Monday, March 13, 2023

Photo Opp and photo-oops.

Photo Opp is a new organization in Appleton dedicated to photographic education. They're renovating a former synagogue to house a community studio, darkroom and meeting place. They have been hosting several events to engage the community.

Last Saturday, they held a Photo Walk in downtown Appleton. It was a little dismaying when I realized they were referring to the interior of the City Center Mall, somewhat of a challenge for pinhole. I chose the EyePA 30 for it's eye catching design and it's f133 ratio - the fastest I have - loaded with reciprocity-failure-tolerant Ilford FP4+. Exposures in my kitchen measured about 3 minutes so there should be something possible in the interior of the mall.

It turned out to be a fun event. I have wanted to chat with the organizers about some possible role for pinhole. In addition to making contact with the Photo Opp leaders, it was fun to interact with other film photographers among the phones and DSLRs. I saw a Hasselblad, two Leicas and the cutest little black Voigtlander Bessa. One of the young men I met does direct positive processing with black and white film and exhibits the results with a slide projector. There were lots of interesting conversations between, or for me, while taking pictures.

Both the lighting and the socializing made pinhole photography challenging. This image illustrates both issues. I hesitate to lead with this because it might reinforce the wide spread conception that "Isn't pinhole photography zany!" This is a double exposure. Because I was just standing there while the shutter was open, I was often engaged by people curious about my handmade cameras. The first exposure ended in the midst of all this discussion and when that broke up, I forgot to wind the film! The other problem was that City Center is lightly occupied and it's not worth it to keep the main corridors lit as brightly as a store or workplace. Exposures were measuring from ten minutes to hours. The dimness is demonstrated because the first exposure was ten minutes during the introductory remarks on the ground floor and you can hardly tell it's there. The only recognizable thing from the first exposure are the legs and shoes of someone at the lower right who happened to stand under one of those spotlights.

I'd better find some light. The third floor of the atrium is an event space. This little platform is probably where they put the musicians.

At the end of the wings of the mall are elevator lobbies. More brightly lit, but still six minutes and no one down here to talk to.

While that was being exposed I walked back into the mall and saw this lit-to-code section below me on the second floor. In the space on the left were a group of children being led in a vigourous dance. Their parents waited next door. While making this exposure, a woman approached me and asked why the place was crawling with photographers. I explained about Photo Opp and the Photo Walk. I didn't mention she just happened to be in about the only place with people and light. She never mentioned the cardboard camera with the eyeball on my tripod.

Another double exposure. The next frame was a giant gumball machine right by the front doors, but still six minutes. While waiting for that, a young woman who had been a student employee in my department during my last years at the University introduced herself. She was a Radio-TV-Film major and is now a free-lance video editor. When I cleaned out my office, I had given her eight sheets of 16x20 RC Paper left over from a 1997 pinhole workshop (I was trying to impress the participants with a giant camera).We spoke about the possibility of some pinhole photography videos. The second exposure is another more brightly lit area, Murray Photo, a co-sponsor of the event, who probably sold every film camera there. I had two more cameras in my pockets. When the exposure time was over, I was showing them to two photographers who wondered how the tripod mount was made. I think I might have moved the camera without closing the shutter and got a third exposure on this one.

It was getting a little tedious waiting around for these long exposures, so I went outside. The half block City Center Street terminates in this turn around with all the lights on under the sheltered drop-off zone on this gloomy day.

Getting out by myself didn't prevent another double exposure.  For the first exposure I was in a parking space in the street next to a construction fence right at the curb. There was a giant pile of snow between me and the oncoming traffic, so I wasn't in any danger. After closing the shutter, I wanted to get to a completely legal spot about thirty meters away and forgot to wind the film when I got there. There wasn't much silver left for the second exposure of a distinctive modern church. The two images kind of compliment each other.

Anywhere else, East Johnson Street would be described as an alley full of the backs of the businesses on College Avenue. The one establishment with the front on this side is a kitchen/cantina with a Dia de los Muertos theme which my square format camera insisted I capture.

The City Center block is generally modern and a little brutalist but has this one slightly Parisian facade. When trying to decide whether to try for this picture, I noticed that it was a store for high quality ink pens. This one's for you, Joe.

Across the street in Houdini Plaza there was an enthusiastic rally for Women's Rights. The extreme wide angle fooled me again. The tall central plaza pillar and the 222 building behind it seemed to call for the rising front, but that might not have been the best choice. I burned in the sky to represent the stormy path ahead for us in hopelessly gerrymandered Wisconsin.

I didn't want to go home with one frame left in the camera. On the way back to the Mustang, from the island in the middle of Appleton Street, here's another parking ramp with a bit of a selfie in the door.

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

Saturday, March 11, 2023

A glitch but a nice little camera.

Building pinhole cameras is easy. Managing computer files is hard. After the third revision of the templates, I started a "Building the Compact Series Cameras" post, making a 30mm camera. When I got to the last step, the camera front, I discovered that when assembling the PDF from individual one-page Inkscape files, somehow I had imported an earlier version of the third page. There were many changes which made the camera a little wider and this old front was almost 5mm too narrow. Out of stubbornness and because I liked the inclusive feminist theme of the box, I went ahead and adjusted the already-cut-out parts and finished the camera. That made the pinhole opening, tripod mount, and the slots for the winders off center which required some cutting, patching and extra lightproofing. 

The film reels were awfully tight when that front when on, but it loaded without trouble and the film advances fine but takes a hair more force than is preferable.

If I drill a pinhole too small for the camera I'm working on, if it looks good, I'll save it and try again rather than trying to enlarge it. It must have taken a few tries to get the pinholes for the Glenlivet Pair, because there was a .23mm and .22mm in my collection, optimal for this camera's 30mm distance to the pinhole.

We've had a weather pattern with lovely sunshine in the early morning, which became thick overcast by the time I got ready to go out and take pictures. After several days of this, I had to go downtown anyway, so set out with camera and tripod despite the totally diffuse lighting.

The back of the east side of the 200 block of Main Steet.

I was curious to see if the extreme wide angle would allow this geometric little bush to achieve Center of Interest status against the busy background. It kind of worked.

The slabs and columns of the hotel parking structure along the Fox.

After my comprehensive coverage of the inoperable Jackson/Oregon Street Bridge this summer (here, here and here), you might like to see it carrying traffic again. The Department of Transportation just approved plans to replace it with a higher fixed span bridge in five years.

The bridgetender's house.

The expansion of space is always surprising when using a camera with a 90 degree angle of view. The tree reflected in the window is less than 6 feet away from the wall.

We had been to the Paine Art Center and Gardens several times recently and I remembered standing in the driveway thinking the back corner of the building would look cool with a wide angle camera. One of those sunny mornings, realizing the sky was going to change later, I got myself together early and went over there.

I've always wanted to photograph the dining and breakfast rooms of the Paine with sunbeams streaming through the windows, but by the time they're open, the rooms on this side are mostly in the shade. It seemed I might get the interior sunbeams from the outside. Not wanting to have my reflection in the window, I stepped aside during the exposure and ended up with the reflection of the white snow instead of my dark visage which made the interior visible. 

The corner between the dining and breakfast rooms with just the hint of an interior sunbeam,

The porch behind the Great Hall.

Another try to feature a leafless tree against a busy background.

As I was walking around to the now partially sunlit front, I recognized the scene I had noticed on the previous visit. Maybe would have been better with the sun around this side in the afternoon, but that's not the way the weather has been behaving.

For a long time I avoided extreme wide angles because of the strong vignetting. I hardly notice it anymore. Maybe it's the semistand developing that makes the difference less extreme. I still have to burn and dodge a bit, but it's pretty easy to get a mostly uniform exposure across the frame.

The Diversity 30 has .22mm and .23mm hand-drilled pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above it,  30mm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is 100 semistand developed in Cafennol.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Trying out Rudolph Crane's AE Pinshot.


I was asked by Rudolph Crane, who is developing an autoexposure pinhole camera, if I might like to try out his AE PinShot device and give him some feedback. It comes in two forms – just the meter by itself or an entire camera with a shutter controlled by the meter. My demons don't allow me to use pinhole cameras I haven't made myself, but I agreed to try out the light meter.

With the touch screen at the top, you can set aperture and distance to the pinhole, select from several films and store three of those combinations. It has an option to override the exposure by a stop or two to accommodate particularly bright or dark subjects that can trick an averaging meter.

An internal servo activates a lever on the side of the device. A clever camera maker could probably rig a way to open and close the shutter with that lever. It also includes an audible tone if you're going to manually operate the shutter. There's an adjustable built in delay so you can do what's necessary before it starts timing the exposure.

You can read all about it's features and adjustments on Rudolph's website.

A key feature is that it continually moniters the light and adjusts the time if the light changes during the exposure. That means it has to be next to the camera pointing at the subject while the shutter is open. Rudolph included a rail to which the meter and a camera can be mounted side by side. I attached that to a tripod mount with my usual combination of tape and rubber bands. It is definitely heavier and clumsier than my cardboard cameras, but it wasn't all that hard to carry it in my backpack and attach it to the tripod.

I chose the Variable Cuboid using the f200 60mm front with 100 so exposures would be slow enough that my poor hands wouldn't introduce an error. The relatively narrow angle would also eliminate vignetting as a variable. The Arista film would reveal if reciprocity failure was included in the film data. I decided I would just rely on the meter and not fuss with compensation. I never checked it against any other meter either. 

The negatives seemed be pretty well and uniformly exposed. They may look a little dense but are well within the limits for the kind of adjustment I make to the scans.  

Originally built by a German fraternal society right after the fire that destroyed Oshkosh in 1875, this building has also served The Loyal Order of Moose and the AFL-CIO. When I was first figuring out the meter, I had set the f stop to 133. When I decided to use the Variable Cuboid, I forgot to change it so this picture is two stops underexposed. It's noticably thinner than the others, but still showing shadow detail.

After setting to the correct aperture, I was looking for some average scenes. This was the back of the Exclusive Company Record Store for most of the late 20th Century.

Unlike most of the rear sides of the buildings on Main Street, this one looks like it has no entrance, although it used to.

Looking for something for the Fox Valley Photography Group's Minimalism challenge, I thought these tough little trees surviving in the asphalt corner fit the bill.

Another possibility for the Minimalism Challenge. Glass block and windows on Main Street.

A fierce two day snow storm discouraged further exploration. The snow was very fine and driven by significant winds which transformed the lanai into a soft light box.

 One morning I had a bagel with cream cheese and Sarah had an English muffin with peanut butter.

The sun finally came out again. Godzilla and Batman guard the kitchen sink.

The sun shining on the snow is the kind of scene that is notorious for tricking averaging light meters.

Sun and shadows on the metal table in the garden.

The back lit pines with some brilliant highlights on the snow seemed like an extreme test.

One of the key features of the device is the ability to adjust the exposure time to accomodate changing light conditions. This started out with the last bit of sun on the back of the house, which set shortly after the shutter was opened.

Attached to one of Rudoph's cameras with the shutter operated by it, I think it would work great. The exposures seemed as good as I could determine myself with a spot meter. It could probably time sub-second exposures a lot better than my clumsy hands. If a device to operate a cable release could be driven by that servo, I could see people with large format cameras interested or even with other commercial medium format pinhole cameras with cable release options. Being able to just open the shutter and walk off without having to worry about closing the shutter on time is an attractive feature. The constant adjustment to lighting conditions could be very useful on a partly cloudy day where a sunbeam could suddenly appear during your originally long exposure.

The 60mm front on the Variable Cuboid has a .3mm hand-drilled pinhole on a continuously adjustable rising front with 15mm of travel above the axis. The 100 was semistand developed in Cafennol.

You can learn more about Rudolph's work and contact him at

Saturday, February 18, 2023

All Day Long

Once again, the design on a carton of beer determined a lot of this camera's characteristics. The Woodie with the surfboard looked like something that should be on a camera. Trying out placements with the template, it became obvious it was big enough that it would have to be 6x9cm format for it to look right. Also, they were 15 can cartons, so there was lots of cardboard. To take advantage of all this supply, in addition to the larger format, this camera is 120mm from pinhole to film, quite long in the pinhole world. Just 28 by 41 degrees.

I used a really old, early template found in the bottom of a box. The counter shutter was on the wrong side on this early version which I didn't remember until the back was finished, shutter and all. Had to go to the store to get another carton and didn't realize that Founders Brewery has two beers with similar design – All Day Vacay on the surfing beach, and All Day IPA in the woods with a canoe on top. Both are so-called session ales which are relatively low ABV that "Keeps your taste satisfied while keeping your senses sharp." The camera actually looks better with the two different designs. 

Note that with a Populist longer than 60mm, you don't have to change the back at all, the front just has to be longer. 60mm overlap is plenty to make it light tight. It's easier to get open this way too.

The front is the All Day Vacay. The irritating thing about 6x9cm is that if you want to have a rising front option in both vertical and horizontal, that takes three pinholes and associated shutters. The smaller version of the Pinhole Lab Camera is about the same format. The three pinhole shutter for that was just the right size.

The back is the All Day IPA with the counting shutter in the right place.

Otherwise it's a plain old Populist. There were three .40mm Gilder electron microscope apertures left in my stash which had worked pretty well with Long John Pinhole despite being about 20% too small according to Lord Rayleigh. If anyone wanted to try other pinholes, they're easy to change on the removable pinhole mount. With a 6x6cm camera, if you don't care whether the numbers are right side up, it doesn't matter which side the full roll of film goes in. With 6x9, you've got to load it in the correct bay.

 In anticipation of the continuing gloomy weather and intimidated by the f300 ratio, I loaded it with 400. 

The challenge theme for the Fox Valley Photography Group this month is minimalism. An ice fisherman on the white expanse of Lake Winnebago might work for that. This guy was drilling his hole with the cart/chair/windbreak a few meters away. By the time the tripod was set up he had finished drilling and moved his little shelter over near the hole staying behind it the whole time. When he popped out to drive a stake in the ice, I took my opportunity. 

The inlet channel to the lagoon in Menomonee Park.

Of all the trees that line Miller's Bay, only two are bent over away from the wind.

The large beer/warming tent set up for the Otter Street Fisheree and the Polar Plunge,

In order to demonstrate the utility of the rising front in a vertical format, it's best to have lots of vertical lines.

With the long camera, you can work from across the street. Camera Casino without any cars parked in front of it.

As luck would have it, it was brilliantly sunny when these were done, and exposures measured under a half second. There were a few anomalies in the negatives. I had to make sure they were the result of clumsiness keeping the pinhole covered with my black card when the shutter was opened and closed with the tripod on top of a pile of snow. I reloaded the camera with 100 so exposures would be long enough that the card waving gymnastics wouldn't be necessary.

I had to go to Green Bay to pick up the photograph that was in the Neville Public Museum's juried show. It's right along the Fox and near the historic Fort Howard/Broadway district. By good fortune there was slightly hazy sunshine that afternoon.

Directly across from the museum over the frozen river, a great wall of buildings lines the east bank.

When I mention Green Bay, the first thing you think of is the geographic significance of the location at the mouth of the Fox beginning the river trade route to the Gulf of Mexico. Right? Did you know the Packers are owned by public shareholders i.e. the fans? Note the time is 25 minutes before 2 o'clock.


The building behind The Receiver is The Green Bay Train Station which is now a restaurant.

Turning the camera around, The Titletown Brewery occupies a renovated factory.


The other side of that factory is Broadway, now a "cultural core for entrepreneurs, creatives, residents and visitors to engage and succeed in a welcoming environment." This old block across the street was completely in the shade for about a 4 minute exposure. There was a thin strip of ultra-overexposed sky, which has been cropped out, that spilled diffracted light all over the negative. It was easy to burn through with Photoshop's version of a #4 filter but left this grainy, graphity texture, which is kinda cool in its own way.

Across the next corner, a more tidy and well lit building.

On the other side of Broadway, a post-apocalyptic scene

This was an interesting roll of film. I didn't really have to look for photographs, I just took them one after another as fast as I could get to them. It seemed really quick, although with 6x9cm, only eight pictures. I had passed a really wonderful smelling bakery on my way. Going back there to pick up some treats, I noticed this interestingly lit little detail. 

Not quick enough.The bakery had closed at 2 o'clock. 

All Day Long has .4mm Gilder Electron Microscope Apertures 120 mm from a 6x9cm frame. The first roll is 400 semistand developed in really old Rodinal 1:100. The second roll, 100 semistand developed in cafennol.