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)