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.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ektar in the Evil Cube

The next modification I do to my cameras should be one of those little slots where you slide the flap from the film box to identify what you've got loaded in there.  Sometime pre-holidays, I loaded the Evil Cube with Ektar 100. I think I might have expected to do pictures outside.  Several weeks later I actually started shooting but I thought it was loaded with Portra 400.  They both have the light grey markings that are hard to see.

So I underexposed everything by two stops..  I thought the negatives looked thin, and then when I went to put them in the scanner I saw the Ektar marking and figured it out.

But ya gotta try to see if you can recover anything, and it turns out I got some images I like.  Ektar really doesn't like being underexposed so there's a lot of Carravagian shadows, and some shiftiness of the color that's kind of interesting.

Sarah’s animalmorphic lens.


Flowers from Andy for Sarah's birthday.


Fruit by the west kitchen window.


I can't seem to slice bread without going off at some crazy angle.


The tips of some flowers in a sunbeam through the south kitchen window.


Roses drying in a bowl.


The leaded glass window in the stairwell.


The afternoon before Christmas


An autumnal display that persisted into the holidays.


All with the Evil Cube.  .3mm pinhole 6cm from 6x6cm frame on Kodak Ektar 100.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Feeding and use of the Pinhole Lab Camera

One of the basic concepts of the Pinhole Lab Camera is that the negatives are even divisions of the most common photographic paper, 8x10 inches.  That also means you have to cut the paper - accurately - under safelight.

Original description link    Construction post link    Link to Templates

A paper cutter is a common thing to find in a darkroom, but not always, and it's a bit of an expensive thing to get. I cut paper by putting stripes of light colored tape on a cheap cutting mat at the distances from the edge I want to make cuts, in this case 2½, 4, and 6 inches, and cutting with a steel rule and a craft knife. Your risk management officer wants me to remind you that this could be dangerous. Put the knife inside some kind of box with a white interior so it doesn't roll around and you can see it under safelight. If you haven't done this much before, practice a little outside the darkroom. Safelights can be pretty dim so wait till you're dark adapted and make sure you can actually see what you're doing. Put the cut pieces of paper in a light tight container.


I may have given the impression with the slots and ridges that you just have to place the paper in, close the camera and it'll stay put. A moving camera gets jostled about quite a bit, and if the paper doesn't stay in place - no picture.

The solution, as my young students would tell you, is more tape.  Wrap a loop with the adhesive side out, and place it in the middle of the paper.



Then place it and press it down where appropriate for that format and give the camera a little shake to make sure that bit of tape keeps your negative in place.

These bits of tape should be considered consumables. They get misplaced in the darkroom easily and they don't last forever. I don't think they harm the chemistry much if forgotten during development, but you sure wouldn't want to use them with unexposed paper afterward.

For the 2½ inch distance, for both the square and rectangular formats, place the paper down toward the rectangular end of the camera and adhere it to the square side opposite the pinholes.


For the four inch distance, the paper goes in the Back.  The Back is slightly larger than the paper, so try to get it square when you place it there.  You might notice that the paper isn't perfectly flat.  The pinhole doesn't care, and that's all part of the fun, eh pinholers?  If that's a problem, the solution is, of course, more tape.


The curved formats are also attached with tape, again adhered at the center of the paper. Try to get the ends of the curves equal distance from the front of the camera.


I'm going to try to get the template so those ridges are a little closer to where they should be, but I wouldn't trust them to hold the paper in place while transporting the camera if they were the exact right size.

For the curve at the four inch distance, it's a slightly different process.  Again, put the tape in the center of the paper and adhere it down with equal ends of the paper sticking out of the Back.


Then squeeze the sides inward a bit, insert them into the box,  and place the Back of the camera on. (This really does look like I'm feeding it.)

 
Before closing the camera, check that the Pinhole Mount is still under the Pinhole Mount Lock.  If you had some black or red tape, it wouldn't hurt to tape it in place. It has a tendency to get popped out from under the Lock during particularly excitable closing of the shutter and rubbing it to make sure it adheres.

The tape for the shutters should also be considered a consumable, and as noted in the construction post, you should carry spares.

I've recently found a couple rolls of 3M plastic tapes that you might find available: Black Colored Plastic Tape (the people who named that must not have grown up in the South) and Decorator and Repair Tape.  They are lower tack than I remember but these rolls could be 10 years old.  I'm kind of liking them for shutters because the handle flaps tend to lie flat against the camera and out of the way.  The classic, of course, is opaque black photographic tape which is still available in a few brands.  If you want to splurge for this and get noticeably higher quality, you can get 3M #235, which is a truly iconic material, but it's going to cost you as much as all the other materials. n.b. I also found a couple old rolls of electrical tape that wouldn't stick to the cardboard at all.



One problem with using tape as a shutter is it's tendency to pull off fibers from the card stock both damaging the camera and reducing the adhesiveness of the piece of tape.  The solution to this is, of course, more tape.  By placing a layer of your cheap masking tape around the pinhole, you create a surface that is more forgiving of adhering and removing tape. You might even be able to use black duct or gaffers tape for shutters after making this modification if you could tear it accurately in these small pieces.


Viewfinding is done with the aid of our first accessory, a cardboard straight edge.  Because card stock has the tendency to curl, fold a piece the long way and clamp and glue to counteract that.  It's not steel, but if you're careful, you can keep it straight.

The idea is to align the straight edge with the mark you made of the location of the pinhole on the sides of the camera in the front and where the edge of the paper is in the camera at the back.  With some of the formats that's the corner of the box.  For the 2½ x 4 inch format at the 2½ inch distance, as illustrated below, it's the front side of the Light Trap. You could also place marks where the curves intersect the side of the camera.


If you sight down the straight edge so it looks just like a line, you can see where the limits of the image will be.  Previsualizing where you want those edges to be is part of the zen of pinhole thing. I think most photographers have some idea before they put the camera up to their eyeball, but it can be an odd thing for some people. (Pro tip: they're usually not as close as they should be.)


Of course since even the shortest of exposures is going to be fifteen seconds, the camera needs to be supported absolutely motionless.  The iconic place for this is on the ground, but I find it tiresome that this often fills half the frame with a featureless foreground of the pavement of the school parking lot. That rising front pinhole should help a little with that.

The ultimate support is a tripod, and we'll get to that eventually, but the rising and falling front give you a some pointing flexibility if you have a level place to set the camera.

You'd be surprised how many benches, tables, chairs, trees, information kiosks, refuse and recycling bins, planters and walls that are nice and level that you can support a camera on that gets the point of view off the ground. Place the camera right on the edge so you're not just substituting the featureless top of your support for the pavement.


Note you have to hold the camera down when you take the tape off and you're liable to move the camera a bit when you remove your hand.  With long exposures on a cloudy day that's not going to make much difference as long as you don't actually change where it's pointing. For shorter exposures  of fifteen to thirty seconds on sunny day, you can probably hold the camera down with your hand.

The camera is very light and susceptible to being blown away by the wind.  For longer exposures, unless you plan for a place to sit and rest your arm, most people can't keep from involuntarily wiggling and moving the camera if they try to hold it down for more than a minute.  In that case you could find something you had around that you didn't use very often and had a little heft to it that you could set on the Pinhole Lab Camera to hold it down.



Monday, January 1, 2018

Building the Pinhole Lab Camera

My fantasy pinhole lab class is a liberal construction of objectives from Art, Science, Shop, History and Zen.  Making the camera involves almost all those categories.

Link to the original Pinhole Lab Camera description     Link to Templates page

I had shop class for a semester in 8th grade. We learned some machining - drilling, turning metal on a lathe, cutting and bending sheet metal, soldering, taps and dies  - and even individual lessons in welding from the teacher.  I think an 8th grader should have no trouble making this camera.  Even before 6th grade I remember a rainy day on vacation at Christy Lake that I filled making models of the locomotives from The Great Locomotive Chase that were printed on Cheerios boxes and cut out with scissors and glued together.  I also made models of rockets and cars about that age.  This isn't really much harder. Probably the most difficult part is the need for neatness and accuracy.

I think of this as constructing the camera from raw materials. It's all paper, glue, cardstock, a little bit of brass or aluminum and a bit of tape, some of it opaque.

The camera is built from gluing a computer printed template to card stock. Designing your own camera would be a kind of an advanced class and I intend this for pinhole rookies or anyone who wanted to do this kind of experimenting.  I worked for my father for five months in a plant that fabricated feed and fertilizer mixers from raw steel.  My job was often to cut out parts from sheets of #10 steel with a nibbler or acetylene torch that had been traced around tin templates with a soapstone marker, which were then rolled or folded and welded together. This is remarkably similar.

I've made the template on tabloid paper, but I think it will fit on A4.  There are several copy businesses in my town that provide tabloid size printing. With a little encouragement, I could set it up to print on letter size.

The card stock normally found in cereal boxes and beverage containers is the material I try to use the most. The parts just fit on a large economy size box of Cheerios. The largest piece requires a 12 and a half inch square. You might need two boxes if your boxes are a little smaller and you might find the parts will fit on smaller boxes once you flatten them out.

If you can't get big enough cereal or beverage packaging, card that is often sold as poster board is usually available in 22 x 28 sheets in department and drug stores.  Get black, although if you paint the interior of the camera with a couple coats of black paint, it really doesn't matter what color it is.

The first step is to cut out the template parts with about a quarter-inch (5mm) border around them


Cut Front-1 and Front-2 right to the edge that's labeled A and B.


Arrange them on your card stock to see how everything fits so you don't have the last part hanging off the edge. Don't worry about going across folds in the original box.  That won't matter when the camera is glued together. Try to keep them square though.



Glue is a basic component of this camera, and requires a bit of care and technique. Also in 8th grade, I had an Art class where we made sculptures by gluing tooth picks together.

You can make the camera with the printed side in or out.  The template is glued to what you choose to be the inside.  I'm going to make the plain brown side the outside because I think things show up better in the photos I'm showing you here.

The printed surface on packaging is quite glossy and requires being roughened in order to give the glue something to grip on to.  When I've got a lot of area to cover,  I do this by rubbing it with sandpaper.  I'm using 150 grit because that's what I happened to have, but you could use something a little coarser if you had that. In the final template, I have made the parts of the template that will be a glued surface light grey (so there's plain white paper between the dots), but a pass with the sandpaper over those areas wouldn't hurt when those areas get glued. Did I mention one of my jobs at my Dad's factory was sandblasting fertilizer mixers to prepare them for corrosion resistant paint?


I'm using Aleen's Tacky Glue, but you could use anything designed to bond paper permanently, as long as you let it dry as long as necessary for your type of glue. (Notice how I put that in bold italics?)

Before gluing, dampen a paper towel and have it ready to use it conscientiously to clean your fingers (you'll see in a minute) and any migrations of glue to the table or other non-glued surface.

Squeeze out a series of rows of glue back and forth on the unprinted side of Front -1 about a half inch (12mm) apart.

Spread the glue with your finger so that it covers the entire surface.  Your goal is to have a continuous thin film of glue.  Clean your finger with the damp towel.


Place Front-1 on the card where you had planned and prepared, and squeegee it down with something stiff but flexible like a credit card or a student ID


Spread the glue on Front-2 and place it up against Front-1 so the A an B are aligned, and then continue to cut and glue the remaining parts to the card stock.

The Light Trap Base and the Light Trap Cover are 15 inches (380mm) long.  If your box isn't big enough you could tape two pieces together and glue the template to that.  It might make a bit of a weak point while you're working on it, but it won't make any difference once everything is glued together.


By the time you've glued all the parts down to the card stock, the first one has probably dried enough to cut them all out right to the template edges with scissors.


At this point it is necessary to let the glue dry.  Wet paper is pretty touchy and easily torn when trying to cut with a blade or score it.

Once it is dry, cut out the pinhole openings on the Front. This requires a craft knife and may need to be done with the supervision of an adult.  Generally it's a good idea to use a steel rule, but I've found that, with a sharp knife, it's easier and more accurate to cut these short segments free hand.  Be particularly careful not to cut the narrow gap between the openings. This could be done with hollow point punch if you had one of those.


Score all the folded lines with a straight edge and a ball point pen so they fold accurately and cleanly.


Fold all the scored lines and give them a good crease.


The Front folds so the flaps are on the inside of the camera. Apply glue to the light grey side panel on one side and glue it to the flaps.  Make sure the flaps come together without overlapping and the corners are square.  Clamp the top together with binder clips. Lay that side on the table and with your finger, squeegee the parts together so they adhere along their whole length.


Repeat for the other side.

Apply glue to the Side Stiffener/Ridge pieces and glue them inside the camera.  Note how they go up against the bottom of the camera and the sides with the pinholes leaving a slight gap toward the back.


Clamp the box together by placing rubber bands around the box and let it dry. If any glue has squeezed out, use the damp paper towel to clean it off.


Now cut out the pinhole openings on the Brace/Pinhole Mount, and then score and fold it.

Score and fold the Back. Note the flaps go on the outside.



The Front won't be completely dry but you should be able to continue.

The Back is glued together around the Front for a custom fit.  In my film cameras, there is internal structure to keep the Front from getting crushed while you do this but this camera has none. This is one of the functions of the Brace/Pinhole Mount.  With the side with holes for the pinhole facing up, place the Brace/Pinhole Mount into the camera.  It should fit slightly loosely.


Stray glue could accidentally make the Back permanently attached to the Front, so wrap the open end of the Front with a bit of waxed paper.


Spread glue on the flaps, and form the Back around the front of the camera.  Note that the flaps won't come completely together in the center. Try to get them set as square as possible. With your damp paper towel, clean off any glue that squeezes out and clamp with rubber bands.


Score and fold the flaps on the Light Trap Base and glue and clamp it.


Fold, glue and clamp the Pinhole Mount Lock

Wait for everything to dry.

When it is dry, remove the rubber bands and before removing the Back, make a mark on the side with the pinholes so you can match up your custom fit when you close the camera after loading it in the dark room.  When you remove the Back, there may be some bits of wax paper that stuck that you will have to pick off,


Put the Back on and draw a line around the Front at the the end of the Back for reference when it's removed.

Wrap the Light Trap Base around the camera pushed right up against the closed Back so that it forms tightly around the Front.  Then apply glue to the inside of the Light Trap Base, put it in place around the Front up against the closed Back and clamp it with a rubber band. Being careful not to move the Light Trap Base, remove the Back.  Clean off any glue that squeezed out. Check to make sure the Light Trap Base is still up against that reference line.

Wait a few minutes until the glue dries enough that the Light Trap Base stays in place.  Replace the Back. Roll off the rubber band and wrap the Light Trap Cover around the Light Trap Base and Back so it forms around the corners and fits tightly. If it's slightly too long and overlaps, cut it so the to ends come together. 

Remove the Back again and apply glue to the top of the Light Trap Base trying to leave a little gap on the side toward the Back.


Replace the Back again and glue the Light Trap Cover around the Light Trap Base overlapping the Back.  Clamp it in place with the rubber band.  Draw another reference line around the Back where the Light Trap Cover comes to, and remove the Back so it doesn't get glued in place.


Remove the Brace/Pinhole Mount. Run your finger and thumb around the Light Trap to make sure it's adhered all the way around.  


Blacken the space on the Back where it slides under the Light Trap so you'll be able to tell that it's closed under safelight.


At this point, unless you're absolutely sure it's opaque from previous experimentation, you should put a couple coats of matte black paint on the inside.  I usually use fast drying spray paint like Krylon, but it's smelly and messy.  I'm looking into other options like black interior latex or india ink which my wife tells me will work, but once you get it on something it never comes out.

Now that we no longer need the Brace/Pinhole Mount as a brace, cut away the grey shaded parts of the Pinhole Mount.


Being careful not to disturb the drying Light Trap, place the Pinhole Mount in place with the pinhole openings on the Mount lined up with openings on the camera Front. Apply glue to the the Pinhole Mount Lock, and place it inside the camera so that it pushes the Pinhole Mount firmly against the bottom.  Clamp it in place and remove the Pinhole Mount. Press it down with your fingers so it's entire area is adhered.



Wait for everything to dry while you drill and mount the pinholes.

The pinholes are drilled with #10 quilting needles which have a diameter just shy of half a millimeter.  I find the easiest way to drill with them is to insert them into the eraser of a pencil. Try to make it as aligned with the pencil as possible.

The thin metal is either .002 in (.051mm) Brass Shim Stock (the iconic material from the days when engine valves were shimmed but it's still available) or the aluminum from beverage cans. You could use disposable pie pans in a pinch.

Place your brass or aluminum on something with a bit of thickness that the needle will pierce easily, like several layers of corrugated cardboard, foam core or styrofoam. Steadying the needle with your thumb and forefinger, rotate the pencil and slowly drill down.  You might not even feel it when it goes through. Push the needle through to it's full diameter. Be careful not to bend the metal when you pull the needle out.


There will be a burr uplifted on the other side.


Sand off the burr using a bit of the finest abrasive you can find until it feels smooth to the touch (at least 200 grit).  You can usually find finer grades in the Automotive section of the hardware store.

Stick the needle back in the hole and give it a couple spins to remove any dust from the sanding.

See how easy it is?

Here's the six that I'm putting on this camera , again made in under ten minutes. 


The middle two don't look exactly round, but they have a pretty smooth edge.  I'm going to randomly mount them all and we'll see if we can tell which are the two odd ones from the pictures they make.

Tape them onto the Pinhole Mount so they'll be positioned between the Mount and the Front. Since they'll be hidden by the Mount, it doesn't matter that the tape isn't black.


Make sure you place the pinhole roughly in the middle of the opening. Check that you don't cover any of them with tape.


Then replace the Pinhole Mount in the camera, and snap it under the Pinhole Mount Lock.

Each aperture needs a separate shutter made with opaque black tape, with one end folded over on itself to make a handle.  I often see electrical tape suggested for this.  It is inexpensive and readily available, but I have seen some electrical tape that won't stick at all to cardboard and some that does, so check before the workshop. The ideal material is opaque black photographic tape, which is available from art supply and photographic products dealers.  Black vinyl repair and decorating tape is good, but I don't find it in many hardware stores. Black gaffers or duct tape is hard to tear into little pieces and sticks a little too well for this application.  Regular black masking tape might work if you used about three layers for each shutter. 


Make sure the shutters don't overlap so you don't pull off two instead of just the one you want to make the exposure with.

Whatever tape you choose make sure to have a supply handy as they have a tendency to get lost, and encourage participants to carry of few spares in their pocket stuck on a piece of card stock.  If you lose one, hold a finger over the pinhole until you get back to the darkroom.

Make some kind of a mark on the sides of the camera surrounding each set of pinholes at the location of the pinholes that will be used for viewfinding.

And now you're ready to take pictures.  I'll do another post in a few days on loading and viewfinding.