Saturday, August 27, 2022

This is why we film test cameras.

Film testing another camera for my mystery project revealed that the summer sun was strong enough to bludgeon it's way into the film chamber despite a double layer of cardstock and template everywhere. 

Not all cardboard is sufficiently resistent to the passage of photons to make a successful camera. White cardstock seems to actually amplify the passage through the camera walls. Most brown or grey packaging cardboard with printing on the outside, combined with a decent print of the template will make a camera light proof. If the printing on the cardboard includes large areas of white, it's a horse apiece whether it's dense enough to be truly opaque under the summer midday sun. I've made cameras where the box had a lot of white that were perfectly fine, and some with the areas printed in white showing up on the negative. In relatively dimly lit situations, you can get away with some of this, but the bar for a camera is set pretty high by the prolonged full onslaught of a nearby big star. 

It took a while in the sun to create a base fog that was bad enough to create an unrecoverable negative, so I got some exposures.

Beginning with a refreshing beverage on a hot day.

When I was on the Lensless Podcast several years ago, one of the photographs they liked was an arrangment of glass decanters under the Tiffany Lamp. Inspired by the Frick Collection's video series Cocktails with the Curator, we've gotten a more expansive display, but it's still very sparkly, and once again, the exposure made while we were having lunch.

Reading the analog Sky and Telescope on the lanai.

The base of a buttress at St. Mary's Church (now Blessed Sacrement Parish).

St. Francis Cabrini School next door has been converted to apartments. One of several collections of HVAC units and a door six feet off the ground, complete with porch light.

The back door to the pool room of Boot's Saloon left open on a warm summer day.

For years I've said if I run into someone I know when I have a loaded camera with me, I'll ask them if I can photograph them. Just as I entered the Farmers' Market, I encountered Annemarie (on the right) and her sister-in-law Helen. We worked together during the pioneering days of on-line distance education (she was very young). She said they love to have their portrait done and held still for a minute.

Emboldened by this success, I thought it worth the try when I encountered the market board chair and volunteer photographer whom I'd met before. He complained he couldn't get people to hold still for a few seconds, but he posed for me for sixty.

The only vendor whose wares weren't shaded by an awning was Allenville Farms. The milling crowds make it look like steam rising off the vegetables.

Another thing I've learned is that four dense coats of flat black spray enamel will make anything opaque. The camera is lightproof now, so continues as part of the mystery project.

It's a standard 60mm 120 Populist. .35mm pinhole 6cm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is 100 semistand developed in Rodinal 1:100.

Thursday, August 18, 2022


An email just came from the Museum of Modern Art about their photo club which seems to exist only as a hashtag #MoMAPhotoClub. As with all photography groups, a monthly challenge is part of the program. This month it's Inspiration of Place, inspired by the exhibit currently on view at MOMA of Matisse's painting The Red Studio and the works depicted in it. I can get in to that, except the whole east side of Oshkosh is going to have to be my place, since the pictures are already done.

Also involved here is inspiration by a current exhibit at MOMA's uptown neighbors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a retrospective of the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. I saw an exhibit of their work at the Pinakotek Moderne in Munich a few years ago. Seems I was more influenced by it than I thought. Suffice to say that the New York Times reviewer saw it necessary to mention their use of a wide angle of view with a rising front.

Film testing the camera was another inspiration. It was built for a mystery project (not classified or related to national defense). It's an Evil Cube with one new modification to the film transport to keep the reels parallel (it worked).

As bar food goes, Jansen's is pretty good, but like a lot of bars, their unappealing dining area is somewhat hardened and they leave the door to the flourescent-lit kitchen open. I've ridden past several times this year and concluded I'd have to come back with a 60mm camera with a rising front. It was a likely place to begin.

The base of a column in the front of the old Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper building. I went on a tour once when they still printed the paper here in 1995. It was recently purchased by an Oshkosh native who made some money in Silicon Valley and has opened two restaurants just south of town but he's not saying what will be done here. Mediterranean food with a nice dining room would be a good idea.

An assembly of cuboid shapes modeled by the morning sun on the back of the east side of the 400 block of Main Street, showing off a little of the famous infinite depth-of-field of the pinhole.

A 1913 apartment building with a pennant string and contemporary Mandella Barnes for Senate sign on the third floor balcony, and a peace symbol in a second floor window which is outside the frame. While setting up the tripod, a bearded young man rode up on a bicycle, and made a brief call. I asked if he minded me taking a picture of his building. He said "No"  and carried his bicycle inside.

The Doe House was built by a minor lumber baron in 1869. It survived the 1875 fire that leveled downtown Oshkosh which stopped just behind the brick houses across the street. Recently restored by one of his descendants, it's now a boutique lodge.

I debated whether to photograph the garage of the Doe House at the end of an allée of trees because there was a neighbor working in the garage on the right. I finally got up my nerve. About when the camera was set up on the tripod, I noticed someone unloading supplies into the back of the house. When he saw me, I asked if it was OK to take a photograph. It was one of the owners and he came over and we had quite a conversation. They have an artist-in-residence program where they provide a few nights lodging to artists "for inspiration and respite from isolation during the pandemic." I don't need a place to stay, but it might be interesting to photograph the interior. He said that might be possible. After looking at their website which is filled with gorgeous photography, I worried I couldn't really contribute anything, but then realized that my black and white pictures, probably tightly cropped and entirely lit by the windows, would be different than the pictures intended to make people want to stay there. I'm not selling this very well, am I?

Nevada Avenue is one of the few remaining streets to cross the railroad. For several blocks on either side it's all factories and warehousing. One of the buildings has been restored to kind of nice apartments on the other side. They intend to finish it, but now this side is still a half demolished eyesore. Sarah says it's the ugliest stretch in town. That sounds like a challenge to me. The idea is to take beautiful pictures, not pictures of beautiful things, right? An arrangement of doors, walls, electrical units and a bit of tape that use to hold a sign on the door.

In a discussion of the illusion of depth, I once referenced Aaron Siskind's photographs of peeling paint in Arizona. How about some paint peeling off some clapboards on the side of a block-long storage unit building?

Oshkosh's sense of place is defined by it's location on the west side of Lake Winnebago, where the Fox River flows in to it. The T dock in Menomonee Park shelters some duckweed.

 Several sailboats are anchored across from the boat launch farther down Miller's Bay.

This knarly old pine with one side completely open looks like it wants a hug.

This building by the shore looks like some sort of maintenance shed, but I stopped and read the sign in front of it today. Some of the storm sewer system on the east side is below the level of Lake Winnebago. This building contains a giant pump which sucks the rain into the lake before it floods the town. That use to happen fairly regularly. My sparkplugs once got wet trying to get home going down a flooded side street in the middle of a tremendous downpour. Do you think architects ever add details just so it looks like there's a face on the wall?

The camera has .30mm pinholes on the axis and 15mm above the axis 6 cm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is 100 semistand developed in Caffenol.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Professional Pinhole with the semi-panoramic Pre-Populist.

It doesn't happen often but I do occasionally earn some money from pinhole. The workshop for teenagers at the Trout Museum of Art I've been working on since last fall finally occurred in the middle of July. To document the experience I chose the semi-panoramic Pre-Populist from early 2006. I had made two cameras for 35mm film previously. The first at 50mm with a 24x50mm format, just to be different, and the second at 35mm with the normal 24x36mm frame. This camera again used the wider format, but now only 24mm from the pinhole, so the horizontal angle of view is ultra-wide 92 degrees. I chose it for this event because I had used it to document the last pinhole workshop for kids in 2006.

In order to reduce the time to finish the camera, I cut parts out of the templates and assembled kits ahead of time.

I envy poetry teachers who show up with a pen and notebook. Teaching pinhole always seems to require hauling a trunk full of stuff.

All set up with an array of cardboard to choose from for the outsides of their bespoke cameras.

There were a few surprises and confusing moments, but they all successfully made a camera. (with a repair or two.) I can't help pointing out how this picture is an example of a wide angle camera messing with your perception of space. All these cameras are the same width.

The setting in which they will make 12 exposures is Houdini Plaza, the center of downtown Appleton.

When it was time to expose the film on Wednesday, there turned out to be near ideal conditions. Mostly sunny with the sky washed with a few clouds.

I'm pretty poor at multitasking, but I did sneak a few photographs of the session. We had practiced with an empty camera the day before and they adapted quickly to using a tripod and judging the exposures based on the table provided. Their exposures ended up being pretty consistent.

I warned them about the sun shining on the pinhole, but also said they might want to try at least one exposure that way to see what happened. I wasn't trying to do that at all when I got all this spectral flare.

Thursday, when we developed the negatives, started out appropriately dark and wet. Ilford FP4+ semistand developed in caffenol, by the way, a combination as forgiving of imperfect exposures as you can get.

I wanted to be as analog as possible, but a wet print darkroom is just not doable. We captured the negatives with iPad cameras using an app called Negative Me which surprised me with the quality the resulting JPEG.

They spent some time editing. Some found it intriguing and one thought his images really didn't need it. We made letter sized prints on a color copier and had a show and tell which unfortunately consisted mostly of me pointing out some technical or compositional feature of their pictures or relating them to some movement in photography or modern art. The pictures were pretty good for a first roll of film and a few were very good. I'm sure I couldn't hide my excitement when one of those got put on the easel, but I tried not to gush.

Now that I've done my duty spreading the zen of pinhole, nature demands her part.

For the second year, I prevailed with my human-powered, cutting-edge tools. The weekend after the workshop, I had COVID. It didn't seem odd that doing this made me really tired. We had just had our second booster the week before the pinhole class. Sarah finally realized what was going on and we got tested.

I'm always impressed by the toughness of the volunteer petunias that grow in the cracks in the driveway. Whatever happens with climate change, I'm sure the privets and the petunias will be just fine.

The light on the lanai was particularly charming one afternoon. 

In the early evening several days later, the camera was still sitting on the tripod in the same spot. There was a vigorous storm that began with a brief but powerful series of strong gusts that knocked out power lines all over eastern Wisconsin. At the corner of our block it knocked out the electricity, which was restored in the middle of the night, and the fiber link to the internet, which was out till the next evening. This exposure was about forty-five minutes through most of the darkest part of the storm.

When the clouds thinned a little bit we sat out there until nightfall with a battery charger for the phones. The light from sunset on the tail end of the storm was really wierd.

A week later, I attended the giant AirVenture convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association at which I exposed 36 frames of medium format film. I complained in that piece that long slender airplanes were a challenge with a square negative, but they fit nicely in this 2:1 format.

The wide angle also allowed getting the whole plane in from the front of the crowds.

The area at the end of Runway 27 and around the other side is known as the North Forty - rows of planes spreading out to the horizon.with tents under the wings along side the taxiway 

There weren't enough registrations to run the August session at the Trout Museum, but they've scheduled workshops for adults in the fall and winter so maybe I'll get another chance to be a professional pinholer.

The PrePopulist has a .15mm Gilder electron microscope aperture 24mm from a 24x50mm frame. The film is Fuji 200.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Air Photography at the Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-in

I've occasionally mentioned why you might have heard of Oshkosh, Wisconsin before. If you've got a kid, Oshkosh B'Gosh is probably visible somewhere on their clothing. If you're in the military or utility truck business, it's Oshkosh Corporation, aka Truck. If you're interested at all in aviation, it's the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual AirVenture Fly-in at Wittman Field. According to Google, the biggest airshow anywhere. A stewardess once asked me where I was from and then told me her husband was a 747-400 pilot and they came to Oshkosh every year in their Beechcraft Bonanza. It lasts a week and it's downright encyclopedic.

As I explained to one curious aviator, pinhole is especially appropriate to this event because there's nothing between the subject and the film except air. It's air photography. He replied that it also was appropriate because it's the Experimental Aircraft Association. Two other very well-equipped photographers with accessory vests asked me if I was experimenting with pinhole photography. Among a bunch of people who build airplanes, it was strange to hear they were impressed I could make a camera out of cardboard. One of them couldn't remember the term and asked me if it were a peephole camera.

My fascination with the basics of aviation is similar to my fascination with physics of pinhole photography. So, the top of the wing is curved more than the bottom. In order for the air to get over it, it has to go faster because it's now farther than it is at the bottom. According to Bernoulli, that reduces the pressure at the top which allows this great huge machine to get sucked up into the sky. Really! 

I took three cameras with me. Long John Pinhole, recently resurrected with new Gilder Electron Microsope apertures, taking the narrow angle, The Variable Cuboid with the moderate wide-angle 60mm front and it's interchangeable front option and continuously adjustable rising front so I'd sound a little sophisticated with the home builders, and the Hazy Rabbit at ultrawide 30mm, because I think it's funny,

After parking by the Museum, not realizing there were busses to the convention grounds, I walked about a mile with a generally cheerful group who also made the same mistake.

I went directly to the big stuff in Boeing Plaza, the central showplace on the grounds, My first confrontation was with the landing gear of a C-17 GlobeMaster.

The tail is about five stories tall. (Later edit: Oops! Both of those are the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker. Still about as high, but not as stout as the C-17)

Powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines. When I encounter a hotel HVAC system that's really noisy, I always joke it was made by Pratt & Whitney, but nobody ever gets it. They would at EAA.

As is very common throughout the convention, the air crew sat in the shade of the wing and interacted with the crowd.

There was also the Boeing 777-200ER ecoDemonstrator, and Delta's Team USA Airbus A330neo, famous for flying Olympic athletes to Beijing last year. There were tours of all these planes going on but the lines were long and exposures inside would be impossible. A guy from Boeing on a PA system joked that his Triple Seven didn't need winglets like the Airbus.

Looking down the throat of a Rolls-Royce engine on the Airbus.

Inside the business end of the Rolls-Royce. Just to my left, a father was explaining to his teen-aged son the difference in where the fuel was ignited compared to the Triple Seven right behind it.

I don't think Art Deco influenced the nose of the B-29, did it?

From our house five miles north of the airport, except for hearing the aerobatic performers and the really loud military jets during the airshow, you can hardly tell anything is going on. The main sound over the city is the rumble of the engines of the B-29 which they seem to fly around about once a day, and the constant roar of a Ford Trimotor and a B-25 they sell rides on.

It's hard to capture the scale of the event. Over 10,000 planes are at Wittman Regional Airport. They're parked everywhere. Think of all the open space at your local airport, then fill that with airplanes wingtip to wingtip, arranged by type of aircraft. I think this might be a Cessna to Beechcraft transition.

The Vintage section includes several rows of mono and biplanes with giant rotary engines. I picked this one because it was white with the door casually left open. It's also got a small hose running from the engine to a fuel can on the ground. It turns out it's kind of a famous plane in 1930's air racing.

Close up of one those beefy looking engines,

Detail of the cylinders on another plane.

Cockpit of one of the vintage planes with the original joy stick.

This one attracted my attention because of the the cushy looking tires and the 360° transparent cockpit including the doors.

There's a seaplane base over on Lake Winnebago on the other side of the airport, but this one could go either way. There were also several DC3-C47's down here.

The landing gear under the wing.

At the south end of the airport, the ultralights have their own space including a grass landing strip with bleachers where they have to make a sharp turn around a grove of trees just before the runway. The announcer was waxing nostalgic about the early days when people use to strap lawn mower engines to their back. I love all the cables which control the shape of the wing rather than mechanical control surfaces.

Airplanes with their long wings and slender fuselages are a challenge for a square format camera, so I was kind of relieved to encounter this little fuel booth.

A movie star airplane. Actually it's another copy of the plane from the movie The Great Waldo Pepper in the EAA Museum's collection that they painted the same way.  Another extravagant display of cables for structural as well as control functions.

An abstract of sun, shadow, rivets and cables on a homebuilt (yes, that's one word). Experimental Aircraft is the actual FAA classification.

I was surprised to see this vintage looking plane in the Homebuilt section. It was built in 2010. The builder was explaining that he didn't think he had a chance for the prize but he had been encouraged to bring it because the judges tend to prefer plan-built to kit-built aircraft. His plans are from the 1930's when the Pietenpol Air Camper was also available as a homebuilt kit.

The engine looks very like something you'd find on a John Deere tractor from that era.

The minimalist rear cockpit. I love the folded up charts and the holes to put your feet through to control the ailerons.

The rudder and elevators connected directly to the stick with cables of course.

Very modern looking aerodynamic landing gear on another homebuilt.

An unusual delta winged homebuilt.

A Lycoming engine on another vintage looking experimental aircraft.

The VariEze with it's distinctive front canard is very popular. The prototype by Burt Rhutan of round-the-world-non-stop airplane fame was first shown at Oshkosh in 1975 with plans available the next year. The original had the same engine as my 1973 VW Super Beetle.

A family in the shade under the wing of their airplane.

Some of the hydraulics which fold the wings of a WWII F4U Corsair which allowed more of them to be stored on an aircraft carrier.

Andy was in the first class of Young Eagles where local kids and a parent attended several Saturday sessions culminating with their first ride in an airplane. This Ford is the first plane Andy ever flew in. The parents didn't get a ride, but I eventually got a free ride in a Fokker version when I was in a city leadership program several years later.

Anybody want to buy a private jet? Honda had one on display alongside a motorcycle and a lawn mower. This was all behind a low partition. I wonder what you had to do to get inside to get the sales pitch?

Before I left in the morning, I worried aloud that I might not find anything I wanted to photograph. Sarah responded that they'd probably have the back of a tent I might be interested in. She was right.

I saved my last frame for a selfie at the NASA exhibit. Most of the stuff was on Aeronautics. They did have a large Hubble display, but no mention of JWST. Just to sit down for a bit, I accepted the invitation to experience a pilot's chair that was connected to a display which swayed and twisted like a ride at Disneyland as the plane moved. The guy from the Graphics and Visualization Lab said it was cool that with my camera, one opened the Hazy Rabbit's eye to make an exposure.

A wiggle of the wingtips to Heidi Reinke for giving me this opportunity.

The Hazy Rabbit has hand-drilled .23 pinholes 30mm from the film, one on the axis, and one 10mm above the axis. The 60mm front for the Variable Cuboid has a .30mm hand-drilled pinhole on an adjustable rising front. Long John Pinhole has .40mm Gilder electron microscope apertures 120mm from the film, one on the axis, and one 10mm above the axis. All take 6x6cm negatives. The film was 100 semi-stand developed in caffenol.