Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Taking the Aardvark for a Walk

F/240 Aardvark Pinhole Camera

This is the Aardvark, a pinhole camera design I collaborated on with Ethan Moses, inspired by a camera sketch in a journal from years ago. Like many of my camera designs, it attempts to solve the problem of how to carry multiple large format paper or film negatives out in the field.

One such solution, which most photographers with any sense would use, is to carry sheet film holders. Which I have a number of. But that's not the point, is it?! No. The point is that I like to think up novel ways of solving these kinds of design problems.

Another solution I've explored over the years are falling plate cameras. But we won't discuss those today. Today we will talk about the Aardvark, a camera with an arm sleeve attached to the back, and a rear door that pivots open, inside the arm sleeve, to gain access to a paper/film storage compartment and a place to load the camera. Here's a picture of the camera, as it was being built, before the arm sleeve was attached.

Storage Compartment Open

The wide storage slot in the back uses a floating divider, just a piece of spare cardboard or plastic, to divide exposed from unexposed film or paper. You get to decide which way to use it; I prefer the unexposed sheets toward the front and the exposed sheets toward the back.

Just in front of the hinged compartment is the flange for loading the camera. It's a U-shaped flange that the paper or film is set into. Then, when the hinged door is closed (and clicks securely shut via rare earth magnets), the film or paper is securely clamped into place at the film plane, ready to expose. Closing the door also makes the rear of the camera light-tight, meaning it's safe to remove your arm from the sleeve, should you decided to do so. Or, you can keep your arm in the sleeve, if that gives you a greater sense of security, because some people had rough childhoods.

Here's a silly shot of your's truly with his arm in the sleeve, like a puppet. Puppet cam, heh, I like that!

Joe with arm sleeve storage slot pinhole camera

The arm sleeve is made from two layers of blackout fabric, taped together with gaffers tape. No stitching, but thus far no problems with the tape coming loose.

Now that you know how deep that film/paper storage compartment is, it's easy to imagine how many sheets you could bring with you on a photo outing. Today, Ethan and I took a stroll in downtown ABQ with a dozen sheets loaded. Not a huge amount, but enough to test the camera in realworld conditions. As opposed to artifical world conditions.

The paper used was Freestyle Photo's Arista brand of grade 2 RC paper, which I pre-flashed ahead of time in my darkroom. The camera has an F/240 pinhole and I rate the paper at ISO 12. I was using the Pinhole Assist App on my iPhone as a light meter, and the recommended exposure times were rather accurate, as all twelve images had good exposures.

So how did the arm sleeve/paper storage slot system work out? I made the sleeve larger in size up toward where it mounts to the door flange, and that's good, because you need the room to maneuver the paper to and from the storage compartment. It could afford to be a bit roomier, but I made do.

One other problem I had early on was when returning the exposed paper to the rear half of the storage compartment, the paper already in there wanted to fall back toward the rear of the compartment, making it difficult to keep unexposed and exposed separated. I found the solution was to tilt the camera forward on the tripod head so it was pointing towards the ground, then the paper in the compartment would fall forward, making it easy to insert the exposed sheet into the back of the pack.

The camera has a very wide angle of view; the focal length is only around 35mm, so the images have some vignetting; but the relatively small focal ratio means the exposure times were conveniently short; some of them were only 5 seconds long, which is pretty short for paper negatives.

Once we finished, we processed them all in batches of 3 or 4 at a time in a large developer tray. I did the developing step while Ethan did the stop bath and fix. Tag-team processing like this is very efficient. Here are a few of the images we got today.

Ethan at Elm Park, ABQ
Ethan at Elm Park

Albuquerque Press Club
Albuquerque Press Club

Ethan in Downtown ABQ
Ethan Downtown ABQ

Ethan on Big Chair, City Plaza, ABQ
Ethan on big chair at City Plaza, downtown ABQ

Ethan on Rt.66, Downtown ABQ
Ethan on Rt.66, downtown ABQ

Tract Home, Northeast ABQ
Tract Home, NE ABQ


Friday, January 14, 2022

Type-Writing Versus Hoarding

I was asked by a viewer to post my notes for the recent video titled "Write or Hoard?" -- so here they are. Keep in mind that these are a first-draft work, complete with typos and corrections both typed and penciled in, originally not intended to be published. I did the video using this sheet (below) as a reference. Which was a bit odd, as I kept looking off-camera and referencing what I'd typed. In the future I need to learn to do this with more polish.

Type-Writing Versus Hoarding

Parenthetically, I've started to really enjoy using a bichrome ribbon to make colored corrections and emphases. Especially with these 1.5 line spaced machines, like this Hermes 3000 The Elder. I'd really like to do this on my Splendid 33 but it doesn't have a bichrome setting. Does this mean I'm in the market for a Splendid 66 or 99 also? Not officially. Not if you asked my in front of my wife, for example. Only theoretically. Just for conversation's sake, of course.

But what I have done on the Splendid 33 is, in 1.5 line spacing, the same X-out corrections that are typed 1/2 line above the typo. And for emphasizing words and phrases a simple black ink underline seems to work fine.

Several weeks ago I started getting in this goofy mood where I'd type things conversationally, with my speaking voice (or the voice of some imaginary character) and purposefully underline words and phrases to gain a sense of the character's speaking mannerisms without going FULL CAPS, the way people emphasize certain words by raising their voice. This functions like a superset of phonetics, but operates at the whole sentence level. In "proper" writing you're not supposed to write this way, but I think it's a novel way to capture someone's speech mannerisms. After all, it is a constantly evolving language. ISN'T IT?


Monday, January 10, 2022

Diazo Paper Direct Positive Prints

“Joe’s World-Famous Backyard”
“Diazo Paper Direct Positive Prints”

It took me a while to get an acceptable pre-flash test strip. Part of it is you have to use a light source with sufficient UV light; then you have to expose the paper under consistent conditions (distance from light to paper) and exposure times for each section of the test strip. For my pre-flash testing I used a Viltrox LED light panel, that is adjustable for intensity and color temperature. I adjusted the output to 100% and the color temperature to 5600k, the most blue it would produce. My distance between light and paper was about 8 inches.

Diazo Paper Pre-Flash Test

For this test the first section, at 3 minutes looked acceptable to me, so I used it for the remainder of my test exposures. Being as this is a direct positive process, the unexposed parts of the paper develop as deep blue, under the action of ammonia vapors. You can see the border of the test sheet, above, is dark blue, as it didn't get exposed to light during the test.

The diazo process is slow -- slower than mollases, slower than wet plate collodion even. It isn't meant for pictorial photography, which is why it presented an immediate challenge to me. Two plus hours exposure at F/5.6 is dang slow, and one of the main challenges to using this paper in larger format cameras, since fast aperture lenses get increasingly more expensive and rarer with larger formats -- the volume of glass in the lens increases as the cube of the format size, to maintain an equal focal ratio. For this test I used the F/5.6, 135mm Fujinon lens in my 4"x5" Intrepid field camera.

Fujinon 135/5.6 on Intrepid 4x5

During these winter months only the middle of the day presents enough light to make this process practical; and even then, the exposure times are long enough to eat up much of that midday light. Here's a view of the Intrepid aimed at my backyard scene. To make this 2 hour 15 minute exposure I just pulled the dark slide and opened the lens, no timed shutter was necessary.

Intrepid 4x5 Setup

Because of the short opportunity to do test exposures, I decided to also use my 8"x10" sliding box camera, which had been sitting idle for months. It's equipped with a Fujinon Xerox process lens of 24cm focal length and a fixed F/4.5 aperture. The lens lacks a shutter and the aperture if fixed, but that's fine with this slow process.

Fujinon-Xerox 24cm F/4.5 lens on 8”x10” sliding box camera

I started the 8x10 camera exposure about 15 minutes after the 4x5, but later I realized that because the lens on the 8x10 is faster, the exposure should have been cut much shorter than the 2 hours 15 minutes. The resulting image was over-exposed and not worth posting, but lesson learned, it will be important to correlate a meter reading of the light with the necessary exposure time. Peter's tests show the paper needs about +18 stops exposure over an ISO 6 meter reading.

8x10 Sliding Box Camera Setup

There are a number of things I need to work out before I can use this process more seriously and with greater consistency. They are, in no particular order:

Pre-Flashing: I feel it would be simpler to open up the dark slide and directly expose the paper to the sun (or shaded daylight, depending on the situation), immediately before starting the in-camera exposure. This would eliminate the need for a dedicated pre-flashing light source back home. This exposure time would need to be correlated to the intensity of both direct sunlight and shade, to offer both options.

Metering: I need to verify Peter's +18 stops over ISO 6 finding, and begin using a meter and calculator and/or reference chart in determining exposures more accurately. One of the main motivators is time: the process takes so long, you don't want to waste a 2 hour exposure on a botched calculation.

Reciprocity Failure: I don't know if this emulsion suffers from reciprocity failure under dim light, but it would need to be tested to verify.

Toning: The dyes in the resulting blue image will fade over time with exposure to direct sun, so it's important to keep them archived in light-resistant enclosures. But since silver gelatin photography has traditionally used various toning chemicals to not only alter the color of prints but enhance their longevity, it would be important to experiment with various toning compounds, especially selenium toner, as this has a positive effect in enhancing the durability of silver gelatin emulsions against oxidation and environmental chemical corrosion. Granted, these blue, iron-based emulsions aren't the same as silver, but there might be some possible solution here. There's also the possibility of, like with cyanotype prints, toning the prints to change their color, for instance with black tea or coffee. While these color-changing tones offer various aesthetic options, not all of them are healthy for the longevity of the paper, especially if they are acidic.

Dedicated Diazo Cameras: Given the length of time required to make a daylight exposure, you don't want to just leave an expensive camera and lens outside for hours unattended, and it would be inconvenient to have to babysit a camera for 2+ hours. Perhaps an inexpensive but fast lens could be found (like a single element meniscus lens from a surplus optical house) of the proper focal length and aperture, allowing cheap foamcore-board cameras be build for dedicated use with this process. Make several such cheap cameras, with the paper pre-loaded inside, no sheet film holders needed, and set them up in the daylight for several hours, then come back later to retrieve them (or lament the fact that these jerks around here will steal anything, even handmade foamcore cameras!)

This is a very inconvenient process, and the results are only marginal in quality. Which makes it perfect for the photographic experimenter! Yet it intrigues me with its possibilities. Stay tuned for more on this.

Here's a video about today's experiments:


Sunday, January 02, 2022

Picturing Time

(The image above is a line maze, you follow the solid line from alpha to omega. Lines are permitted to overlap, but only connect at the black junction point squares.)

Below is a sketch of my mental model for the 20th century. Think if it as looking at a flat plane from an angle above, with the early 2000s in the foreground and the beginning of the 20th century in the background. The previous centuries wind their way backward into the distance with the same general shape as the 20th.
The jog in the middle of the curve, representing the 1960s, is probably present because those were my formative years, having been born in 1957. Note also how the years seem to scale in different proportions; the early 1900s seem bigger than the middle of the century, for example.

Below is a rough sketch of my mental model for an entire year. It's not exactly round, more like squarish with rounded corners, and the months scale differently, the spring and summer months, in the distance, seem shorter than fall and winter. December seems like turning the corner from November, toward the end of one year and beginning of the next.
Regardless of what time of year it is, I always seem to view the year from this perspective, the shape never rotates or turns.

Finally is my mental model for a week. I seem to be looking at it from the perspective of the middle of the week, with the weekend on the opposite side of the rounded shape, that's supposed to be roughly oval. The two weekend days loom larger in size than the weekdays. Monday and Friday are turning the corners along the side, between work and play, evidently. And, as with the yearly cycle, the shape doesn't rotate, I'm always imagining it from this perspective.
I didn't consciously sit down one day and decide to form a mental construct of how time is organized. It's just something I discovered I held in my head, in the form of these various shaped circuitous lines, since I was very young.

On rare occasions I've mentioned this concept to other people and have gotten two kinds of responses. One response is a blank stare, they haven't the foggiest idea what I'm talking about, which then necessitates a lengthy description of my mental model, and an attempt to slowly tease out of them their own mental picture of time.

The other kind of response is immediately recognition, though their specific model might differ somewhat from mine.

I wonder if the differences between the two responses might be attributable to the theory that some people are more visually-oriented thinkers than others. It's their natural response to form a mental model in visual form; in this case the term "visual" is in reference to one's "mind's eye," which term I take for granted most people understand what I mean -- but is it possible that some people don't have a mind's eye, or haven't consciously identified it?

Think of your inner voice, that voice you have in your head when reading to yourself. It's also that inner dialog one has with oneself, part of one's thought-life, that can become as real as if someone were standing next to you in conversation. Alternatively, think of some piece of music, or distinctive sound. There's this memory of that sound you can play back in your head. It's not the same experience as actually hearing the sound, it's more like being played back with less fidelity through a mushy tape.

The analogy of remembered sounds is a different way to describe the experience of beholding my inner visual model of time. I don't know how common it is to have not only an inner voice of oneself, and an inner playback of remembered sounds, but also an inner geography of visual scenes, or made-up ones like my mental models of time. And I don't know if it's anything like yours, or know of any way to determine so, unless we talk about it, because our inner subjective experience is so unique to ourselves.

Typecast via Olympia Reporter. Sketches via the Pentel brush pen.