Thursday, August 17, 2017

Typing Scrolls Revisited



I'm certain I've blogged about this before. Using rolls of paper for typing, like the way that Jack Kerouac did with an early draft of On the Road, where he used a roll of teletype paper. Why a person would want to do so today has nothing to do with wanting to mimic the Beats. The Beat Movement is pretty much dead, last time I checked. And so are typewriters, except actually they're not; there's a revival in progress. Which is all the more reason to resurrect the idea of typing on a seemingly endless roll of paper - no more stopping in mid-thought to change paper. Just keep banging the keys and slinging the carriage back after the bell dings, and watch the paper pile up behind the machine on the floor; a more certain measure of one's writerly output.

Years ago, after this idea struck me (and inspired by a visit to the Palace of the Governors Museum in Santa Fe, which was hosting the On the Road manuscript scroll in its long glass-topped display case), I went in search of rolls of paper. Adding machine paper was too narrow, unless all you were interested in writing was short haiku poems. There were brown masking paper rolls, 6 inches wide, available at hardware stores; but I didn't want to type on brown paper. And there was white paper rolls in craft and art stores, but in widths much wider than the standard 8-1/2 inches.

After a bit of Internet searching I found a 6 inch wide roll of white paper, in 700 foot lengths, used for masking in the automotive painting industry. A local search found some at the Napa Auto Parts painting supply store. I ended up buying a damaged roll (the inner cardboard core was deformed) for less than half the price of new.

This paper I used for a time for typecast blogging. With the margins set to ~1/4 inch in from either edge, I could get long enough lines of text sufficient for this blog's template. But the paper was thin and crinkly, and didn't take ink all that well. I think, being engineered for painting, its surface was hydrophobic and hence repelled the ink, which would also easily smear. So after some time, I set that roll aside and looked for another solution.

A search on Amazon revealed rolls 8-1/2 inches wide of what was described as "teletype paper," but after receiving an order I found the quality of the paper was about the worse I'd ever seen. I should have known; I think Western Union quit the teletype business some years ago. Essentially like the very cheapest newsprint art paper, off-white and very fibrous, it doesn't take correction tape, and is mostly useful only for rough-draft writing where no one else will see the finished results. You wouldn't want to type that letter to dear old Aunt Mary with this stuff, or she'd take you out of her will.

This last week I once again found myself in the local big-box office supply retailer, when I happened across a roll of white "banner" paper 17 inches wide by 50 feet in length, for $5. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that 17 inches is twice 8-1/2, and I at once began thinking that perhaps my miter saw could cut it in half sufficiently neat to make the effort and cost worthwhile.

And yes, it was worth the cost, even the effort required afterward of cleaning up the garage because of the surprisingly messy cloud of shredded paper dust kicked up by the saw. But the cut was very smooth, and the resulting roll of 8-1/2 inch by 50 foot-long, white bond paper is nicely threaded up in the old Underwood Portable on the tray table, with the roll snuggled nicely between the scissor legs of the folding table using a piece of wooden broom handle. And a backup roll, from the other half, waits in the wings. $2.50 per roll is not a bad price. Maybe next time I'll do the cutting out of doors. Live and learn.

The paper takes typewriter ink very nicely, and has a very nice feel to it. I threaded up the paper in the machine so as to oppose the natural curl of the roll, hoping it helps in flattening it out. We'll see. Some of this paper, made from recycled pulp, can achieve a semi-permanent curl if left threaded around the platen too long.

So now I can say that my long search is over for an inexpensive source of good quality, white, typewriter-compatible paper rolls. I just need to set my butt down in front of that typewriter and start banging out some words. Which only I can do.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ice, Ice Baby!

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I'm posting an article about a photography project that I have not yet made. I don't actually know how successful it will be, truth be told. But I'm posting this in the hopes that, come winter and the cold climate, you'll hold me accountable by ensuring that I haven't forgotten.

The idea is simple, and has probably already been done. Uniqueness isn't the objective (pardon the pun), however. I'm merely curious to know if it'll work, and to see the resulting images for myself.

Back about 150 years ago, photographic technology was cumbersome and the processes trouble-prone, not because people purposefully sought after difficulties, but because the state of the art was primitive. And yet many of them succeeded, remarkably so. My idea is entirely cumbersome and somewhat difficult, and entirely impractical; you wouldn't want to go off and start creating images this way, even considering alternatives such as wet plate collodion, which might be easier to achieve than what I'm thinking of doing.

I want to make a liquid-proof camera that uses an ice lens. A simple, single-element meniscus lens, made from ice, with a paper negative as the light-sensitive medium. And I want the water making up the ice to have about 1/15th of its volume to be concentrated liquid paper developer.

When you mix a working solution of paper developer from liquid concentrate, in a dilution of around 1:15, the solution is slightly yellow in tone. This shouldn't be a major problem for forming an image, as people who do dabble in paper negatives are known to use a yellow filter over their lens to filter out the blue light and therefore make multigrade paper achieve a bit less blown-out contrast in daylight conditions.

My purpose for using frozen paper developer as a lens is not to make it yellow colored (that's merely a side attribute), but for the developing process after the exposure is made. I want to cap the lens, then somehow make the lens fall into the back of the camera, after which the camera will be taken into a warm indoor climate and I'll wait for the lens to melt, then gently agitate the camera so the paper negative will develop an image. After sufficient development time, I'll take the camera into the darkroom (or a changing bag), pour out the melted lens solution and fix the negative.

The camera needs to be made from some waterproof material like opaque plastic, so it will function as a developing tank.

I still haven't figured out how to make the lens fall into the back of the camera after the exposure is made. But I'll figure out something.

Obviously, doing this in sub-freezing temperatures will make the whole process a bit easier.

I don't know how transparent the lens will be, however. Looking at ice cubes coming out of the freezer, some are clear and others frosted over. I suppose a quick spray of water might clean off any frost. I can also foresee the lens frosting over once it's taken outside, if the temperature and/or humidity is not correct. I don't know how to predict what will happen without simply trying.

To mold the ice lenses, I was thinking of finding a certain kind of ice cube tray that make round, cylindrical cubes with a convex, rounded bottom. Then fill each section up to only fill the bottom, rounded section. The result should be a Plano-convex lens shape. A tray with a dozen compartments should give me enough lenses for experimentation.

I'm only assuming that the 1:15 solution of developer and water will still freeze somewhere around the same temperature of regular water.

Totally impractical, right? You wouldn't want to go off and start a portrait business using ice lenses. But it does sound like a fun project, impractical as it might be.

Just ping me with an email come December and remind me to work on this, will you? Thanks!

Post-Script: The top image is a positive inversion of a lumen print, made by exposing light-sensitive paper in a camera without subsequent development; the color change is due to auto-development of the silver halides.

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Typing Assignment No.7



Here we are with Typing Assignment No.7. Our last assignment was to write about a notable person in your life, and we had some very interesting stories. This new assignment is to "Climb the Highest Mountain." Describe a time in your life when you achieved something significant, or overcame a major obstacle. Or perhaps you did climb a literal mountain!

I'd like to think that story telling is the essence of writing; humans have been telling stories since the beginning of human history. And what better source of good stories than one's life experience. Perhaps this is why so many legendary writers also lived colorful, story-filled lives themselves.

For this new assignment, you'll dig into your life's experience and find something significant that you achieved, or a major problem you overcame. Perhaps you might think you've never accomplished much, never tackled some significant feat that's worthy of note. But to ourselves, in our internal life experience, many things loom large that might otherwise be seen as insignificant to others. Our job as writers is to communicate the magnitude of our internal experience to others in a way that they can appreciate; to enable them to enter into our personal experience.

I also like these kinds of writing assignments because they force us to dig deep into our selves, and in the process perhaps find something that might surprise us. I hope you find some personal reward in this work. Myself, I don't yet know that I'll write about, but am certain something will surface.

As in previous assignments, post a legible image of your typewritten piece to a publicly-accessible photo hosting site; then post the link to that image either in the comments section below, in the comments to the YouTube video, or email the image to me at: jvcabacus@yahoo.com

I look forward to reading and sharing your work. Have fun, dig deep and climb that mountain!

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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Typing Assignment No.6



Midway through last week I put together the video for Typing Assignment No.6, and failed in my haste (and work schedule) to post the accompanying blog article, which this represents. But you are a resourceful lot, and have already figured out, many of you, that you can post a link to your written work as a comment to the video itself.

For those of you traditionalists, or those sticklers for exactitude, please leave a comment below with a link to your written piece.

And, as usual, should you have issues with either method, feel free to email me with your piece as an attachment, if that works better for you.

We all have someone in our lives who represents a story waiting to be told. That story could be uplifting, or not. But that's the way true-to-life stories are; not all fairy tales and happily-ever-after and Prince (or Princess) Charming. But a story, waiting to be told, as a typed, one-page composition. It's your story, to share with others. I'll be looking forward to seeing your story, studying it and making notes to myself for the post-slideshow talk within the upcoming video.

I haven't yet ran out of ideas for upcoming typing assignment themes; but if you do have something you'd like to see us tackle, please leave a comment below and I'll be happy to consider it.

Happy writing. Keep fingers on keys and the ribbon properly spooled in the machine.

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Musings on Writing

Underwood Portable
Typecast005

Post-Script: I had to do a bit of tinkering with the Underwood Portable, as it seems the ribbon advance was a bit wonky. It liked to prematurely reverse direction midway through the lefthand spool. I found the margin release linkage was interfering with the left spool auto-reverse mechanism, which required "reforming;" and I also adjusted the heights of the spool drive shafts, so they would turn freer. To test out my work, I began typing nonsense on a scrap of paper, but then decided to take advantage of this opportunity and not be as wasteful of ink, so moved the operation out to the Man Cave Shed and began some more premeditated writing, ribbon covers removed. Thus far, my work seems to have been useful, but I haven't gotten entirely to the end of the ribbon to test the reverse from the left spool.

I also added one more turn of tension to the spring motor, and the carriage return feels entirely normal. Not that I was experiencing any issues with lighter tension, but I didn't want to induce any problem in the future.

I also typed a piece of remembrance concerning my dad, whose birthday would have been on August 8. I'll use this for Typing Assignment No.6; which reminds me, I forgot to post the blog article accompanying the video, so I'll get that out today also.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

"And Don't Call Me Freddy"

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Post-Script: This whole project began as an inspiration, late at night, sitting at my office desk with Underwood Portable at my side. These machines indeed are tools for writing inspiration, especially this kind of writing that's imaginative and, being fiction, doesn't have to conform to reality.

Since I needed a photo to adorn the beginning of this article, I figured a pinhole image would be needed, in order to get sufficiently close to these garden ornament ants. I used a little cardboard pinhole camera I'd built some years ago, with a 4" square format and wide angle of view (about 1.5" focal length). I attached a rectangular wooden base to my tripod, already fitted with 1/4-20 tripod bushing, and clamped to that a larger sheet of old plywood. This served as a mobile foreground stage, which I could move around my yard and adjust its framing with the tripod's head. A 25 second exposure in bright sun was made onto pre-flashed grade 2 RC paper. Inversion of the tones was done in the Preview app on my Mac. I really need to get some more full-featured photo editing software, but that'll involve spending some money and doing a bit of research.

Here's the video of this project:

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Monday, July 24, 2017

On the Importance of Craft

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Typecast002

Post-Script: This is not to imply that there is no craft-like skill involved with the more contemporary methods of image-making, but traditional methods are intrinsically craft-oriented, dealing as they do with physical material.

I loved Harman's Direct Positive Paper, and do hope they get the bugs ironed out of their manufacturing issues. Going forward, I do need to consider, when dealing with still-life and landscape subjects, returning to large format sheet film which, though more costly, can yield wonderful results, including the possibility of enlargements.

Typecast via Underwood Portable 4-bank. Check out the latest video about this machine.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

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Haze-gray and underway

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Post-Script: As it turns out, we had attempted to radio the Pakistani ship on an international hailing frequency prior to the collision; they responded but only too late, and attempted to navigate the gap between what they thought were the lights of two smaller ships, but was actually the darkness between our bow lights and superstructure. Despite their size, it seems you can hide an aircraft carrier, in the glum of a dark and stormy Arabian Sea night.

Subsequent to this event, the US Navy installed a navigation lighting mast on all its carriers, a tall pole fixed to the starboard catwalk between bow and superstructure, to serve as a visual indication that this is one huge ship, not two smaller vessels.

The freighter ship ended up being towed back to Karachi via US Navy oceangoing tug, and financial recompense was made. Our port Terrier missile radar antenna was retrieved from the deck of the freighter. The four-foot hole in our ship, high above the waterline and just below the flight deck, was merely a superficial wound; we remained at sea for several more weeks before turning east and returning to Subic Bay for repairs.

Captain McCarthy, one of the best skippers I served under, it is said didn't make the rank of Admiral because of this event, but did become a Commodore and served as head of the Naval Academy. His voice can be heard if you tour the USS Midway museum, in San Diego bay.

If you visit little old landlocked Albuquerque, you should visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, formerly know as the National Atomic Museum and once located, prior to 9/11, on Kirtland Air Force Base. In the parking lot of the museum you will see a blue and white Terrier Missile launcher. This is because these systems were capable, as was the Connie's, of being nuclear armed. At the time of the collision, it was said that the Connie's was the last nuclear-certified Terrier system left in service. These employed a W30 1kt nuclear warhead and had a range of something like 40 nautical miles; designed in the atmosphere of nuclear idealism in the mid-1950s, before the advent of ICBMs, when it was thought that virtually every conventional tactical weapon could be nuclear armed. That was a different time.

Today, sold to a salvage company for $1, the Connie is being cut apart for scrap metal in the Galveston shipyards, while the governments of the United States and Iran remain at odds over their respective views of national sovereignty. Meanwhile, events like these that transpired during those long, dark nights of the Cold War remain but sea stories old men tell their grandkids.

Typing assignment via Underwood Portable, a newcomer to my collection.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lumen Print Experiments

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I recently saw an article on Filmwasters website about a guy selling a little wooden box camera that he calls Lumenbox, and doing Lumen prints. I decided to try my hand at it.

In the short Lumenbox video you can see him doing what at first glance appears impossible: exposing paper negatives to bright sun, then loading them into the little box camera, but not before first wetting the paper in a little container of water. After some time in bright sun, a pretty conventional looking paper negative results, straight out of camera. I did some thinking about this, and then remembered a textbook on photography science that I had around the house, which revealed the answer.

Silver halides have this property, if given sufficient exposure, of auto-development. That is, the halides will turn a darker tone or color, merely from the action of exposure to sun; without the aid of any development chemistry. Of course, the process is almost too insensitive to light to be of any use photographically, unless you're doing lumen prints in a pinhole camera of the sun's course across the sky over weeks or months time.

The little wooden Lumenbox camera has a sufficiently fast lens to capture a sufficient exposure in about 15 minute's exposure to a brightly sunlit scene. I remembered that I had a cardboard box camera with plastic, credit card-sized fresnel magnifier lens, which I used for my initial experiments. Here's the video I made on that project:



Later, I decided I needed a better quality optic, and so salvaged a broken Riteway film holder by replacing its cracked dark slide, and proceeded to employ my Speed Graphic and Fujinon 135/5.6 lens. The image atop this article is from that camera, which I documented in this video:



The key to making this process work is wetting the paper before placing it into the camera. I'm not enough of a scientist to understand what the water does to the emulsion, but the image above was make with a 43 minute exposure in bright sun - accidentally prolonged due to my forgetfulness. I suspect a shorter exposure would have sufficed, since it appears that the highlight density is self-limiting; as that portion of the paper darkens, it limits additional light from affecting further exposure. So even though this was in high-contrast, sunny daylight conditions, the grade 2 paper seems to have produced a very good paper negative image, whose inverted tones can be seen here:

Chair001b

I made reference in the video to the paper perhaps being developer-incorporated, which might explain how the pre-wetting affects a better negative image; but this might be in error, as I've been reminded that few modern paper have developer-incorporated emulsions.

Going forward with this project, I'd like to take the Kodak Ektar 127/4.7 lens out of the camera obscura box and repurpose it for these lumen prints, since it's a bit faster than the Fujinon lens. Second, I have a number of various out-of-date print papers in my darkroom that I'd like to experiment with. Third, if having the emulsion wet is important to the process, would it be advantageous to periodically re-wet the paper in-camera, with perhaps some form of spray system? More experiments are warranted.

Speaking of experiments, in my first video I'd mentioned using a base-pH water solution for the pre-wetting, which did affect a different, slighter more contrasty and dense image. I need to work more with this idea and see where it brings me.

This is a quirky process, a light-sensitive medium that requires no chemical developing agent; yet it's rather impractical for subject matter other than still life and landscapes. As for reproducing the images, it really begs to be a hybrid process, combined with scanning into a digital file, given the paper's continued light sensitivity and hence unknown fragility. This implies that some experiments around fixing these images need to be conducted; but conventional fixer will usually cause these auto-developed images to vanish forever. I've thus far taken to storing these negatives in light-tight sleeves, until I have a permanent solution in place.

What I love about this process is its impracticality, especially in contrast with the state-of-the-art in digital image capture. Whether real "art" can be made using this method is entirely up the practitioner, however.

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