Another New Camera :-)

October 16, 2017

 

I was growing tired of wide-angle shots, so I constructed a third pinhole camera from a shoe box, cut to about one third of its length.  Keeping the box lid intact at the end allowed me to easily construct a flip-up paper loader along the back of the camera box.  It seems to be very effective at sealing the box, and I put in some tabs to hold the photo paper in place – no curved photo-plane this time.  I improvised the usual tripod mount with scrap wood and a piece of hardware from Home Depot.

I cannibalized the aperture (0.3mm) from my wide-angle camera to use with this one, even though all the formulae indicate that a 0.45mm pinhole is optimal:  I have new ones on order, but I couldn’t wait.  Rushing again…  With a focal length of 5-inches, the f-number is about 425.

My first attempt with the new box was a shot of the USS Ling taken from down near the water, a great shot of the rusting hulk of a submarine, but I noticed that the aperture didn’t seem to be properly fixed to the camera body.  Sure enough, in the darkroom, I got an all black print.  😦  I had made a too big hole in the box so that when I taped the aperture holder over it, I didn’t quite close it. It was hard to tape on without bending the camera wall since the hole was almost the same size as the aperture holder.  I fixed this by gluing a sheet of matting over the original hole, with a smaller hole punched in it, over which I taped the aperture holder.  The thickness of the whole deal is so little that I don’t have to worry about vignetting the image.

After the repair, the camera worked great.  Perhaps a little light leak showing in the upper part of the image, but that might just be the bright sky with tree shade.

backyard new camera b

And a nice gothic shot of our town hall shot with my 0.2mm camera.

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Selfie

October 14, 2017

selfiieC

A rather dark day out, but I tried for a self-portrait.  This is my homemade camera, with a 0.3mm aperture, an f-stop of about 170, and the exposure was four minutes long.  No wonder those people in 19th century images are never smiling…except for Nadar!

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I also have problems drying my negative prints on photo paper, which is the cause of the spots all over the scanned image.  I have bought a squeegee to try and address this.

Not a flattering image, but…


Through a Pinhole, Darkly

October 10, 2017

Shot AA interior desk

My third attempt at an indoor still life of my desk yielded mediocre results.  With an exposure time of about 70 minutes, an aperture of 0.2mm, and a focal lenth of 0.9-inches, the angle is too wide, the light too dim.  It might have been better if I had used my initial configuration, with the camera on a tripod a foot or two away from the desk, instead of sitting right on it.

I got better results with my second visit to capture the USS Ling on the Hackensack River, however!  As usual, I was impatient, and the print is not absolutely dry.  Those tiny droplets seem never to evaporate!  Next purchase, a mini-squeegee to wipe the prints right out of the fixer bath.

The paper is 5×7 inches, but I have cropped it somewhat; the boundary of the image circle is clearly visible.  Once again, I curved the paper concavely, with the aperture directly on center.  It appears that I may yet have some light leaks at the bottom of the camera, visible here at the top of the image.  The black line at the top center is from a small cardboard piece in the camera that holds the paper in place.

Ling 2

Here is a further cropped image, with the smudges in the sky cleaned up a bit.  The USS Ling is visible on the left bank of the river, but it is over exposed:  it’s faded grey hull was very reflective.  Perhaps a shorter exposure time would have been better.  My respect for the early photographic artists has grown astronomically!

Ling2B


Stepping Up the Pinhole Game

October 8, 2017

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Feeling I wanted to move up to a larger format, I constructed my own pinhole camera out of foam board.  You can buy cameras like this online, crafted beautifully out of attractive woods, but they cost hundreds of dollars – I’m not ready for that yet!

This camera is built for 5×7 photo paper, and it has a 0.3mm aperture with a focal length of approximately 2-inches, giving an f-number of about 169.  I also rigged up a simple tripod mount on the bottom using some scrap wood and a piece of hardware I found at Home Depot.075C9D0D-F88B-4804-A204-1BB72B4CEC9F

The top flips up to allow the photo paper to be inserted, and then I seal it shut with a strip of black tape.  The usual flap of tape serves for a shutter.  It’s possible to shim the photo paper so that it is somwhat curved in a concave manner:  I want to experiment to see if this will decrease the image distortion near the edges of the wide-angle of view.

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Here is my first effort with my new camera.

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It was a very overcast day, so I exposed the paper for five minutes.  If you look closely, you can see a ghost-image of me standing in the foreground and background, but I only stayed put for a minute or so, and I barely registered in the image.  The angle of view is extremely wide:  the car on the left hand side of the image was actually quite a ways to the left of the tripold.

Not bad for a first try with the new format, but the weather over the next few days calls for rain and clouds!  😦


At 30,000 feet: in 1/100th of a second

July 13, 2011

I find business travel of any sort disorienting.  Why am I here?  Just what am I doing in this place with these people?  Unmoored, my mind floats free of Earth’s gravitational pull and looses itself in philosophical maundering and pessimism.

I am in Carlsbad, CA, for the ESRI International Users Conference.  No clue?  Look here.  Yes, that’s what I do for a living, sort of.  And along with 1o,ooo members of the sometimes cultish fans cum users of ESRI software, I am here to try to learn something useful.  I’m even making a presentation.

On the flight out, I made sure to have a window seat, and my foresight was rewarded with some views of the Missouri River that looked like these below.  Floods, gotta love ’em, they’re so grand.

I passed over arid hillscapes that were pricked here and there with giant white toothpicks – wind turbines – that seemed puny in comparison to the huge urban energy-suckers I saw.  I arrive in a new city, San Diego, and observe trucks, trains, planes, industrial zones, and crowds of people going to work – the human beehive.  It all seems so utterly pointless.  Why don’t they all just stay in their rooms, read a good book?  Is what they’re doing so great?

I recall a letter by V.I. Lenin in which he deplored the unplanned, chaotic and wasteful nature of capitalism.  Perhaps he and I share a similar visceral disgust with the nature of modern society.  Of course, his solution wasn’t as good as mine.  (Of course, I stole it from Pascal.)

On the flight, I read Freefall, an analysis of the financial debacle of 2007 by Stiglitz.  Perhaps he should read my post on the thieving state.  Well, he won a Nobel, but he is an economist after all…  I also finished reading River of Shadows, by Rebecca Solnit, which is a biography, sort of, of Eadweard Muybridge, the man who is famous for motion studies like these of horses:

and who also did many others of people which are not so widely known, such as this one of a woman simply getting into and out of bed:Obviously, Muybridge was onto something with his instantaneous photos of moving objects, and his work was an important precursor to the development of motion pictures.  Today, you can buy amusing flip-books of some of his studies that work wonderfully well.  In fact, he created an early zoetrope that combined magic lanterns with his motion studies to produce projected animations, and he was involved with Edison in creating the early kinetoscopes.  He was also an accomplished landscape photographer, and a bit of an eccentric.

Solnit’s book, however, indulges in much breathless metaphysical word-spinning at every possible opportunity, and is built on the conceit that Muybridge and Leland Stanford (it was his horse, and he paid for the initial work photographing it in those famous sequences) founded the modern world in the previously Wild West.  After all, the basis of modern civilization is Hollywood (Muybridge’s part) and Silicone Valley ([Leland] Stanford University’s part).  It’s pretty tiresome after a while, but the book rewards judicious skimming.

One of the most interesting parts to me was the connection with Ernest Meissonier, the successful French salon painter known for his large canvasses showing Napoleon in what appeared at the time to be photo-realistic detail.  (He was a favorite painter of Salvador Dali.)

 

Meissonier exerted tremendous effort in studying the movements of horses, trying to get the legs right.  Muybridge’s sequences of Stanford’s racer, Occident, laid to rest the momentous question of whether or not a horse ever had all four feet off the ground at once – they do – but it also showed how complex was the movement of the legs.  Messonier was upset: he’d got them all wrong, but he was a good sport about it.  In his portrait of Stanford, a photo sequence by Muybridge is just barely visible on the table at the right.


Panorama Banal

June 28, 2011

By clicking on the image above, and then using the ‘magnify image’ function in your browser, you can pan the image from one side to the other, and see my backyard in 360 from my favorite vantage point – prone in my hammock.


Ruins…ruined…beautiful

November 3, 2010

 The Renaissance humanists found beauty in ruins.   They took what they could dig up.  They thought the best was behind them, and they sought to live up to the ancient ideals.  Was this the first example of stylistic revivalism?

 

Later on, archaeologists got to work on those beautiful ruins.  Enlightenment artists like Piranesi took a methodical interest in the remnants of Classical Civilization, and produced views of it that were part postcard, part scientific document, and part aesthetic reverie.

Finally, the Romantics found ruins beautiful, but only certain kinds of ruins.

Today, the aesthetic back and forth between beauty and ugliness, the sordid and the sublime, the natural and the artificial continues, as always.

Now, there are a bunch of photographers who love to take pictures of industrial decay.  Some call it industrial decay pornHaving spent lots of time in Detroit, I can understand the frustration of the person in this link.  Others are clearly entranced by the aesthetic possibilities of magnificent abandoned sites, as in these pictures on Flickr.  Not sure how they would feel about their subjects if they were simply unemployed with no propsects, after working on the factory line…

This color image is almost over the top, but it looks very much like factories I visited on Doremus Avenue, NJ, which is shown in the B&W image at the top.  Doremus was the center of the chemical industry in the USA during the late 19th and early 20th century. (More images here.)

Is it the romance of industry that draws them?  The Ozymandias outlook?  Fascination with decadence?  Purely aesthetic possibilities of texture, space, tone?  The image at the bottom left looks positively Piranesian, while the one on the right is simply depressing in its presentation of utter decreptitude.  Would these subjects be interesting to anyone but engineers if they were functioning and in good repair?  (I know there are photographers of contemporary industry too…)

Plowden was making a statement, a plea, with his photographs of American wastelands, but these images seem contemplative and a bit voyeuristic.  At least on the Web, I find very little interest in what the subjects actually are, what they were for,  only how they look.

 

Coming full circle, sort of, we have the image below which shows not ruins, but a functioning geothermal plant in Iceland.  No ice to be seen; bathers and boaters frolic in this Edenic scene from Dante’s Inferno.  An absolutely mind-bending union of thematic opposites.