Friday, January 27, 2023

The Glenlivet Pair

I'm the kind of old man for whom it's hard to buy presents, so I often get bottles of single malt Scotch for gifts. Unlike other craft whiskeys, Scotch always comes in these really sturdy, nicely designed boxes. I've made several cameras from them including my first 6x6cm camera, the Glenlivet Vertical Populist and one for Joe Van Cleave last summer

Working on refining the templates for the Compact series of cameras with the new folded film bay scheme, gave me a chance to use the four Glenlivet boxes that have been living in the basement for a few years.

They became a Compact 45 and a 60mm Evil Cube. The front of the 45 features the turquoise logo from the back of the box, and on the 60mm the main, beige label. On the camera backs are the opposite scheme. I also saved the corks. It looks like they changed the design on those at some point. Nice that I had two of each.

As always, the first run through a new design identified numerous mistakes in the template, but nothing I couldn't adjust on the fly. The ease and reliability of the film transport, which is the whole point of the redesign, was very good.

They both have hand drilled pinholes - .27mm on the 45 and .30mm on the Evil Cube.

I set out to test the 45mm on a very foggy day.

The 1911 monument to George Washington was originally located near the lagoon in Menomonee Park. Critics felt it wasn't prominent enough and in 1957 it was moved to the north end of the park near the newly posh Memonomee Drive. It's a bronze copy of a marble sculpture at the Virginia Statehouse, said to be "the most perfect delineation of the first President of the United States that was ever made." It's one of several monuments given to the city by Colonel John Hicks, the owner of The Oshkosh Northwestern.

The Chief Oshkosh monument, another of Colonel Hicks' contributions to the city, was about as imperfect a delineation of the person it was suppose to depict as you can get. It looks nothing like his face or figure and includes a barely disguised racial slur. Some additional signage to illuminate the real historical figure has been approved but that was three years ago and nothing yet.

The temperatures have gotten to more temperate levels. The polar vortex of late December only made the ice on Lake Winnebago traversable by foot or small vehicles. There were several people fishing out on the ice in Miller's Bay, some in tents and some sitting on a bucket next to the hole they drilled in the ice

Taking pictures of people's homes, although perfectly legal from a public space, tends to make them a little nervous. Recently I realized that if I set up the camera and then looked the other way during the exposure, they wouldn't realize the camera was actually pointed at them. Two of the grand Victorians on Washington Avenue.

You can tell the thickness of the ice from the slabs that push up onto the shore. It was weird hearing people's voices coming from the misty void out on the lake.

The Canadian National Railroad bridge fades into the fog.

It's surprising how easy it is to make Senator Johnson's local office look creepy.

When I finished the 60mm, I went over to campus for a little architectural fun on a Saturday morning between semesters.

The Preibe Gallery juts out from the side of the Fine Arts Building.

Once again my square format camera insisted on this subject. I wonder if the sculptor intended this thing to be leaning a degree or two to the left. 

Before they moved to Lincoln School, this was the exit to the playground of the Children's Center in the basement of Swart Hall. Back then it was surrounded by a fence and you couldn't get this close to it.

I used to give presentations in Buckstaff Planetarium. They had a great stereo system. I started with "Ten Thousand Light Years from Home" while the audience was being seated and closed with Jiminy Cricket's "When You Wish Upon a Star." It was fun to operate the Spitz projector with about twenty-five dials. It had a bazillion gears and it was fiendish to maintain. I once helped a physics professor calibrate it so the planets were in the right place in the sky. The Student Technology Fee once approved a new digital projector, but that's apparently fallen through because they've pried the name off over the door. Now it looks like some alien script and the sign next to it says Buckstaff Hall.

The passage between Harrington Hall and Halsey Science Center.

This might be some kind of hazardous material storage. I've photographed it before but couldn't pass up that Talbotesqe ladder.

This pit was built in the 60s to accomodate the emergency generator to keep the data center, behind the basement windows on the left, going through occasional power outages.

The west door to Dempsey Hall.

Oviatt House, formerly the President's house and then the Foundation, it now houses the University Scholars Program. The tower and the tree were on the University logo, but it was too detailed to stitch on a baseball cap, so they changed it.

Don't you wish I'd just point the camera up at something occasionally?

For three decades I labored served in Polk Library. Both the Chancellor and the Director of the Library have told me it will likely be razed and replaced in the next three years. They both said it was because "the building is shot." This door has not been used since the secure entrances were limited to just one after the 1988 renovations. I wonder about the fate of that mosaic, original to the 1963 building.

Polk was built in two parts. This is the front of the first building. After the remodeling, those expansive windows along the colonnade were the librarian's offices. My office was in the interior suite in the basement of the 1972 South addition.

The Glenlivet 45 has .25mm pinholes, 45mm from a 6x6cm frame. The Glenlivet 60 has .30 pinholes 60mm from a 6x6cm frame. Both have pinholes on the axis, and 15mm above the axis. The film is Ilford FP4+ semistand developed in Caffenol.

Thursday, January 19, 2023


For the first roll through the Dragon 30, I wasn't surprised the negatives were covered with scratches when I discovered that I had forgotten to cover the edge that the film rides over with tape. Paper and cardstock are pretty abrasive, which you know if you've ever used anyone's sewing scissors to cut paper. Easily solved, I covered the edge with tape and loaded another roll of 200.

I was pretty surprised when I developed that roll and discovered that the scratches were still there.

The pattern of the scratches, except for the general linearity in the direction of winding, looks pretty random and a bit shorter than I would expect from the normal motion I use to wind film.

I really hate it when something I've done a hundred times turns out different. I've occasionally seen a scratch across a negative but nothing like this. That includes some cameras in which I could barely advance the film. This camera was notably easy to wind. I've also used a squeegee on my film for about a year, which I think has made my negatives much cleaner.

Another odd thing was that where the negative was thinner, the scratches seemed less noticable. They're visible in the sky, but in the darker area at the bottom, there are none to be found.

One negative that was particularly thin showed no sign of the damage at all. Incidentally, Sarah got me this little tin Microbus basically as a wrapper for another gift. Hmmm, what kind of thing do people do with tin boxes?


I had bought four rolls of the 200 at the same time. Two had already been exposed in the EyePA 30, which is almost exactly the same as the Dragon 30, and in a 30mm Populist without a hint of this. All the films are rebranded Fomapan. I've used lots of the 100 and an occasional roll of the 400, but this is the first time I've used the 200. 

A Google search came up with a discussion forum entry from 2010 which described something that sounded similar with Fomapan 200, with some opinions that the 200 speed stock was particularly vulnerable to this. I had also just opened a new bottle of fixer, which was labeled as non-hardening. I'm pretty sure it's the same stuff as the last bottle. (Arista Premium Odorless Liquid Fixer). Another search turned up an article which said older films required hardening fixer but newer emulsions don't. The other fixer I've used a lot of, Ilford Rapid Fixer, is also a non-hardening fixer. I'm not really familiar with all the ingredients in film emulsions. Could it be that I just happened to get a couple rolls that got the wrong amount of whatever hardening ingredient goes into the gelatin? That would mean my squeegee did it, but it doesn't look like the one continuous stroke when the film comes out of the Photo-flo. My guess is that it happened when the film was coated, and doesn't show up until you try to precipitate a bunch of silver around it.

I had already loaded and partially exposed a roll of FP4+ in a new Compact 45, and decided to swap that roll of film back into the Dragon 30 to see if there was any difference between the two cameras.

To my great relief no scratches of any kind appeared on the FP4+ negatives from either camera. It looks like the 200 was the problem. I wish I had saved the boxes to see if those last two rolls of film were different batches than the first two.

A scene with both over and underexposed areas might offer a clue.

The Webster Block at the corner of Church and Main is one of the distinctive architectural features of downtown Oshkosh. It's usually pictured looking at the corner with the turret.

This building looks like it has an incongruously thin slab at the rear but it's actually triangular with the left side pointing directly away from the camera.

From another angle you can see how wide it gets

I don't want to be too critical and have respect for Fomafoto, and also Freestyle, who rebrands Foma films as, for their efforts to keep the cost of film down. Except for the notoriously bad reciprocity profiles and the curly negatives, I really like their films. I've been wrong about things not being my fault before, so I've loaded the camera with Film Photography Project's Mummy 400, which all the reviewers say is rebranded Fomapan. I am going to avoid the Foma 200 though.

One other thing about this camera was the negatives from the first roll were only 55mm wide, which kind of bothered me until I learned that the image on a Hasselblad negative is only 54x54mm. Reworking the film holder got the image out to 57mm, so I'm not doing too bad. I'm going to just keep referring to my cameras as 6x6cm format like everyone else does.

The Dragon 30 has .25mm pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above the axis, 30mm from an ≈6x6cm frame.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

An imperfect revision of the Compact 30

After revising the template for the Compact 30 to correct minor issues, I built another camera to make sure everything went together properly. 

Dragon's Milk from New Holland (Michigan) Brewing is a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout. It's fermented to a relatively high ABV of 11% which allows it to age without spoiling. It tastes just like you dropped a shot of bourbon in a regular stout. It only comes in 4-pack caddies but the design called out to become a camera and I thought I had enough for the entire exterior. Somehow I misaligned the dragon design on the front and the shutter, but that gives a little abstract and dynamic quality to the camera. Yeah, that's it. The carrier has three of the big dragons, but I needed to use two for the camera front and the back, leaving just one for the front shutter. The carton's fourth side included a smaller version circled with statements about the beer which became the film counter shutter.

It is about the smoothest loading and winding camera I've ever built, which was one of the objectives of the revision.

On the inside of all my cameras, the surface which the film rides over is covered with a smooth tape. I've often wondered if that was really necessary. With this camera, I forgot to do it before I loaded the film. It is necessary. It turns out the folded cardboard is abrasive enough to cover the entire film with fine scratches. I'm usually very meticulous about retouching all flaws and dust spots at high resolution. The scratches on these negatives are way too pervasive to retouch. Last year I got in a discussion on Facebook about the issue of dust, scratches and other flaws. A few folks felt that they should be just left visible which somehow gave authenticity and pinholiness to the image. OK, let's just go with that this once. I did find ways to minimize the scratches, but otherwise only retouched dust if it was visible in fit-to-screen.

The winter has been very dark and gloomy and it's been hard to get inspired to go out. This week it warmed up to just about the melting point of water and a light sticky snow created high contrast scenes that I thought appropriate to this camera with it's 1 bit color scheme.

A pile of logs frosted with snow.

A compound corner with a snowy driveway.

A large bush in front of the little pumphouse by the lake.

The row of trees that lines the shore of Miller's Bay.

Some of the rocks which help preserve the shoreline. This was one of those feats of tripodology where one foot of the tripod was extended quite a bit more than the others with one of my feet on it to keep the whole thing from falling over so I could get the view straight down at it without any feets in the image.

A large clump of grass growing on those rocks. You can see how thin the ice is by that slushy spot just above the grass.

Someone has left an ice boat just off shore.

The south side of the little pump house looks like someone poked it in the eye with that vent.

A crew was working on a transformer atop a pole just across the street. I don't like to distract workers but I couldn't stop myself when they raised three cherry pickers to lift them in place. One of them had a different colored jacket and came over to tell me I really shouldn't get any closer. I said OK, it was just too good to pass up. He asked me if I'd gotten anything good in the park. Did I see any birds? I told him I can't really take pictures of birds. He never said anything about the camera. He's walking back across the street during the exposure.

A grove of pines with the T-dock and Monkey Island in the background.

Between the two softball fields.

Viewers with a particularly acute sense of proportion may have noticed these are all just slightly taller than they are wide. Due to what I think is some clumsy assembly, the image is only 55mm wide. I took this shot of the softball diamond specifically to check if the viewfinder allowed me to accurately define the edges of the composition. Looks like if I'd had the whole 60mm negative, it would be right on.

I think I got the folds in the side wall of the image chamber a little off and the corner that turns around the film reel was blocking the view of the pinhole. I've gone after it with an X-acto knife and some sandpaper to round off that obstruction and it may project the whole 6cm image width now. I've also put some 3M #235 over the back edges of the film holder.

The Dragon 30 has .25mm pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above the axis, 3cm from a 6cm by sort of 6cm frame. The film is 200 semistand developed in caffenol.