Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lumen Print Experiments


I recently saw an article on Filmwasters website about a guy selling a little wooden box camera that he calls Lumenbox, and doing Lumen prints. I decided to try my hand at it.

In the short Lumenbox video you can see him doing what at first glance appears impossible: exposing paper negatives to bright sun, then loading them into the little box camera, but not before first wetting the paper in a little container of water. After some time in bright sun, a pretty conventional looking paper negative results, straight out of camera. I did some thinking about this, and then remembered a textbook on photography science that I had around the house, which revealed the answer.

Silver halides have this property, if given sufficient exposure, of auto-development. That is, the halides will turn a darker tone or color, merely from the action of exposure to sun; without the aid of any development chemistry. Of course, the process is almost too insensitive to light to be of any use photographically, unless you're doing lumen prints in a pinhole camera of the sun's course across the sky over weeks or months time.

The little wooden Lumenbox camera has a sufficiently fast lens to capture a sufficient exposure in about 15 minute's exposure to a brightly sunlit scene. I remembered that I had a cardboard box camera with plastic, credit card-sized fresnel magnifier lens, which I used for my initial experiments. Here's the video I made on that project:

Later, I decided I needed a better quality optic, and so salvaged a broken Riteway film holder by replacing its cracked dark slide, and proceeded to employ my Speed Graphic and Fujinon 135/5.6 lens. The image atop this article is from that camera, which I documented in this video:

The key to making this process work is wetting the paper before placing it into the camera. I'm not enough of a scientist to understand what the water does to the emulsion, but the image above was make with a 43 minute exposure in bright sun - accidentally prolonged due to my forgetfulness. I suspect a shorter exposure would have sufficed, since it appears that the highlight density is self-limiting; as that portion of the paper darkens, it limits additional light from affecting further exposure. So even though this was in high-contrast, sunny daylight conditions, the grade 2 paper seems to have produced a very good paper negative image, whose inverted tones can be seen here:


I made reference in the video to the paper perhaps being developer-incorporated, which might explain how the pre-wetting affects a better negative image; but this might be in error, as I've been reminded that few modern paper have developer-incorporated emulsions.

Going forward with this project, I'd like to take the Kodak Ektar 127/4.7 lens out of the camera obscura box and repurpose it for these lumen prints, since it's a bit faster than the Fujinon lens. Second, I have a number of various out-of-date print papers in my darkroom that I'd like to experiment with. Third, if having the emulsion wet is important to the process, would it be advantageous to periodically re-wet the paper in-camera, with perhaps some form of spray system? More experiments are warranted.

Speaking of experiments, in my first video I'd mentioned using a base-pH water solution for the pre-wetting, which did affect a different, slighter more contrasty and dense image. I need to work more with this idea and see where it brings me.

This is a quirky process, a light-sensitive medium that requires no chemical developing agent; yet it's rather impractical for subject matter other than still life and landscapes. As for reproducing the images, it really begs to be a hybrid process, combined with scanning into a digital file, given the paper's continued light sensitivity and hence unknown fragility. This implies that some experiments around fixing these images need to be conducted; but conventional fixer will usually cause these auto-developed images to vanish forever. I've thus far taken to storing these negatives in light-tight sleeves, until I have a permanent solution in place.

What I love about this process is its impracticality, especially in contrast with the state-of-the-art in digital image capture. Whether real "art" can be made using this method is entirely up the practitioner, however.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Typing Assignment No. 5

We had a fun time with Typing Assignment No. 4, which was to expound on that old pangram, "The Quick Brown Fox..." I was surprised to have found my wife participating, and this further inspired me also to try my hand at it.

Now, our latest assignment is to work with that worst of all opening lines to a story, "It was a dark and stormy night." This line has been panned for decades by critics and cognoscenti alike; but are we afraid? No! Instead, we see it as a challenge. After all, we're already writing on manual typewriters. Typewriters, I tell 'ya! So a little more salt in the wound shouldn't be any trouble.

Start your one-page piece with that classic line, and see where the Muse takes you. Make it fiction; or make it nonfiction, if you have a personal tale, set in a dark, stormy eve, worth telling. Perhaps there's a family story or legend you'd like to try your hand at. Make it poetry, make it prose, you get to choose.

As before in this series, scan or photograph your one page piece legibly, then post to a document or photo hosting service online. Then drop a comment below this article with a link to your image. Alternatively, put the link in a comment to the YouTube video itself.

Please include in your comment the name you'd like to be referred to and something about the typewriter (just the make and model is fine; and the year of manufacture if you know it). On the typed sheet, also include your name, so I can keep track of the entries when I assemble the review video.

Because many of you won't be reading this article and reviewing the video until at least Wednesday, I'm giving a deadline of July 30 to have your piece written, scanned, uploaded and the link added to a comment herein or on You Tube. This should give us about a week and a half, plenty of time to do a good job without rushing.

Speaking of doing good jobs, all of the previous entrants have done great work on short notice with these assignments. I hope you realize how much I appreciate that, and also that others are reading your work via this project. I also hope this series will inspire you fledgling writers to take more seriously the call to take up pen (or typewriter) and dedicate yourselves more fully to the art of writing. There are certainly some latent talents amongst us.

Good luck and have fun on this assignment.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Typing Assignment #4

We had great results from our last typing assignment, which was about youthful hangouts. Some of the entries were very serious, while others not so much. There are many people here who have a latent talent for writing, and my wish is to enable more people to take up the pen - or typewriter - and begin to discover that wonderful inner world of writing.

This week's assignment will be more lighthearted, which is to write about that old pangram: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. You are free to use this phrase as a jumping-off point for wherever the create muse leads. Write from the perspective of the fox, or the dog, or the dog's owner. Tell us the backstory, or what happens after. Is there animosity between the fox and dog, or are they friends? Why is the dog considered lazy - did he get a false reputation? You get to decide - it's your story.

As in previous assignments, please have an image of your entry uploaded to a photo hosting website, and the link to that image posted below in the comments section before the end of next Sunday. Alternatively, if you have issues with Blogger, just leave a comment below the YouTube video with the link to your image.

Also, tell us in your comment about which typewriter you used, and what name you'd like me to use in the video when referring to you. Good luck and happy writing!


Monday, July 03, 2017

Typing Assignment #3

Wow! What great writing we were blessed to have read with the last typing assignment. We had twenty participants and they all produced wonderfully creative expressions of how typewriters work in their writing process. I was interested to discover how many of those participating had expressed similar reasons for writing with typewriters, yet there were also some unique aspects I hadn't considered. This is another good reason to participate in this project, the interaction with others like-minded as yourself, and the opportunity to learn and grow as a creative.

Of course, nothing is perfect, especially the behind-the-scenes technical aspects of doing this project. For some, there were serious challenges, either with finding the time to write, or snags with posting comments to this blog with the link to their online piece. Unfortunately, one hopeful participant had sent me a broken URL that I was unable to resolve, and couldn't contact him via email in time to get his submission.

I've decided as a backup plan that if you have issues with posting comments to Blogger, please instead post a comment to the Typing Assignment #3 video on YouTube with the link to your piece.

Some other issue of note:
PDF files: Apparently my mobile video editing platform treats PDFs as documents instead of images, and hence won't permit importing them as photos to my video editor. I was able to find a work-around, by capturing a screen grab of their online piece instead.
Evernote: I had saved a document from a person's Evernote site, which appeared in my photo folder as a normal image. But when imported to the video project the image had scrambled letters, unreadable, as if some sort of copy protection were at work. I ended up also taking a screen capture of their online document instead.
The Ken Burns Effect: I used this top-to-bottom scroll effect in the video to make the pages wide enough to be readable. But if there is very little margin at the bottom of the image, then the clip fades out a bit too soon. It would help if you include a bit more margin at the bottom of your images to permit it to be fully readable, otherwise the viewers might have to pause the video.
Google shortcut links: One person sent a Google shortcut link that was broken. I was unable to fix it. And I couldn't notify them in time for the deadline. It's a good habit to test your image links before posting them to this blog or the YouTube video. Paste the link into a fresh private browser window and see if it works first.

If you need to contact me directly about some issue with posting or uploading your image link, email me at: j v c a b a c u s (at) y a h o o (dot) com.

Now! Assignment #3 is to write a one-pager about youthful hang-outs. Write about some place you liked to spend time at when young, and perhaps a bit about the people you hung with and maybe even some special circumstance or story that transpired. The deadline is next Sunday, July 9. Please keep the length of your piece to one typewritten page. Try to make the image as bright and contrasty as needed to be easily readable from inside a video. If you need assistance, contact me. Good luck!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What? Another Typewriter? Yes!

Smith-Corona Sterling in script font

After the Associated Press article on the typewriter revival came out several weeks ago, some people took notice that I live in the local area, including a lady named Sandy, who had in her possession her mother's Smith-Corona Sterling. No, I don't need another typewriter, but this one has an italic typeface. Sandy called me last week, inquiring if I'd care to take it off her hands, and I agreed for her to come over Sunday and I'd take a look at the machine.

I've always been amused by the styling of machines from this era, with their muted colors (or lack thereof) in drab grays and browns, with just a hint of excitement from the two-tone green keys. Automobiles from the same era were similarly adorned in muted color schemes; was it because of some intrinsic modesty, or simple economics? Even the shape of these 5-Series machines reminds me of late-1940s cars, with their rounded curves.

The machine turned out to be entirely functional, excepting the end-of-line bell wasn't working, caused by a bent bracket. And it was very dirty inside, evidence of having never been serviced. Her mother purchased it in 1949 from a small town in Kansas, though it lacks a dealer sticker.

It took me hours and hours to get it adequately cleaned and adjusted. Years of eraser debris had accumulated inside, enough to pit and stain some of the metal surfaces. Extensive cleaning with naphtha and alcohol took care of most of the grunge, however.

The type slugs were caked with old ink and grease, the worse I've seen, and took an extensive session with toothpicks, toothbrush and alcohol to render clean.

Luckily, I have Ted Munk's Typewriter Repair Bible for these 5-Series Smith-Coronas, for I went through the machine, checking in turn each adjustment. It actually wasn't too bad. The right side of the space bar sat lower than the left, which required reforming (i.e. bending) the support arms to get it flush with the body panels, while ensuring adequate travel to trip the escapement, with room to spare. The four screws that hold the space bar to their brackets needed to be loosened and the space bar adjusted to be square to the opening in the body panels.

The other adjustment needed was the tripping point of the type bars. They should trip the escapement to advance the carriage one space when the type slugs just approach the front of the type guide. With this machine, the escapement wouldn't trip until the type slugs were almost in contact with the ribbon. The adjustment involved bending an arm in the escapement mechanism.

As is common with these machines that've never been serviced, some additional degreasing in the slots of the segment were required for some of the type bars, which would subsequently hang up while test typing. I've found that, even if you think the machine is fully functional, you need to do some extensive test-typing to iron out those intermittent problems that remain. I find using disposable mascara brushes, with alcohol, to be a good way to clean the slots of the segment.

I like this italic type face; it's the first in my collection, and the main reason why I purchased this machine. I think it'll be a good letter-writing machine, which is what the lady's mother did, as evidenced by what she told me, and the observation that the right margin was set inward so as to correspond to the width of letter-writing paper.

The Sterling is at the lower end of the 5-Series line. It lacks the end-of-line indicator found on the left end of the platen roller in the higher-end Silents; has fixed tabs with metal slugs that can, if so desired, be set to one's liking; and the platen roller is not easily removable without unscrewing the right carriage cover and loosening a nut.

This machine has a bit more of a mechanical clanking sound to it than the Silents in my collection. Perhaps it's due to being a lower-end model; or because the thin rubber washers originally located on the body panel screw holes have all dissolved into tar. I'll have to find some replacements at the hardware store.

I don't really need another machine in my collection, unless it were highly desirable. This is my third 5-Series machine, which I'll probably keep just for the italic type face. But if I had the opportunity, I'd certainly pick up the little Sky Writer, one of the best ultra-portables.

What I'm thinking of doing with some of these "surplus" or redundant machines in my collection is to donate them to a local school classroom, should I be able to locate a teacher so inclined. I don't want to incur the expense and risk of shipping them out of town, otherwise I'd sell them online.

I think this is a reasonable approach to maintaining a working collection of typewriters, while not permitting them to get out of hand and control my life. As you learn over time your personal preferences, you can adjust your inventory accordingly. Fixing these surplus machines up, then passing them on to others who'd like to experience the manual typewriter lifestyle is our responsibility as aficionados. It certainly beats having them be discarded to the landfill, or be victims of the key-choppers.

One bonus item of Ephemera included with the typewriter was a generic plastic typewriter cover. It's beige in color and in great condition, though lacks any Smith-Corona branding, so I'm thinking it was sold along with the machine by the shop in Kansas. It turns out this cover is large enough that it will serve as a usable cover with even larger machines in my collection, such as the Hermes 3000. Were I of the mind to, and adequately equipped with sewing machine, it'd be nice to use this cover as a template for making colorful cloth covers for sale. I'm just not certain I want to get in the typewriter cover business. But maybe a small sewing machine is in my future. Perhaps.

Post-Script: Written via Alphasmart Neo at my local cigar store lounge. I didn't feel like walking back home in the afternoon heat lugging a typewriter, even a small portable.

Here's my video about this new typewriter to my collection:

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Typing Assignment #2

We had a great response to Typing Assignment #1 on my YouTube channel, with 18 participants entering their one-page typewritten pieces. For many of you, this was your first foray into creative writing, which I can only respond by feeling grateful that this project has already born some creative fruit. I hope you continue to be inspired and wear out many more ribbons with your future writings!

These short pieces, though each unique, had many aspects in common, especially the devotion and love reflected between machine and user. There was also a strong sense of melancholy, for these machines having sat so many years and decades in disuse, before being rediscovered. Humor was also in plenteous supply, with one writer having the typewriter revolution being started by the machines themselves, and another writer stating that the machines collect their owners - not the other way around. For anybody like us collectors who've sensed that magnetic attraction to some otherwise anonymous thrift store, only to find some wonderful machine inside, waiting to be taken home, we can certainly relate.

Of course, a single page is entirely inadequate for many of these stories to be fully realized; but that is another reason why these one-page assignments are so worthwhile, in that they require just enough creative effort to whet the juices into further expanding the treatment into a full-blown short story, which I hope many participants will take advantage of.

Typing Assignment #2 is less fictional creativity and more along the lines of analytical thinking: write a one-page essay on what you find unique and/or valuable about using typewriters as writing tools. Unless I hear otherwise, we'll assume the due date will be next Sunday, July 2. Please have your entries written, scanned/photographed, posted to social media and the link posted into the comments section below before then. If you require more than one week for this assignment, please post a comment into the YouTube video itself; I'll consider extending the due-date based on responses. I suspect enough of us are typewriter aficionados that we already have a good idea of why we like to use these machines for creative writing.

Good luck and happy writing.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

The Line Writer Returns?

The Line Writer at his Hermes 3000

Post-Script: Here are the two poems Noah wrote today:

The Rose That Grew From Concrete - by Noah the Line Writer

Sometimes I Cry - by Noah the Line Writer

It's easy to see coincidences where there perhaps aren't any, but earlier today I'd posted a video and blog article about the first in a series of Typing Assignments. Do things like this blow on the wind, like pollen or dust? The very day when I issued this first creative writing assignment, my grandson returns to the typewriter after a long hiatus. All we can do is count our blessings - and keep writing.

Here's Noah's blog.

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Typing Assignment #1

In last week's blog article I introduced this new video project that I call Typing Assignments, loosely inspired by Ted Forbes's photo assignments series on his The Art of Photography YouTube channel.

Today I introduce Typing Assignment #1, which is to anthropomorphize your typewriter and have it describe how it "found" you, and how it feels about its relationship with you, the writer.

Remember these ground rules to this project:

1) This is not a contest. Scores are not given, points are not earned. This is your assignment, to help foster creativity using your typewriter.

2)The piece has to be typewritten (electric or manual) as a single page. Single, double, triple spaced - doesn't matter, as long as it's legible.

3)Neatness doesn't count. Typewriters are ideal for first-draft, stream-of-consciousness creativity. Corrections, strike-throughs and revisions are just evidence of the creative process at work.

4)Post a legible image online. Photograph or scan the piece under good light. Tweak it to be easily readable. Post it online as a publicly-viewable image.

5)Post the direct URL to the image as a comment below, along with the name you'd like to be called. Also include something about what typewriter you used, if you wish.

Please have your piece written, posted and linked in a comment below by next Sunday, June 25. I screen my blog comments, so it might take a while for your comment to appear. I'll do my best to capture images of as many as I can and include them in next Monday's video, wherein I will also present Typing Assignment #2.

Have fun, and remember: This is an opportunity to bond with your typewriter as a tool for fostering creativity.