Friday, June 09, 2017

Project Updates in Gardening, Stitching, Scrapbooking

My blogging has waned as the weather turned for the better this spring.  The sunshine and promise of warmer temperatures has been inspiring me to keep my desk time to a minimum so that I can maximize time outside to wrap up the largest parts of our now 4 year long yard renovation.  I'm happy to report that I met my goal of getting my properly built vegetable garden area in place as of Mother's Day Weekend.  
I had a tomato garden last year, which sort of tapered off from the boardwalk/patio path down to the yard below.  D finished building up a retaining wall for me on the far side of the garden earlier in the spring, so that by May 13th I was able to amend the soil and put my vegetable plants in the ground.

Tomato, cucumber, snap peas, eggplant, jalapeno, strawberries, and several squash is how we started.

Over the last couple weeks, while the plants stretched their roots in their new home, I worked on tidying up the final details of the surrounding area while also completing some larger projects involving the water feature and planting several pots around the yard.

My original intention had been to put at least some of my herbs into the garden space, however we overbought veggie starts, and I'm also not sure of which end of the garden I want to put perennials, so for now the perennials will stay in pots around the yard.

Herbs and strawberries on the left form an arch around the sprinkler control boxes, which covers the boxes but leaves easy access.  This weekend I'll be adding the drip lines to the pots.  The garden box against the brick wall houses our lettuce and fennel... I've been calling this the salad bar.  I might consider moving the strawberries into this box if we decide to put the lettuce in the big garden next year.

About 3 weeks of growth in the garden, the strawberry pot is protected from birds with a pop-up bird net, the tomato, cucumber, and snap peas have supports to grow, and my decorative rock and lavender is in place along the wall.

All this extra time in the garden has left my hands tired by the end of the day, so my embroidery has slowed.  I have completed two of my 4 Eastern Bluebird blocks, and am close to finishing block#3.  

As the yard work turns from projects to maintenance, I should have more time in the evenings to get in some stitching.

In the world of scrapbooking... my project room has been overlayed with short projects and supplies which need to be straightened and put away before I can get back to progressing on my ephemera albums. My digital scrapbook for 2011 is nearly complete (I need only to pull one still photo from a video clip and then spell-check the whole album and it will be done)  I've begun collecting and organizing the digital photos for the 2012 album.  The process is a little slower for this year because I  began shooting more film in 2012, and including photos from those cameras involves a bit of digging through and organizing old scans.  My current plan is to proceed with the standard annual albums until I am "caught up", then go back and do the vacation albums.  I should have more consistent blocks of time this summer to work on them, as I plan to find a cozy coffee shop where I can plug away at it while G is in her driving school.

Monday, May 15, 2017

An Unexpected Mystery Envelope #5

I received another mystery envelope on Saturday, which was again at the 2 week mark from the last envelope.  Photos and summary are after the jump to help avoid spoilers.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Clunky Pinhole focus and tilt/shift test - and additional photos

When I went out to do my first field test of the Kodak Six-20, I also brought along Clunky, the Graflex pinhole, to do a little testing and shooting.  All of my pinhole images thus far have been on the soft side, and while I enjoy the dreamy look I'm getting, I was curious to see if adjusting the focus might make a difference on sharpness.  Up until now I had been shooting with the lens set to the infinity stops, and the infinity symbols lined up on the rails:

The next image was shot with the above infinity setting, and the image below that was shot with the arrow at the top pointing to the number 10.
Shot at infinity
Shot at "10"

While the second image is zoomed in slightly compared to the first, I didn't see any significant difference in the overall focus.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of a section of each image.

As I don't see a hugely significant difference, I will likely stick with the infinity setting in future shooting.

In addition to the focus, I was curious to see what result I might get from using the tilt-shift features on the camera.  I set the camera in a static position with my tripod and made three exposures of the same scene using each of the possible settings on the camera;

Straight shot
Shifted shot
Tilted shot
Shifting the lensboard to the highest position brought the view much higher, but it also cut the corners of the bottom of the film frame slightly.  The shot also came out lighter, which could either be because I lifted the pinhole out of the shade into more direct light, or the light reflects differently inside the camera body at this angle.
The tilted shot did not change the framing significantly, but it does seem like the foreground is in slightly sharper focus in the tilted shot as compared to the straight shot.

Beyond the focus testing, this outing was also an opportunity for me to run a roll of B&W through the new film back for the Graflex to see if the spacing on the winder is accurate.  I did get 8 evenly spaced shots on my roll, with a good lead on the film that would allow for color rolls to be loaded into a C-41 without fogging the first shot.  So this camera back is now designated as my color film back.

With the testing done, I used the rest of the film, along with a color roll, to capture some scenes around the gardens.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Kodak Six-20 First Field Test

We had a lovely break in the weather last week, so I took advantage of a long lunch time and headed out to a local botanical garden to field test my recently acquired Kodak Six-20.

The Kodak Six-20 takes 620 film (hence the name), which is 120 film on a 620 spool.  After having made a spectacular mess whittling down a roll of 120 for my initial focus test of this camera, I decided this method of film-spool-adjustment was not the best use of my time.  Also, that spool stuck towards the end of the roll, and I wasn't sure if it was my own uneven sanding of the roll, or a defect of the camera.  I turned to Film Photography Project's website for a better solution, and not only found their 620 spools, but my searching also brought me to a video demonstrating how to re-spool 120 film onto a 620 spool.  I'm good at loading film for development in the dark, so I thought this looked like the solution for me.

Re-spooling a roll of black and white took a fraction of the time that adjusting a 120 roll did, with no mess.  Thank you FPP!

The camera has a fixed focus, with F/stops ranging from f/8 to f/64, so in order to maintain maximum depth of field I decided to shoot at f/64 for the whole roll.  In my focus test I'd determined that I would meter scenes with my DSLR at f/22 (the smallest f/stop I have to work with) and then adjust the time by a few stops to reach the proper f/64 exposure.  I've since rediscovered my grandfather's light meter, and since it has f/64, all I need to do is meter the scene with it and I'm done.

No batteries required.

The viewfinder took some getting used to.  Rather than putting your eye up to it like a DSLR, you have to look through it from a distance and almost relax the focus of your eyes (similar to looking at one of those "magic" posters with the hidden pirate ship in the pattern)  The viewfinder is also rather square, so the end image is larger than how the scene lines up with the viewfinder.  In future outings I'll try to get a shot with my cell phone to compare to the end negative.

Another quirk to this camera is that the tripod mount is not flush with the camera body, so when trying to attach it to a standard tripod head the camera wobbles a bit in the horizontal position, and does not stay steady in a vertical position.  I'd showed this to my dad while I was visiting him, and he suggested I cut a thin piece of craft foam into a square, with a hole in the center for the tripod screw - the foam helps fill in the space between the camera body and the tripod plate. I happened to still have half a sheet of 1/4" craft foam leftover from making all those custom mouse ears, so I cut a large chunk to keep in my bag for stabilizing cameras. 

Craft foam and gaffer tape, I'm ready for anything! 

I loaded the camera with Ilford 400 speed B&W and brought it along with me to the local botanical gardens for a test run along with my Graflex pinhole (which will be written up later). My exposures ranged from 1/2 a second to 10 seconds, which I was able to do without camera shake thanks to my cable release. The film counter lines up well, and I have 8 neatly spaced shots on my roll of film.    The edges are a little burned from light leaks, so I might want to consider taping the edges of the camera prior to my next outing.  But overall, I'm very happy with the clarity of this glass.  I also noticed that the film became more difficult to wind right at the end of the roll, but didn't stick as badly as it did on the first test, so I believe the FPP spools should work just fine for me.

The closest fern was roughly 3 feet from the camera.  Given the sharpness of the ferns in the back, I think 3 feet is just on the closest edge of the focus for this lens at f/64.

Three heron statues, I cropped this shot in a bit to cut out a light leak in the lower left corner.

One of the many waterfalls in the botanical garden.

Using the hand held light meter made for a far more streamlined, and more relaxing, shooting experience.  It allowed me to concentrate more on composition and the other tests I wanted to run without adding calculations of exposure adjustments to the mental mix.  In my next outing I will be sure to tape the sides of the camera to avoid light leaks, and will probably play with varying the f/stops to play with the depth of field a bit.

Monday, May 08, 2017

An Unexpected Mystery Envelope #4

The 4th envelope in the mystery series arrived here last week.  It was postmarked 2 weeks after envelope #3, which establishes a pretty consistent 2 week schedule for the mailings.  Once again it came to me from New York and contained an envelope that went to the Norway branch of the New York trading company.

Over the last week I've allocated my scanner to working on negatives for my photography tests, and I haven't worked in enough time to scan all the documents in this envelope (there was a lot to digest).  If the 2 week mailing pattern continues, I should expect whatever comes next by this weekend, so rather than delay my summary I did a quick collage shot of the contents for this one.  That, and my summary, are after the break to avoid spoilers

Sunday, May 07, 2017

SCOPES outing April 23

On April 23rd I went out for my first outing with SCOPES, the pinhole photography group I joined last year.  Although I packed my bag well ahead of time, and went over the steps to shooting pinhole prior to the trip, the weather ended up working against me.  My methodology of using my DSLR to meter then my phone to convert the reading works fine in fair weather, but in the persistent drizzle-to-downpour I was an uncoordinated mess.  It was time consuming to constantly re-pack my electronics into bags and pockets to keep them dry while stumbling around in the mud and tight quarters of narrow hiking paths.  I took away a couple of things from observing my fellow photographers:

  •  handheld light meters are far more convenient to use
  •  write your f/stop conversions and reciprocity failure calculations on paper before you go out

Our outing was scheduled to start at 11 at the trail head to Franklin Ghost Town.  From what I saw, it is less of a "town" and more the remains of a coal mine operations, with a hillside graveyard off to one side.  From the parking area, you walk up a wide gravel road until you reach the fork in the road, marked with signs and an old train car.  To the right are some moss-covered foundations (used to hold the machinery that would pull the cars up from the mine) to the left the road leads up to the ventilation shaft - currently covered with huge metal grates to keep people from falling in (but you can still climb onto it and drop rocks down the shaft).  Beyond the "big hole" begins a narrow dirt trail which leads to the hillside graveyard.

This was my first time using the new additional film back that I'd picked up off of eBay for my Graflex, and it hadn't occurred to me that it would wind differently than my original film back.  At our first stop I loaded black and white into my old back, and then color into the new one.  I had pulled extra leader on the color roll to give the lab space to load the film without fogging it, however it turns out this is unnecessary.  The new back actually pulls the film further before it *clicks* for the first frame.  So, by pulling the film forward, I ended up starting my images late on the film, which cut off my last shot at the end of the roll. 

  • Lesson learned: when you get a new piece of vintage equipment, just test it the way it is *supposed* to be used brand new, and see your results before you make adjustments.

From here on out I primarily concentrated on muddling through my uncoordinated methodology of meter/calculate/expose/ quick get everything back in the bag before it gets too rained on.  As some point, in my shifting of gear in my bag, I accidentally clicked the film advance release on the Graflex and when I checked the knob, it needed advancing so I turned it forward.  So I lost a frame of color film with that accident as well.  I had a feeling that's what had happened, but in these situations you have to decide if you want to have a potentially blank frame, or potentially ruin two shots with a double exposure.  

Beyond testing the new back, I also wanted to do a comparison between the shot on the film vs. what I see in the viewfinder.  I know from past experience that the viewfinder crops in compared to the film, so I decided to try to take a photo through my viewfinder with my cell phone.  That way I could compare my viewfinder image to the final negative and get an idea of the extra image that shows up in the film.

Here is the viewfinder image (which is as good as I could get in the rainy conditions)
And here is the actual shot I'd lined up

I did seem to get my calculations for exposure correct, in spite of the adverse weather conditions, but it was time consuming and I was hardly able to maintain any coherent conversation while shooting.  Using two backs gave me the ability to swap from black and white to color film, which is something I've wanted to do since I worked at the studio in the early 90's (an achievement made moot in the digital age)  Here are the other final images that I like the most from the outing.  I primarily found the contrast of the deteriorating iron fences against the forest overgrowth intriguing.

The perspective is a little lost on this shot, but I had the camera all the way to the ground and looking up at the fence for this.  This was the first time I really used the lack of center post in my tripod for a low angle.

In the end I shot only one roll of each film type, and still managed to be the last one out of the trees (due largely to it taking me a while to find my groove)  Upon descending back to the parking area, we decided to meet up at a nearby cafe to warm up, dry off, and get a little bit of food.  There was an antique store a couple doors down from the cafe, which drew a few of us in for a check on what vintage camera gear they might have.  I told myself I still had my Six-20 to work with, so I only browsed.  Once settled into the Black Diamond Cafe, with beverages in hand, we enjoyed watching the next wave of downpour outside the windows, happy to be inside and dry, and chatted about film and cameras.

While on my outing, the leather strap on Clunky finally gave way in the rain.  Replacing the handle with something more durable is no problem, and I will do that soon. As I cleaned up my gear, I discovered something about my camera that I hadn't noticed before:
A tripod mount on the side of the camera, for vertical shots, which had been previously hidden by the leather strap.  Now I know why that leather strap had snaps to remove it, although the snaps never worked for me because they were rusted shut by the time I inherited the camera.

And additional discovery made while cleaning my gear:
It turns out the frame in my viewfinder can be removed, which potentially means the frameless viewfinder might match the film exposure - something to test next time.

All in all it was a fun outing, and I immediately began to work on the lessons I learned from it.  

  • I researched light meter apps for my phone, and also looked into traditional light meters online.  Then I remembered I had two of my grandfather's light meters in his old case.  One doesn't register light readings, the other does, but the dials never made much sense to me.  I found a Youtube video which shows how to use the old Weston light meters and it all clicked (pun intended)  I tested the functioning Weston against my DSLR and the meter readings match, so from now on I'll be using the hand held light meter instead of the DSLR for film shooting.
  • My pinhole exposure conversion software is basically a pretty excel file, so I typed the info up into a spreadsheet, including the calculations for reciprocity failure for each film I use, and printed it out on paper.  I'll eventually refine the design and laminate it, but for now the paper works.
Having done these two steps, I can now shoot pinhole without any electronic devices - no battery life to worry about!
  • I ran a roll of B&W through the new Graflex back with the proper loading technique and I ended up with 8 perfectly spaces shots on the film, and enough lead that a lab can load color without exposing my first shot.  So the new back will now be my color film back.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Project Updates in Stitching and Art

As of mid-April I finished all the goldfinch squares for my massive bird quilt:

I started on the Eastern Bluebirds, and thanks to my neighborhood monthly craft night I finished one and am on to bluebird #2.  

Quick medical inset: Picking up embroidery again seemed to inflame the base thumb joint of my left hand, which prompted a few doctor visits.  The end result: I'm not giving up my hobbies, I have guards to wear and a cream to use when my joints get cranky, and I have adjustments to make in my art hobbies so that I can keep making art.  I'll probably mention "cranky joints" now and again, this is what is references.

I had hoped to make great headway on this project during the textile retreat that had been scheduled for last weekend just outside of Portland.  Unfortunately, the retreat had to be cancelled due to lack of participation, however they hope to try again next year with better advertising.  Since I already had other visits and travel plans lined up, I packed up my gear (3 bags of project-related items, one small duffel with a change of clothes) and hit the road anyway.

First stop was to visit with a camera builder in Portland for a tour of his woodshop and a peek at the prototype of what will eventually be my birthday present.

After a stop in the city for lunch, my next adventure brought me to my friend, and fellow textile-retreat-refund-receiver, H's house, for a little bit of art supply shopping and wonderful personal art retreat time.

Lately she has been making some lovely art using block carvings.  I happened to have lino blocks in the garage (which have been lying around since 1999) so I brought them down with me and came up with this zentangle carving.

As I carved the negative space in the upper left corner, I realized my hands would be unusable if I continued in that endeavor, and so I switched to carving the positive space for the other 3/4 of the block.  I think it has an emerging quality...

After our carving and printmaking session, we stopped at another art store where H showed me the "soft blocks" she prefers to carve (which feel more like a semi-soft cheese).  The blocks were on sale, and I received a refund from the textile retreat, so I bought a stack.

Because I need another hobby, right?

(FWIW, I already have the carving tools and a brayer, so I really didn't buy an entirely *new* hobby, this is a resupply of materials that I can work with more easily)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An Unexpected Mystery Envelope 3

My third envelope arrived in the mail yesterday... photo and more information is after the jump :)

Sunday, April 09, 2017

New (old) Camera Review - Kodak Six-20

Last year, when I first met the folks in the local Pinhole Photography group, I heard about this massive classic camera show/swap that is held every year in Kent, WA.  Unfortunately I first heard about it roughly 2 weeks after it had already happened, so I had a long wait ahead of me for the next one.  The camera swap is put on by the Puget Sound Photographic Collectors Society, and is touted as the "Largest one day camera sale, swap, and show in the western US", so I had it on my calendar from the moment they set the 2017 date.  My original plan had been to get down to Kent for early entry, that was thwarted by a sinus infection/urgent care stop, but once I had taken care of my health, I grabbed G and we scooted down to the show, arriving roughly around 12:30 p.m.

By the time we arrived some tables had already begun packing up for the day, but there was plenty to look at.  There were a lot of old film cameras that brought back a lot of memories (Polaroids that I remember my mom having, a table of Pentax K-1000s lined up as if waiting for a high school photography class to begin)  G found some interesting new filters to use with her camera gear while I meandered the tables looking over the mix of vintage gear.  While poking at a table of mixed gear, I spotted a folding camera that looked to be in pretty nice shape.

The Kodak Six-20 - the name reminds me of Seven of 9 from Star Trek.

I didn't know the exact age of the camera just based off the name, but I guessed it to be around the age, or older, than my Graflex based on the style, and I immediately recognized the stellar shape that the bellows are in.  Either they were replaced by someone at some point, or this camera has rarely been used and hasn't been exposed to daylight.  The camera folds flat *very* smoothly, even better than my Graflex.  The seller pointed out that the shutter is "snappy" - I did see that the B and T settings seem to work properly, and the shutter snaps at 1/25 and 1/50, however it sticks at 1/100.  In any case, I thought the design was appealing and whether it shoots or not, it would look cool with my collection, so I picked it up.

On my initial search online, I found a PDF of an operating manual for models of the Kodak Six-20, however the instructions shows how to focus, and my camera has a fixed lens.  I wondered if someone along the way had swapped out lenses, however I found an identical camera to mine on eBay (going for more $ than I paid) which had the same lens as mine.  It took some time to find more details on this particular model, but after trying a variety of search criteria, and clicking about 4 pages deep in Google, I came across a list of Kodak cameras on a photography forum which was incredibly helpful.  My Kodak Six-20, with the Kodon shutter and Kodak Doublet lens, was manufactured sometime between 1932 and 1936.  (this is not to be confused with later versions of the Six-20, or the Vigilant Six-20, which were manufactured in the 40's and did not have the art deco design that mine has)  

The more I researched my camera, the happier I was with this find.  Not only are the bellows in fine shape, but the viewfinder still works, the folding mechanism is smooth and clean, and the aperture shifts smoothly.  Add to that, there are two small screws which seem like they would be easy to misplace - one covering the tripod mount, and another covering the spot to attach a shutter release cable.  Both of these screws are still attached to this camera.  The film advance knob is a bit squeaky but works, and there is still a take-up spool inside.  Outside of a couple of cosmetic scratches on the bottom, this camera could be brand new off the shelf.

Now that the age of the camera was settled, I was still unable to find a manual online, and thus I was unable to see if the recommended focal length might have been printed at some point.  This means that if I want to know what distance my fixed-focus is fixed to, I'd have to test it out.  The first obstacle was in loading the film.  The camera takes 620, which is the same size film as the 120 I have on hand, but the spools are smaller.  So, while I have plenty of film, I don't have the proper spool.  A little research online brought me to Film Photography Project , (home of a podcast that I have backlogged on my iTunes)  They not only sell 620 spooled film, but they also sell the spools for those DIYers who want to re-spool their own film and save a few bucks.  Prior to ordering myself some spools, I checked the camera to make sure the counter window would show the film advance properly - since the film is advanced manually.  I grabbed an old roll of film-backing paper from some film that I'd already developed, rolled it up as if it had film, and tested it out.

Putting the paper in the film side is easy, the film holders pop up

laying it flat as if to load film

When I close the back and pull the paper through, the number shows up in the window just in the right spot.

Here is how the film-backing paper is labeled for the various types of camera models

I ordered my 620 spools, but I didn't want to have to wait for them to run a test on the camera, so I also looked up how to modify a roll of 120 to fit the 620 holder.  More on that later...
First... the optic needed some attention.

While the front lens had been recently cleaned (and not a scratch on it!)  the interior glass showcased a lot of debris.  The back of the glass was easy to access when the camera was closed 

(this is an example of the closed camera interior, I shot this after I cleaned the lens.  Prior to the cleaning this lens looked filthy)

However I couldn't easily remove the glass to clean the other side of it, so I moved to plan B.  I set the f/stop to the widest setting available, and set the shutter to T to hold it open so that I could get to the interior glass, and removed the front lens.

My cleaning tools - I started with the bulb blower, which did nothing.  The brush wouldn't fit through the tiny aperture, so I went with q-tip/lens cleaner/lint-free lens cloth to dry.  Thanks to all those years of playing "Operation", I was able to maneuver the q-tip around the inside glass without touching the sides of the shutter.

With the glass clean, the next step was film roll adjustment.

the 120 spool doesn't fit in the film holding side

Too long and too big of diameter.

A tutorial online suggested filing down the thickness of the spool with a nail file, I found 120 grit sandpaper to work quickly, I just grabbed the roll and ran it across the sandpaper like I was coloring with a giant crayon.  It did make quite a mess, and I'm looking forward to just respooling my film in the future.

Once the sides were sanded flatter, I used my big craft scissors to trip the edges down to the width of the film.
120 spool, 620 spool, re-tooled 120-to-fit-620 film

It fits!

I loaded the film and set up my shot.  I was crunched for time and failed to get cell phone photos of the camera in the set up, but here is how I shot my test:

Objects at intervals along a tape measure on the back patio.  I set the camera on the ground at the head of the tape... I'd wanted to use my tripod but it was being fussy with the odd angle of this camera, and as I said... I was running short on time, so I set it straight on the ground.  I also taped over the counter window to avoid potential light leaks from that spot.

I set the rock at 1 foot, the gnome at 5 feet, the plant at 10, and the larger pot at 15.   While the film advanced fine enough during shooting, it became stuck as I attempted to roll it to the end.  I was able to resolve this in the darkroom, and I assume this won't be an issue with proper proportioned spools. 

I processed the film a few hours later... just a bit of fogging on the edges, but all together not bad in terms of light leaks on a bright cloudy day.

My film is Ilford 400 speed B&W. This is the contact sheet of the images - I did not clean them or process, just straight scan.   There is some grit in the first couple frames, I blame the shaving down of the spool.  Towards the end the negs are remarkably free of black spots, which tells me I did a good job getting that glass clean.

I used my DSLR and metered on the gnome, which came out to f/16 at 1/50.  Since I have 8 shots on a roll, and 8 combinations of shutter speed/f/stop, I decided to just do one of each combo and see what I ended up with.  

The first thing that strikes me about this is that the 1/50 shots are darker than 1/25... 1/50 is a faster shutter speed and they *should* be lighter.  I've gone back to the camera and it does seem as though the shutter is slower at 1/50, and as I said it sticks completely at 1/100, so I think 1/25 will end up being my only reliable shutter speed outside of B or T. 

As I suspected, while I can't focus the lens, I can control the depth of field by having a smaller aperture.  Infinity looks about the same in all the shots, but F/64 will certainly bring more foreground in focus. I just don't have an f/64 on my DSLR, so I'll need to do some calculations to determine the proper exposure in any given situation.   

I will continue to take some notes on this camera.  I noticed in my first shot I caught a bit of the covered table to my left, which seems to be rather sharp to spite being so close to the camera.  It might be that the focus is better from a higher vantage point than sitting right on the ground.  In any case, it'll probably not ever be a good close-up camera, but landscapes are a given.  With my next test I will figure out how to get it properly attached to my tripod and perhaps do another measuring tape test from up off the ground.  I'm going to wait for my new spools, though... I did not enjoy the mess that sanding plastic spools brings.