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 Arista.edu 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 Arista.edu 100 was semistand developed in Cafennol.

You can learn more about Rudolph's work and contact him at https://pin-shot.com/

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 Arista.edu 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 Arista.edu 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 Arista.edu 400 semistand developed in really old Rodinal 1:100. The second roll, Arista.edu 100 semistand developed in cafennol.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Mummy 400 in the Dragon 30

In order to convince myself that the scratches in some recent negatives were the result of a bad batch of Arista.edu 200 and nothing to do with my camera, another roll of a rebranded Foma film, Film Photography Project's Mummy 400, went into the Dragon 30. Sounds like Game of Thrones meets Boris Karloff.

Out to the lakeshore to take advantage of a dramatic partly cloudy day. Some amateur club has prepared a small area near the T-dock with a hockey rink and several oval tracks which intersect to mark this spot with an X.

This off-shore crack formed an S-curve, but the wide angle kind of hides that. 

On the way home, I stopped at Beck's Meats for some local Andouille and eight-year-old cheddar. The young man who helped me had never heard of pinhole photography.

A light but blustery snowfall dusted Fluffy's lounge chair on the lanai.

It blew all the way to cover the chair by Fluffy's personal entrance.

A basket and the sewing machine treadle under the snow,.

I must have framed this intending to use the axial pinhole but got distracted by workers having a conversation just out of view inside. The exposure ended up being made with the upper pinhole instead.

They shoveled part of Miller's Bay for the Fisheree and Polar Plunge.

Side by side bridges over the lagoon inlet.

The back door, patio and tenant's stairway behind Oblio's.

The overhead door to the back bar where U-Club is held.

The Dragon 30 has hand-drilled .25mm pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above the axis, 3cm from a 6cm x 6cm frame. The Mummy 400 was semistand developed in Rodinal 1:100.

I used Rodinal because there's a concern about background fogging of high-speed films in caffenol despite my use of 10g/l of salt as a restrainer. This bottle of Rodinal is very old, more than two years. My uses of Rodinal in that time were done with a newer bottle. These negatives were mostly exposed in what that data sheet that used to come with your film would describe as "Bright or hazy sun in sand or snow." At F133, the exposures measured much less than my poor hand can wave a black card away from the pinhole and back. They could probably use a little low-contrast developer so I gave the old bottle a try.

Look at this stuff. It looks like dark corn syrup. It's backlit with my bike light in this photo. Even at a dilution of 1:100, the negatives came out completely normal. Sort of appropriately for the Mummy film, Rodinal lives forever.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Yule Fortnight with The Populist

My favorite desktop tripod ever was a little ProMaster which folded into a flat 110mm x 45mm x 10mm slab, easy to fit in almost any pocket. A few years ago, after a day out in Boston, I took it out of my pocket and discovered a leg had broken off.  Although I previously had several of a similar, but a little longer design, there wasn't anything like it on the market any more. I've bought six or seven others trying to replace it but nothing as convenient or as usable. 

After being bugged for weeks to come up with a list of hints for Yule gifts, I saw a Facebook post featuring exactly what I was looking for! Without looking who the vendor was, I copied the link and added it to my wish list. It turned out it was from England but Sarah just held her breath and paid more for shipping than the tripod cost.

It's wonderful. In addition to the extremely compact folding, it has a few other features that make it the ultimate support when operating under Populist Rules. It has non-slip feet which allow you to hold it firmly against shiny surfaces. The ball and socket can be variably tightened so you can adjust the pointing while holding it against a wall yet it keeps the camera in place when you pull open the shutter. This one seems more robustly built and sturdy than my old one and it's solid black until you extend the legs.

I had to give it a spin and loaded the original Populist to document the Yule festivities.

Like many American families, our holiday visits are constrained by the availability and cost of airline tickets. On Christmas morning, Sarah made a special brunch we enjoyed by ourselves.


The monthly challenge for the Fox Valley Photography Group was holiday lights – later changed to just "Lights" when nobody submitted anything. (I didn't get my film back in time.)

Sometimes the sun reflects off the neighbor's window and creates sunbeams through the north window in our dining room.

Two survivors from the previous dining room bouquet accompany the crystal candy jar in the kitchen.

Sunbeams in the sun room.

The view from the other corner of the room.

Some oversize sparkly balls and bells.

I had to get to Oaks Candy to replenish our supply prior to Andy and Kristin's arrival. I thought it would be quick the day after Christmas but the place was packed with people visiting the home town and just having to stop at Oaks and pick out a selection. It took forever but there was plenty of time for the exposure.

Their flight came in to Appleton in the late morning, so we went straight to lunch at Pullman's at Trolley Square. We use to drive right by the location all the time when Andy went to school here early in the century. It was an empty lot then. The terminal for the trolley system was there when that still existed.

It's right under the Oneida Street Bridge.

It's along the Fox in an otherwise nicely renovated factory district.

Just before the pandemic, we all went to the theater to see Knives Out so we were kind of excited to watch the sequel Glass Onion together.

At some point during their visits, Andy will pick up my Alvarez acoustic and make it sound a lot better than it ever did when I was playing it.

For the novelty, we went to have lunch in one of the domes at the Fox River Brewing Company.

Not as scenic as downtown Appleton, but there is a bridge in the view.

Beer battered cheese curds should probably be the official appetizer of the state of Wisconsin, and to be different, fried pickle chips.

The red onions made my sandwich visually appealing, but I didn't eat them.

Luggage waiting for an hours-before-dawn departure.

After the sun came up, reading What if? 2; Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. Hey Randall, how big of a shade and what size pinhole would you need to project an optimally diffracted image of the earth that covered the moon?

On the theory that if it was better lit, we might get around to organizing the basement, we went to Lowes to get a fixture. Short exposure, but not really anywhere to place the camera.

With Yule duly celebrated I could get back to obsessively making cameras. Stopped at DPI Printing to get the latest templates.

A thick fog covered Oshkosh one morning.

It was accompanied by reasonably tolerable temperatures. Couldn't pass this up and went for a bike ride with a new camera.

Speaking of my bike, riding around to look for pictures seems to be an integral part of my photography. To extend the reach of my pinholes, Sarah got me a rack for the '99 Mustang so I could take pictures in other municipalities without having to ride 30 miles to get there first.

The Nutcracker in the Castle at the Paine Art Center doesn't change much from year to year but it's still worth a visit. I believe they serve treats during the highly produced guided tours at these tables. No one cared if there was a pinhole camera sitting on one for a while.

The Great Hall is where most of the dancing part of the tour takes place. At the far side of the entrance, a small camera on the floor is out of the way.

What looks like the grisly result of a nutcracker battle in the gift shop.

We proceeded to the Conservatory for the Sugar Plum Fairy's Cafe.

Just next to our table, an extraordinarily patient young dancer, staying in character, interacting with several children, one of whom did several pliés with her.

After the pastries, a stroll through the frozen formal garden was called for.

A normally submerged planter in one of the water features.

The Populist has a .15mm Gilder electron microscope aperture 24mm from a 24x36mm frame. The film is Kodak Gold 200.