Sunday, September 26, 2021

Bearing Witness to History

“Box Camera Now” by Lukas Birk
Bearing Witness to History

Here's the link to the NPR story.

Here's a link to the Afghan Box Camera Project website.

Some videos I've made about my own Afghan Box Camera project:

Here are a few portraits I've made using my own version of an Afghan Box Camera:

Afghan Box Camera, Harman Direct Positive Paper


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Storage Slot Arm Sleeve Pinhole Camera -- Initial Tests

64 Impala
'64 Impala

Storage slot arm sleeve pinhole camera
Joe with arm sleeve storage slot pinhole camera
My hand in the arm sleeve, puppet-style. In actual practice it'd be mounted on a tripod.

Storage slot arm sleeve pinhole camera
The camera front with shutter pivotted open.

Storage Compartment Open
Here's a view without the sleeve attached, showing the compartment opened. Notice the curved groove and screw on the right side, that limits how far open the door can pivot. The compartment is deep enough for over 100 sheets of 4" x 5" photo paper, along with a floating divider to keep separate the exposed from unexposed sheets.

On the front of this compartment notice the top edges of the two side rails. These have embedded magnets that engage magnets mounted inside, to keep the compartment securely closed. These two rails also form a space where the paper is loaded. You pull out an unexposed sheet, slip it in front of the compartment between the rails and close the compartment with a smart "click." The paper is now secured flat in the film gate, no slipping or bending of the paper due to heat or movement.

I'd sketched ideas for this camera years ago; I'd have to sort through binders of sketches to find them. But as I'd imagined using this camera, the convenience of having it atop a tripod would be immediately obvious as I reach into the sleeve and deftly flip the door open, then pull out a sheet and slip it in front of the compartment and snap it closed, then quickly make an exposure and move on to the next scene, where the tripod is again situated, the door opened and the paper swapped for a fresh sheet, and another exposure is made.

DelicateArch002a A blustery day atop Delicate Arch, captured on 8" x 10" paper.

I've used large pinhole box cameras in the past, cameras as big as 8" x 10" format, some using heavy and expensive sheet film holders, others using a side-accessed storage slot but requiring the bulky camera to be placed inside a large changing bag to change out the paper between every shot, at some makeshift seating position where I can operate the procedure with changing bag on my lap. I've done this several times while hiking up the steep rock face to Delicate Arch, in Arches National Park, with heavy box camera, stuffed back pack and heavy tripod. There aren't very many convenient places to sit during that hike. Having a camera like this, where the paper can be changed while situated atop the tripod, would be a heaven-sent blessing.

Here's a recent video on the making of this camera:

Another possible version of this camera would be for a 5" x 7" format, but using photo paper cut to 5" x 8" from 8" x 10" sheets. The extra half inch on either side would be where the film gate keeps the paper secured. It wouldn't be much large than this 4x5 version but would yield significantly larger images. Another nice thing about these kinds of designs is you can design them with custom-sized formats in mind, since they don't have to conform to a predefined ISO-standard film size.

Aunt Pat’s Royal 10 Typecast via Royal 10 with silk ribbon.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Another G.A.S. Attack!

LUMIX G5 & 7Artisans 25mm F/1.8 Lens
The potential antidote to G.A.S.?

“Another G.A.S. Attack”

It's actually been a while since I used the little G5. And now I remember: the mechanical shutter no longer works; I have to set it to electronic shutter only. So the ISO is limited to 1600 (because of electronic shutter only). Okay for brighter conditions, but I can't get good images under dim indoor light.

The 7Artisans 25mm F/1.8 lens is pretty okay. It's manual focus only and has a stepless aperture ring, with a round-shaped aperture at all stop settings; nice images. At 25mm on this camera format it has the angle of view of a "nifty 50" prime lens. But it ain't no "pancake" lens; part of the price for a fast aperture. I do have the 14mm F/2.5 and 20mm F/1.9 Lumix pancake lenses. The 14 ain't bad, but at F/2.5 not all that fast. And the 20 renders really nice, and is fast optically, but the autofocus is a dog. There's also the little Olympus 15mm F/8 bodycap lens, kind of a curiosity. Not great optical quality (the lens is plastic), and at F/8 requires bright light to work well. But it makes for a quick point-and-shoot camera, having a hyperfocal setting for the F/8 aperture.

None of these options are ideal. But they're paid for. And I'd still need to get that oh-so-fashionable fanny pack, to make this camera work for me. Looking forward to that!

These cameras have a limited lifespan. Heck, so do all cameras. My 1980s-vintage Minolta X700 has capacitor issues, so these problems aren't limited to just digital technology. Maybe it's like owning cars: fix them until they're not fixable, or not affordable to fix, then get another one. Hence the G.A.S. attack over the little Ricoh GR3. But dang, it seems they're a hot item these days, and forking over $900 for a new one begins to sound like real money.

But then a person, when in the throes of a G.A.S. attack, needs to do some serious cost/benefit analysis. As I wrote, I have several very compact film cameras that would fit the bill nicely. Like the Yashica T4 Super, or the Minox GT-E. Both very pocketable. But let's consider the bill for film, developing and scanning, say 36 exposure rolls. Say color film, like Kodak Portra 160. I can get a 5-pack for about $48, from B & H Photo. That's about $9.60 per roll. Then processing at my local lab costs $6, plus high-resolution scanning (equivalent to a 20+ megapixel camera) costs $24. That's $39.60 plus tax for 36 images. That's over a dollar a shot. This doesn't even include the cost of 4x6 prints; I'm trying to keep this equivalent to what it'd cost me to shoot digital.

How long would it take me to shoot, say, 900 images on film? I don't know, it depends. But I've been known to shoot dozens and dozens during an important event like a family gathering. So in just a few months I could see myself forking out over $900 in film expenses, enough to pay for that Ricoh GR3. And with the GR3, like any digital camera, the cost per shot depreciates rapidly over time; the more you shoot, the cheaper each shot gets, since the expenses are all up-front.

Part of the calculus of a G.A.S. attack is comparing film versus digital. Keep in mind I'm in the market for a pocketable camera with better image quality than my cell phone. Those small film cameras, that I already own, would offer the image quality I want, but at the cost of a continued increase in expenses per shot. And that's assuming the cost of film and processing doesn't continue to increase over time (which it most likely will).

Also, this isn't really about the philosophy of being a film aficionado. I love film and film cameras. Heck, I still maintain a working black-and-white darkroom. But my particular set of requirements are expensive to maintain with film. Plus, the immmediacy of digital imaging is an advantage hard to ignore.

Time marches on. Yes, it'd be a romantic idea to hand-crank that Ford Model A roadster to life, after setting the choke and spark advance. But you wouldn't want to commute to work in it every day.

We shall see where this G.A.S. attack leads. Hopefully it leads to me being more creative with photography, whatever I choose, for that is the end goal I'm keeping in mind. The tools required to do so are merely a necessity, nothing more, no use getting hung up over them. At least, I keep telling myself that, as I scratch that G.A.S. attack itch.

Typecast via Groma Kolibri.

Post-Script: I should mention that for a period of about a decade I documented parts of Albuquerque with a compact digital camera, that resulted in several self-published photo books. You can find them here. That phase of my life seems to be over, at least for now, but part of the reason is the city has changed; and then the COVID pandemic hit. I'd like to once again begin a period of being a documentary photographer, and a compact, high-quality camera tool would be a necessity.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Peroxide Reversal Prints, or The Infinite Joe Series

Selfie Focus TargetThe Selfie Setup

I've been a photography loner for decades. Meaning that I've worked in relative isolation, as I've cobbled together box cameras from cardboard, foam board and scraps of wood; or tinkered with using print paper as an in-camera film; or, lately, trying to perfect the hydrogen peroxide / citric acid reversal process, which promises an almost straight-out-of-camera finished print -- after some processing, of course. Think wet Polaroid.

But it's not exactly correct that I've been working in isolation these last several years, because I've teamed up with fellow Burqueno Ethan Moses (transplanted from Brooklyn), to work on camera-making projects and, more recently, the peroxide reversal process.

One of the benefits of having a partner is that no two people see things the same way. What one person perceives one way, the other see it differently. That's a good thing when you're tinkering with new photographic processes. You need an atmosphere of experimentation, even a bit of confusion or turmoil.

As an aside, many significant discoveries in science and engineering happened because someone was working on some process, or idea, and things didn't go as planned, and some new discovery was found, by accident. Take flash memory for example. It happened by accident, someone misprocessed a lot of silicon memory chips and they ended up getting extra layers deposited in the transistor's gate structure, which created the floating gate, where data can be stored as nonvolatile electric charges. If that operator hadn't goofed and misprocessed, perhaps we wouldn't have flash memory; or it would have taken longer to develop. Were they repromanded, or even terminated, for their goof, I wonder? And what would have happened if that chip factory had perfected their manufacturing process such that no mistakes could be made? Yes, they could have engineered out all unpredictable process deviations, but at the price of no new discoveries.

When you're tinkering with making a process better, you have to walk that razor's thin edge between consistency and planned deviation. But your exploration of alternative process methods is only as good as your mental model of how the thing works in the first place. And sometimes you don't really know how it works, you're working blind, groping in the dark.

This is how Ethan and I felt at times, these last few years, as we've toyed with the citric acid / hydrogen peroxide reversal process for black & white paper. We, both of us, aren't chemists, or educated in advanced photographic processes. We're tinkerers mainly, though Ethan's a bit more educated than I. And so, we don't exactly understand how the process works, except it involves using the citric acid to ionize metallic silver molecules, so they can be selectively dissolved by the peroxide.

When I first read of this process on APUG, a few years ago, people were mixing the citric acid and peroxide as one solution. Then we hit on the idea of separating out the chemicals as discrete steps, but we'd go back and forth between the two in multiple passes, before the negative image could be completely bleached out. There was also experiments around which to do first, the acid or the peroxide.

More recently, Ethan has hit on the idea of using a longer processing time in a stronger solution of citric acid, to more fully saturate the emulsion, before exposing it to the peroxide. And it seems to work better, at least when we were doing the large 20 inch by 24 inch prints in Ethan's recently complete mega-sized camera. But I wanted to try it myself.

Ethan and the Behemoth
Ethan's mega-sized camera prototype.

During our many experiments with these processes someone has to sit and pose for the pictures, since we're hoping to be using these processes for portraits. And so it's usually happened that I sit and pose. And thus we've built up a good collection of Joe pictures in all our many experiments, enough such that Ethan has taken to calling it the Infinite Joe Series. I kind of like the ring to that name.

So today I wanted to try and replicate the success that Ethan has had, but I had to figure out how to pose and focus the view camera on myself. The result is seen in the top photo, a length of paracord, one end tied to the camera, the other attached to a cardboard focusing aid, with knots in the cord for adjusting the posing distance. The way this works is to tape the end of a yardstick to the focusing target, then stretch it out in front of the camera lens and focus the camera upon the target, as you stand behind the camera. Then, when I seat myself in front of the camera, I can stretch the string tight and place it adjacent to my eyes, to ensure critical focus. Once set, I carefully lower my arm and trip the camera shutter with a release cable.

I wanted to be consistent with my process, to eliminate sources of foul-ups, like the brown or yellow staining we've sometimes seen, that can arise unexpectedly. But I also had the problem that I was out of fresh paper developer, so today I ended up using some Afga Rodinol film developer, in a stronger concentration than what you'd normally use for film.

Here's a shot of my processing setup in my darkroom. I've used these little 3-drawer cube stacks for a long time, as a way to reduce clutter and make the setup more compact.

3-Drawer Cube Stack Processing Trays

I'll explain the chemicals in each drawer and the order in which they were used, along with processing times.

The paper (Arista-brand, from Freestyle Photo, grade 2 RC paper, semi-matte finish) was rated at ISO 3.

1. Upper left drawer: Developer. Agfa Rodinol diluted 75mL into 325 mL water (about 1:4.33). 1 minute 30 seconds processing under red safelights, intermittent agitation.
2: Upper right drawer: Water, 30 seconds rinse under red safelights, intermittent agitation.
3: Middle left drawer: Citric acid, mixed 2 heaping teaspoons to 300mL water. 3 minutes processing under red safelights, intermittent agitation. Turn on white light at end of this step.
4: Middle right drawer: 35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide. 2-3 minutes processing under white light, continuous agitation, or until the image is fully bleached to white.
5: Transfer print to a water wash tray via tongs (not shown), 30 seconds rinse under white light, continuous agitation.
6: Lower left drawer: Heico Permawash, used straight (no dilution), processed for 1 minute 30 seconds under white light, intermittent agitation.
7: Lower right drawer: Water, 30 second rinse under white light, continuous agitation.
8: Upper left tray: Developer (Agfa Rodinol), quick, even immersion, continuous agitation for 1 minute 30 seconds, under white light. The positive image will almost immediately come up.

Here's the first print I made today, the exposure was 1 second at F/5.6:

Selfie, Peroxide Reversal ProcessThis cell phone snap of the print doesn't do it justice, it's very sharp with excellent tones. The streaks on the right are shadows on my shed behind me from the morning light.

I rotated the back on the Intrepid 4x5 to make a portrait-oriented image, but the morning light was getting brighter as I made this second exposure, which was also at F/5.6 for 1 second (a bit too much exposure):

Selfie, Peroxide Reversal ProcessI still like the look of this, there's a luminance in my eyes.

For this third print I reduced the exposure to F/5.6 at 1/2 second:

Selfie, Peroxide Reversal ProcessI like this one a lot.

These last two shots I had moved the camera out of the sun, so I have the door frame of my shed behind me. Here I've tried to angle my head a bit, and focused between my eyes. It should have been stopped down to F/8 for more depth of focus:

Selfie, Peroxide Reversal Process
Overall I was pleased with the consistency of these images, aside from my over-exposure in the second print. I didn't see any of the brown or yellow staining that's been the bane of this process in the past, neither did I see any solarization. On the first two prints I didn't turn on the white room lights until after the peroxide bleaching, whereas on the second two I turned on the lights after the citric acid but before the peroxide. There doesn't appear to be any difference that I can see; as long as the emulsion is sufficiently acidic so it won't continue to develop from residual chemistry from the first development step.

Since someone will likely ask, I should explain now: the water rinse steps between each major chemical (but not between the citric acid and peroxide) were to prevent contamination of the downstream chemical, since I was making multiple prints using the same chemicals and wanted to preserve them. I'm not certain if this contributes to the lack of staining or other unexpected problems, but it's not a bad idea.

All of these prints were exposed under shaded daylight, not direct sun.

Some good learnings for today, along with more images for the (imaginary?) Infinite Joe Series, helping to confirm what Ethan's already learned. I think it's important to try this process under different conditions (like my darkroom, chemicals and equipment, instead of his), as verification of the process. At least for the warmer months, I now feel confident that we can repeat these results, under shaded daylight. I'm not as certain about the winter months with less UV in the sky, but we'll have to do more testing when the time comes.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

ABQwerty Type Writer Society Meeting, Mega-Big Cameras, B/W Peroxide Reversal Process

Optima Super, circa 1958
One of two machine I brought to the ABQwerty Type Writer Society meeting.

25 July 2021 ABQwerty TW Society Meeting
Notice how I underlined my mispelled words, drawing even more attention to them! And then this comment adds even more attention yet!

1962 Hermès 3000
The other machine I brought to the gathering, an early 1960s Hermes 3000.

25 July 2021 ABQwerty TW Society Meeting
This is the kind of surprise inspiration that I find common with using typewriters, especially a machine like the Hermes 3000 (but not exclusive to it), that disappears into the background, providing a true undistracted writing experience that serves to unlock the hidden thoughts from within.

In the month since I've last blogged, I've also been busy in my spare time helping Ethan Moses with building and using the mega-sized 20" x 24" view camera and associated self-developing back. It's actually three projects in one: a mega-sized 20" x 24" view camera (with a sub-project of crafting a functional mega-sized bellows using a novel internal stiffener material); a self-developing back (a combination film holder and processing tank in one) made from laser-cut sheet acrylic; and further refinements to the B/W citric acid / hydrogen peroxide reversal process.

Ethan and the Behemoth
Ethan with an earlier version of the 20" x 24" camera.

I've documented much of this project in these two videos, that I call The Dream.

The Dream Part One:

The Dream Part Two:

The black and white reversal process was something I heard of a few years ago on APUG (now known as Photrio) and I soon began experimenting with it. Reversal processing is a way to get a positive image from a black and white print paper where normally you'd get a negative image.

For example, if you load a sheet of B/W paper in a camera and expose it like film, then develop in standard chemistry, you end up with what's known as a paper negative. This is because the light-sensitive silver salts in the paper emulsion turn black when processed in standard developer chemistry, if they've been exposed to light. The parts of the paper that haven't been exposed to light remain paper-white; hence the image ends up as a negative (bright parts of the scene are dark on the paper and dark parts of the scene are light on the paper). This is a handy thing if you're using such paper for its intended purpose of making prints from photographic negatives. Because the print's tones are a negative of the negative's tones, the image on the print ends up as a positive.

But what if you want a direct positive print straight out of the camera, using print paper as your film? The traditional way of doing this so-called "reversal" processing uses potasium dichromate and sulfuric acid, both dangerous chemicals to handle and dispose of safely. But this new way I discovered of doing reversal processing uses citric acid and concentrated hydrogen peroxide, along with standard B/W paper developer. The citric acid is mixed from powder (the kind you buy at a health food store) at a concentration of about 30mG per liter of water, and the peroxide needs to be at least 12% concentration. We buy our peroxide at beauty supply shops in the form of a liquid known as 40V hair bleach. You want to get the liquid version NOT the creme version. There's also higher concentrations available (up to 35%) at health food stores for use in peroxide therapy. Standard drugstore peroxide is only 3% or less, not strong enough for this process.

The basic process is as follows:

1) Expose your paper in-camera at an exposure index (ISO) of around 3. You'll have to experiment with this to get an optimal exposure, depending on the color of the light and subject matter, and how much UV is in the light. B/W paper is sensitive to only UV and blue, with a bit of green sensitivity if it's multi-contrast paper. This process works on both multi-contrast and fixed-grade contrast paper.

2) Process the paper under safelights (or in a developing tank) in standard paper developer like Dektol. We use a dilution of around 1:3. Process for 3 minutes with constant agitation. The image should look like a slightly over-exposed paper negative.

3) Process in citric acid for 4:00 with continuous agitation. Mix the solution at a dilution of 30mG per liter of water. If you intend on doing multiple print runs through the same chemistry, it's advised to use a water rinse bath before the citric acid to wash off the residual paper developer (call this "step 2.5"). Near the end of the citric acid bath you can turn off the safe lights (or remove from the developing tank) and view the print under normal lighting, it should still look like a slightly over-exposed (i.e. dark) paper negative. If you're doing this outdoors, you may notice the negative image quickly turns pink with exposure to the UV of sunlight. This color should disappear later in the process.

4) Process the print in 12% H2O2 with continuous agitation for at least 3 minutes. Don't rinse the print after the citric acid, but immediately put it in the peroxide bath and start agitation. The print should begin to turn light toned with a fine layer of gas bubbles (foam) forming on the surface of the paper. Keep constant agitation until as much of the image as possible is bleached out. The ideal bleached print should look like plain white paper.

5) Process the print in a bath of sodium sulfite, mixed from powder at a concentration of 30mG per liter of water. Continuously agitate for 3:00. This bath will help prevent brown staining on the print. If you're processing outdoors under sunlight, you may notice the print suddenly exhibit a slight warmtoned positive image. This happens with some papers under the UV of sunlight.

6) Process the print in water with continuous agitation to remove any residual sodium sulfite before the next step.

7) Transfer the print back to the first paper developer bath (Dektol). It should immediately form a silvery positive image. Process for 2:00 with intermittent agitation.

8) Thoroughly rinse the print to archival standards for best results.

Here's a quick clip of a 20" x 24" portrait undergoing the 2nd developer step, after the negative image has been bleached away. Notice how quickly the positive image forms. (Clicking the image will link to the video on Flickr.)

B&W Peroxide Reversal Process at QueLab in ABQ

We did a series of test portrait demonstrations at QueLab, Albuquerque's maker space, with some of the members participating as willing test subjects. Here are a few images from that session:

B&W Peroxide Reversal Process on 20”x24” View Camera at QueLab in ABQ
The processed print still in the self-developing back.

B&W Peroxide Reversal Process on 20”x24” View Camera at QueLab in ABQ
We found a car windshield to be convenient for drying wet prints outdoors.

B&W Peroxide Reversal Process on 20”x24” View Camera at QueLab in ABQ
Ethan used two high-power strobes with reflectors to get these indoor exposures, with a white projector screen as a backdrop. Note the processing artifact center bottom, caused by inadequate chemistry volume and/or agitation.

B&W Peroxide Reversal Process on 20”x24” View Camera at QueLab in ABQ
This was our first test subject of the day. Note the several processing artifacts, above his head and again center bottom. This mega-sized self-developing back demands proper chemistry volumes and agitation, a challenge given the weight of the back.

B&W Peroxide Reversal Process on 20”x24” View Camera at QueLab in ABQ
This was the best print of the day, despite the processing artifact above the subject's head.

B&W Peroxide Reversal Process on 20”x24” View Camera at QueLab in ABQ Note also the brown stain lower right. Fresh sodium sulfite is supposed to take care of this.

People have asked me for a layman's explanation of how the reversal process works. My explanation starts with the first development step, that makes a negative image. The darker parts of this image are metallic (developed out) silver, representing the bright parts of the scene, while the lighter parts of the image, representing the darker parts of the scene, are unexposed silver halides still in the emulsion, and look white because you're seeing the paper media behind the emulsion. Then the combination citric acid + H2O2 steps bleach out the metallic silver image, leaving the white print paper with undeveloped silver halides intact in the emulsion, that exhibit a density profile proportional to the inverse of the negative image; i.e. the parts of the paper that used to have a dense (negative) highlight are now very thin in residual silver halides, while the shadow portion of the negative image (the lighter parts) still have plenty of silver halides left. Then the emulsion is generously exposed to light (this happens after the citric acid step and on through to the end of the process). When exposed to the developer a second time, the residual silver halides now develop out to form a positive silver image, as the parts of the emulsion weak in halides remain very light, representing the positive image highlights, while the parts of the emulsion rich in halides develop out very dense, representing the image shadows.

I've been asked if the completed positive print needs to be processed in a fixer solution. It shouldn't need fixer because there shouldn't be any unexposed silver halides left in the emulsion to fade over time. But a thorough archival wash is a good idea.

I hope to continue my own exploration of this process, in the hopes of making it more reliable and less error-prone. We've already made some changes from the original process as I discovered it on APUG several years ago. Initially the citric acid and peroxide were mixed in one solution. Then we started doing them as separate steps, and we'd go back and forth between them in several stages until the print was adequately bleached. More recently, Ethan has had good success with a lengthy citric acid step first, to saturate the emulsion as much as possible, followed by one lengthy peroxide bath to complete the bleaching.

Given the relative cost of the various chemicals, the citric acid and sodium sulfite should be used as one-shot chemicals and disposed of after one use. They are very inexpensive when mixed from a powder form.

Paper developer has been a problem, especially the liquid concentrates, which can age and oxidize once the container is opened, resulting in faint, washed out tones lacking dense shadows. We've recently had good results using Dektol mixed as a one-shot developer from powder. This is against Kodak's own recommendations, as they stipulate to mix the entire package's powdery contents to make a gallon of "stock solution," then dilute this stock solution for your working solution. The problem is that the stock solution has a limited lifespan once mixed with water, just like liquid concentrate once opened. Critics of using small amounts of powdered Dektol say that the various constituent chemicals in powder form are not uniformly mixed in the package, hence the results could be inconsistent. Ethan and I contend that the contents of the package should be transfered to a large double-ziplok freezer bag and generously agitated to thoroughly mix the contents together. Then keep this bag sealed until such time that you need to take a small spoonfull to mix up a batch of developer. This seems a much more reliable method of ensuring fresh developer is always available.

An alternative would be to have the constituent chemicals on-hand to mix from powder, directly before use, via such sources as Photographer's Formulary.

The other process issue is the lifespan of the peroxide. The solution, as it gets reused, ends up being saturated with metallic silver, much like used fixer. We haven't looked in detail about filtering out the silver, or "auto-plating" the silver onto steel wool, as is often done with used fixer. It also gets contaminated with carry-over citric acid, which builds up in concentration through repeated use. So for now we use it until it starts to look cloudy, then we use a fresh bottle. The silver-saturated peroxide should be disposed of as you would used fixer.

There are some safety concerns to consider with this process, as there would be with any kind of chemical processing. Paper developer can be a mild irritant, and years of direct contact to developers containing metol can result in rashes and other allergic reactions. A strong citric acid solution can be an irritant, so keep your hands out of it. Mixing any kind of chemical in powder form can result in airborne particles that can be an inhalation hazard, so the precaution of a simple respirator mask can do a lot to mitigate that risk. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide should be kept off the skin and away from your eyes. Use safety glasses and don't get it on your skin. You'll notice an immediate white discoloration to your skin upon contact, and perhaps a burning sensation. Immediately wash with fresh water if this happens. Use gloves and eye protection. Also be aware that strong hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer. Keep it away from strong solvents, corrosives and other flammables, and heat sources.

Using the huge 20" x 24" self-developing back can be a challenge, due to its weight and size. Use of a large waste tray to process over is strongly advised, to avoid drips and splashes that can end up on the floor, or your shoes (or exposed feet or legs). There's a definite learning curve to making this process neat and safe, but the results can be outstanding.

I'd like to thank Ethan for giving me access to his workshop and the inner workings of his design and build process. It's been a fascinating journey.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Fanfold Blast from the Past

Screen Shot 2021-06-30 at 7.40.23 PM

I've been cleaning out my office in preparation for a major overhaul, something that's been sorely needed for years. In the process of doing so, one obviously comes across items you've forgotten about. Today was one of those days, when I came across this handmade fanfold paper dispenser. The paper is from sheets torn off a letter-writing pad, then taped together, fanfold style, with blue painters masking tape. The photo above was with the paper threaded into the Olympia SF.

I remember doing this some years ago, but had forgotten about it until today. And what do I find typed on the first sheet of the pack, but this ad hoc piece of writing, dated from May 8, 2018, typed on the Royal QDL named Adobe Rose, that I'd just then acquired. I thought it would be fun to post this "blast from the past" just to see what I was up to back then.

Adobe Rose Typing

I thought the piece was rather funny; but I especially like it for the freedom of creative thought that it represents. Sometimes it's hard to know where you are, mentally and creatively, when you're in the midst of it all. But being able to take a step back and look at something from the past gives a person enough distance to see how different they were back then. I like what I wrote, and wonder if today I can channel that kind of spontaneous creativity at will. I think the answer to that question is just to do it, more and more. Sit down at the machine and let the words spill out.

Here is Adobe Rose; I don't have very many shots of her, evidence that she spends too much time in the closet. Time to remedy that.

“Adobe Rose” the Royal Quiet De Luxe

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Monday, June 14, 2021

Direct Positive Portraits

Ethan Moses
My Friend Ethan

What you're seeing is a cellphone snap of the direct positive, 4-by-5-inch format print, slightly cropped. The tone of the print isn't exactly like what it looks like in person, but pretty close. The fiber paper has a particular sheen and subtle orangepeel-like texture that makes rendering shadow detail a bit tricky with digital cameras or scanners. I find this not as much of a problem as a feature built-in to the process of creating direct positive prints, that have to be seen in person to be appreciated.

The paper is also very high-contrast; a fill-in reflector should have been employed for the shadows. And the highlights on his arm are a bit over-exposed, with his yellow shirt appearing almost solarized. Such are the challenges of this medium. But the rewards are a finished, wet print in under ten minutes, out in the field.
When we opened the developing tank and took a peek inside, we were immediately amazed at the sharp, crisp tones of the positive image staring back at us. These kinds of processes never cease to amaze me, it still seems like magic.

There's another aspect to the making of this particular portrait. It was intended as a mere test, nothing more. No "fine art" implied. I've made many exposures on this paper, enough to be pretty confident about 1/2 second at F/5.6 would render a pretty decent exposure in shaded daylight. I also knew this because the last time I used the Fujinon lens on my Intrepid camera was with the same paper under similar conditions, and the shutter was still set to 1/2 second. Also, my light meter was still set to ISO 3. All these variables were under sufficient control for me to have confidence that I would get something at least. So the exposures were not what we were testing.

I say "we" because this is as much Ethan's project as mine; more his than mine, really. It had been a heady day of rapid design and prototyping, and at this date still premature to say too much more about this project. The idea is a new way to develop these prints out in the field. There were many unexpected technical hurdles to overcome, and we're still in the testing phase, but you'll soon hear updates here and on my YouTube channel, and also on Ethan's social media.

If you're curious about working with Harman Direct Positive Paper, here are a few links to get you started:

Joe's videos about using Harman Direct Positive Paper:
Indoor Direct Positive Prints:
Minimalist Direct Positive Prints:
Accurate Exposures with Harman Direct Positive Paper, Part One:
Accurate Exposures with Harman Direct Positive Paper, Part Two:
Comparison: Direct Positive Versus Contact Prints:
Paper Pinhole Processing in the Field:
Caffenol & Harman Direct Positive Paper:
Field-Drying Harman Direct Positive Prints:

Where to buy Harman Direct Positive Paper:
Freestyle Photo:
B & H Photo:

Typecast via Optima Super.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Optima Super, or Just One More?

Optima Super, circa 1958
Optima Super
Optima Super, circa 1958
Optima Super

We, my wife and I, had a discussion this afternoon about this newcomer to my collection. She reminded me, some months ago, that when I got the Royal KMM I said I didn't any more typewriters. Since then, I've reacquired the Groma Kolibri from Kevin, and now this Optima. So what gives?

I do feel satisfied with my current collection, as most every machine I own are functional writing tools that I feel good about using. But there's also the fact that John Lewis is a national treasure, of sorts, in the sense that he represents almost 60 years of experience, and every machine for sale in his shop has some of that experience applied, during his reconditioning efforts.

Last week, I tried almost every machine he had for sale. Olympias, Hermes 3000s, Smith-Coronas, Royals, you name it and he probably has it. Yet, none of them spoke to me. They're all nice machines, I'm certain every one has a potential new owner out there who would treasure it. But I already have several Hermes 3000s, a very nice Olympia SM3, a Royal QDL, a Silent-Super, etc.

And also, I can't single-handedly buy out John's entire inventory; I'm no Jay Leno.

But this Optima was unusual, if not a bit rare, at least around my neck of the woods. And it has everything I'm looking for in a functional workhorse writing tool that's also portable.

So, never say never. I can't say with certainty that this will be the last machine in my collection; I don't feel in need of more typewriters, that's for certain. I'm good, thank you; I'll pass. Unless I step foot in John's shop again, that is. Maybe, like an alcoholic, I just need to be more careful about that in the future. Be more self-aware of my weaknesses. And also, continue using the machines more, put them to good use creatively speaking.

Okay, just one more photo of the Optima, then I'm done:

Optima Super, circa 1958

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Monday, May 17, 2021

Royal Mercury Patio Typing & DIY iPad Mini Holder Box

Royal Mercury & Astrobrights Kraft 24# Paper
The blue patio table umbrella gives the Merc an unnatural hue, but it's really a bland beige.

Blog 17 May 2021 Page 1
Staples Astrobrights Kraft 24# Paper
The Astrobrights Kraft paper cover sheet, atop one of my favorite clipboards.

Blog 17 May 2021, Page 2

iPad Mini Box
The inner box positioned for ideal laptop viewing.

iPad Mini Box
The slots cut in the side of the inner box for headphone jack and power button access.

iPad Mini Box
Slots cut into the interior for headphones and charging cable storage.

iPad Mini Box
The copper sound-bouncer plate in position, ideal for watching (and listening to) more typewriter videos of course! Also note the black craft foam inside the outer box to prevent the inner box from sliding around while positioned at the ideal viewing angle.

The Duck-brand "boiler plate" patterned silver tape really sticks well, but the 3M/Scotch-brand sparkly dark gray tape not so much. Go with the Duck brand, if you have notions of decorating your tablet's original container box.

The clipboard shot above reminds me that I need to make a review video about my clipboard collection. Because you can't have too many clip boards. And with a piece of hardware store masonite board and a large binder clip, you can make custom-sized clipboards too!

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