Monday, May 29, 2023

Around the lagoon in Menomonee Park

About two years ago I started working with 4x5 film, then, after getting the gig at the Trout Museum, I became obsessed about making the medium format cameras for those workshops. I vowed to again pursue the large format path and finally got to it recently but was devastated when I destroyed the first six sheets of film I exposed last week. I promise to get back to it with the appropriate systematic approach to see what caused the loss of those exposures, but to restore my spirits, it seemed best to crack on with one of the two dozen or so cameras I've made in the last biennium. The Crackon seemed like the obvious choice, loaded with Kentmere 100.

With no plan in mind, I kept rejecting scenes that I had covered before while riding through Menomonee Park. Crossing the bridge over the inlet to the lagoon, I noticed the concession stand on its eastern shore which is a bit off the bike path. I hadn't photographed it except at a distance.

It's also the station for the miniature train ride that circles the north lobe of the lagoon. 

The train is stored in this black little tunnel between two rows of trees. Going through it is part of the trip.

I couldn't proceed along the shore because two families of Canada geese were hanging out on the path, so I had to walk around the ornamental garden separated from the lagoon by a row of tall arbor vitae with a row of crab apples in front of them.

The geese were right at the end of the aqua bike rental dock so I couldn't go out there either.

The lagoon is divided into two halves where Pratt Trail crosses over the Cooper Wells Bridge. It was built in 1921 as a veterans memorial, named after the unfortunate first Oshkoshian to perish in the Great War.

Looking down from the bridge at the southern end, which is surrounded by the Zoo.

Inside the zoo, a water feature with a foamy circulation pattern.

A log cabin with windows for viewing the grey wolves, who kept coming around from behind the building to see what I was doing. Some mornings they put on a tremendous howling performance, probably waiting to get fed. I would have never guessed it was just two sisters and their brother.

The elevated viewing platform next to the raptor enclosure, home to Cayuga, a bald eagle who lost part of a wing from a gunshot wound.

The stairway down to the ground level of the enclosure.

And finally someone to pose for me. The llama intently watched me set up the tripod and when I was ready swung into this regal profile and held it for the two second exposure.

The Crackon has .27mm hand-drilled pinholes, on the axis and 13mm above it, 45mm from a 6x6cm frame, although all of these turned out to be with the axial pinhole. The Kentmere 100 was semistand developed in Caffenol.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Alternative Pinhole Day

I had to drive up to Kaukauna on Saturday, the day before the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day Experience in Appleton, so John Adams from Photo Opp and I decided to meet at The Draw to load the cameras and make sure everything was ready. 

The venerable Populist documented the weekend. Despite carrying it everywhere with me for eight years, the only submissions to the Pinhole Day gallery I made with it were when it was new in 2008 and 2009. Our more vintage, just-barely 20th century Mustang has done admirable service for my spate of traveling to the Fox Cities in the last year.

The weather forecast had been deteriorating for a week and it turned out to be right. The group show by the Fox Valley Photography Group was over and I had to pick up my picture. By the time I got to the Kaukauna Public Library it was raining quite steadily. I set up the camera and left the shutter open and ran inside.

On the way back to Appleton. The tripod being rigged that way reminded me of the longest thread ever on f295, Stormy's "In which I challenge you to a race." from 2007. It consisted of pinhole images from inside moving vehicles which went on for two years and twenty-two pages. I posted pictures to it on page 10 taken with this camera in this car - and on page 14, stereo versions.

I actually got to the Draw a bit early. I didn't want to take too many photographs since I expected to take some on Pinhole Day, but I did need some establishing shots.

It's on a part of the river known as Eagle Flats between two of the rapids, just upstream from Appleton Lock No. 3.  The paper mill that occupied most of the island is gone and the nearest new apartment buildings are a quarter mile away. It seems to sit alone by itself in the middle of the river.

When John hadn't arrived by 10:05, I checked my email and discovered that somehow I had transposed the time to leave home with the time I had to be there and was an hour early. I drove up the hill to downtown and got a cup of coffee.

John and I loading the cameras.

Before going home, I did a little scouting for Pinhole Day. Everybody was probably going to photograph this isolated house reflecting in the the Lock Channel tomorrow.  Only one person eventually did.

Got back to Oshkosh too late to make lunch, so it's burger time.

Up early on Sunday to check the weather. Well, it's not raining yet, but the probability is 70%.

My intention was to shoot a roll later with the workshop participants, but it is the Pinholy Day of Obligation and there's lots of film in this camera. The magnolia blossomed on the 12th. The rainy weather somewhat dampened the display, but the relative chill allowed the blossoms to persist until the end of the month.

The oaks provide a menacing character to the back of the house which looks somewhat alarmed.

A classic Pinhole Day subject, a wet emerging Tulip.

My trusty steed again ready for more adventure. It has started raining now.

Posing with the cameras and a few tripods while waiting for the participants. I was listening to John and Almon Benton setting up and testing the scanning system during this two minute exposure, wondering what to do if they turned around and noticed what was going on behind them. One funny tripodology note. Much of Photo Opp's equipment collection was donated by professional photographers, so about half the participants had industrial strength Manfrotto tripods to support their three ounce cameras.

The weather still sucks.

The next few pictures were intended to be two minute exposures which included the participants.  During almost all the time people were out taking their photographs, there were a few hanging out in The Draw, probably to dry out, with whom I ended up having conversations. After about twenty minutes, I remembered to close the shutter, during which time no one stayed still long enough to block or reflect enough light to be recorded.

More faint shadows on the couch. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to go outside and not take advantage of those giant windows with exposures only about a minute and a half. A few did very long exposures in the stairway and basement hallway.

At the bar, serving soup to all the hungry silver halides.

With the negatives hung in front of a large white wall, it was fun to stand around and discuss them while they dried. A few folks had never seen a negative. Before you ask, we didn't have much issue with dust. The Draw must just have clean air and it was very humid.

Finally remembered to close the shutter before everyone stopped sending photons to the camera while this group waited for dry negatives.

Oh, all right, I'll show you the double exposure.

Almon operating the very efficient and high resolution scanning system, probably with a crowd around watching the positive pictures appear on the computer. There was precious little time to look at them, and then only in 12 to a screen thumbnails. I've seen a few on Instagram, but not many. If you've posted some on social media, put a link in the comments below.

The cameras back home. They all got a little wet but seemed to dry out without issue. With all the unloading film in the dark, only one winder got lost.

My tripods, notably returned with all the quick-release adapters in place.

By Tuesday, the weather got a little less wet, but not much brighter. To meet Camera Casino's immutable deadline on Wednesday, it's out on the bike to Lake Winnebago to finish the roll. I'm not sure if this little point that defines the south edge of South Asylum Bay has a name.

Two of the trees bordering Miller's Bay framing the north inlet.

The first two boats stored next to the boat launch, probably as disappointed about the weather this weekend as I was.

Now that all the negatives are done, I have to decide what to submit to the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day annual gallery. Lots to choose from. If you haven't submitted yours, don't forget. In case you're into some cool alternative print process, you've got until June 30th. Our group is Appleton PhotoOpp.

The Populist has a .15mm Gilder Electron Microscope Aperture 24mm from a 24x36mm frame. The film is Kodak Pro Image 100.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Led into Manic Expression

One consequence of my involvement with Photo Opp is that I was given a 35mm roll of Agfapan APX 25 by Almon Benton, who provided invaluable assistance in our Pinhole Day event

When the offer was made, I initially resisted but then it triggered a severe episode of manic expression when I thought of my little 24x24x24mm Manic Expression Cube with it's continuously adjustable rising front. I also have fond memories of ASA 32 Panatomic-X developed in Acufine from my youth.

From the reviews I read, it's a treasured relic
professional, ultra fine-grained, very slow film, discontinued in about 2005. This roll expired in July 2004. It's often recommended with vintage films that you adjust the exposure about a stop for every decade, which would make this film really slow. That's not my experience with semi-stand developing so I just rated it as on the package. Pinhole Assist doesn't have a definition for it so I just skipped reciprocity correction as well. A common question for pinholers is how do we deal with the looooong exposures. What's really problematical are the sub-second exposures.  No problem at ISO 25. Sunny day exposures were about six seconds.

This brilliant white false-front former store seemed like a good test of the resolving characteristics. Could it hold those clapboards and faux-columns from across the street? Looks like it can.

On the corner I was taking that picture from, there used to be an archtypical mid-century filling station. I always thought it would make a cool photography studio.

A bit further down Elmwood Avenue, the corner of the back wall of the Paine Art Center's formal garden.

Around the corner on Congress Street, the fence-topped wall of the Paine in the morning sun.

A few meters to the right where the fence meets the full-height garden wall.

It was in my pocket for U-Club at Oblio' s. This early in the year, the door to the back patio has a comfy couch in front of it. My friend, the prints professor, noticed me placing the camera. I was telling her about how, at the pinhole workshop last week, I kept opening the shutter intending to close it in about 5 minutes and then remembering it about twenty minutes later. Guess how long this exposure ended up being?

Door 12 to the Arts and Communications Building. The brick works pretty well with the little camera.

This is about 1:1 macro. There were several other little feathers scattered about, but this one had the water drops and was stuck in the mud so it didn't flutter in the wind.

The stone walls of Oviatt house work well with the small negatives.

The basement bulkhead behind Oviatt House. Shouldn't it have it's own entrance number?

Kind of a chaotic attempt to make a sharp photograph.

A totally abstract arrangement of shades of grey.  An equivalent maybe?

The bar and oven at Parm. This one seems to work particularly well with the pictorialist character of the small format.

Tulips, budding vines and stone at the Paine Art Center.

At the end of a long corridor from the mansion to the back, the formal garden fountain is visible through the main gate.

With the slow film, even in Cloudy/Bright conditions, exposures were in the range of 15 seconds. Couldn't resist a classic pinhole water-flowing subject.

One column framed by two columns at the corner entrance to the formal garden.

Trees above the event tent not quite getting going yet.

Out along the Fox, their wild bretheren are well ahead of them.

The geometric cement of the US Bank entrance seems well suited to the economical use of film.

All those bricks of this gigantic blank wall would be a good test of the fine-grained film. Looking at the image at full-screen, it looks like it's made of bricks, but at full resolution it's all pointillism.

The quai at Riverside Park lined with fishers, most with multiple poles. There must have been a train going by.  At this time of year the bridge is usually open to let boaters pass.

A newly installed bench in Menomonee Park. 

A tall mast on a trimeran in Miller's Bay.

Very sadly, the clicker started acting erratically and I couldn't tell how far I was advancing the film (in addition to going eight clicks out of habit instead of just six most of the time), and I only got half the pictures that could be gotten out of the roll. I feel like an archeological looter.

The most notable feature other than the relatively long exposure times is the almost total lack of grain. In full screen view it's unnoticable and at full resolution, it's just detectable. I like grain, but I kind of like this as well. The small format has a limited resolution that reminds me of a lot of pictorialist photography (done with large format cameras!). That seems to be emphasized by the lack of grain. 

The tiny camera is fun to use and easy to carry. I've gone back and forth about a hundred times whether to shoot another roll. If the clicker works, 48 exposures is a big commitment. I don't have anymore of this film (do I?), but I've got two rolls of Fuji Across 100 which has kind of pronounced grain if it's overexposed a bit.

Readers with a critical eye toward composition will notice that a lot of these are cropped a little tight at the bottom. I've repositioned the pinhole indicators on the shutter a bit to see if that yields more accurate composition, and the clicker has been completely reinstalled.

The Manic Expression Cube has a .17 hand-drilled pinhole mounted on an adjustable rising front with 7mm of travel above the axis, 24mm from a 24x24mm frame . The Agfa APX 25 was semi-stand developed at 1:100 in Rodinal, the classic developer for this film.