Monday, September 18, 2017

Thoughts on Micro-Documentaries and Movies



It's interesting how reading some seemingly innocuous comment can suddenly trigger a strong creative urge. That happened to me, several weeks ago, after reading the comments to a posting on Kirk Tuck's The Visual Science Lab blog.

The blog article was about the book The Age of the Image, by Stephen Apkon, whose thesis is that we live in an age when, as Kirk Tuck states:

(W)e are moving from the written word to the language of motion pictures. The author makes a convincing point that, in the near future, to be truly literate will mean understanding the grammar and language of video; both how to decode it and how to create it.

In the comments to the article, reader ODL Designs wrote:

I had the idea, when watching some footage of farmers reduce the rat population in their fields using dogs, of making micro documentaries explaining interesting things like that.

Boom. Like that, it hit me. The idea of making "micro documentaries." If video is equivalent to the "written language" of our day, then perhaps we should start our journey toward visual literacy by practicing the equivalent of the haiku or vignette; not feature-length "cinema," in all of its pretentiousness, but shorter works whose length is not driven by some archaic measurement standard like the size of a reel of film, or the attention span of an audience, or marketing standards from nearly a century ago.

I know what has hampered me in the past, when considering my journey toward visual literacy, is this feeble notion that a person can take up some modest assortment of video equipment and suddenly become a "film maker." Or, similarly, that such a fledgling novice should consider setting their sights on becoming like a small-scale version of a Hollywood film company. As if there were only one model for how the individual can employ the visual arts as a means of communication. That model of the classic Hollywood film system is outdated and irrelevant. Forget it. It would be like following the model of the newspaper printing business as a means for reaching a wider audience on the Internet via blogging. That was then, this is now. Heck, even blogging itself is a bit passe these days.

I have this sense that, as creatives, we often bite off larger projects than we can chew. Sure, long-term goals are important, but I'm sensing the importance of doing something for today. Projects small enough to complete in one day's time, from conception, to execution to editing and post-production. Maybe it's a simple thing, just one solid thought or idea. How would that work on video? What would be the elements of visual language you'd use? Would you use narration, or let the montage of scenes do the talking?

I get the sense, from talking with other fledgling "film makers," that short pieces are looked down upon as somehow less than feature-length films. As if they are mere student works, kiddie practice, something you need to grow out of to be a big-boy auteur. This argument makes little sense if we consider the short-story writer versus the novelist. Are short stories somehow intrinsically inferior to novels? What about poetry? Are poems inferior because of their frequent brevity? I don't think so. And, I suspect, neither do you.

What short-story writers and poets often do is publish their work in collections. Now here's an idea worth considering. For the creator of video "shorts," or micro-documentaries, this makes a lot of sense, especially considering many pieces could be grouped together by common themes or undercurrents.

So, on the day that I read Kirk Tuck's blog article, I was struggling with repairing my aunt's old Royal Model 10 typewriter (which is still on my work bench, yet to be completely sorted) when it struck me that here's a subject for a micro-documentary: a selfie-documentary (selfiementary?) of my inner struggle with being a barely-skilled, fledgling typewriter technician, having promised my aunt I could fix her machine yet evidently not being able to do so. I immediately knew how I wanted to approach the video, a documentary-style interview piece where I'm verbally confessing my inner feelings as if answering some off-camera interviewer's questions, intercut with clips of me fiddling with the machine and its inner workings.

I also knew I wanted to record the video in black-&-white, and immediately knew to use the Panasonic Lumix camera's Dynamic Monochrome film style, which gives dense shadows and hard, contrasty footage. Sure, I could have "graded" color footage in post to achieve black-&-white, but it wouldn't be as good as what those little Lumix cameras can do themselves.

Another stylistic consideration was the choice of lens. Since I'd just started using the 7Artisans 25mm f/1.8 manual focus lens, I thought it would be perfect for a more film-like image, since it renders like an older lens design and mechanically focuses like a cinema lens with a stepless aperture ring.

The piece finally came together in my mind when I realized that, in repeated test-typings on the Royal typewriter, I'd been using the phrase "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country," which suggested the video's title, and implied an undercurrent of responsibility to my aunt to somehow come to her aid, in the repair of her machine.

No, this isn't "Arte." It lacks the finesse and sophistication of a more scholarly approach. It's not recorded in 4K - the new litmus test - with a Red camera. Heck, it's just YouTube, for gosh sakes. But I like it. I like the spontaneity, the creative inspiration that spurned this piece. I like that it represents, to me, a working model for how to proceed forward with micro-documentaries as an elegantly simple way to communicate one concrete idea in a brief few minutes of the viewers' time.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

More Direct Positive Print Experiments

Reversal MG RC WT002

I've continued to make slow but steady progress with reversal processing black & white photo paper, used as an in-camera "film," to make one-of-a-kind monochrome prints. But I have not been working alone. I first heard of this new method from photographer Federico Pitto, who has been pioneering the use of hydrogen peroxide/citric acid as an alternative bleaching agent, making the process less toxic and using more readily available materials.

In case you are not familiar with reversal processing of photo paper, this involves exposing a sheet of paper in a camera, as if it were a sheet of film but with a much slower speed (ISO 1.5-3); much like a paper negative. Then the paper is processed in developer, followed by a rinse. At this point, the paper exhibits a negative image and is still light-sensitive; the areas of great exposure have turned dark, while the shadow areas are much lighter.

Were this a "conventional" paper negative, it would be stopped and fixed, producing a negative image. But instead, the print is placed into a bleaching bath, which selectively bleaches only the metallic silver - the formerly dark parts of the image - while leaving intact the remaining unexposed silver halides in the light parts of the image. Coming out of the bleach, the image is faint and faded in appearance, as the formerly dark (negative) highlights are now bleached nearly white, while the unexposed paper is also white.

Following a brief rinse, the paper is then re-exposed with light, which serves to fog the remaining silver halides that had yet to receive any exposure. Then the paper is once again developed, this time causing the remaining silver halides, that had not been exposed in-camera (representing the shadow areas of the image) but were fogged during the second exposure, to turn dark. The result is a positive image on paper - a direct positive print.

Earlier experiments were successful, but the highlights, or lighter parts of the image, had a strange blotchy, mottled appearance, that wasn't consistent from one test to the next. Federico Pitto came up with the idea that perhaps, during the second exposure, we were grossly over-exposing the paper, and that perhaps the mottling was the result of still unexposed, residual silver halides in the light areas of the image getting a fogging exposure and turning dark after the second development. He therefore did a series of test strips, and determined, using his enlarger as a controlled light source, the optimal settings for this second exposure.

Armed with this new knowledge, I this week attempted to use Federico's settings with my process, and I can report a great improvement in the results. Here is a synopsis of the process (times unless otherwise noted are minutes:seconds):

Expose in-camera at ISO 1.5
Develop in a 1+15 dilution of Ilford Universal Paper Developer (300mL water + 22 mL concentrate) for 1:30
Rinse in water for :30
Bleach in solution of 175mL water + 125mL 35% hydrogen peroxide + 2 teaspoons citric acid for 3:00
Rinse in water to wash off residual peroxide
Squeegee print dry
Expose under enlarger, set to 20" height at f/8 aperture, for 8 seconds
Develop again for 1:30; you can see, under the red lights, the image turn positive
Rinse or stop bath for :30
Fix in paper fixer for 2:00


All of the above is performed under red safelights, until in the fixer for about a minute. The only white light the paper sees during the process is during the second exposure, under the enlarger. I think this contributes greatly to the quality of the highlights.

Because I used multigrade paper for this test (Ilford RC, MG, WT luster finish), the contrast was more than what I'm used to seeing with grade 2 RC paper. But it also opens up a larger source of paper, of various manufacturers and finishes.

Going forward, there are more experiments yet to do. One, I'd like to do more tests of the second exposure under the enlarger, using colored filters with MG paper, hoping to improve the shadow detail. As you can see from the top image, the shadows are very blocked up, indicative of the high contrast resulting from exposing MG paper under UV-laden daylight. Perhaps less second exposure would result in lighter shadows.

Two, I'd like to do more experiments with pre-flashing the paper. I've been applying a standard pre-flash to the paper during all of these tests, but perhaps it needs more, to get more shadow response. The top image had a pre-flash twice what I usually use, with little in the way of increased shadow detail. So perhaps a combination of the above two ideas might see some results.

I also need to try this new processing method with my older grade 2 paper and see if it also has positive results (no pun).

Finally, since it appears to be a working process, perhaps it's time to break out the 8"x10" box camera and do this on a larger scale! Stay tuned for more results soon.

The top image was made after the developer and bleaching agent had been sitting in their trays for several hours. I also had left the print sitting wet in a holding tray for about a minutes, under red lights, between the bleach and the second exposure, as I had to fumble in the dark with my enlarger timer. Whatever the cause, close examination of the highlights shows a slight unevenness, with faint streaks, still present; this was not present on an earlier image, made when the chemicals were fresh. I need to nail down the cause of this. So, more refinements yet to make.

Here are the first three videos documenting my experiments thus far:





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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Typing Assignment No.9


Typing Assignment 8, which was to write in the style of a favorite author, received good results, being simultaneously enjoyable and yet challenging. Myself, I wrote a piece inspired by William Gibson, though not necessarily in his exact style.

For our next assignment, we will be writing a hypothetical story in the life of a real-life stranger that you periodically see. This idea was inspired by my wife, who mentioned some of the strangers she sees regularly, like the checkout clerk at the grocer's, or the mother walking her kids to school. Everybody has a story, it seems; and writers love to spin those stories into something other people will enjoy. So dust off your typewriters and start thinking about those strangers that you periodically see in the course of you day. What's their story? You tell us!

Make a legible scan or photograph of your typewritten piece, post it to a publicly-accessible photo hosting website, then post the link to the image in the comments below. Alternatively, you can leave comments in the corresponding YouTube video. Or, email me with the image as an attachment, to jvcabacus (at) yahoo.com I hope you have fun with this assignment. The results will be due by Sunday, September 24.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Typing Assignment No.8

P1120794a

I must be getting old. Last week, when I announced the subject for Typing Assignment No.8, I implied there would be a corresponding blog article onto which you could post links to images of your typed sheet, via the comments below. Well, I forgot.

So here it is, better late than never. But I do hope you've been having fun with this assignment, which is to write a one-pager, using a typewriter, in the style of a favorite author. It can be fiction, nonfiction, prose, poetry - whatever, as long as you can tell us what author inspired you, and what typewriter you used to write it.

Myself, one favorite author is William Gibson. I'm going to have to buckle down and get something on paper today, if I hope to make the deadline of next Sunday.

As usual, scan or photograph your typed page, post it to a publicly accessible website, then post the link here below in the comments; or post the link to the YouTube video (see below); or email the image file to me at: jvcabacus@yahoo.com.

Good luck and happy writing.

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Direct Positive Print Experiments

Reversal Raven001Exposure: 1/8 second at f/5.6 in morning light

There was a time, only a year or so ago, when I took for granted that Harman's Direct Positive Paper would be available for us creatives to use. But it seems that change is the only constant in life. In case you haven't heard, Harman/Ilford have been experiencing manufacturing difficulties with their direct positive paper and so, for the time being, it is no longer available.

So, what is direct positive paper? Think of it as a wet-processed Polaroid print. You fit sheets of the fiber-based print paper into your large format camera's film holders, expose it as a very slow-speed film, then process it in standard black-and-white print chemistry (developer, stop bath and fixer) to get a one-of-a-kind, fiber-based positive print. Were you to do that with conventional black-and-white printing paper, you'd end up with what we call a paper negative: a photographic negative on a paper supporting medium. Harman's Direct Positive Paper represents a kind of hybrid process, combining the best of modern chemistry with traditional alternative photographic processes.

There have been methods for creating such direct positive prints in the past, using exotic and dangerous chemicals in what is termed a reversal process. This is what happened inside those old-fashioned photo booths, the ones that spit out a strip of black-and-white prints. These traditional reversal processes used a dichromate-based bleaching compound and chemical fogging agent to do the reversal part of the process. Theoretically feasible at home, yes, but impractical for most of us and requiring considerable care in handling, storage and disposal of chemicals.

Several weeks ago, through some fortuitous Internet surfing, I happened upon several blog posts that describe a different chemistry for achieving the chemical bleaching part of the reversal process. Rather than using toxic chromic acid-based compounds, the method described uses hydrogen peroxide and citric acid. Armed with little more than these blog articles to go on, I decided to try my hand at it.

The first step was acquiring a more concentrated solution of hydrogen peroxide than the 3% topical solution found in the drugstore. The blog articles describe using a 9% solution in the bleaching agent formula. I was able to source a local supply of 35% hydrogen peroxide at the same place as the citric acid powder, strong enough to be diluted down for my purposes.

Pause must be made at this point to remind anyone contemplating doing this that, although this new formula isn't toxic like chromic acid, concentrated hydrogen peroxide deserves to be handled with respect, as it is a strong oxidizing and corrosive agent, will do direct harm to your body if it makes contact and will react violently with many flammables, including spontaneously combust. You must wear protective gear on your exposed skin, including shielding your face and eyes, (and think about protecting your legs and feet if something erupts at table-height) and mix it only in a safe location, away from flammables and other corrosives. This warning is not intended to scare you off from considering doing this process, only as a common-sense precaution, since the laws of physics don't care who you are.

I purchased a 1 liter plastic bottle, which was kept refrigerated at the store. I therefore decided to store my bottle also in a refrigerator, which helps reduce its reactivity during storage and prolongs it shelf-life.

The basic reversal process is this: develop the exposed paper in standard paper developer, then a quick rinse or stop bath. Next is the bleaching bath, in this case comprised of a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution with citric acid added. Next is a quick rinse, then the front of the paper is squeegeed dry, and the paper is then exposed directly to a bright source of white light, to fog the remaining unexposed silver halides in the emulsion. Then the paper is developed, stopped and fixed as normal. These last steps, from the fogging to the fixing, can be done in normal room light.

How the image reverses from a negative to a positive is that the bleaching agent acts selectively only against the developed metallic silver, produced by the first developing step, that represents the highlights of the scene. These dark silver molecules are bleached near paper-white, while leaving the unexposed silver halides intact in the remainder of the emulsion. Then the fogging with light exposes those remaining silver halides which, after the second development, turn into dark metallic silver and represent the shadow portion of the image.

The articles reference using a pH meter to accurately determine the acidity of the bleaching agent. Since I don't have such a device, I decided instead to employ empirical testing. I used Freestyle Photo's Arista grade 2 RC paper, initially rated at an ISO of 3 (I normally rate this paper at ISO 12 as a paper negative; it seems the reversal process requires a denser latent image to work properly). I mixed a 300mL solution of bleaching agent using 77mL of 35% peroxide and 223 mL of water, to which 2 teaspoons of citric acid powder was thoroughly dissolved. This amounts to a 9% concentration of hydrogen peroxide. To do this safely, I performed the mixing out doors, wearing protective gear, diluting the peroxide into the water, thoroughly stirring, then adding the citric acid powder after, with more stirring.

For my initial tests, at ISO3, I developed the paper for 2 minutes, bleached the paper for 5 minutes, fogged the paper under bright light for several minutes, then finished the process with a 2 minute develop, 30 second stop bath and 2 minute fix (pretty standard times for developing print paper). My developer was Ilford Multigrade concentrate diluted 1:15. After the bleaching step I rinsed the paper and turned on the white lights. The paper had a negative image with an irregular brass-colored mottling. Fogging the paper with direct exposure to light didn't change its appearance. But it did dramatically change when put back into the second developing bath, where the image quickly went from negative to positive.

Though the results were promising, the contrast was very low and the intensity of the highlights was very muted. You'd need to view the print under bright illumination to see the image with any kind of clarity. I next decided to add more citric acid to the bleaching agent, but the results didn't improve.

So I decided to make two changes at once: 1) increase the exposure by reducing the ISO to 1.5 (since my new meter only goes down to ISO3, I simply used the next slower shutter speed); and 2) double the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, from 9% to 18%. It turns out that this makes mixing the bleaching agent more convenient, as I can mix a 1:1 solution of 35% peroxide with water. So 150mL of 35% hydrogen peroxide to 150mL of water, plus 2 teaspoons of citric acid powder, makes the new solution.

The results are very promising, as evidenced by the above image. Coming out of the bleaching agent the highlights were already reversed white, even before the light fog and second development; it seems the bleaching agent activity determines the highlight density. The print has a nice warm tone to it, although the background shadows have a somewhat mottled appearance, evidencing its experimental nature. Held in hand, it's not much different from the Harman paper, other than color tone and the RC paper's surface finish. In processing this print, I reduced both development steps to 1:30, reduced the bleaching step to 2 minutes and the fogging step to 1 minute under a strong LED lamp of 5000k color temperature. I use the same developer tray for both development steps, to make things more convenient; which works well as long as you remember to thoroughly rinse the paper after the bleaching step.

It's not as convenient up front to process print paper this way, as compared to the Harman Direct Positive paper. But what you use in time up front you save on the back end of the process, since the RC paper only requires a brief rinse aid treatment and 5 minute wash, then can be quickly dried to completion, using a squeegee and hair dryer. Contrast this with fiber prints, that require an hour of rinsing and hours of drying time, taped flat to a sheet of glass to prevent curling.

I'm excited to try this process with other RC papers in my collection, including multigrade warm tone papers with a luster finish. I might also try increasing the concentration of peroxide to about 20-25%, and see what effect it might have on the results.

I'll be happy when Harman/Ilford returns their direct positive paper to the market, for the sake of others who would like to dabble in this interesting alternative process but don't want to get more involved than standard print chemistry. For myself, I'm grateful that this shortage has forced me to seek alternatives, as it has opened up a new avenue for my creative expression.

Post-Script: There is a photographic paper called Galaxy Direct Positive Paper which has entered the market recently. Despite its name, it does not produce a direct positive image in standard print paper chemistry, but rather requires a reversal process, like what I've described above. Still, I'd like to try it out, since it's supposedly very similar to the old photo lab print papers and has a thicker, more silver-rich emulsion.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Typing Scrolls Revisited



I'm certain I've blogged about this before. Using rolls of paper for typing, like the way that Jack Kerouac did with an early draft of On the Road, where he used a roll of teletype paper. Why a person would want to do so today has nothing to do with wanting to mimic the Beats. The Beat Movement is pretty much dead, last time I checked. And so are typewriters, except actually they're not; there's a revival in progress. Which is all the more reason to resurrect the idea of typing on a seemingly endless roll of paper - no more stopping in mid-thought to change paper. Just keep banging the keys and slinging the carriage back after the bell dings, and watch the paper pile up behind the machine on the floor; a more certain measure of one's writerly output.

Years ago, after this idea struck me (and inspired by a visit to the Palace of the Governors Museum in Santa Fe, which was hosting the On the Road manuscript scroll in its long glass-topped display case), I went in search of rolls of paper. Adding machine paper was too narrow, unless all you were interested in writing was short haiku poems. There were brown masking paper rolls, 6 inches wide, available at hardware stores; but I didn't want to type on brown paper. And there was white paper rolls in craft and art stores, but in widths much wider than the standard 8-1/2 inches.

After a bit of Internet searching I found a 6 inch wide roll of white paper, in 700 foot lengths, used for masking in the automotive painting industry. A local search found some at the Napa Auto Parts painting supply store. I ended up buying a damaged roll (the inner cardboard core was deformed) for less than half the price of new.

This paper I used for a time for typecast blogging. With the margins set to ~1/4 inch in from either edge, I could get long enough lines of text sufficient for this blog's template. But the paper was thin and crinkly, and didn't take ink all that well. I think, being engineered for painting, its surface was hydrophobic and hence repelled the ink, which would also easily smear. So after some time, I set that roll aside and looked for another solution.

A search on Amazon revealed rolls 8-1/2 inches wide of what was described as "teletype paper," but after receiving an order I found the quality of the paper was about the worse I'd ever seen. I should have known; I think Western Union quit the teletype business some years ago. Essentially like the very cheapest newsprint art paper, off-white and very fibrous, it doesn't take correction tape, and is mostly useful only for rough-draft writing where no one else will see the finished results. You wouldn't want to type that letter to dear old Aunt Mary with this stuff, or she'd take you out of her will.

This last week I once again found myself in the local big-box office supply retailer, when I happened across a roll of white "banner" paper 17 inches wide by 50 feet in length, for $5. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that 17 inches is twice 8-1/2, and I at once began thinking that perhaps my miter saw could cut it in half sufficiently neat to make the effort and cost worthwhile.

And yes, it was worth the cost, even the effort required afterward of cleaning up the garage because of the surprisingly messy cloud of shredded paper dust kicked up by the saw. But the cut was very smooth, and the resulting roll of 8-1/2 inch by 50 foot-long, white bond paper is nicely threaded up in the old Underwood Portable on the tray table, with the roll snuggled nicely between the scissor legs of the folding table using a piece of wooden broom handle. And a backup roll, from the other half, waits in the wings. $2.50 per roll is not a bad price. Maybe next time I'll do the cutting out of doors. Live and learn.

The paper takes typewriter ink very nicely, and has a very nice feel to it. I threaded up the paper in the machine so as to oppose the natural curl of the roll, hoping it helps in flattening it out. We'll see. Some of this paper, made from recycled pulp, can achieve a semi-permanent curl if left threaded around the platen too long.

So now I can say that my long search is over for an inexpensive source of good quality, white, typewriter-compatible paper rolls. I just need to set my butt down in front of that typewriter and start banging out some words. Which only I can do.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ice, Ice Baby!

Trellis002a

I'm posting an article about a photography project that I have not yet made. I don't actually know how successful it will be, truth be told. But I'm posting this in the hopes that, come winter and the cold climate, you'll hold me accountable by ensuring that I haven't forgotten.

The idea is simple, and has probably already been done. Uniqueness isn't the objective (pardon the pun), however. I'm merely curious to know if it'll work, and to see the resulting images for myself.

Back about 150 years ago, photographic technology was cumbersome and the processes trouble-prone, not because people purposefully sought after difficulties, but because the state of the art was primitive. And yet many of them succeeded, remarkably so. My idea is entirely cumbersome and somewhat difficult, and entirely impractical; you wouldn't want to go off and start creating images this way, even considering alternatives such as wet plate collodion, which might be easier to achieve than what I'm thinking of doing.

I want to make a liquid-proof camera that uses an ice lens. A simple, single-element meniscus lens, made from ice, with a paper negative as the light-sensitive medium. And I want the water making up the ice to have about 1/15th of its volume to be concentrated liquid paper developer.

When you mix a working solution of paper developer from liquid concentrate, in a dilution of around 1:15, the solution is slightly yellow in tone. This shouldn't be a major problem for forming an image, as people who do dabble in paper negatives are known to use a yellow filter over their lens to filter out the blue light and therefore make multigrade paper achieve a bit less blown-out contrast in daylight conditions.

My purpose for using frozen paper developer as a lens is not to make it yellow colored (that's merely a side attribute), but for the developing process after the exposure is made. I want to cap the lens, then somehow make the lens fall into the back of the camera, after which the camera will be taken into a warm indoor climate and I'll wait for the lens to melt, then gently agitate the camera so the paper negative will develop an image. After sufficient development time, I'll take the camera into the darkroom (or a changing bag), pour out the melted lens solution and fix the negative.

The camera needs to be made from some waterproof material like opaque plastic, so it will function as a developing tank.

I still haven't figured out how to make the lens fall into the back of the camera after the exposure is made. But I'll figure out something.

Obviously, doing this in sub-freezing temperatures will make the whole process a bit easier.

I don't know how transparent the lens will be, however. Looking at ice cubes coming out of the freezer, some are clear and others frosted over. I suppose a quick spray of water might clean off any frost. I can also foresee the lens frosting over once it's taken outside, if the temperature and/or humidity is not correct. I don't know how to predict what will happen without simply trying.

To mold the ice lenses, I was thinking of finding a certain kind of ice cube tray that make round, cylindrical cubes with a convex, rounded bottom. Then fill each section up to only fill the bottom, rounded section. The result should be a Plano-convex lens shape. A tray with a dozen compartments should give me enough lenses for experimentation.

I'm only assuming that the 1:15 solution of developer and water will still freeze somewhere around the same temperature of regular water.

Totally impractical, right? You wouldn't want to go off and start a portrait business using ice lenses. But it does sound like a fun project, impractical as it might be.

Just ping me with an email come December and remind me to work on this, will you? Thanks!

Post-Script: The top image is a positive inversion of a lumen print, made by exposing light-sensitive paper in a camera without subsequent development; the color change is due to auto-development of the silver halides.

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Typing Assignment No.7



Here we are with Typing Assignment No.7. Our last assignment was to write about a notable person in your life, and we had some very interesting stories. This new assignment is to "Climb the Highest Mountain." Describe a time in your life when you achieved something significant, or overcame a major obstacle. Or perhaps you did climb a literal mountain!

I'd like to think that story telling is the essence of writing; humans have been telling stories since the beginning of human history. And what better source of good stories than one's life experience. Perhaps this is why so many legendary writers also lived colorful, story-filled lives themselves.

For this new assignment, you'll dig into your life's experience and find something significant that you achieved, or a major problem you overcame. Perhaps you might think you've never accomplished much, never tackled some significant feat that's worthy of note. But to ourselves, in our internal life experience, many things loom large that might otherwise be seen as insignificant to others. Our job as writers is to communicate the magnitude of our internal experience to others in a way that they can appreciate; to enable them to enter into our personal experience.

I also like these kinds of writing assignments because they force us to dig deep into our selves, and in the process perhaps find something that might surprise us. I hope you find some personal reward in this work. Myself, I don't yet know that I'll write about, but am certain something will surface.

As in previous assignments, post a legible image of your typewritten piece to a publicly-accessible photo hosting site; then post the link to that image either in the comments section below, in the comments to the YouTube video, or email the image to me at: jvcabacus@yahoo.com

I look forward to reading and sharing your work. Have fun, dig deep and climb that mountain!

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