Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Air Photography up in the Air

Brennand Airport is a private facility with a paved 2,450 foot runway about ten miles north of Oshkosh. It's the home of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 41. They annually host a fly-in with the general public invited.

Although not a full-service fixed-base operator, it has 24 hour self-service fueling and this little building, with curly columns, housing a nice pilot's lounge and two bowling lanes. 

My purpose in being there was to get an airplane ride and not to do much photography. There was about a half a roll exposed in The original Populist so it went along with the desktop tripod and, just in case, my favorite full-sized Manfrotto and another roll of film. Last year I got the itch to have a more visceral experience flying and went on a ride in an open-cockpit biplane at EAA's Pioneer Airport. This time I wanted to be in the cockpit with the pilot to see what they were doing. There were six planes available, all four-seaters. Making a quick decision, I asked for a high-winged plane so more of the ground was visible but you could still see what the wings were doing. The first available was a 1994 Maule MX-7-160 tail-dragger. It's short-take-off-and-landing and sturdy construction make back-country flying an option.

Piloted by owner Paul Cooner. When I asked if he'd done this before he immediately answered "Three or four times" without missing a beat or changing his expression. Taxiing out to the runway.

The view of Lake Butte de Morte on the left and Lake Poygan on the right with the Wolf River going through Winneconne between the wing's struts. Paul's favorite type of flying is going out with some friends and doing take-offs and landings on the ice on Lake Poygan.

We're required by Visual Flight Rules to stay 500 feet under the clouds that look like they're floating on a level plane just above us. It's actually just a temperature change of the water - liquid above, vapor below.

There were two experiences I'll probably remember all my life.

The first was when Paul told me to take the yoke and keep the plane level and the nose about five degrees below the horizon. I'm afraid I fixated on the spot and seemed to be constantly overcorrecting in both roll and pitch. I got really tense and never took the opportunity to intentionally fly the plane.

The second was the landing. Any one you walk away from, right? We were descending toward the ground in a distinct crosswind with the plane angled to the runway. I was trying to follow the airspeed indicator when at the last second we experienced wind shear. I'd always imagined it as sort of a downdraft, but it's really a sudden change in wind direction, ergo air speed, which when you're that close to landing is the difference between creating lift and stalling. We were pushed toward the left side of the runway and hit the ground pretty hard and maybe actually had a wheel go on to the grass before recovering. It was the talk of the rest of the day. Several different conversations about it occurred next to me. I always injected that it was pretty unusual but he did everything perfectly. Paul told me it was the worst landing of his life. I was never worried about my personal safety, but momentarily was a little concerned about the airplane. After monitoring the winds for a bit and talking to the other pilots, he resumed giving rides.

In the Chapter 41 Hangar the club is building a Murphy Rebel kitplane. The aluminum is only about a millimeter thick but when formed into these shapes is quite rigid.

In a lot of general aviation, the very regulated maintenance is done by the owners. This gentleman agreed that his engine was a lot like the air cooled flat-four Volkswagen engine in my first new car.

The radio-controlled airplane club was also there with a quite elaborate display of aircraft and great enthusiasm for explaining how they worked and were made. My favorites were these with wings made out of crudely folded corregated cardboard held together with rubber bands. They're made for airplane battles, where competitors don't try to knock each other out of the sky, but have to avoid crashing into obstacles while racing which they might have to survive multiple times in order to win.

In my blog post about the EAA Airventure Fly-in last month, I photographed the high contrast cockpit of a Pietenpol Aircamper with a modern engine. It's for sale at Brennand Airport.

When I was given responsibility for the Information Technology Division at the University without any experience in enterprise computing, I hired this youngster to take care of that. He did it quite well and now has a permanent appointment to the job I was only interim in. A volunteer fireman before he came to Oshkosh, he's now busy with the Civil Air Patrol which his daughter's involvement got him interested in. I finally had to tell him to quit getting important briefings for a second and hold still.

Another member of the Civil Air Patrol was rather curious about pinhole photography and we conversed for quite a while. As I heard myself apologizing that she couldn't see the pinhole, realized I could show it to her, but according to Pinhole Assist, only for about two seconds.

Emergency services always have a presence at public gatherings for possible problems, but with an aviation event, I'm not sure if it's reassuring or not.

Another common feature of summer events is a car show including this '65 or '66 Mustang with GT stripes.

A '69 or '70 Mustang with a shaker hood showing off the V8.

Maybe they directed me to park in the wrong place.

These were part of the first two rolls of film I've ever developed in C-41, which turned into more drama than I'd hoped, only peripherally related to the color developing. Stay tuned for what's left of those two rolls.

The Populist has a .15mm electron microscope aperture 24mm from a 24x36mm frame. The film is Lomography 100 developed in Arista.edu's liquid kit.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Living Large

I freely admit stealing that headline from the editor of Scientific American. She was talking about the current issue with articles about dinosaurs, narcissists and Wolf-Rayet stars. The 4x5 Pinhole Lab Camera is my largest camera. Film photography, especially with large format sheets has been described as a dinosaur. Pinhole is often characterized as the evolutionary forebear of photography. Dinosaurs are very old. The expired-in-1981 Plus-X film involved might be called a fossil. And, of course, most of my photography is dependent on one fairly big star, although thankfully nothing like a Wolf-Rayet. The practice of publishing almost every one of my pinhole photographs could be evidence of narcissism. The title fits.

Taking advantage of the easy loading at home, with the film in the 90° angle of view 60mm position and .28mm pinholes, I set out for this giant oak behind the Morgan House. As will become apparent, the strictures and demands of large format sometimes seem a bother but my enthusiasm was restored a bit when this was the first negative I edited.

A very convenient spot to change film is in the little enclosed courtyard/passageway behind the Beach Building. There is a nice stone table to lay everything out in relative privacy. People looking at their phones have walked right by me with my hands in the changing bag. Wondering about what to photograph next, I took notice of what I was actually looking at while rummaging inside the bag. I left the .28 pinholes and put the film at the 117° 38mm position. Also using the rising pinhole with the tripod on the table. The courtyard is not very large but looks like it at this angle of view.

Taking advantage of having everything ready, reloaded at 60mm again and went across Algoma Boulevard and found the saber toothed stone wall of the Trinity Lutheran Church in dappled light.

Changing back at the stone table, switched to 90mm and .34 pinholes for a scene passed earlier on my way to change film from the Morgan House - the Public Safety Building aka The Police. Did the architect intend it to look like a brutalist concrete fortress including the pointy equilateral triangle shape? I once went on a tour which included locking the group in a holding cell. The trees along the street soften it up a little.

Back to 60mm and .28mm pinholes in the darkroom. This pole on the way to the lake seemed to have a large responsibility holding up wires from every direction supported by two sets of guy wires.

Staying at the same angle of view, looking north at the posh sailboats anchored in Miller's Bay.

Taking advantage of a shady picnic table by the lake, I switched to the ultra-wide 38mm without a particular scene in mind. Found this large fluffy hydrangea in front of the sharp corners and straight lines of the neoclassical Yacht Club a few blocks away.

Then I destroyed two sheets. One, by forgetting to secure the shutter when putting the camera in my backpack to transport it to a place I could make the change. Then, flustered when noticing the shutter had accidentally opened, in addition to trying to change the film while sitting with the bag in my lap on a bench, I must have loaded a sheet backwards in the film holder after dropping the film in the bag. There must be something at home to photograph so I can just use the darkroom! 

Moving back to the "normal" angle at 120mm with the .45mm pinholes for a closeup of three of our tomatoes waiting under the Christmas cactus.

Staying at the narrow setting, a minimalist composition of the brass watering can.

Another normal closeup. A piece of clematis, that was the victim of a pruning accident early in the summer, just stuck in a bottle of water, with mixed results.

Just past half way through the box of film, it's getting a little easier. There are a few tricks, like what is the best arrangement in the changing bag. Small things, like which way the film box is oriented, make a big difference. It requires a yoga-like unwavering concentration on procedural rituals. I've found myself closing my eyes and saying the steps aloud as I do them.

The 4x5 Pinhole Lab Camera has slots for the film plane at 38, 60, 90, and 120mm (117° to 56°). With pinholes on the axis and 20mm above it in both orientations. The pinholes in separate mounts can be changed as appropriate. The forty year-old Plus-X was semistand developed in Rodinal, diluted 1:100.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Music and color on Main Street.

I have a bad habit of buying more at the Farmer's Market than we can possibly eat in a week, which I did last Saturday. What am I going to do on Saturday morning if don't need any vegetables? Walking around the market, there are lots of opportunities for pictures, but in locations that won't work in pinhole time with a fully extended tripod. Last week during my frenzy of vegetable acquisition, it seemed there was a larger and more varied collection of buskers. The crowd often gives them a little space, and like most performers, aren't fazed about a camera pointed at them. They also can't just stop what they're doing and walk off. It sounded like one of my favorite type of projects, a list of things to photograph so I don't just wander aimlessly with a camera. I filled my pockets with dollar bills and headed downtown.

The first busker was an older dude wailin' the blues. Kinda missed the composition on this picture but I may have been blinded by the shiny Gretsch Resonator. The guitar is amplified through a Fender Frontman over by the guitar case. The mic is coming through the miniature Fender, Marshall and Vox amps behind him.

A young violinist saving for college. She plans to go to Marian University in Fond du Lac. As I was arranging the tripod, a neatly dressed older fellow asked her what permissions she had to perform here. She was originally taken a little aback, took a breath and told him the rules as she understood them (there are none) and gave several examples of what bad practices might get you asked to move or leave. She'll do well in college. I never did hear if the guy was interested in doing his own act or just a self-appointed rule compliance authority.

Warning! I have to interrupt this program for a nerdy discussion of exposure. The places that are dark on an image haven't been exposed. Any thing light that's been in front of them will get exposed pretty fast, or behind them if the dark places move. Even though she moved quite a bit, she's clearly visible against the dark window of Raulf Place. Below the dark band of tile against the side walk, the medium grey concrete with it's dark joints appear quite clearly through her ghostly figure which is in two positions, separated by a shadow where they overlap. Then as you might expect, her white shorts and less moving legs and feet reappear quite clearly. The only thing I can think of is she has a dark blouse on that comes down to where her shorts appear and it's just a coincidence this merges with the bottom of her arm and the line of dark tiles which our brains just expect to continue. Neither the blouse or the tiles exposed anything. Since the rest of the blouse is almost not there, we interpret it as the line of tiles showing through from behind her.

The act at the main stage at Merrit and Main was just one guy with an acoustic guitar. He must have been rockin' because this couple spontaneously came out of the crowd and danced in the street in front of him.

Another older guy doing more classic rock and kind of heavy folk, also not afraid of a little amplfication.

Another college hopeful violinist, this time hoping to go to Purdue.

That was it for buskers at the Farmers' Market this week with half the roll of film unexposed but the Downtown Oshkosh Chalk Walk was also occurring around Opera Square on the next block. The milling crowd votes for favorites in Youth and Adult categories. This young artist was blending the chalk with her right hand extended toward the camera.

Even the grown-ups were right down on the sidewalk. Just out of the frame to the left, Jim Koepnick is on the ground framing a photo of her.

In the middle of this was a policewoman with a 6 week old furry chihuahua puppy in her arms. Before I could ask about a photograph, she handed the sleeping puppy to a woman sitting on the curb in the sunlight. When I asked her about taking a picture, she insisted on giving it to the little dog's owner, which required another hand-off and seating adjusted for the light. By this time the puppy woke up and looked around during the exposure.

If you're not good with the ground, easels are acceptable.

The Chalk Walk had their own musicians, a ukelele lady and her guitarist, also being recorded on video by two people with iPhones.

Handing out temporary tattoos and posing for photos with children was Miss Oshkosh, Taylor Swanson, who told me she loves to have her portrait done.

A two tiara day. At the other end of the table, Miss Oshkosh's Teen, Madelyn Rutkowski. Both of them were very gracious and practiced at posing for the camera for six seconds.

The Little Mutant has .27mm hand-drilled pinholes on the axis and 11mm above it, 45mm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is Arista.edu 400 semistand developed in Rodinal 1:100.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Plane Air Photography

For a second year in a row, with nothing but air between subject and film, I went to photograph the biggest air show in the world, The Experimental Aircraft Association's Airventure, held at Wittman Field on Oshkosh's south side. To aviators all over the world it's known simply as "Oshkosh." In town it's always "EAA." Nobody ever says Airventure aloud. Last year I was very pleased with the three rolls of film I exposed. 

Three 6x6cm cameras again. The extremely-wide Diversity 30mm because it's the only Compact 30 I have left, the moderately-wide 60mm front on the Variable Cuboid with its continuously rising pinhole in case I have to seem sophisticated, and 80mm Goldberry, normal for this format. Her golden livery attracted lots of attention from people who are predisposed to look at shiny metallic objects.

My big fear was just repeating the story from last year's blog. I walked about for an hour and a half just looking around. A few people sitting in lawn chairs in front of a Beechcraft Bonanza with a tent under the wing all pretty much look alike. As you might expect from people able to afford sport or general aviation, they're not the most eccentric looking lot.

Eventually it became clear I had to just quit worrying and make the attempt not to be too repetitive. Ironically, one of the first things I worried about being the same old thing and what eventually became my first photograph was the front landing gear on a 747 Dreamlifter giganto cargo plane. It's kind of cool to be able to walk right up to something like this and take close-ups. My graphic artist's heart was warmed by the graph of its performance actually mounted on the main piston. I wonder what that X refers to on the part at the right.

The giant fuselage is made to ship parts of other Boeing planes between factories. It's actually a resto-mod of an old passenger plane. Bricked up windows are always interesting historical evidence so let me point out those covered windows in the first class cabin.

The rear landing gear of the 747 were behind velvet ropes. Uniquely EAA to see backpacks and a chair leaned up against the tires. I asked the likely owner of one of the backpacks who was wearing a Boeing T-shirt if the landing gear were specially modified for this airplane. She replied that "No, most of the plane was pretty stock except for the volume and cargo loading."

The Dreamlifter's early ancestor, NASA's modified KC-97 Super Guppy taking a look to the left while open for loading. It was made to transport parts of the Apollo Launch Vehicle. On a nearby stage, an interviewer asked one of the engineers if it wouldn't be an exageration to say this airplane took America to the moon.

A C-17 Globemaster - an everyday workhorse for moving big stuff around. The back ramp was just open to walk into. It seemed like the semi was probably there just to make the airplane look big.

The front bulkhead of the cargo area, leaning the tripod against what might be a winch. At the lower right, a youngish-looking airman, ushering the line which went to the cockpit, turned out to be one of the pilots. I asked if he ever did those scary looking assault landings. He said they practice them all the time. With just the stick - no computer. In the mountains. At night. 

Delta again was the only airline who had a presence. An Airbus A350-900. 

A reflective Rolls-Royce Trent XWB on the Airbus. I asked the gent standing next to it if he was an employee of Delta, Airbus or EAA. He said all of them. He flies an Airbus A330. We marveled at the complexity and integration of the machine. "Yeah," he said, "Suck, Squeeze, Bang and Blow. It sounds simple." I mentioned often hearing of the computerized control of Airbus planes. He responded "But I'm always in charge."

Looking for an interesting story about camping at Oshkosh, I encountered this couple with the young woman's hat and glasses on the ground and her companion reclining in a hammock suspended under the wing of this cool vintage plane. As they were telling me to wait for the owner, he appeared from the other side with plates of eggs, bacon and toast for them and disappeared back to the grill on the other side. About when the camera was ready, he came back with a container of salt which he had neglected to put on the eggs and held it out to them for about half the six second exposure.

A seven cylinder Continental with spiral manifolds and a happy grin.

If you want a more slender fuselage, you can always just stick your cylinders through it.

In 1981, Sarah and I returned from Paris in economy middle seats on a packed 747 into O'Hare. We walked with our suitcases over to the little commuter terminal which was more like a bus station and bought tickets on the next flight back home to Galesburg. It was a Britt Airways hop to Rockford, Sterling/Rock Falls and Galesburg on a 12 passenger Beechcraft 99. The 99 is a bit more modern than this 18, but between jet-lag and the last scene in Casablanca, this is what I remember it looked like.

The front of the Beechcraft 18, which was the big seller for almost thirty years before being replaced by the turboprop 99.

Last year I featured a homebuilt Pietenpol Air Camper. This is the other side of its Model A Ford engine.

The newish looking but still analogue instruments in the white cockpit of a 2016 Peitenpol Aircamper homebuilt except with an Edwin Stafford GN-1 engine.  The cable attached to that device behind the wind screen ends in a USB-C plug.

The Archon SF1, a prop driven kit plane designed to look like a stealth fighter.

Nothing says vintage like leather straps and spoked wheels.

Many of the forums which occur continuously throughout the day focus on building airplanes. One of the hands-on tables at the gas welding workshop during the general lecture.

Building wing ribs in the woodworking workshop. The leader was bouncing from table to table. You can see his foot in the lower right corner.

The set-up before the Composites 101 workshop.

A NASA scientist playing a molecular game with a little girl.

A cutaway working model of a turboprop engine. The only thing that was bright enough to get a reasonable exposure among the milling crowd in the comprehensive exhibit "hangars." Two people speaking an eastern European language patiently stood by me during the two minute exposure gazing at the mesmerizing shiny spinning fans.

The Young Eagles Program raffled off this new old stock 2022 Mustang GT. While setting up the camera, a volunteer came and asked if I wanted to buy a ticket. I said we already had two Mustangs and this one was more powerful than we could handle. She just turned around and sat back down. A college-aged young man next to me thought the large engine cover hid too much. We had a conversation about the concept of engine beauty and he recommended the Lycoming and Continental displays nearby.

The Junkers A50 Junior, one of two models the classic German aircraft company still makes based on it's 1920's designs but with modern materials and engineering. The corrugated aluminum fuselage and wings have nothing to do with aerodyamics, it's just a way to stiffen a light weight skin and looks retro cool.

It's not unusual to see a little gardening around the landing gear in the commercial displays.

I ran out of steam by this time but not film. In retrospect, wondering why I didn't take certain pictures, it was usually because I would have to ask someone to wait for me to adjust camera and tripod and then they would just pose stiffly. It also had to do with exhaustion on a very warm day. It is the biggest airshow in the world. There are trolleys to move people around. During my only attempt to stand and wait in line for one, three went by without a vacant seat.

Last year I suffered blistered sunburns on my forehead which formed scabs and took a month to heal. Intent on preventing that, I considered buying all sorts of hats but everything looked a little silly to me. Other than in my character for Sarah's blog, I never wear hats except for a headband in winter. Finally on the morning of my excursion, we extracted this Metallica hat from the closet. Seemed appropriate. There was heavy metal blasting in the displays of some of the biggest manufacturers. It stayed on my head the entire time.

The theme for this month for the Fox Valley Photography Group is Reflections. My cool EAA persona doubled by the mirror on the lanai seemed to work for that.

I still had film in three cameras. Changed to the 35mm front on the Variable Cuboid and went to see if there was evidence of EAA in the city.

At the south end of Menomonee Park was this 1956 Buick. Not necessarily related to aviation, but it is big and shiny with that winged hood ornament.

Again in the reflected light of the monthly group theme, an attempt at self-portraiture, foiled by the rear ornament. Too bad about the blank rear trunk. It is, after all, the size of a Buick, but reflecting nothin' but air. The owner watched me do most of this from the bench at the top left. He was flattered I was interested in his car. He's had it since 1996. I told him about our Mustangs. We agreed it was different if you've had the car since it was new.

Nothing at all downtown to indicate anything was going on including the tourism bureau's office with it's wavy sign and reflective door.

One place it's inescapable is the University. Thousands of people stay in dormitories and eat breakfast and dinner there.

The main bus stop to the convention is next to one of the biggest dorms, which includes 50 un-air conditioned rooms at half the price of the others, which sell out. Check out all the broad brimmed hats.

Finally, fifteen blocks south of the river, a sign of welcome on Main Street.

Ardy and Ed's is an iconic spot in Oshkosh with roller skating car-hops 500 meters from the end of the runway. During the convention, they're very popular. This is two hours before opening. A plane can come 30 meters overhead every twenty seconds. I counted seven take-offs while setting up and making the exposure including an F-22.

Let's see how close I can get. Maybe right at the airport fence next to the new Basler Aviation Terminal. The private jets tend to congregate down there near where you can get a car (nobody camps under a private jet). There was a gate slightly opened in front of this Bombardier Global Express XRS with black digital camouflage livery and "Tempus Fuget" on the jet engine. A guy with an ID on a lanyard was standing in the open gate. I told him I wouldn't go any farther to take my picture. He said OK and walked off. Everybody had walked off. I took a few steps in. I finally made the exposure about four meters inside the fence.

The Diversity 30 has two hand-drilled .23mm pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above it, 30mm from the film. The Variable Cuboid 60mm front has a continuosly adjustable rising front with 15mm of travel with a .30mm hand-drilled pinhole. The 35mm front has a .23mm hand-drilled pinhole with the rising front. Those cameras were loaded with Kentmere 100. Goldberry has a .33mm pinhole 80mm from Kentmere 400. All are 6x6mm format. The film was semi-stand developed in Rodinal 1:100.