Friday, April 19, 2024


For a future project of another blogger, I recently made a bespoke 35mm Populist. Since next week I'll be celebrating a major holiday, in order to verify the little camera, an early nod to Halfoween. I loaded a roll about as long as my forearm from my bulk roll of undead Tri-X.

A moderate defense in certain situations unless your mother doesn't understand and cleans it up.

Dried roses are almost immortal.

Night Flight.

Medieval protection from evil.


That's the way I like it, baby.

Inspiration from Stoker and Gorey.

Batty box and page edges.

The camera has a .18mm hand-drilled pinhole 24mm from a 24x36mm frame. The ageless Tri-X was semistand developed in some pretty long-in-the-tooth Rodinal 1:100.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Partial solar eclipse

Other than watching it occur, I had no plans for the partial solar eclipse. Two things occurred that changed that.

In order to try out a roll of Rollei RPX25 superslow film, I had been refurbishing the Variable Cuboid and it's fronts the week before the eclipse occurred, reinforcing everything with a few layers of Mod Podge. About Friday, working on the 200mm front, I remembered how the 2017 eclipse was kind of an inspiration to play with narrow angles of view, known in the lensed community as telephoto, almost unheard of among pinholers. I had already loaded the RPX25, but I had a second back for the Variable Cuboid. On that one I had not upgraded the light trap to overlap the sides of the front. I did add a little more cardboard to the barrier the front presses against, but didn't make it overlap. How could any light get down that joint? 

I loaded it with Lomography 400 because color film tends to record detail in overexposed areas that can be revealed if you really burn in to them, whereas black and white film has a tendency to block up highlights. The weather forecast had been improving for Wisconsin for the orbital event. I planned and wrote down a list of exposures I wanted to make and the changes of the front of the Variable Cuboid so I could do it within a few minutes of maximum eclipse.

The 200mm front had a .50mm pinhole, smaller than the .596mm the equations predict for minimal diffraction. Recently some .60mm Gilder Electron Microscope apertures had turned up in my stash, so I upgraded to the perfectly round, smooth, thin, mathematically correct hole for the special occasion.

The second influence was that Monday dawned with a completely clear sky and the best weather forecast so far. On the spur of the moment, I put out the 4x5 Pinhole Lab Camera with the film plane at the 90° angle of view, 60mm slot with a .45mm pinhole on a sheet of Ilford Multigrade Paper, for a one day solargraph to see if the eclipse left a trace.

The camera was out from 7am until after dark that evening. The solar track is probably from about 11am until about 5pm. 

The raw scan
Since it was partly cloudy from late morning on, I expected to see random variations in the track which wouldn't be visibly different from the eclipse. Except for what must have been a few thick clouds about 12:30 and one brief pass just after maximum eclipse, the clouds, which looked fluffy and white across the sky, were thin enough the emulsion didn't distinguish whether they were in front of the sun or not. The clouds never dimmed it enough that you could look directly at the sun and see a shape. I did have a solar filter to look through, and couldn't tell whether or not a cloud was in front of the sun through that.

The eclipse is clearly visible in the curve where the track gets thinner from the bottom recording the remaining crescent at the top.

The day before the eclipse XKCD did a cartoon lowering the expectations of those who won't experience totality. The pinhole, camera and film must have seen that and tried to make a more psychedelic experience to what was a pretty deep 89% partial eclipse.

One of my objectives was to see if I could resolve the crescent of the sun. The sun is half a degree wide and the 200mm front is 17 degrees. On a 60mm wide piece of film, that crescent ought to be about a millimeter and half, big enough to see at full resolution, about 100 pixels in my normal scans. I kind of confirmed this visually with a pinhole and card during the event. 

I didn't just want to get the bare crescent in a completely dark field. I had planned the night before roughly where I could place the camera during mid-eclipse and get some foreground objects in the scene. I couldn't look at the sun and tell whether it was behind a cloud, but the shadows could tell if the sun was shining on the pinhole and used them, a protractor app and a compass app to make sure I was pointing in the right place. Exposure reading of a sunlit scene (without the sun in it) was about 6 seconds. This is at f330. Flipping a card away from the pinhole and back for probably about two seconds.

Quickly back to the arbor where I knew I would get rose vines in and maybe succeeded in a bit shorter exposure.

These were scanned at almost maximum darkness. At full resolution in Photoshop with the brightness as low as it gets, there is no indication of the crescent shape of the sun. Total over exposure. Not the kind of totality one hopes for, but nifty flare though!

I changed to the 35mm front. Confident that the tripod mount would tightly clamp the front and back together, I did not put rubber bands around the camera. What looks to me like a darn tight joint apparently leaked some and the left sides of the next four images are fogged. What I think happened is that as I twisted and pulled the camera to point it on the handleless tripod head, it flexed enough on one side to allow some light past. Here they are presented severely cropped and edited as best I could.

When the sun is eclipsed 80 percent or so it has changed from a half degree circular source to a 20 x 10 arcminute crescent. That gives shadows less penumbra where the light is partially blocked and results in slightly sharper edges. Along with a several stop reduction in brightness it makes for a strange and memorable quality to the light (OK, I know, nothing like totality). I was hoping to capture that, but edited to compensate for the light leak and some overexposure, this is probably more of simulation than a recording, but it's sort of what it looked like.

Out in the middle of Central Street during mid-eclipse. 

With the camera wrestled in place among the hydrangea and rose bushes, the shadows on the side of the garage show significant effect of the light leak. I had been looking for natural apertures projecting the crescent. The dried hydrangea blossoms were doing that but the wind was too frisky to catch any of it with a pinhole (see below). 

I changed to the 60mm front. I had arranged some stationary objects that would project the crescent sun. The macrame grid on the chair provided a variety of shapes.

In the past, I had seen one or two people use objects full of holes to make crescent patterns in eclipses. In 2017 they really caught on and there were hundreds on social media in recent occurrences. We often speak of the size of a pinhole, the distance to the image plane and optimal diffraction. With these colanders sitting right on the ground the images were simple circles, but moved out to a meter or so away they sharpened into accurate depictions of the sun.

The rest of the film I put to use checking out the performance of that Gilder aperture on the 200mm.  At the corner of Church and Main, I spent quite a while moving the camera to different positions and compositions. It looks like I flexed it enough for the sun to again breech the camera's defenses.

The camera decided to behave from there on. The left lion on the Library steps.

An architectural jumble behind Main Street.

Other than just getting closer, compression of space is the optical effect most associated with narrow angles of view. It makes Ames Point and Calumet County look a little closer to this side of Miller's Bay than it usually looks in my photos.

This is going to require some investigation, but it seems to me the calculated better hole isn't giving me as good an image as my too small hand-drilled pinhole.

Postscript: Pinhole phenomena recorded with a lens.

Because direct observation of an eclipse will destroy your vision without proper filtration, which is not always available, it is common to advise using a pinhole to project the image of the crescent sun. This is the only experience many people get of this simple physical principle.

I took some pictures with my iPhone of some of that experience.

The most common source of naturally occurring small apertures are the small gaps between overlapping leaves. Not much of that available in early April in Wisconsin.

The dried hydrangea blossoms in the garage picture had the little curvature in the shadows.

I was surprised to see the pine trees projecting crescents.

Using hand made optics.

My colander arrangement a half hour before mid eclipse.

Twenty minutes after peak occultation with the moon on the other side.

Since both eclipses and pinhole are phenomena based on light traveling in straight lines (except right near the mass of the sun), it's instructive to remember the scale of the sizes of the two objects and their distance. Pretty neat trick to drop that shadow right on the earth.

Thursday, April 4, 2024


Continuing the testing of the Populist templates with the new image chamber box, this time at 45mm.

Sarah and I have recently become enamoured with the serving convenience, portion control, no-messy-cleanup and creamy deliciousness of ice cream bars. In the rotation are some from our friends from Orlando in the iconic form of mouse ears.

The design on the package is asymetrical. I've rejected it several times while choosing material to make a camera. Finally, I decided to put the mouse on the taking shutter, the ice cream bar on the counter and then just fit the rest where it happened to go. Several of the boxes were available so I could use Mickey on the side viewfinders and feature the name on the top viewfinder and WinderMinder.

This is definitely the modern mouse that is still protected by copyright and trademark. No copying going on here, but Disney has occasionally bristled at fan art. Andy accused me of "going for that prized cease and desist letter."

Regular viewers will have noticed we have great affection for Minnie and Mickey.

Minnie, Mickey and the Sorcerer's Apprentice visit the alabaster Buddha.

Love to eat them mousies  

Mousies what I love to eat 

Bite they little heads off

Nibble on they tiny feet

- B. Kliban  

Enough of this Mickey Mouse photography.

A bird's nest from last season under a spring snowfall. (n.b. It's been snowing a lot since the Vernal equinox.)

I arrived in Kaukauna early for the Fox Valley Photography Group meeting. Instead of the front door, I entered the library through the lower level staircase. This is the emergency only landing on the second floor.

A 12 foot skeleton anticipating summer with a pail and a beach ball.

I photographed this wall a few years ago, but from the other side of the massive tree which is casting the shadow, whose trunk obscured most of this equipment.

This camera has no rising front but you can get a two story scene with a level camera if one of the stories is below ground.

A big digger on an oddly idle street construction site on Friday morning.

This season's inhabitants on the quilt rack up stairs.

Showing off the latitude of the film with the black ribbons and another kind of mouse in Sarah's studio.

To help me during the lousy weather, two pomes, a berry and a hesperidium working together against gravity to make a fruitful composition for my last frame.

The Mousekermat has a hand-drilled .30mm pinhole 45mm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is Kentmere 400 semistand developed in Rodinal 1:100.

This is one of the cameras you can use if you come to Photo Opp in Appleton on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

More development night and the self-portrait theme.

When I went up to Photo Opp's Development Night, I took a second camera, the f130 Silver Dragon, loaded with Lomography 800, just in case opportunities arose. 
Billy Hintz operating the digitization station using a 3x5 foot light table to illuminate 35mm negatives.

Mark Ferrell, one of the trio of Photo Opp founders, master analog printer for major artists, agencies and magazines. During the summer of 1971 we worked within a block of each other in mid-town Manhattan. We had been conversing for quite a while when the beam from the western circular window moved to the corner where we were sitting. Since everyone's a photographer at these gatherings, they're usually cooperative when interesting lighting happens to fall upon them. 

In light of (ha ha) the Fox Valley Photography Group's self-portraiture theme this month, I took advantage of the spotlight for a sort of negative/positive portrait.

A little Abstract Renovationism.

Shortly after I opened the shutter, pointed at a few developers behind the battery of soux-vide cookers tempering the C-41 kits, they all walked off to wash their film. Trying to make the best of it, I went around the table in front of the darkroom tent for another selfie.

This still life just appeared next to me in the kitchen,

Time to get serious about the assignment. Since the weather had been so warm, it seemed a good time to retrieve the cast iron parts of the garden bench that has been eaten by rose vines for the last several years and restore it. Once I got all the materials together the weather changed and I had to rush before it got too cold to apply the finish. It was just about freezing with a sporty breeze when I did the final assembly. By the way, this was about as short an exposure as I can manage flipping a card away from the pinhole and back.

Another magical fantasy novel.

A reunion of pinhole cameras in their birthplace. I suppose if the media were covering the Pinhole Day workshop at Photo Opp, this might be the kind of thing they'd use. If you'd like to take pictures with one of them, come to Appleton on April 28.

Posing formally in the corner grilling ham and cheese sandwiches with a giant costoluto genovese tomato and the Henckels six inch chef's knife.

I do use other knives but this is my main instrument. 

I've used it before to illustrate one of my favorite passages from The Pencil of Nature:

"We have sufficient authority in the Dutch school of art, for taking as subjects of representation scenes of daily and familiar occurrence. A painter's eye will often be arrested where ordinary people see nothing remarkable. A casual gleam of sunshine, or a shadow thrown across his path, a time withered oak, or a moss covered stone may awaken a train of thoughts and feelings, and picturesque imaginings."

Not really the cropping I had previsualized, but it's probably the most interesting portrait of the lot.

The Silver Dragon has hand drilled .23mm pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above it, 30mm from a 6x6cm frame. The Lomography 800 was developed in Cinestill's Liquid Quart C-41Kit.