Thursday, October 26, 2023

Silver Prints from a Toy Thermal Camera

The toy thermal-printing camera

The other day I was thinking about the poor archival quality of these little thermal prints I've been making with this toy camera, and suddenly an idea hit me: make silver gelatin darkroom prints! Of course, the thermal prints themselves are positives, and a direct contact print onto darkrooom print paper would result in a negative image, so I'd need to make an internegative.

A layout of toy camera thermal prints

Then I remembered I had some Arista Ortho Litho 2.0 film in 4x5 sheet film size. I've tinkered with this film before, attempting to eek out some semblence of a grayscale from its lithographic emulsion, and never had good results. Attempting to control the excess contrast with dilute developer only resulted in a mottled appearance. But with this new project, I realized that the halftone-like dots of the thermal print are perfect for litho film, as it doesn't involve any intermediate grayscale, just pure black and white.

So I got the darkroom cleaned and arranged, and managed to make some contact prints of the thermal images to this litho film, developed in paper developer. I was pretty pleased with the results.

Here are three internegatives I made, placed on a lightbox, next to the camera itself. The film has a thinner base than conventional B/W film, and the emulsion is sensitive to both scratches as well as pinholes caused by hydrogen gas evolution in the emulsion when it encounters rapid pH change. The preventative for the first problem is careful handling techniques, while the second problem can be reduced by buffering the film between developer and stop bath by a water tray.

Once the negatives were dried, it was time to do some enlargements. Time to get the Besseler 4x5 enlarger set up!

These prints were just under 5"x7" in size, made onto Ilford warmtone multigrade RC paper. I was pleased with the results.

Ethan Moses

Chairs, Special Collections Library

Royal MME, Special Collections Library Printing Museum

I'm please with the outcome of these silver prints, despite the little toy camera having no exposure control. It's certainly a unique look, it doesn't hide its digital origins, but knowing these prints are on silver gelatin paper, made from film negatives, means those fragile thermal prints now have a way of being archived, and displayed in a more pleasing way.

I'm just scratching the surface of what could be done with these images. Having an internegative means silver prints can be made of various sizes, which could also be hand-colored, opening a plethora of other effects.

Here's a video I made about this project:

Friday, October 20, 2023

3D Thermal Prints!

Next are two vertical prints. The foreground object (a ten-pack of thermal printer paper) was slightly off-frame for the lefthand image, so you may have a more difficult time converging the images. What helped for me was to try converging the "Paper Fingers" poster on the wall.

I made a visit to the Special Collections Library today, partly to get these shots but also to submit my entry into the History Harvest project the library is holding this month. This project aims to document firsthand accounts of people who lived in the area of East Downtown and Martineztown. I wanted to submit an entry, because my grandparent's house was across the street from the library and we'd spend many weekends here.

Here is a collection of more thermal photos taken today around the library:

I also took these inside the library, including the printing press museum where you can see the Mergenthaler linotype machine, and a Royal HHE on display, that seemed to work pretty well, better than the last time I visited.

These images were literally "pasted up" using an Uhu Stic glue stick. The thermal typing was done using the Canon Typestar 220.

Ted's article is here.
The BADONER article is here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Thermal Printing Fun!

Here's the camera itself. This one was a gift from Gregory Short, who acquired it from AliExpress. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of similar thermal-printing cameras online at Amazon and other places. This one has both a front- and back-facing camera!

The rear screen with menu:

The thing has a "speaker" (technically accurate, though of horrid sound quality) but no headphone jack, and supports "playback" of MP3 files, if you load them into the micro-SD card. You can record photos without the SD card installed, but need it to record video. It also has three games, including Tetris. There are dozens of party modes with the camera, including this one that makes me look like I'm ready for a vacation:

Note the blown highlights in the selfie image. This problem plagues both the camera image and printing, hence my preference for the Dot Matrix printing mode.

There's a more pragmatic reason why you might want one of these: the cost of printing is so cheap you'd need some math skillz to figure out the per-image cost. The camera comes with three rolls of thermal paper, and replacements I've seen online cost around $16 for ten rolls, each of which can print 60 images, which amounts to under 3 cents per photo! Sure, it's impermanent thermal paper (though I've had thermal printings last for years when kept at room temperature or colder, and out of the light), but there's so much fun to be had, especially if you post the images online, where they'll live prolly longer than the prints themselves.

It may have been excessive to dedicate what ended up being a 19 minute video to this essentially junk camera, though I did cut lots of other footage from the final edit, but toys like this, built for kids with pure play in mind, seem to exude an ability to pull into its vortex of creativity even the most jaded adult. That is perhaps what pure creativity is all about: finding that inner child hidden deep within, and letting him or her out to play one more time.

Thermal typecast via Canon Typestar 220.
Edit to add:
Link to Ted Munk's blog:
Link to Gregory Short's blog:

Thursday, October 05, 2023

About the ABQwerty Type Writer Society

Vertical Script

For years, I watched with interest as the Type-In phenomenon spread throughout the Typosphere to various communities in the US, wishing and wondering if one would eventually come to my city. Around the 2017 time frame I'd finally decided that, if an ABQ Type-In were ever to happen, I'd have to take the bull by the proverbial horns and wrestle one into existence.

Wrestle it seemed I did, because the two biggest obstacles were finding a proper venue and spreading the word around town. I eventually found Nexus Brewery to be an acceptable location, provided I could guarantee their $300 food and drinks minimum revenue from the guests; as it turned out, we didn't have to cover the fee, since the guests ate and imbibed sufficiently.

More difficult was spreading the word. I had an instinct that many people who were typewriter-interested were also less than heavily involved in social media, so I instead placed an events notification in the local Albuquerque Journal newspaper. It's kind of interesting how this worked, because it seemed to involve a pay-to-play scheme. It didn't cost anything to place the event on their calendar, but I'd periodically get emails asking me to "upgrade" to a paid system where the paper would more fully promote the event. As it turned out, the event went off well, as we had lots of press coverage and attendees.

(Parenthetically, I've since wondered if that pay-to-play scheme isn't the basis behind most of contemporary newsmedia.)

Ever since then I've been conscious of how important it is to spread the word. Keeping people in touch has been a constant challenge in the intervening years, such as when we held several events per year on the outdoor breezeway adjacent to Pennysmith's Paper, before COVID.

One thing that's helped is being interviewed for the local paper, which happened prior to the March 2023 event at the Special Collections Library and resulted in a major turnout; contrast this with the event held this summer at the same venue that resulted in a very light turnout. Unfortunately, expecting a local reporter to cover your event in the paper every time is not a reliable way to guarantee good attendance.

We soon hit on the idea of a sign-up sheet for people wanting to be contacted about future events. As time passed, those sign-up sheets have matured into a large contacts list that have become a useful tool for notifying the typewriter-interested who may not be involved much with social media.

In ye olden days, a newspaper or even a bulletin board were all one needed to promote an event. But paper newspapers, like the Journal, are on decline, even though many older people in my community, who would otherwise be likely candidates for typewriter events, stick to reading the paper and yet are not heavily involved in social media.

Social media itself is changing, too. Where just a few years ago a Facebook event notification would touch a wide swath of the local online community, many people have left platforms like Facebook for others, or disengaged entirely. It is ironic that, often, Typospherians in the rest of the country know more about a local Type-In than the locals here, due to a lack of an effective local communications medium to replace the once dominant newspapers.

Sometime during the COVID era, Kevin Kittle and myself, sufficiently luburicated on his front veranda one evening, had decided that we should start a more formal typewriter group, and soon the name of the ABQwerty Type Writer Society was born -- more or less. In the intervening few years we've managed to contact many people on our list and hold a number of local Type-In events. But still, something was amiss, I felt.

One problem was our email contacts list didn't discern between those merely casually interested in future events from those who had a more serious interest in typewriters and the typing community. Also, though we had a core group of people who socialized at private meetings in members' homes, I didn't feel like the mission of being a creative outreach was being met.

Finally, we held some serious discussions to decide on our future course of action. One issue was the workload required to setup a Type-In. Up until now, most of the setup and teardown work fell on myself, Kevin and Bill Tefft. What we needed was a larger core group to help facilitate such events, which would be especially important if we were to expand our outreach to include workshops to groups of writers and other creatives.

Another problem was I felt I was rather inept in the social media and communications side of the house. I've struggled with managing email lists and replies bouncing to spam folders and creating effective and enticing emails that were more likely to be read. We also needed, I felt, a more serious web presence than a languishing Facebook page and an email list.

A key moment came this year when a new member to the group introduced herself as being skilled at websites and navigating social media. I realized that here was a solution to one of our problems. Woz Flint has become a key ingredient in the refurbishment of our outreach. She created a Substack website for us to use as an outreach platform, and has incorporated into it our contacts list as well. Woz provides the polish needed to help us communicate our vision and future plans, and has been of immense help to my by taking my rough-and-tumble attempts at blog postings and notifications and polishing them into web-ready articles.

As a group, we still need to formulate future plans, our intention being not just public Typewriter events but outreach to writers' groups and other creatives, to bring the message that typewriters can be that missing ingredient in one's creative process.

Along with the usual (and sporadic) content here on this blog, I will also be cross-posting future ABQwerty Type Writer Society articles and notices to you, my longtime faithful readers, to keep you up-to-date on the local ABQ typewriter scene.

Should you like to visit our site, click this link. You can also subscribe to the site and you'll be notified by email of future articles and typewriter events.

Finally, (which reminds me of a joke: how can you tell a politician or preacher is lying? He says "In conclusion...") I often see people lamenting that there are no Type-In events in their community. You need to know that I was that person! I too lamented all the fun people in other communities were having with their typewriters. While the film Field of Dreams didn't exactly come to mind at that time, the advice offered in that film does apply here: Build it and they will come! Short of making a starter kit, my advice is simple: find a venue, schedule a date & time, and publicize it! It also helps if you have a sizable collection of typewriters, even if you don't know very many other aficionados in your community. Bring your own machines, especially the ones not so delicate or rare, along with paper and other accoutrements, and have fun!