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. 


  1. You have a nice group of photo Nick, but the one that stands out is the bench and shadow. There is a dearth of good photography on the internet and to see an image that stand head and shoulders over 99% of what I see is wonderful. I like shadows as anyone who has seen my work knows but the bench is more than that. To me it harkens to the early days of Edward Weston and his work from the time of the Day Books. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Marv Thompson here. My comment on the bench photo published anonymously, not my intent.

    1. Marv, I've always seen the Daybooks as a model for my blog.

    2. Now that you mention it I see the similarity.