Monday, December 11, 2023

Photo class

I attended Michael Cooney's Art of Photography adult education class at the Fox Valley Technical College Oshkosh campus. My assignment was to model with one of my cameras for a lesson on portraiture. I wasn't needed until later but the plan called for a lesson on lighting for portraits and Michael said I could come early and listen in. 

This may look like class starts with the students kneeling before Michael and his acolytes, but it was actually a scene directed by Grace Lim for her Humans of Oshkosh project. The idea was for the class to be acting like paparazzi snapping Michael and his associates who have been helping him out. Kinda reminded me of a modern reinterpetation of the The Transfiguration

Grace mentioned that her student who interviewed me earlier in the fall still needed to give her a definition of pinhole photography. When he had followed up after the interview with this question, this is how I replied.

A beam of light which falls through a very small hole in an opaque barrier will illuminate a spot on a plane held behind it, or not, depending on the brightness of what is visible through the hole from that point. Pinhole Photography is the simultaneous recording of the value and color of all the possible overlapping points on the plane on which the beams of light fall.

Two sentences is probably too much for popular journalism. I reject refractionist definitions such as pinhole is photography without a lens. It's more fun to understand what's going on.

The class's lesson consisted of three young professional models posing in a variety of lighting situations. First were natural light situations near the large windows in the common room. As Michael was speaking to the class with another model, this one was sitting waiting to pose. I took the opportunity. I'm not sure she was aware of what I was doing.

Another one of the models waiting for the students to get to her. When she had taken a photography course, her instructor had briefly mentioned pinhole.

There were lots of tempting situations where one of the models held still for some time while the students surrounded her with their lenses. Exposures were only about thirty seconds. When I finally yielded to temptation, just about the time I opened the shutter, the students came up and started showing her the pictures they had just taken.

You can always depend on a building to hold still for a pinhole length exposure. Lots of light, lines, angles and rectangles to make a composition with. Michael inquired what I was taking a picture of.

A unique feature of Michael's classes is the attendance by his associates from the Oshkosh Photography Lunch Group, who interact with the students. Monochrome Monty Montgomery alternated between jumping up to catch an opportunity with the models and resting from the early morning activity.

Monty and Kathy Bechard try modeling.

When Michael first asked me to come for a portrait with one of my cameras, I thought he meant he wanted to take it with one of my cameras. After about four exchanges on Facebook Messenger about what doing that might involve and what camera and film to use, I realized he wanted the students to take pictures of me and the camera. I was the "black backdrop" lighting example. They all wanted me to put my hands on the camera. I even did a little mugging for them. One of them said they liked my eyebrows. In the two pictures I've seen (not by the students by the way), they concentrated on my face and my camera was out of focus. Ya gotta learn to stop that lens down.

There were lots of things during the studio session I would have liked to photograph. Exposures on the white backdrop with a few more lights were only about fifteen seconds with the Lomography 800 but I would have had to disrupt everything they were doing even for that. Not worth risking film trying to catch motionless moments and ending up with a mist of figures in front of the backdrop.

We made a major change in the living room wall I've photographed so often with a large new mirror above the mantle, replacing the grid of photos that have been there for 15 years and were starting to fade.

The Oshkosh Photography Lunch Group met the next Friday. I brought the camera. A group photo would have been appropriate to this post's theme, but it either would have been stiffly posed around lunch or I would have had to direct seven people, who are used to being the director, for at least ten minutes in order to get the portrait I really wanted.

Instead, inspired by architectural pro Phil Weston's show and tell about a recent assignment, I went across the road for all the reflecting windows in the new monochrome apartment block. They've built a berm between the building and busy Jackson Street. From the top you can get a higher view to make it easier to keep your verticals parallel with a wide angle camera that close to the building.

Ground floor entrances on the sunlit side. The unusual use of horizontal wooden slats to meet the code for exterior stair railings also casts some interesting shadows. 

All with the Little Mutant. .27mm pinholes on the axis and 13mm above it, 45mm from a 6x6cm frame. The Lomo 800 was the second roll developed in this liquid C-41 kit.

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