The Solarcan Project: A year-long photographic experience

A few months ago, I backed a Kickstarter campaign for the Solarcan, a mass-produced pinhole camera that will capture a very long exposure – instead of minutes or hours, this camera is designed to capture an image over a period of months.

The Solarcan was created by Sam Cornwell, who initiated the Kickstarter campaign to get the first 1,000 Solarcans made in time for the summer solstice.  Although one could leave the cans out for as little as a week or two, I plan on leaving them out for as long as possible.

Why?

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Microscopy wth a Zhong Yi Mitakon macro lens

The photo you see here was taken with the most powerful marco lens I’ve ever owned, a Zhong Yi Mitakon super-macro lens.  Its most powerful setting – four and a half times normal size.

I am not kidding.

Four and a half freakin’ times normal size.  Holy John C. Holmes, Batman…

Anyways, Zhong Yi Optics, based in Shenyang, China, manufactures precision camera optics, and this recent creation – the Mitakon 20mm f/2.0 4.5x macro lens – just exited the factories last December.  It costs about $200 and takes three weeks to arrive from China.

So I bought one.  Three weeks later, it arrived at my doorstep.

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The Cactus Flower

Of late, I’ve been using my camera gear to capture flowers and flora wherever possible, to strengthen my artistic chops and make myself a better photographer.

This is not easy.  You can’t just point a camera at a flower and hope it says cheese.

Case in point.  I recently had an opportunity to photograph a blooming cactus.  Apparently this cactus was potted and growing indoors, and one day it produced a big red bloom.

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What the Grasshopper Saw

I love photographing the tulips at TulipFest every year.  But last weekend had intermittent rainstorms, and I decided to wait until Monday to get the shots I wanted.

And the shots I wanted … included shooting with an old vintage lens attachment.

Follow me on this.

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Making the Spirit of Life come alive

Do you remember last Monday’s post, when I went to Congress Park in Saratoga Springs for some photography?  Yeah, I only took one roll of film (dumb me), and spent the next hour afterward watching the ducks and contemplating life.  Not necessarily in that order, mind you…

My goal at the time was to take my four-lensed Nimslo camera and capture some shots on film, then turn those shots into three-dimensional cinemagraphs or stereo cards or something along those lines.  Plus, it’ll be a great way to test if I can show off cinemagraphs in this new blog.

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The Homemade View-Master® Concept Reel

So I took several of my stereo photos … brought back a toy from my childhood – and made my first-ever stereo viewing disc. Want to see it? Sure you do!

I’ve been tinkering with this idea for a while.  It’s a concept that involves building something for a toy I once enjoyed as a little kid.  And if it works … I’ll have some great images for future projects.  Maybe not for Competition Season showings … but possibly for “Charity Season” showings.

Let me explain.

For the past few weeks, I’ve taken stereo photographs of various winter scenes.  You know … the Black Bridge in Green Island, a snow-lined stream in Schoharie County, a frozen shot of the Helderberg Escarpment at Thacher Park.

And you’re probably wondering to yourself … “Chuck, you’ve been on this stereo photo kick for a while.  Are you going to make another lenticular print or something?”

Oh I’ve come up with a better “or something” concept.

I’m building my own View-Master® reel.

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North Pearl and Columbia Streets in the 19th Century

Of late, I’ve been absorbed by the discipline of stereoscopic photography – creating three-dimensional images with film prints, and using some sort of viewer or printing technique to recreate the 3-D effect.

The other day, I came across a vintage Albany-themed 3-D stereoview card from the “American Scenery” series, and although the print is somewhat faded, and the color tinting is rather amateurish, I thought I would share it with you.

I’ve come across stereocards before, but I’ve never seen one before that was hand-tinted.  And right away, there are plenty of clues as to what the photographer tried to capture here.

On the bottom of the right-sided image, you can see the words “1997 Looking Up Pearl Street From Columbia Street, Albany, N.Y.”  Of course, you certainly could have figured that out by seeing the towers of the First Church in Albany in the distance, couldn’t you?  Yeps.

But that image is kinda small to view.  So how about I re-scan the image, and just crop it to the one stereo photo that’s clearer and has more contrast?

The one on the left, of course…

In doing this, now we have more historic artifacts in view.  You can clearly see the “99 cent store” sign that’s attached to the electric pole, as people walk past the intersection of North Pearl and Columbia Streets.  The people in the street are more defined and clear; the people on the sidewalk are blurry and ghosty, as if nobody bothered telling them to hold still for the camera.  And as for the “99 cent store” sign … could it be a sidewalk advertisement for the building next to it, which may … or may not … be Lodge’s Department Store?

I can make out a couple of businesses in this picture – on the right side of the street is a store called Pemberton’s.  In the building where the Bayou Cafe is today, you can make out what look like signs for a pocket watch shop and a dentist.   The left side of the street has a sign that says “HAIR” on one of the buildings.  Whether that’s a wig shop or a barber is beyond me right now.

The streets are cobblestone, and outside of a single buckboard wagon, there’s not a single stitch of traffic on North Pearl Street.  Yeah, try taking that picture at 5:00 p.m. today.  You’ll probably get run over by someone trying to flee Albany on their way home.

This is a fascinating little photo card.

I’m going to need to investigate it some more.

Of course, if there are any Albany historians who want to take a crack at this and offer some historic background…

By all means.  Fill me in on what you discover.