Saturday, May 6, 2023

Pinhole Day at The Draw

This was my first time leading a pinhole experience on Pinhole Day and also the first workshop hosted by Photo Opp, a new photography education and community darkroom group in Appleton, Wisconsin. It took place at The Draw, a studio/office/event space, which is a side gig of John Adams, the cinematographer of the trio that founded Photo Opp. It's a pretty nice place to hold an event. Not bad. (That's an inside joke.)

The Draw was originally built as the Riverside Paper Company Office in 1939, across the street from a giant paper mill which is no longer there. It's on the tail end of an island between the Fox River and the Lock Channel.

The workshop consisted of participants choosing one of my cameras loaded with FP4+. I offered some pinholy wisdom and sent them off to expose the roll. When they finished, they returned and we loaded their film on a reel and helped them develop and scan the negatives. I loaded nine rolls of film in a row onto reels. It was nice that there was a comfortable bench in a reliably light tight room. Much appreciation to John Adams who provided logistical, technical and emotional support to participants, and Almon Benton who loaded the two other rolls and coordinated all the chemistry and processing. Also thanks to all the photographers who contributed their tripods, graduates, tanks and reels to the Photo Opp collection.

The coordinators of Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day are pinholers out taking photographs and participating in events on Pinhole Day, but we all try to log-in and keep the reviewing moving along. It was kind of fun sitting with the participants and showing them what others were doing around the world while they waited for their negatives to dry. 

I also exposed a roll of color film over the weekend in The Populist and that will probably tell a different story of the workshop when the negatives come back in ten days.

The weather was at just the edge of too horrible to go outside. There were a few periods of active rain and a heavy mist drifted out of the sky all afternoon. The participants were troopers and just went out in it but didn't go far from the building. The cameras survived! The only failure was the glue melted off a winder which we quickly swapped with another and continued. All the wet, shiny pavement was interesting. Several folks waited out the ten minute exposures in the basement stairs and hallway.

When everybody was getting to the scanning stage with the slickest, mirrorless camera - copy stand - film holder - light source system, tethered directly to a computer you can possibly imagine, I went out to take some pictures for myself.

To accomodate the dark day, we limited it to the 45mm, 67° cameras, and the 30mm, 90° cameras. I picked the 90° f133 Diversity 30. The most common surprise expressed was how much wider angle the negatives were than they expected and they should have been closer (I told them so).  Even people who daily use the 105° iPhone camera revert to their normal perception when they don't have a viewfinder. This is one of those scenes where anyone familiar with the building wouldn't believe you could get the whole stairway in the frame without floating on the Fox.

It's surrounded on three sides by water. The Lock Channel overflows picturesquely behind the building. This gives you some idea just how much the lock actually drops.

It's just a few meters upstream of Appleton Lock #3.

Lawe Street goes over the Lock Channel on what I thought was a tiny little draw bridge. (Next to The Draw?!) Riding my bike over one of the heftier bridges in Oshkosh, I realized the parts that move are the same size. The bridge tender's hut is very shiny. I'm beginning to get into the variety of details in these little utilitarian structures.

OK, let me say right away this is a mistake but it's instructive. About the time this was set up, two wet little boys came up from the shore with an assortment of chunks of concrete to throw off the bridge. Distracted, I opened both shutters on the axial and rising pinholes. I really don't like when things like this happen but I have to admit it's kind of interesting - especially where the patterns cross. One of the participants, who wasn't there when I saw the negatives, exposed almost half the frames through both pinholes, and someone had asked earlier about how to calculate times for double exposures. 

I'm glad I noticed when I closed the shutter. The little boys asked me if I was taking their picture. They were throwing the cement into the river when the shutter was open for the single second exposure.  I said "No."

The barrier is much smaller than the ones on the big bridges in Oshkosh.

I had forgotten that I'd done a picture of the North side earlier in the morning. One of the surprising things to me was that several participants continued their digital habit of taking several minor variations of a scene. I forgot to make some pompous comment about honoring the value of film in the sermon (and making a commitment to your previsualization). This is another impossibly close shot right up against the channel wall. Nice place to spend the afternoon - worth two portraits in slightly different moods.

I hung around until almost everyone was gone and then went down the road along the main river channel to the still functioning, vintage Neenah Paper Mill, right in the middle of town. You have no idea how these things use to affect the atmosphere when I was in junior high. On a clear winter day we could smell the acids from five miles away. They're just kind of scenic these days. The history of water power is everywhere. There's a brisk current coming from under the building toward the railroad bridge.

Next door by the River Walk is the 1882 Vulcan Street Plant, the first hydro-electric plant in the world to power a network of buildings, which burned down in 1891 with most of the places it powered. This is a replica from 1932, built in a third place and moved here in 1987.

Lawrence University looms over the valley like some kind of ancient walled city.

Everyone seemed to have a good time and got at least a little wowed by pinhole photography. They all got a roll of usable negatives. Out of eleven rolls (twelve including mine) I don't think there were more than half a dozen completely blank or irretrievably overexposed frames.

The group was interesting. Half were professional photographers, there was one art professor and a few who had no experience other than their phone. They included a mother and her preteen daughter and an uncle and teenaged nephew. About half had never used film. Their determination to just crack on in the face of the weather was notable.

As a leader of this kind of experience, I learned a lot about how people approach photography and how other people have different skill sets that I have to pay attention to. I hope I get a chance to do something like this again. 

The Diversity 30 has .23mm pinholes on the the axis and 11mm above it, 30mm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is Kentmere 100 semistand developed in caffenol.

If you took pictures on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, remember to submit your favorite to the annual gallery before June 30.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing with me. I loved your captures.