Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Color under pressure

I haven't been using a lot of color film lately because I've gotten impatient with the wait to get color negatives back from the lab. Eight days minimum and can be almost a fortnight if you don't get synced with the once-a-week lab deliveries. During the prime of one-hour processing, I hardly ever used black and white because I was paranoid about developer oxidizing before I used it up, or horribly, using it and getting blank negatives. One-shot caffenol and immortal Rodinal solved that.

I finally lost patience waiting for commercial processing and bought a C-41 kit which involved a few distressing mistakes, but is pretty easy, although it involves record keeping and adjustments with use and age. If I'm not going to worry about it going bad, the kit will have to be used relatively quickly. It turns out there's a bit of a stash of 120 color film in the freezer. 

Kodak Gold 200 went into The Diversity 30. The idea of going out and looking for something specifically for color film strikes me as kind of vague, so the plan was just to see what appeared before me and find out what a color pinhole photograph of that looked like.

The corner of the lanai in the sunshine appeared before me as I loaded the film. Zoom in to see the shadow of the wicker on the carpet under the chair.

On my usual route over to the lake, some shadows and utilities on the side of one of Noffke Lumber's buildings. 

More picnic tables in the sun. My depression-era mother thought restaurants were an unjustifiable expense and going out, even when long-distance traveling, usually meant we would eat meals she brought along at public picnic tables. I remember the view during a sunrise breakfast outside a rural mid-century modern motel overlooking a river valley in the Ozarks, but it was mostly local parks, beaches and road side rest areas.

A return to the art alley, my regular subject behind the south end of the west side of the 400 block of Main Street. The stage behind the Jambalaya Collective.

I never really noticed these subtle grey-greens before.

The same color shows up on the Democratic Party Headquarters at the other end of the block on the east side of Main.

A tree in a strong breeze at the corner of the city garages behind the Beach Building.

On the way to getting frozen custard from Leon's Drive-In, there were these ladders and their shadows up to the roof of the Glad Tidings Tabernacle. Under the influence of William H.F. Talbot again, I had to get the camera and go back.

I also went back to Leon's.

After the first day of classes, I went over to photograph the new Vel Phillips Middle School. This is the main entrance on Kentucky Street. Eight hundred teenagers are much quieter than the construction was for the last two years.

About 40 minutes later when the sun had barely swung around to the north side, the courtyard entrance on Nevada Avenue.

A Dragon Dance was to take place at the Farmer's Market. How colorful can you get? I took advantage of the dragon parked by the curb before the event.

I felt I had to develop two rolls at once so the chemistry didn't have to be heated twice. In anticipation of the Dragon Dance, a roll of Portra 800 I've had in the freezer since before the pandemic went into the Little Mutant in hopes of capturing the action.

The dance began on Merrit Avenue. 

After turning around in Opera Square, coming back north on the 400 block of Main Street.

Since the high speed Portra was in the camera, I felt I couldn't just go out and take pictures that didn't take advantage of the high ISO and the camera sat there for two weeks. So much for getting negatives promptly.

Journalism professor Grace Lim asked Farmer's Market Board Chair, Michael Cooney for some fodder for the first interview experience for her "Humans of Oshkosh" class/spectacular-production. He volunteered the Oshkosh Photography Lunch Group. I was interviewed by Matthew, who agreed to sit for a portrait. While the exposure was happening I thought of all sorts of things I should have clarified and nervously tried to do that instead of advancing the film. Back on the street, Grace was busily doing documentation of the class' experience which eventually will become part of a public event at the end of the semester. By totally random occurrence, she seems to be ghostly merging with her student's brain. The G on her forehead is also a coincidence. The class decided their theme this year would be "Score! Our Town, Our Music." I shoulda brought the Telecaster.

The Dragon Races foretold by the Dance occurred simultaneously on the Fox. My former colleague AnnMarie Johnson is Race Director. Between heats she agreed to sit for a portrait. As I lined up the camera, Brian Ledwell appeared behind her, our companion for a decade in the former AV darkrooms beneath Polk Library, .

She let me behind the ropes for a closeup of one of the boats. While I was concentrating on my photograph I hadn't noticed one of the heats lining up to my left. About the time I closed the shutter, they started. If I had waited 10 seconds the boats would have been streaking by.

On the lawn inside Leach Amphitheater each team with colored t-shirt uniforms had a designated area. Here Team Survivor Madison rests between heats. 

Some teams doing stretching exercises before the competition. Most of the competitors were women in a range of ages. From the team names there seemed to be an association with health-care, but there's no mention of it on the web site.

One of the things I intended to do with the fast film were some interiors. I had been waiting for late afternoon sunbeams to photograph the comfy seating area of the Democratic Party Headquarters. A sign outside says that anyone is welcome to come in and get a cup of coffee. The pinhole camera didn't surprise them too much. They tried to get me to volunteer.

I thought Winnebago Bicycle might like a memento of the great drag race on Main Street. I stopped by Camera Casino to get some while-you-wait prints but couldn't figure out how to download them from my blog to the phone. Andy Ratchman graciously did that on the store computer.

They liked the pictures so I took advantage and photographed the interior of the bike shop. A couple carefully stepped around the tripod and stood in the frame for half the exposure. With their black hair and clothes and constant movement, I'm not surprised they disappeared, but maybe thought they'd darken the display behind them more.

Very early the next morning, a foreshadowing of the season ahead.

The C-41 kit is still fine. The negatives didn't seem different than from the lab. The Kodak Gold 200 was really curly and a couple negatives had to be scanned backward and then flipped to avoid Newton Rings where it touched the glass. This very rarely happens to me.

The Diversity 30 has .22mm and .23mm hand-drilled pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above it,  30mm from a 6x6cm frame. The Little Mutant has .27mm pinholes, one on the axis, and one 10cm above the axis, 45mm from a 6x6cm frame. The Kodak Gold 200 and the Portra 800 were developed together in Arista.edu's liquid quart kit.

I'd better get busy with more color film.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Crackerhole Photography: Rediscovering a Historic Technique

Last year I made a camera out of a cracker box for Andrew Bartram after he got emotional several times on the Lensless Podcast about Paolo Gioli and followers taking pictures with the holes in crackers. I even tried to opacify a soda cracker and made a separate mount for one of it's holes in case he wanted to recreate crackerhole photography. I never tried it and Andrew accidentally crushed it while unboxing. It had been in customs in East Anglia for a couple weeks so probably wasn't still too fresh.

Still inspired by that and by YouTube Chateau and Convent restorer Billy Petherick's tag line "Crack on," this spring I made The Crackon out of a box of Wheat Thins. I speculated at that time about the superiority for imaging of Wheat Thins and their holes versus soda crackers. Sturdier too. But I never did anything about it.

Our house was built in 1928. It's fairly original and is in pretty good shape but it had several festering problems that needed addressing by a competent carpenter. When the project began, realizing we were about to seriously crack on, fate deemed it should be documented with a Wheat Thin cracker hole in The Crackon.

I surveyed quite a few holes and discovered what to the naked eye looks round is usually an odd shape with very rough edges. This one, that although not very circular, was fairly smooth and came to almost a thin edge at the circumference of the hole. It measured .2mm by .3mm, close enough to the optimal .27mm for the 45mm distance to the film.

I wanted to use as original a cracker hole as possible. Wheat thins are darker than most crackers, but I thought some extra light proofing with a Sharpie was acceptable. Looking at it with the light on my phone behind it, my normal test of opacity, it's nowhere near opaque. It would only be exposed when the shutter was opened. I thought the differential exposure between the cracker and the hole would be sufficient and it wouldn't matter.

The negatives came out very dense.  Held against a light table you could just barely see there was any variation in density. I now realize that although the clear pinhole passed much more light than an equivalent area of cracker, there's a lot more cracker passing that light, fogging the entire frame.

Here's a scan of a whole negative, the best one of the lot, done with brightness almost bottomed out and some futzing with contrast. They are also very vignetted. At 45mm on a 6x6cm negative, normal exposure-gradient vignetting isn't that big a deal. Despite the crispy edge of the hole, the rest of the cracker is thick enough to get in the way. The vignetting is roughly the shape of the hole.

The hole's imaging itself is not bad. Like all sub-optimal pinholes it has a unique character and with the massive overexposure puffing up the grain, you might even call it a style. So here, severely cropped and restored from the brink with the best I could do with Photoshop's Levels, Burn/Dodge and Brightness/Contrast tools, a tale of cracking on with the restoration of Chateau Hanson/Dvoracek.

It's a little difficult to get contractors to work on what they consider small jobs. I sent out numerous emails but only got responses from two. One was a recognized restoration contractor, and the other an individual who bid about a fourth of the respected authority. After talking to the young entrepreneur, we thought he had a good enough understanding of the project, and maybe a little more willing to listen to what we wanted.

It began with restoration of the floor of the porch. Demolition always comes first.

This was complicated because the worst rotting was under the fluted columns, which hold up the Federalist style pediment. Turns out fluted columns like this just aren't available to be replaced. Happily, it was just the easily reproducible base that was rotten.

While they were accessible, the insides of the little brick side walls needed to be tuck pointed, the first time I've ever done that. The rest is completed now so I have to get the front done.

The sidewalk and a concrete step in front of the porch needed to be leveled which meant the stairs on top of it needed to be removed. You can replace a lot on a house, but if it fits in the category "structure," it triggers a building permit. The city will have to inspect the finished job and where an older house may have features that won't meet the current code, those will have to be corrected to pass the inspection. Stair stringers are structural. The three stringers I had made in about 1988 without knowing I needed a permit were perfectly fine, but they had to be removed to level the concrete, replaced by four new ones, slightly longer to meet the code for tread depth.

The project also included painting the entire house. From inside, noise-cancelling headphones do a pretty good job of eliminating the sound of scraping off loose paint.

In addition to the scaffolding, many ladders were involved.

In what's still turning out to be the biggest surprise, I removed the railings to sand off some rust and repaint them before the contractor arrived. When we went to check that they would still fit with the slightly longer stairs (they do), we learned that they also didn't come close to meeting code. For something that's part of almost every house in the country, they're frustratingly difficult to buy, particularly for a 5 step stairway - 6 since it has to go up the porch so there's no gap between it and the column. Currently, the existing railings are going to be modified by welding the required ballusters on, but that's about the fourth time we thought we had this solved in the last few days.

The side rails on the porch weren't as bad but I removed and painted them as well. They meet code just fine, but the repairs to the bases of the columns moved them just a hair, and the metal mounting plates on the columns need to be moved now. If you're doing a home restoration project and think you have to be helpful, just let the contractor take things apart.

There was scaffolding on the driveway right outside our bedroom window for a week, so the newer Mustang got to live near the street.

The most interesting part was replacing the crumbling concrete slabs that capped the low brick walls. Getting a concrete slab made to a custom size is almost impossible. The contractors that I spoke to about it told me they wouldn't do it with concrete. It had to be limestone and admitted it would be cheaper just to deal with the stone vendor ourselves. Sarah and I took a rented pickup to DePere to get them, learned a bit about Newton's laws when they shifted a little in the truck as we went for lunch at a restaurant we had enjoyed before but required a very curvy ride across the city. They look very classy with the restored porch and the freshly painted house.

The Crackon has a 6x6cm frame 45mm from the front of the camera. The film behind the cracker was Kentmere 100 semistand developed in Rodinal 1:100

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Random Acts of Color including Development.

The last exposure of my latest roll of color film was early in the morning after the previous evening's deadline for dropping off film at Camera Casino. These negatives, plus the negatives from another roll that included the first half of my adventure at the Brennand Airport Fly-in, wouldn't come back for over two weeks.

There was plenty of time to stew about this before my next opportunity to send the film off. I did a search for C-41 kits but either they wouldn't ship it at all; the shipping would take almost as long as waiting for the lab; or would cost twice as much as the kit to get it here earlier. Just a few minutes later, there was an ad on Facebook by Adorama for the Arista.edu liquid quart kit, with free two-day shipping. How did they know that's just what I needed?

C-41 color developing isn't really hard. Thanks to my culinarily sophisticated son, I have a soux vide heater to temper the chemistry, but that's where the trouble started.

My only option to develop 35mm film is my antique bakelite Yankee tank that I've used for almost all the film seen on this blog (It's adjustable up to 120). That meant I would have to do each roll one after the other. After worrying how to go about that and maximize the capacity of the kit, I decided just to pour it back in the quart and increase the time 8 percent for each pour as recommended, even if it was just one roll of film. That seemed to work fine.

After bathing the chemistry for several hours and determining that the heater had to be set at 104°F to have the chemicals at 102°F, I unplugged the heater with its LEDs so I could load the film in my tiny darkroom. There was a little trouble getting the first roll started because of a ragged torn-off edge, but it loaded easily for about half the roll, then progessively started binding up to the point I could hear crackling. It felt just like the film was getting wet and sticky. Maybe it was that ragged leading edge?  After several minutes, I put the film in the tank, forgetting that there was a big hole in the top without the reel/agitator inserted, and turned on the lights to get a scissors to trim that end and dry the reel. Luckily I put the tank in the shadow of the water bath tub. Tried again and it felt the same, crinkling and all. Finally got it so the end was wrapped around the outside.

I was meticulous about trimming the end of the film and drying the spiral slot with the edge of a folded paper towel for the second roll, but had the same experience.

My mistake was probably trying to do this in a five by six foot room that's had a soux vide cooker heating water to 104°F in it for three hours. The film most likely absorbed enough water from the air to get sticky against the hard bakelite while I sweated in the humidity. For my 74th birthday, Sarah has wonderfully gotten me two Paterson adjustable reels out of a more bespoke plastic so I can avoid this in the future - and maybe load the film before heating the chemicals.

Miraculously, I still got a little over half the exposures from both rolls but you might notice a few streaks, flares and tightly cropped images in that Brennand Airport piece.

The Populist was full of film to cover the tenth anniversary celebration of the opening of Winnebago Bicycles. They got the city to leave the 400 and 500 blocks of Main Street closed after the Farmers' Market for drag races. Drag racing on Main Street!! How can you resist that? Without any training or practicing a single time, I entered the competition. Sean Lynch, current owner, and the rehabilitator of my 1975 Takara Standard, addressed the entrants in front of the store. It had been a beautiful day, but all eyes were on the sky behind him.

The storm kept approaching and the leading winds blew down Main Street as we gathered at the starting line. In the second heat of the first round, I was matched with the young man at the left with the little green bicycle modified especially for drag racing. What's a little equipment and a half-century age differential? I got off pretty well and had shifted a couple times when I encountered severe wind shear at the intersection of Church and Merrit Streets that forced me to downshift again, but helped me understand when it happened again a week later at Brennand Airport. The last heat of the quarter-finals occurred in a furious downpour. My opponent went on to make it to the semi-finals, which they called off because of the slippery wet pavement and drew lots to determine who won the grand prize.

My gear selection for EAA.

For the first hour I just wandered around trying to scout out what to do with the medium format film and did a few with The Populist. The only survivor was of the Boeing Dreamlifter from the veranda of the Boeing Pavilion at the end of Boeing Plaza.You gotta give it to Delta for putting an Airbus on display there.

Lunch outside at Fratello's by the Appleton Dam.

A little Halloween snooping while getting camera-making supplies from Michaels.

The color film reproduces the ever popular glow-in-the-dark green rather well.

Eyeballs are suddenly very popular everywhere.

I photographed all the vegetables from the Farmers' Market to get the film used after the fly-in, but only the potatoes made it.

Andy and Kristin visited and we went to Beckett's next to the Fox on a sunny but windy day.

Coconut Shrimp.

We visited the Rodin exhibit at the Paine Art Center. With my new desktop tripod, the camera can be sort-of-steadily hooked at certain angles over the information lecturns at the door to each room. A small study for The Burghers of Calais is on the table in the library.

The breakfast room.

In the formal garden.

Plenty of time to get an exposure of a music major in the shade in a children's garden with a xylophone.

Returned to Fratello's and their new dinner menu at sunset.

Finishing the roll at breakfast before their flight, just too late for the Camera Casino deadline.

Except for the high temperature and adjustments for developer capacity, C-41 is hardly different than black and white. There wasn't much difference from lab processing (except for the damage), but almost every negative needs adjustment to levels and color balance anyway. Now I have to shoot at least seven rolls of 120 before the kit goes bad. After several paragraphs about capacity and adjustments, the data sheet notes that with digital scanning and post-processing color, you can probably develop lots more film and get longer storage out of it, but it's your decision.

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.