Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Thoughts on the Intermediate Process

Selfie, Kodak Ektar 127mm on Cameradactyl OG, reversal processed Arista RC grade 2 semi-matte paper
Direct positive print


Certainly, casual photographers for decades have avoided the minutia of the intermediate process by choosing cameras and formats that offer a more instant picture-making experience. The average person couldn’t be bothered by F-stops and ISO numbers, they just want to push a button and see a photo. Which may be one reason why smartphone photography is so popular; the intermediate process happens behind-the-scenes, in software code and microscopic circuits, the modern-day equivalent of the point-and-shoot camera.

Processing Harman Direct Positive black-&-white paper through its regimen of developer, stop and fix (or in the case of reversal processing print paper: developer, stop, bleach, re-exposure and developer) certainly represents some kind of intermediate processing; it’s not as instant as a Polaroid, say (or Fujifilm’s Instax). But it’s more immediate than film, especially so when considering the many people who still use film do so as an intermediate image-capture medium that’s then scanned-to-digital and subsequently processed a second time around in order to arrive at a digital print, a kind of double-intermediate processing.

There’s also no arguing that prints exposed in-camera and processed directly afterward lack the flexibility that we have come to expect of modern image-making systems. Their usefulness is limited: the selection of large format lenses, apertures and focal lengths is limited; the tonal range is limited; the photographic sensitivity of paper is limited. But one often finds, to their surprise, that such limitations present a challenge that fosters a renewed sense of creativity; boundaries are often healthy for the creative process. In my case, I'm more satisfied by the immediacy of the direct print process, and willing to accept the tradeoffs in image quality or flexibility.

These days, I’d rather return from a photo outing with one good print in hand than a roll- or card- full of mostly junk. It’s a refreshing change, embracing direct positive prints and eschewing the intermediate process.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Inventorying My Cameras

“Inventorying My Cameras”

So, what's a person to do, the day after deciding to downsize their handmade camera collection? Simple: build another camera, that's what!

This sounds like madness, right? Perhaps. But really, in spite of all the various camera designs I've explored, I still have a few ideas rattling around in my noggin. One of these ideas is to take a spare steel 35mm developing tank and turn it into a "self-developing" pinhole camera. I've been using these tanks for years, minus the film reels, with small sheets of photo paper, wrapped front-side-inward around the inside of the tank and secured with a loop of masking tape on the back side, as a makeshift rotary processor. They have that all-important lid with a light-proof pour spout, permitting liquids to be poured in and out without fogging the paper inside.

Drilling a small hole in the side of the steel tank was not easy. I couldn't ding a starting dent with a metal punch, so the drill bit wanted to dance around and not penetrate the metal. I ended up using a drill bit on a high-speed rotary tool to work a small starting dimple into the surface, after which my drill press and larger bit would catch enough to start cutting. I kept the bit lubricated with light oil, which helped.

The focal length is 85mm from one side to the other, so I made a 0.3mm pinhole in a thin sheet of brass, which I epoxy glued to the inside, ensuring all four sides of the brass square were sealed with glue.

I'll be using a makeshift gaffers tape shutter for now, but may resort to a rotating plastic sleeve shutter, the kind I've used on 35mm film canister cameras.


Naturally, a person would wonder if the processing chemicals, especially stop bath (acetic acid) will corrode the brass and pinhole. The answer is most likely yes, which is why, when I rotary process the paper, I won't be doing entire revolutions of the tank, instead will be rocking it back and forth, with the pinhole face up on the top, as the tank sits on its side on my rotary base.


This little tank camera, along with a kit consisting of small containers (<100mL) of processing chemicals and a changing bag, would essentially provide the features of an Afghan Box Camera, if using Harman Direct Positive Paper. Alternately, the citric acid/peroxide reversal process could be employed, but it's very slow and the already long exposure times required by the pinhole aperture would be impractical. I hope to at least be able to do still-life and scenic images and process them in the field with the Harman paper.

Certainly a glass-lens self-developing camera would be more practical for portraits, as the faster optics would require much shorter exposure times. Perhaps that'll be the next project.

Here's Part One of my pinhole camera overview series, with Ethan Moses:

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Down Sizing?

I've come up with a tentative list of typewriters to give away:


I think it's a fair question to ask: once I clear out these twenty or so typers, does this mean I'll be making room for another round of collecting? Well, at this point my intentions are to maintain a much smaller collection, more conducive to a "semi-minimalist" approach to being a typewriter-oriented creative. But, as always, I reserve the right to change my mind, sometime down the road. Perhaps, if that "dream machine" presented itself, I'd consider adding to the collection. But I'd like for my collection to be practically functional, focused on using for the purposes of creativity, rather than hoarding.

Typecast via Triumph Norm 6, one of the keepers.

Choose Wisely

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Thursday, January 02, 2020

Austin Kleon's Top 100 of 2019

If you're interested in creativity like I am, you probably have a few "go-to" kinds of people, whose Interwebz presence inspires you to keep pressing forward, don't look backwards. Austin Kleon is one of those people for me. I first became aware of him with his book Steal Like an Artist. I then discovered his blog, which has been a rich resource of creativity-provoking thoughts.

His blog is full of the outflow from a creative private life, which he freely shares with us, his readers. I enjoy his updates as he daily creates art with his young boys, who seem to have inherited some creative gene, as evidenced by their talent.

Kleon's work inspires me to be more spontaneous, less self-judgmental, with my own private work. And so I was fascinated to read his review article of the 100 things that made his year 2019. This article is full of hyperlinks to a treasure trove of this lasts year's creative output, which you would do well to explore. I was even thrilled when this popped up in his list as number 15: "The color of the sky in Albuquerque, New Mexico."

That's it, short and sweet. If you need inspiration, check out Austin Kleon. And don't be so hard on yourself because you don't think you can be creative.