Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Pinhole Day at Photo Opp

I celebrated Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day leading a group at Photo Opp in Appleton. I've participated in all 24. I wonder how many others have submitted a picture every year?

All week long, there was an almost 100% prediction of rain on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day for the second year in a row. They were right, but only about the first hour was really steady rain. Last year everybody stuck right around the venue, but this year they took off around Appleton. 

I chose the Variable Cuboid, starting with the 45mm front.

My contribution to the decor of Photo Opp and some merch on a shelf next to the front door.

To get in the spirit of the day and play with something I normally don't, I changed to the 114 degree wide 20mm front. John climbed up the scaffolding with a tripod. 

It's traditional to try to depict the conditions in your corner of the world on Pinhole Day. The trusty 99 Mustang (older than Pinhole Day) dappled with raindrops on a wet street with Photo Opp in the background.


I'm the guy who's always complaining about converging verticals with wide angle cameras, but thought this time I'd just lean into it. For me, pareidolia changes the picture entirely.

A stately home on the corner with tulip beds, leaning away from the camera.

After my sermonette on honoring every frame and approaching it as though you had to exhibit all twelve photographs, and in order to counter possible misperception by the participants of any pinhole-god-like qualities I might have, I must fess up to why there are only ten pictures from this roll.

I blew a frame not opening the shutter far enough with the tripod up on its tippy-toes, and got another blank frame in what must be an incomprehensible act of vengeance by the spirits of analog photography. But the pinhole Dude abides.

I grew up in South Bend, Indiana. My dad was working at the Studebaker plant when I was born. I walked to school on the road they used to deliver convoys of cars and trucks to storage facilities out of town. No surprise this truck down the block caught my eye. They also had a 1960's Lark but that was the photo that mysteriously vanished

Switched to the 35mm front.

Too bad Jacobs Meat Market and Deli is closed on Sunday. I could have used a sandwich.

A recently graduated and a currently enrolled Art student from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay came with their prints professor, who also participated last year. They had the sense to go out to lunch and take pictures of their waffles.

The bookcases full of cameras that have been donated to Photo Opp are on a not very well lit wall. The exposure was deliberately really long, at least 45 minutes. Several participants expressed surprise that it wasn't going to be horribly overexposed. That's not really a concept with a scene full of black objects on dark furniture.

A Digital Postscript.

Maybe I can make up for the short set if I show you two shots I did earlier in the day with Sarah's Nikon D750 and a hand-drilled .2mm pinhole on a bodycap.

A hand-held 10 second picture of Sarah's bed-side table as we reviewed the manual controls.

My insurance shot of the magnolia just in case, although I also still have a half dozen exposures from a 35mm Populist in addition to this medium format roll.

You'll have to check the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day gallery to see what I submit, as well as the other participants.

The 35mm front has a .25mm pinhole. The 45mm front has a .27mm pinhole.  Both are hand drilled and mounted on a moveable front with 14mm of rise. The 20mm front has a .20mm Gilder Electron Microscope aperture. The Kentmere 400 was semistand developed in Rodinal 1:100

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

De Pereage

Photo Opp organized another photowalk, this time in De Pere hosted by newARTSpace. Last fall, Sarah and I drove through De Pere with 1200 pounds of limestone in the back of a rented pickup truck but otherwise the only other times I was here was for the State Catholic School Track Meets in 1966 and 67 (I got third in the high jump both years).

I took two Variable Cuboid backs. One loaded with super-slow, super-fine-grained Rollei RPX25, starting out with the 45mm front, and the other with Kentmere 400, fit with the 60mm.

I arrived early and spotted the sun shining on the side of the Union Hotel and decided to try for that before everyone else arrived. As soon as it was set up a very lovely cloud covered the sun. I waited about five minutes, then gave up and went inside. It was my first photograph as we all set out. Even with the very slow RPX film, the exposure was only about five seconds and I serendipitously captured a woman dressed all in white taking her time coming out the door.


I changed the back with the RPX25 to the wider 35mm front to accomodate the very narrow sidewalks and continued for the next two frames.

There was a nice little courtyard behind the hotel with the building at the end of it illuminated by the afternoon sun. The camera was leaned right up against the wrought iron fence. The sun kept coming and going behind clouds so it was a minutes long exposure. While it was occuring, a gentleman came and opened the gate. He explained he doesn't normally leave it open but didn't think the photographers he saw crawling all over the place would trample the plants. He explained that it was the oldest operating hotel and restaurant in Wisconsin, founded in 1883. The building has been in it's present state since 1903.

I had been thinking I would have rather been halfway down the courtyard. I couldn't pass up the invitiation when it was presented to me so graciously.

Since we had already met, I stepped inside and asked if I could look into the bar and the sitting room. "Of course you may." I switched to the Kentmere 400 and the 60mm front while I sat on the couch for a two minute exposure. I thanked him when I left and he thanked me as well.

Walking back down Broadway, I was confronted with windows reflecting the sky and sunbeams going through them. Starry Realty seemed an appropriate place for a direct image of a star.

At their next door storefront, reflections and sunbeams without so much star in it.

My intention was to capture the beams reflected from the windows across the street on the front of an historic old bank building and the raking light on the side. The sun was shining on the pinhole and I was sure it was going to be wiped out by flare. I did get a little of that, what I originally wanted and Mark Ferrell's elbow, again photographing me with his 1968 Nikkormat.

On the way down to the river, a wall with fancy brickwork, vines, shadows and a giant elephant's ear.

Nuk's Thai Cuisine and Executive Suites by the river. I think the damage to the shingles at the left looks a lot worse in my photo than it really is. They're just slightly askew, but caught the low angled light just right.

An old riverside factory now used as office space.

Honoring the tradition of an accidental double exposure at Photo Opp events, the back wall of the garage of the Union Hotel sharing the silver with the Old Post Office, now the Library, while conversing with home-town boy Giles La Rock.

Between those two exposures there was plenty of light to use the slow film, but I switched to the narrower angle of view that was mounted on the camera with the fast film.

Back to trying to finish the RPX25 with the 35mm front. The other side of the hotel's garage, probably originally the carriage house, and the courtyard entrance.

Irresistable glass block windows at what I assume is a delivery entrance to the hotel.

That finished the slow film. 

I had seen some things that would require a much narrower angle of view. Time to try that Gilder aperture on the 200mm front that I installed for the eclipse. In the introductory remarks, the proprietors of newARTSpace joked that maybe they'd let us see their darkroom later. Faced with publicly working inside a changing bag, I asked to use it. It was very familiar when I was told to make sure I slid a piece of masonite in front of the bottom of the door in order to make it truly light-tight.

The Union Hotel from across the corner.

A backlit tree in front of another former bank on the opposite corner.

My only attempt at the Fox River. Earlier I had gone down two dead end paths trying to get to the platform over the dam that I had seen people on. Eventually found the right way but gave up and did this later from a parking lot overlooking the bridge.

I am really surprised that I like the images I got in the past with my hand-drilled .50mm pinhole better compared to this perfect Gilder aperture. I suppose this has it's own charming pinholiness, but I think I prefer the old pinhole better.

Some oafish camera maker went ahead and used a barely long enough Compact Series winder he knew was suspect and couldn't advance the film anymore when it failed.

At home, swapped it out for a proper Variable Cuboid winder from the other back and the 35mm front. The magnolia, in full blossom.

It's protogé next door, I believe a crabapple.

Looking for trees just getting fuzzy with buds of leaves, I found this one next to Miller's Bay, with the added attraction of the person with the straw hat sitting on a bucket next to the shore. Curious alignment of the tree and Monkey Island. I meant there to be a gap but was concentrating on the figure and forgot about it.

The name Oshkosh has been exploited by aviation conventions, military and utility trucks and dungarees and childrens clothes but the most egregious was the monument and supposed burial place of Chief Oshkosh with it's "noble savage" imagery and unapologetically racist plaque. About a year ago, the new additions to the monument tell the true story of someone with a dramatic life who successfully prevented some of the worst the settlers could do, and established business and governmental practices that make the Menomonees a successful nation today with what they were left with.

Just across the road, the other side of this rock marks the first European liturgical ritual that took place somewhere around here.

As predicted by my friend Jeff Behm's quote "If you're in Winnebago County, and you can see water, you're standing on an archeological site," when they started to reconstruct Pratt Trail through Menomonee Park, they found Native American artifacts. They have just recently restarted the archeological work. I stopped and asked if I could take their photograph. At first hesitant, they were very friendly after hearing Jeff was my friend (and Esteemed Mixologist). I finally had to remind them to get back to work so I could take my picture.

The 35mm front has a .25mm pinhole. The 45mm front has a .27mm pinhole. The 60mm front has a .30mm pinhole. All are hand drilled and mounted on a moveable front with 14mm of rise. The 200mm front has a .60mm Gilder electron microscope aperture. The Rollei RPX25 and the Kentmere 400 were semi-stand developed together in Rodinal 1:100.

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.