Monday, July 31, 2017

"And Don't Call Me Freddy"

Ants002 (1)

Post-Script: This whole project began as an inspiration, late at night, sitting at my office desk with Underwood Portable at my side. These machines indeed are tools for writing inspiration, especially this kind of writing that's imaginative and, being fiction, doesn't have to conform to reality.

Since I needed a photo to adorn the beginning of this article, I figured a pinhole image would be needed, in order to get sufficiently close to these garden ornament ants. I used a little cardboard pinhole camera I'd built some years ago, with a 4" square format and wide angle of view (about 1.5" focal length). I attached a rectangular wooden base to my tripod, already fitted with 1/4-20 tripod bushing, and clamped to that a larger sheet of old plywood. This served as a mobile foreground stage, which I could move around my yard and adjust its framing with the tripod's head. A 25 second exposure in bright sun was made onto pre-flashed grade 2 RC paper. Inversion of the tones was done in the Preview app on my Mac. I really need to get some more full-featured photo editing software, but that'll involve spending some money and doing a bit of research.

Here's the video of this project:

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Monday, July 24, 2017

On the Importance of Craft


Post-Script: This is not to imply that there is no craft-like skill involved with the more contemporary methods of image-making, but traditional methods are intrinsically craft-oriented, dealing as they do with physical material.

I loved Harman's Direct Positive Paper, and do hope they get the bugs ironed out of their manufacturing issues. Going forward, I do need to consider, when dealing with still-life and landscape subjects, returning to large format sheet film which, though more costly, can yield wonderful results, including the possibility of enlargements.

Typecast via Underwood Portable 4-bank. Check out the latest video about this machine.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Haze-gray and underway


Post-Script: As it turns out, we had attempted to radio the Pakistani ship on an international hailing frequency prior to the collision; they responded but only too late, and attempted to navigate the gap between what they thought were the lights of two smaller ships, but was actually the darkness between our bow lights and superstructure. Despite their size, it seems you can hide an aircraft carrier, in the glum of a dark and stormy Arabian Sea night.

Subsequent to this event, the US Navy installed a navigation lighting mast on all its carriers, a tall pole fixed to the starboard catwalk between bow and superstructure, to serve as a visual indication that this is one huge ship, not two smaller vessels.

The freighter ship ended up being towed back to Karachi via US Navy oceangoing tug, and financial recompense was made. Our port Terrier missile radar antenna was retrieved from the deck of the freighter. The four-foot hole in our ship, high above the waterline and just below the flight deck, was merely a superficial wound; we remained at sea for several more weeks before turning east and returning to Subic Bay for repairs.

Captain McCarthy, one of the best skippers I served under, it is said didn't make the rank of Admiral because of this event, but did become a Commodore and served as head of the Naval Academy. His voice can be heard if you tour the USS Midway museum, in San Diego bay.

If you visit little old landlocked Albuquerque, you should visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, formerly know as the National Atomic Museum and once located, prior to 9/11, on Kirtland Air Force Base. In the parking lot of the museum you will see a blue and white Terrier Missile launcher. This is because these systems were capable, as was the Connie's, of being nuclear armed. At the time of the collision, it was said that the Connie's was the last nuclear-certified Terrier system left in service. These employed a W30 1kt nuclear warhead and had a range of something like 40 nautical miles; designed in the atmosphere of nuclear idealism in the mid-1950s, before the advent of ICBMs, when it was thought that virtually every conventional tactical weapon could be nuclear armed. That was a different time.

Today, sold to a salvage company for $1, the Connie is being cut apart for scrap metal in the Galveston shipyards, while the governments of the United States and Iran remain at odds over their respective views of national sovereignty. Meanwhile, events like these that transpired during those long, dark nights of the Cold War remain but sea stories old men tell their grandkids.

Typing assignment via Underwood Portable, a newcomer to my collection.


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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!