Friday, February 16, 2018

Across the ice on foot


For the past several years, my former colleagues, Maureen Muldoon and Peter Westort have walked across Lake Winnebago on the first weekend of sturgeon spearing. I've never been on Lake Winnebago even in a boat and I've wanted to go along ever since I heard about them doing it, and this year I thought I was ready. I wasn't really able to do this before this year, but I was pretty sure my new steel knees could handle it. 

This year Peter had a visiting professorship in Peru so he couldn't make it, but another colleague, Bill Wachholz, and his wife Margaret, volunteered to join the adventure.

Lake Winnebago is 10 miles wide directly across at Oshkosh.

We started at Maureen's house several blocks from the lake.


We left the shore at the end of Merritt Avenue at the south end of Menomonie Park, about where we saw the ice shoves when the ice broke up last year.


Merritt Avenue doesn't so much end as just continues out onto the lake. It was snowing just a bit and you could barely see the other shore.


Much of the traffic on the lake is ATVs and snowmobiles, so just off shore is a pretty sizable parking lot full of trucks and trailers.  Seems a little weird to concentrate that much weight in one spot, but the ice is suppose to be 20 inches thick and seems to be handling it.  Here Maureen takes advantage of one to put on her ice cleats.


Bill checks his cleats on the ice.


The roads are maintained by various fishing clubs around the lake.  There are several giant cracks crossing the lake that push up shoves. The clubs place temporary bridges across them. One of the gaps going north and south is just a few hundred yards off shore.


Trucks and ice shanties are clustered around the lake and get thinner the farther you get out on the lake.  This is about the last bunch about three miles out. (I have no idea what the streak in the upper right is.)


Occasionally the sun would pop out and highlight the relief of the snowdrifts and tracks.  The road parallels one of the large cracks that goes all the way across the lake, silhouetted at the top of the frame.


There are less severe cracks of various widths every several yards along the way.


The major cracks, and the road, are marked by discarded Christmas trees placed on the ice every tenth of a mile. Major waypoints are marked by multiple trees.  Here, five miles out, we're right in the middle.


Despite the emptiness of the middle four miles, occasionally a set of tracks would head off the road.


Approaching the shore at Quinney.


We rewarded ourselves with beer, burgers and fries at a basic Wisconsin bar a few yards past the shore, and got a look at at least one sturgeon being registered, although at just over three feet long, a rather small one.


All with the PrePopulist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x50mm frame on Kodak Gold 200.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Slightly distant domestics

With the Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper.

In Eau Claire when we first lived together, we passed this alabaster Buddha in a store window on the way from our apartment to the Joynt. Sarah got it for me for my birthday.


You can tell from his hat that it's winter.


Glassware is a common assignment in photography class. Flirting with refraction here again.



Butter in a white dish. Not as common as eggs, but a popular food assignment in color photography class.


I can't unsee that face.


I seem to have a thing for squares lately.


Another tissue inspired composition.



Birthday roses.


Flowers just to brighten the table in January.


The cats' perch in the sun room windows.


Upstairs again. A calmer view of the bath products.


And, a sunny window.


All with the Moderately Telephoto Pinhole Camera in a Plain Brown Wrapper. .33mm pinhole 120mm from 6x6cm frame.  Portra 400.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Nutcracker in the Castle

Over the holidays, our local art museum, a mansion surrounded by gardens, decorates with a Nutcracker theme, complete with acting and ballet.

In November, The Populist needed more tape, and I couldn't find the New Glarus Populist, when one day I was going out and thought I needed a 35mm camera with me so I grabbed the vintage PrePopulist, which has a 24x50mm semi-panoramic format. It had for some reason been stripped of it's shutter. I ripped the shutter off a 24x96mm camera I wasn't likely to use again and taped it on to the PrePopulist.  As it turned out I didn't take any pictures that day. When I got home I added some new viewfinders, and I ended up just carrying that camera around for two months.

Just before The Paine took the Nutcracker down, Sarah and I went over there so she could unleash the D750 on the decorations.  I didn't expect to take any pictures. Tripods are not normally allowed except by advance arrangement, so it's a pretty tough assignment for pinhole.  However, for the Nutcracker, they place a book stand in each room opened to a page from the story which is interpreted by the room decorations.  Under the book is a small shelf.  Just big enough to put a table-top tripod on.

The dining room is the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Too bad you can't see the outrageous pile of sweets on the table.  There is kind of a pinhole treat though.  The curved chair back overlaying the mullions of the window and a silhouette of the cake toppers look for all the world like it's being distorted by a lens.


The Breakfast Room, a glassed in porch, is the Land of Snow, echoing the view outside.


Mrs. Paine's drawing room may have been the dance of the flowers.


Another pinhole treat. All these little tree lights are a great model for diffraction.  For you fans of Lord Rayleigh, here's a full resolution crop which depicts the Airy disks that those equations predict.  n.b. .15mm Gilder electron microscope aperture, 24mm from the film.


The Chinese Dance takes place in the Great Hall.  The camera this time is on a handrail.  The trees to the left are just barely perceptibly rotating.


Upstairs they give up the ballet pretext and characterize it as the Stahlbahm family home. They don't have the books anymore, but each room has a freestanding lecturn with some text about the room that will hold a desktop tripod. Here in the sitting room I think is where she may have gotten the Nutcracker.


The parents' bedroom.


Mom's closet.


On the stairway landing is Herr Drosselmeyer's workshop.


The Gothic gallery overlooking the garden was originally built as a place for musicians to entertain guests in the Great Hall behind it below, but it never got finished. Now it's full of built-in cases to display objects, containing - what else - nutcrackers.


All with the PrePopulist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x50mm frame.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Pinhole Lab Camera Accessories: A Tripod



Sometimes you get involved in a project, and because it's interesting and maybe for reasons that could either be described as obsessive-compulsive or religious, you go at it for a little while too long, and then find that maybe it's not worth it.

In workshops, I've always found it frustrating not to be able to give everybody a tripod so they could have freedom in placing and pointing the camera. I used to give out doubly bagged sandbags for participants to mush into a surface for the camera to sit on to level it or to point it up or down a little. With the Pinhole Lab Camera with it's rising and falling and left and right shift pinholes, my intention was to overcome that somewhat, but you know, you don't always have a perfectly level surface, and sometimes, you just want to point the camera directly at something and take advantage of that sweet rectilinearity of the pinhole when it's on axis with a flat piece of film.  There's also the issue, also addressed by the rising front of the Pinhole Lab Camera, of having the foreground fill half the frame.  If you're taking a portrait of someone across the table, having the camera six or so inches above it will help a lot with the composition, and the rising front can have a strange effect on shapes like heads near the top of the frame.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could make a tripod as easily as a pinhole camera?  How pinholy!  You could take advantage of the skills and materials used to build (and for me, design) the Pinhole Lab Camera.

Links:  Original Description    Construction    Feeding and Use    Link to Templates   Excusado


So I laid out the template so that it would fit on a tabloid sheet of paper. I tried to make the legs as long as I could on that paper size. I could make them bigger on multiple sheets, but you'd have to do the "glue A adjacent to A" several times and that increases the chance that something's going to get glued down out of alignment.

The forces on a tripod are greater than on a camera, and this model relies more on multiple layer lamination and folds and flaps to get the strength to adjust and hold the camera.  Maybe relies on them too much.  Some parts have multiple folds and it takes six binder clips or clothespins to clamp some of them.

I mentioned I worked for my dad in a plant making feed and fertilizer mixers in a previous post.  He not only managed the plant but he was the designer and engineer as well.  I make these templates on a computer with Illustrator and do repeated iterations to find out what works.  My dad would do it on a drawing table with trigonometry and the parts would fold and assemble together the first time. The feed chutes for those mixers had to fit into existing buildings and come in at some strange compound angles. He gave me the Chemical Rubber Company book of Standard Mathematical Tables for high school graduation.

So, what have I come up with?

It's a desktop tripod about 7 inches tall.  Not too big, but getting it that far off the surface it's sitting on gives you a lot of flexibility with composition.

The tilting head is held by a bolt and wingnut.  I just happened to have the little spring which allows a variable drag to the tilt so you don't have to constantly loosen and tighten it, you can just move it freely and it will stay in place.

It attaches to the camera with rubber bands. I hate to have a roll film camera without a tripod mount, but it's a pain with a single shot camera, especially one that's intended to be used in all sorts of orientations.  So the tripod has a little platform that can be attached with rubber bands. (Carry extras.)



It has a head that will tilt back and forth about 45 degrees.  It's a little steadier if that tilt is toward the single leg side of the tripod, but it's easy to switch from one side to the other if you're tilting the camera the other way.


If you need to tilt any higher, you can just change the orientation of the camera.



The legs are restrained from opening by a piece of butcher's twine (I do this in my kitchen) threaded through each leg through holes big enough to get it through and move, yet small enough to give a little resistance to hold the movement in place. I did this by glueing the end of the twine to a toothpick.

By adjusting where those legs are, you can make the camera level on a non-level surface.


It's admittedly a limited set of flexibilities, but it adds dramatically to the supports you can utilize and maintain a level camera. (You do want a level camera, right?)


It's very light and wouldn't be much use in a breeze.  Maybe if I could find those sandbags.

It's just a hair on the complicated side to make. The template is on-line if you can figure it out from these images.

The problem is that you can buy a table top tripod better than this for under $10.  You can get a 50 inch good-enough tripod from Target for $11 and a pretty decent 62 inch one from Freestyle for $30.  And you can get some real deals on spiffy vintage travel tripods for cheap on eBay. You'll need to make a platform to attach the camera with the rubber bands.



But if you're feeling pinholy some Sunday...

Friday, January 12, 2018

Excusado con La Cámara de Laboratorio Estenopeica

Ironically, the room in our house with the most beautiful light is the bathroom.  It's a small room illuminated by a single window which faces directly south overlooking our neighbors' roof.

Part of the beauty of the light are the myriad surfaces that reflect the light around. Almost everything in the room is at least a little bit glossy. From the high shine of the porcelain, to the low sheen of the tiles and walls. Even one of the fabrics, the tied back curtain, is satiny, as well as translucent. There are two large mirrors. And it's all light colored - short exposures (well, for interior pinhole anyway). Depending on what kind of weather is illuminating that window, there are a million variations.

Key to my current pinhole needs, there are several level surfaces, near the edge, to place a camera.

I think it looks like a Renaissance palace. The walls are are beautifully and credibly marbleized.  This is all Sarah's doing.  When we moved in it had yellow walls, blue and purple plastic tiles and two fluorescent tubes that buzzed and flashed on either side of a generic mirrored cabinet above the sink which was supported by hexagonal chrome pipes. Boy, that woke you up in the morning.

And there is the appeal of the classical Weston reference.

It is also inside and out of the wind.  As I write this the temperature is going back up to seasonal levels but that's still fairly cold around here.

Sounds like a good place for some ground-truth testing with the Pinhole Lab Camera.

Links:  Original Description    Construction    Feeding and Use    Link to Templates

I'm going to quit referring to these by their sizes and just describe the format. Long and short distance to the pinhole; rectangular, curved panorama (which can come in regular or large), or square.

We'll begin with an overview of what we're working with.  This was with a super-wide large short curved panorama using the on-axis pinhole, with the camera supported by the window sill.  You can just barely see it on the right side of the door mirror.


Here's my attempt at the Weston classic.  Short vertical rectangle.  Rising front pinhole.  It's not completely on the floor. I put the Kleenex box under it. Not a curved format, but the frame of the mirror is a little bowed by a paper curl.  Pinhole fun, huh? The verticals are parallel though.


Long curved panorama with the rising front pinhole.  Hardly looks curved, does it.  You can see the camera on the cabinet, just slightly higher than the bottom of the mirror frame, but close enough that if the on-axis pinhole had been used, it would have been right in the middle and therefore straight, but now it's positioned near the bottom by the rising front.  If you look at where the sloped wall meets the ceiling at the right you can tell it's curved.  The top of the frame would have been really curved if it was in the picture.  But it's not, so to the viewer it doesn't exist.


Short square through the on-axis pinhole. Camera is sitting on the toilet tank with it which is only about 8 inches deep.


Short curved panorama with the rising pinhole on the top of the cabinet.  You get the wide angle in this one, but since there are no obvious straight horizontal lines, the curve doesn't really dominate the composition.


Long vertical rectangle. falling front. Camera is on the toilet seat.


Short square format with the on-axis pinhole, camera on the sink.  Again not a curved format.  Look how straight the verticals are on the right, but the paper was a little curvy at the top left, (well, in the lower right of the camera, but you know what I mean), so more pinhole fun.


One of the neat things about the square format, depending on which side the camera is sitting on, you can have both a rising/falling option and a right/left shift.  Here's the short square format with a rising front and a shift to the right, this time with the paper really flat in the camera and nicely square to the opposite wall.


I know you're thinking that there's no place to put a camera over there. If you look at the first picture, hanging over the doorknob is a headband Sarah uses to keep her hair back while she washes her face.  The camera is hanging in that.

I did these with three separate cameras, often making exposures at the same time.  In the photo from the door knob, you can see the camera sitting on the toilet seat (it wouldn't stay level near the edge of the beveled cover), Again the short square with a rising front and a shift right.


Short curved panorama with the rising front. The camera was laying on it's back on the tile surround and was kind of jammed between the wall and the tub.


Long rectangle with the on-axis pinhole.  Camera was sitting on the corner of the tub.  Looks like it got bumped, but it makes for a bit of dynamism. Pinhole fun, eh?


The short rectangle with the on-axis pinhole.  Nice bit of resolution test with the pouf made from netting. How about them instant, larger than optimum pinholes?


Now you're thinking, wait a minute, that's from the middle of the tub, there's no place to put a camera.  It was supported by a stack of the stand from the toilet brush with the Kleenex box sitting vertically on top of it - here portrayed by a short vertical rectangle with the rising front, behind it on the bottom of the tub, this time with the camera tilted up a little.


I needed two tries to get the closeup.  I had a little code of placing a bit of tape on the outside of the camera so I knew what format it was loaded with.  The first time on top the stack it looks like I forgot to change it.  This exposure is with the negative in the back of the camera as for a long rectangle, but exposed by the on-axis pinhole on the short side.  I think a sunbeam may have been reflected in the shiny Kleenex box.


Many beginning pinholers will choose the ground for their camera support, so here, for them, is a short vertical rising front, with the camera right level on the floor, without the floor filling the lower half of the composition.


And to finish, another large short curved panorama, with the on-axis pinhole, with the camera lying on it's back on the floor.


I have to say I didn't have any surprises from the camera, they were kind of fun to use, I think it showed some of the possibilities it offers, and I like these pictures.