Monday, July 24, 2023

Student of Large Format Pinhole.

Changing bag in his backpack, the student of antique film large format pinhole photography again sets forth.

No families with goslings around so the Aquabike dock was accessible.

About 8 hours after I made this exposure of the shadows and the S-curve of the train ride in Menomonee Park, there was a discussion of future monthly themes at the Fox Valley Photography Group. One suggestion was Leading Lines and other compositional methods to direct the eye. Comments ended with the joke "No railroads."

I was already planning to change to the super-wide 38mm slot when I saw the square table in this sunbeam. I had to race it to get the camera reloaded in time before the beam moved on.

With the door on the other side, the bridgetender's house on the Oshkosh Ave./Congress St. bridge looks more severe than the others.

The Dry Biodigester at the University, a green initiative I heard about in many meetings. There's a weird texture to the light. On one of these, I forgot to close the zipper on the inner bag and the velcro flap was the only barrier. Doesn't look like that kind of fogging though, and oddly looks like a reflection of the sky.

Another lagoon, this time off the south side of the Fox river, full of water lillies, again with the textured sky. Typical of taking advantage of partly cloudy skies, it was at least 10 minutes before my foreground was sunlit but I could see it coming from across the water and be ready for it.

Clearing the table after dinner, I wondered what it would look like with an exposure of the half hour before sunset and the half hour after sunrise. 8pm to 6am. Probably not much contribution from the waxing crescent moon.

Maybe expecting too much latitude from the film in the art alley. It probably didn't look much different when Lewis Hine grew up here. He was born the year before the great fire, so it was new then.


The side corner of the Recreation Gym is just 4 meters from another building and required the closest setting to the pinhole as I could get.

The sunshade screens extending from The Student Success Center seemed like a good large format subject.

What do architects think when they have to transform the back of a classic deco building into the front entrance near the parking lot? There were a few garages and stately homes back here when it was built.

As predicted, getting my arms in the the double elastic sleeves of the Paterson changing bag has gotten easier, but my continual thought while doing it is still how much trouble it is. Not quite halfway through the box of film, and I have 22 sheets of 400 after that.

The 4x5 Pinhole Lab Camera has slots for the film plane at 38, 60, 90, and 120mm (56° to 118°). The pinholes in separate mounts can be changed as appropriate. The forty year-old Plus-X was semistand developed in Rodinal, diluted 1:100.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Reinforcing stereotypes

Most people who have only experienced pinhole photography in a junior high school science class, using re-purposed boxes with photo paper negatives, have a common perception of what pinhole photographs are like. Badly exposed, randomly composed, overwhelming motion blur, streaked with light leaks and covered with scratches and fingerprints. 

A common prejudice among pinholers is that good pinhole photographs can't be done with 35mm. A recurring theme here on Pinholica is advocacy of the creative potentional of 35mm pinhole photography. 

But I'm here today to reinforce those stereotypes and prejudices.

While loading another roll of my 40-year old Tri-X, the counter mechanism on the equally antique bulk loader kept pushing open the lid as it wound, exposing the film and probably the top layer of the bulk roll. After destroying about 4 feet of film, I decided to just leave the lid open and load it in the dark. After the cassette was filled with as much film as it would take, I discovered the inner gate wasn't open. This happened once with an earlier roll without visible effect so I just ignored it and eventually forgot about it. In my frustration with the loader I must have closed that gate particularly forcefully because this time it covered the entire roll with many wavy scratches.

Also, once again, after developing some 4x5 sheets a few days before, the little heater in my darkroom was still on and the red LEDs which display the temperature didn't do the film any good while I struggled to load what turned out to be more than 36 exposures.

In addition, I ended up pursuing a project which was somewhat unfamiliar for me - photographing people.

The whole purpose of the square format, 35mm Manic Expression Cube is to freely explore. I'm going to display these with the scratches and slightly fogged negatives. I recently watched an episode of the PBS science series Nova about the brain and perception. The basic theme was that your brain continuously creates a high definition model of your environment based on some pretty poor resolution input and extensively filters things that don't fit its preconceptions or ceases to worry about being a danger. Let's see what your brain does with these pictures.

No compelling project came to mind and the camera sat around for a few days. One afternoon a group of local photographers were getting together for coffee. As is typical of such occasions, cameras were occasionally pointed across the table without warning, including making a very high resolution image of my grizzled face. I might as well make an exposure of the group. As with a previous opportunity with two from this group at the Farmer's Market, they were of course in the dark in front of a brilliant background.

A few days after that was the Photo Walk in Kaukauna organized by PhotoOpp. After walking around taking pictures, everyone congregated on one street corner, occasionally taking pictures of each other. Not my usual thing, but I hadn't thought of anything else for this roll of film, so ought to give it a try with what were probably willing subjects. That thought occurred to me while showing my camera and explaining pinhole to David Hall.

Another photographer curious about pinhole.

John Adams, co-founder of Photo Opp and Giles La Rock from the Fox Valley Photography Group standing right in the street discussing analog photography. It looks like I had captured the great lens of Giles' Hasselblad, but it's just a merger with the car wheel behind him. 

Mark Ferrell, another Photo Opp founder pointing at me with the original Nikkormat he bought in 1968. That might be the other Photo Opp founder Graham Washatka trying to get a look at his digital screen in the sunlight.

 Scientific photographer Almon Benton looking cool with his shades and Leica.

Brandi Grahl flashing me big smile.

A group in conversation on the sidewalk.

With still no idea for a project, riding past the softball field during a game of the Wednesday morning slow pitch softball league, I wondered what that would look like with my little negatives. 

The view from behind home base.

The guy to the left told me "This is what old men do on Wednesday morning." I replied there are lots of odd things old men do on Wednesday mornings.

Contemplating my project dilemma, I realized I had been pursuing one all along - photographing people. Serendipitously there were two art fairs occurring in Oshkosh that weekend, a likely source for willing subjects. I had done something like that before for the Oshkosh Pleine Air Festival before the pandemic. One of the first jobs for this little camera, in which it gave me a lesson in the slings and arrows of analogue photography as well as the creative potential of those flaws. A picture from that roll was in a juried show in Portugal.

Saturday afternoon was the Alley Art Market behind the 400 block of Main Street, one of my favorite locations for architectural scenes, part of which has recently been covered with a mural.

A button maker at work. I told him I did some pieces with classic Badge-a-Minit tools in the 70's and 80's. He had never heard of them. He got his on Amazon.

The band was rockin' but I wasn't sure what particular genre they represented

That was clarified by the t-shirt of the girl selling their merch.

The crowd was primarily young folk. I was the only one there north of thirty except for the parents of one of the people in the band.

Several were inquisitive about my little camera and, like this couple, readily agreed to let me photograph them.

The painter of these swirly compositions insisted on a dramatic pose. We exchanged business cards. He's doing the same pose on the card.

One of the artists concentrating on a sketch book.

A painter at her easel.

A very fashionable painter under a parasol.

I positioned this t-shirt vendor like this since my son works in Boston and might be interested how far this obscure social media meme had come. Another dramatic pose.

This young woman, who was one of the couple from an earlier photograph, was in a group of four in animated conversation. She watched me frame and adjust the tripod. One by one her companions got up and moved which required me to move and recompose. Eventually she was left alone and again graciously modeled. My only regret about the low resolution and grain is that I couldn't capture the tiny white polka dots on her black dress.

Sunday was The Paine Art Center's Faire on the Green on the street and open corner lot next to the museum. As you can tell by the extra "e," it's a different affair than the one downtown.

My first encounter was with a man playing the hand-made recorders he sells. He was playing along with a prerecorded track with an extraordinary amount of reverb. Gave a real new-agey feel to things.

 A large display of cool doll shoes. We agreed that my size was probably out of her range.

This man was selling carved frog figurines with a notched ridge on their back, which when rubbed with a hollow stick made a convincing "ribbit."

Tubular stuffed animals sewn out of shiny material.

I made a point to look for the photographers. This was the only one who was exclusively selling photography.

The last time I was at this event was sometime in the '90s. I remember it as full of framed canvases, prints and pottery with the artists often working on something while the crowd watched.  This woman with the sketchbook in her lap was the only one I saw working on anything.

Otherwise, it seemed more like a craft faire, although some of the offerings, such as these sugar-free confections were quite creative.

After visiting the Rodin exhibit at the Paine a few days ago with many of the dark bronze pieces silhouetted against a window, I was particularly taken by these little bronzes in the light reflected on the glass shelves. The artist hadn't been to see the Rodin sculptures yet.

Only one other exhibit included photography. She told me that she was aware that pinhole photography was having a popular resurgence. Under the tent, the exposure was twelve seconds. I told her to imagine she was posing for Van Dyke. That seems to have worked.

A jewelery maker who teaches K-8 Art in the Appleton School District who had done a pinhole unit in the past. Also understood my direction to act like she was posing for Van Dyke (although I was actually thinking of Holbein at the time).

Appropriately for a "Faire," the band was an traditional Celtic group. I could get right in front of them since no one was boogying in the street.

What I noticed walking by this vendor of fresh fruit popsicles was the composition made by the trailer, figure, umbrella and displays in front of him. Nailed the framing exactly as I'd hoped. Maybe there's a lesson in that.

Just outside the limits of the faire, two young entrepreneurs selling bottled water.

Since he was in the group that started this whole thing by taking that detailed picture of my vintage face, I'll end with famous aviation photographer Jim Koepnik showing his Sigma glass.

If this is the only pinhole photography you've seen lately, please take a look at some of my last few posts to get another conception of what pinhole can be.

I did learn a lot about what I can get away with in public photographing humans that I'll be able to put to use. The composition of most of these was a little off probably because people were waiting for me to make the exposure and I rushed it. Have to watch that. There's Art in the Park in Appleton and the Experimental Aircraft Association in the next few weeks that should be full of willing subjects.

Before loading the Manic Expression Cube again, I'm going to have a project already in mind. When loading more of the old Tri-X, I'm just going to pull it out of the loader, measuring it against my arm like one of Cinderella's seamstresses and roll it into the cassette with my bare hands.

The Manic Expression Cube has a .17mm hand-drilled pinhole on an adjustable rising front with 7mm of travel, 24mm from a 24x24mm frame. The venerable Tri-X was semi-stand developed in Rodinal 1:100.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Life is short, Large Format Photography is long

In our last episode of Large Format Antique Film Pinhole Photography, my antique changing bag had proved unreliable. The film had to be changed in the darkroom. On any venture out to use it, there would only be one frame available. I vowed to do just that. 

Starting with the 4x5 Pinhole Lab Camera's changeable film plane at 90mm, I went to the Fox Valley Photography Group's meeting early and captured the bridge tender's house of the Veterans Memorial Bridge. It's by the side of the channel instead of on the bridge itself since it's a lift, not a draw, bridge. The Lawe Street bridge in the right background was featured in my Photo Walk roll that took place across the main channel of the river a month later.

Staying at 90mm. We bought a monstera deliciosa for the fern stand on the lanai. The design of the spreading stems looked interesting in the late sun. I've mentioned my penchant for using business reply envelopes as reflectors to provide fill light in sunlit scenes. It doesn't take much of a breeze to introduce one into the scene as though Man Ray showed up in the middle of one of Paul Strand's exposures.

Switched the film plane to 60mm. The corner of this sheet was in the same slot with the sheet in front of it and the emulsion stuck to the base side of that sheet, the first time that's happened since Basic Photography Class with open-lab, metal spiral reels. Ergo, cropped a bit at the top and the right, missing the feeling of being under the canopy I was going for.

Remaining at 60mm. Regular readers will remember me complaining about the Chief Oshkosh Monument in Menomonee Park. They finally installed six, very prominent, new bronze displays explaining about the real historical figure, who was quite a guy, and the racist motives of the people who made the original monument. A real emotional visit now. It reminds me of the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington.

The peonies bloomed explosively and overwhelmed their stems.  Decided to use a little resin column to pose a bunch in the dappled light. Reloaded and switched back to 90mm.

Out again with the film in the 60mm slot. The bridge tender's house on the Wisconsin/Ohio Street bridge in Oshkosh.

Changed to the 38mm, 121° setting for the film plane that hadn't been used yet. When I didn't have a particular destination in mind, I would inevitably start at Menomonee Park. I couldn't pass up this young woman playing a harp with her companion in a long flowing dress reclining on the blanket beside her. With the extreme wide angle I had to get much closer than it appears here. Unfortunately at some time before or after that exposure, the shutter was briefly opened while it was moving with the sun being drawn across the now heavily exposed negative. Fortunately this month's theme for the Fox Valley Photography Group's challenge is Light Painting. I couldn't really think of anything for the topic and this just fell in my lap. Took some doing to get this misty image from the very dense negative.

With the 38mm film plane again. We got another monstera deliciosa to fill out the fern stand.

Remember most of these were done on separate bike rides. Frustrated by the slow progress, one day I was looking at the changing bag wondering how to attach some elastic to the sleeves. Noticing a little cracking of the rubber by the zipper on the inner bag, I put it over my head and discovered many glowing rivulets where the lining had cracked. It had nothing to do with the sleeves. The bag itself clearly wasn't light tight. I ordered a new Paterson changing bag so I could continue using my box of free film.

I changed the film in the new bag on a picnic table by the shore, but kept it at the 60mm film plane. Another scene I'd done before, but in a different season,

I waited to change the film until I found another scene to photograph. I have been working on a series of the bridge tender's houses on the draw bridges on the Fox. Since I had photographed the Canadian National Railroad bridge numerous times, I knew it called for a narrower angle to just feature the little building. It was great to change the film, and with the Pinhole Lab Camera, also change the film plane back to almost normal at 120mm with the more appropriate .45mm pinholes.

Taking advantage of the easy changing at home, I switched the film plane and pinholes back to the 60mm and .28mm pinholes. Before I could go out again, the low sun nicely modeled all the plants and bird houses on the baker's rack. 

I refreshed the supply in the changing bag and left the 60mm film plane in place. It was too hot to wear a backpack, so I set out with just the one picture available for what looked like an active sky. It turned out to be too active. I grabbed the first available vantage point at the south end of Miller's Bay. Got within two blocks of home before it started raining. Camera just barely got damp.

The next day was cooler. I again left the film plane at 60mm and went out with the changing bag. In my recent piece going around the Menomonee Park lagoon, I realized I hadn't gone completely around it so here is the western shore to complete that circumnavigation.

Again the most interesting sky was toward the north, so I went for the sweeping curve of the beach.  Changed film at a picnic table staying with the 60mm setting. While extending the tripod, this dude about my age came and started sifting through the pebbles on the beach. I asked if he minded being in my foreground. He told me he likes to sort through the rocks on the shore, identify what kind of mineral they are and based on the extent of how they've been smoothed by the river, speculate where they came from and how they got here.

Reloaded and stayed at 60mm for my next planned subject, the bridgetender's house on the Main Street Bridge.

Waited until my next stop to change film and switched to the 120mm distance. The bridgetender's house project wouldn't be complete without documenting that there are two houses on the Wisconsin-Ohio Street Bridge.

On my way from Main Street I had seen this composition of walls and ladders. Reloaded and switched to 90mm and went back for it.

Large format photography is certainly slower than roll film. Although, using my Pinhole Lab Camera takes about as much time as getting a professional field camera out of the case and onto a tripod, even taking into account changing the film every time in the changing bag. 

The big negatives don't really seem sharper. Looking at these at full resolution isn't that much different than my smaller negatives, but at full screen they do have a realism about them I can't quite put my finger on. The complete lack of grain may have something to do with that.

The extra film available keeps overexposed areas from really blooming and softening edges. In the Chief Oshkosh picture, the side I wanted to get was totally backlit by the full sun. Exposed for the shadows, the massively overexposed sky didn't spread or diffract all over the foreground. 

There also seems to be an extended grey scale, which may be a feature of the Plus-X and not necessarily to do with the large format.

The Paterson Changing bag with it's very tight, double elastic sleeves takes some getting use to. You first put your hand through the the end of the sleeve and then push your hand through the second opening on an inner sleeve creating two separate seals. That elastic will probably get a little looser with use so it will be easier to get my arms in. There are seventy more sheets of the Plus-X to investigate further and I finally got my two 500ml bottles of Rodinal which had been back-ordered since March.

The 4x5 Pinhole Lab Camera has slots for the film plane at 38, 60, 90, and 120mm. The pinholes in separate mounts can be changed as appropriate.  The forty-year old Plus-X was semistand developed in the last few drops of the vintage Rodinal I have been using recently, diluted 1:100.