quality as my youthful work.

Several people talked about making cameras, both ultimately simple and artistically magnificent. One theme that didn't come up is that with pinhole, anyone with a minimum of skill can make a camera on your kitchen table that is just as good as any pinhole camera you can buy. (Maybe not as durable.)

Where do I fit in to all this? There's only one way to find out. I recently had fun with Long John Pinhole and the 35mm front on the Variable Cuboid so I just reloaded them with Arista.edu 100.

Then, out on the streets with my two most common accessories, my Specialized Sirrus bike, and my newly restored Manfrotto 785B tripod which went everywhere for years including standing in as a cane for a while. I was trying to get a lost quick release adapter for its replacement when I discovered the leg which had broken was still available as a repair part.

Echoing the brutalist Civic Center Mall across the street from it is the US Bank building. I once attended a meeting behind those top floor windows. I wonder if those buttresses are functional in the structure of the building or just decoration. Kind of amazing how grainy Arista.edu 100 gets when it's overexposed.

At the corner of Tenth and Oregon is T&O Lanes, closed because of the pandemic and not yet reopened. They were notable for all the scorekeeping still being done on paper sheets.

Just down Oregon Street is Witzke's Tavern, another recently closed landmark. While I was setting up,  squeezed between a light pole and the curb in the only spot with a view without power lines or poles, a couple came by. The lady, roughly my vintage, told me about going down to the south side to Witzke's to hang out with the old men when she was in college. She got banned for a while for dancing on the bar and knocking the moose head off the wall. The building is labeled Oshkosh Brewing Company on the top, directly competing with the Milwaukee-based Schlitz Beer Hall on the north side. I think one of the reasons that my pictures remind people of historical photographs is that many of those were done with view cameras or folders with rising fronts and that's part of what you recognize. 

Four blocks east from Witzke's down 17th Avenue was the Brewery itself, but I don't think this building was part of it. The fact that pinhole records a passage of time rather than an instant was noted by some of the participants in the video. I've always thought the backs of buildings with artifacts from numerous eras visibly apparent had the same sort of time-spanning charm.

Because there were cars parked on both sides of the corner, I concentrated on the turret in a previous picture of the Bauman Building, but this time both streets were empty. This is one of those photographs that you probably wouldn't question if I told you it was made in the 1950's. Maybe I'm reverting to my childhood.

In the category of I-can't-believe-I've-never-noticed-this-before,  a restored Sinclair gas station with three Chevy pickups and "The Red Zeppelin," a VW Microbus Camper. Another bicyclist stopped to take pictures and said I had a "crazy old camera." I replied that it wasn't very old but it was crazy.


Some kind of city utility building just over the tracks from Lake Winnebago dappled by the trees.

A regular window encased in glass block protected by steel bars in the back of a welding supply company.

The cage in which they keep the high pressure tanks of Acetylene and other explosive gasses. When I worked in my Dad's factory, I had to unload them off the truck. I always had in my mind what might happen if I knocked off one of those valves.

The rooflines of the buildings on the other side of the parking lot.

The back of Blended Waxes. The gate was open but it didn't seem prudent to walk in to get closer. Maybe I'll go back with the 200mm front. 

Construction is proceeding on converting the old Miles Kimball building to apartments. The former featureless white walls now are pierced by numerous windows. The camera was on top a 7 foot construction dumpster for this one.

Modern problems. The state inspectors found a worn gear in the Jackson-Oregon Street Bridge and it's now locked with one span open for boats that will still fit. In addition to recording the historical development of Oshkosh, I hope it's apparent that I'm doing this at a particular moment in history. I'm not trying to make things look antique.

The first solar installation at the University was atop the Albee Gym addition. These heat the water for the pool and for the shower rooms.

In the opposite direction is the newer wing of Reeve Union. This section includes the rooms at which I attended hundreds of meetings including the Provost's and Chancellor's staffs.

The back of the University's Student Recreation Center.

An emergency exit at the back of the US Bank building.

Wasn't there somebody around here complaining about people pointing wide angle cameras up at tall buildings?

The stage door of the Grand Opera House with it's right angle corner bent back by the wide angle camera. What first caught my eye were those reflections of sunlight from the first floor windows across the alley onto the bottom of the north wall of the Opera House .

The County Archeological Society's restored Morgan House dappled by large oaks.

The 35mm front on the Variable Cuboid has a .25mm pinhole on a continuously adjustable rising front. Long John Pinhole has two .40mm Gilder Electron Microscope Apertures 120mm from the film, one on the axis and one 10mm above it. Both have 6x6cm frames. The film is Arista.edu 100 semi-stand developed in Caffenol.