View Full Version : Instant Box Camera Project

03-22-2015, 11:16 PM
Hi folks,

Some of you might remember a thread from a few years ago that I started, involving these street photographers who make portraits using paper negatives and a combination camera and portable processing darkroom box. They're known in Argentina and Latin America as camara minutera, or minute cameras. Here's the link (http://www.f295.org/main/showthread.php?13121-Portable-Paper-Negative-Darkroom) to the older thread. Since that older thread is no longer located in any of the F295 sub-forums, I've decided to continue the subject with this new thread.

I've been working on building a replica of one of these, what I call an Instant Bax Camera. After months of preparation, designing and building, the device is sufficiently complete to permit me some initial tests. I've documented the results of these tests on my blog, here (http://joevancleave.blogspot.com/2015/03/instant-box-camera-first-light.html?m=0).

As I make further progress, I'll update this new thread.


03-23-2015, 09:10 AM
Joe - I love the instant box history in the various regions around the world! This is very cool - I look forward to seeing more!

Tom Persinger
03-23-2015, 10:48 AM
Hi Joe - not sure why/how that thread got put into a random "comments" categorization. I moved it and placed it into the Misc Equipment Making & Modifying forum:


sorry for the issue.

03-23-2015, 08:02 PM
Thank you all for the comments.

Several of my test images had a bit of fogging along one edge of the negative. At first, I thought it was stray light leaking in from outside. But a test I did in my shed, with the camera not exposed to direct sun, also had the same fogging, but even more. The difference was that, because my chemistry was a bit cold, I developed for 4 minutes, inspecting via the red LED and viewing port at least 4 times. I'm suspecting it's stray light from the LED system.

In my previous tests in the darkroom, I noted some faint fogging if the LED was unfiltered. But shining through a frosted white lucite plastic filter, no fogging was apparent in my tests, even after several minutes of exposure. The fogging I saw in my shed test today amounted to perhaps no more than 30 seconds total exposure.

So to prove it's due to the red LED, I did another exposure, this time in my kitchen. Lighting was natural daylight via a skylight. No visual inspection was performed, development was for 3 minutes. No fogging. Since this latest test, I've applied some black gaffers tape along the edges of the white diffuser filter. Light was able to shine out from the sides of the filter, reflecting off the aluminum focus rods. Another test will prove this to be the light leak fix.

Here's the kitchen test shot. F/5.6, 3 seconds on grade 2 RC paper.

Another round of tests is needed to prove this is the fix. It could also be direct light leaking in around my eye socket, when using the viewing port. But the fogging is only on one edge, not over the entire negative; the viewing port is directly above the developer tray.


https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8703/16724661619_128cd51217_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rtUgdP)Kitchen001a (https://flic.kr/p/rtUgdP) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

03-23-2015, 09:37 PM
Excellent work - I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes out of this

03-24-2015, 08:43 PM
A final update for today. I used a salvaged cabinet shelf as a support base atop the Bruneau's Pneumatic Tripod. Note the two tripod bushings; the tripod head has three such fittings available.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7599/16895737426_3bf0c8a062_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rK256G)P1090944a (https://flic.kr/p/rK256G) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

Here's the underside of the support base, showing the tripod head and mounting hardware.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8708/16920390942_1f44c0a848_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rMcqJj)P1090945a (https://flic.kr/p/rMcqJj) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

I did a series of tests today under my back porch. Note the addition of the plate around the arm sleeve, that secures its mounting rings.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8690/16920392132_39721c20a7_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rMcr5Q)P1090943a (https://flic.kr/p/rMcr5Q) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

My initial tests showed some fogging or flare along one side. After a few tests I determined it was caused by bright light from off-axis flaring inside the old Kodak Ektar lens. I added a makeshift lens hood and the problem was resolved. However, the aluminum focus rods were left unpainted, and they reflect too much light. I'll need to paint them flat black, while ensuring the paint doesn't interfere with their motion.

Here's the final test image for today. F/22 at 2 seconds, developed for 3 minutes, with red LED-illuminated inspection via the viewing port. No fogging. Next, I'll need to repeat these tests in bright sun.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7599/16735484529_074a106d13_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/ruRJuH)Flower003a (https://flic.kr/p/ruRJuH) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr


03-24-2015, 09:13 PM

Regarding the aluminum focus rods. Instead of painting them, use a chemical bath to darken them. I'm not sure what this is called, but people who blue gun parts do this. I have read that you can do this to turn aluminum black.

By the way, great project!

Barry Kirsten
03-25-2015, 02:10 AM
Good point, Jon. Are you thinking of the anodizing process? It's a great way of treating aluminium for extra hardness, corrosion resistance and adding colour. Here is an informative article on the process http://astro.neutral.org/anodise4.shtml

Tom Persinger
03-25-2015, 11:21 AM
beautiful looking camera Joe! I'm really enjoying the updates on your project. Thanks for sharing!

Sam Hotton
03-25-2015, 03:40 PM
Birchwood Casey Aluminum Black Touch-Up cost about 6-7 dollars for 3 ounces. Easy and safe to use. This is what will perhaps be the chemical blackening you need. Metal surface MUST be grease and oil free. Like, cleaner than clean to get the proper chemical reaction.
I am in awe of your wonderful projects and proven results. The knowledge I have gained from your writing and sharing have been inspiring and priceless.
Sam H.

03-25-2015, 08:17 PM
@Sam: That looks like just the product I need. Thanks for the heads up. I'll let you know how it works.


03-28-2015, 10:58 AM
Am I losing my mind(again)or isn't a part of this thread missing,like some construction pictures and portraits of your wife showing early results and I even posted a comment,but can't locate that part now....

03-28-2015, 11:02 AM
OOps!!! Found it on another forum.Sorry (guess I am losing my mind).

03-31-2015, 12:20 AM
A typewriter portrait (of an SCM Galaxy 12), under bright shade, f/32 for 2 seconds. Note the fogging on the bottom of the image, I have that isolated to the camera's paper safe. I've since replaced the safe with a new design using different materials, I'll post results soon. Also note a slight lens flare on the right side of the typewriter platen, I think that's coming from the bright light off to the right of the image. A lens shade might help. Or use a more modern, coated LF lens.


https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8745/16971723112_e63c4abc14_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rRJvZJ)SCM_G12001a (https://flic.kr/p/rRJvZJ) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

03-31-2015, 12:23 AM
A portrait made yesterday under similar lighting as the previous typewriter image, f/32 for 3 seconds. She did a great job of remaining stationary. The camera was in the shade of the patio umbrella, so no lens flare or fogging of the negative. This might be the best portrait made to date with this camera.


https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7620/16786855509_c30f8690b5_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rzp2ig)Andi001a (https://flic.kr/p/rzp2ig) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

03-31-2015, 12:28 AM
One aesthetic note about the previous portrait image. Paper negatives tend to render flesh tones darker than panchromatic film would. I gave this exposure a +1 stop exposure compensation. Still, her face is a bit dark. And the blue-sensitive nature of the paper also shows freckles and skin blotches very easy. Which is why, in the early days of cinema, pancake makeup was commonly used. I will have to learn to slightly over-expose skin tones, to reduce these artifacts.


03-31-2015, 08:30 AM
Very nice Joe! And don't take away too much skin tone, I like the character it brings

Tom Persinger
03-31-2015, 09:34 AM
great portrait Joe! really enjoying your progress w/ the camera. thanks for keeping us updated.

blindpig, if you can send me a link to the other part of the thread I can merge it into this one... (Joe, if you'd rather I not merge them let me know)

03-31-2015, 05:50 PM
Here's this morning's test after the redesigned paper safe box. The old box was of cardboard, while the new one is made from flexible black plastic sheet (the kind you might find used as the cover for a flexible 3-ring binder), assembled with black gaffer's tape and using flexible sheet magnets as a closure device. The safe has to be operated one-handed, hence the magnetic closure on the opening flap. I'll post an image of the paper safe at a later date.

For this test, I had the paper safe loaded with this paper, out in my front courtyard in bright, morning sun. I opened the side of the box, facing the light, for about a minute, then closed it up, loaded the paper into the film holder and exposed this image, f/32 for 4 seconds, grade 2 paper.

No fogging or light leaks, but the crescent-shaped light mark in lower right is a handling mark, my fingers probably had some chemical residue on them.


https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7617/16992667681_164a75fd2d_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rTzS5Z)Front_Porch_Chair001a (https://flic.kr/p/rTzS5Z) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

04-01-2015, 09:37 AM
Here's the new paper safe, made from thick plastic sheet, gaffers tape and sheet magnets.
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7614/16809877829_57146916ac_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rBr22P)DSCF3240a (https://flic.kr/p/rBr22P) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

And here's the magnetic lid opened.
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7651/16788699687_b0e99fc689_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rzytvr)DSCF3239a (https://flic.kr/p/rzytvr) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr


04-01-2015, 09:40 AM
Here's the lens hood, made from Fujifilm Instax Wide dark slides, taped together with gaffers tape. It fits snugly in the lens board frame, held in place via an aluminum angle bracket that's double sided taped to the hood and secured to the lens board screw.
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8724/16375979243_5c986e0ce1_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/qX6b6H)DSCF3233a (https://flic.kr/p/qX6b6H) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr


04-01-2015, 09:46 AM
The current shutter is a simple lens cap, made from two-layer square of foam core board taped together, with a recess cut in one layer for the lens. Now that the lens hood is in place, I needed a handle with which to gain access to the lens cap shutter, made from a 35mm film capsule, hot glued to the foam core.

I'm currently working on an internal, barn door style shutter mechanism, to replace this makeshift lens cap shutter.


https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7585/16788700487_c0e9a275bc_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rzytKe)DSCF3234a (https://flic.kr/p/rzytKe) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

04-01-2015, 08:28 PM
I took the Instant Box Camera out for a field trip today, first into my backyard and then further afield, to several city parks. Despite the wind, dust, pollen and whatnot floating about the spring breeze, the negatives came out fine. No light leaks, no lens flare.

Up to now, I've been making test images in bright shade, but today's images were all made in bright sun. My lens stops down only to f/32, and my light meter recommended about 1/2 second exposures on most of these, so I did 1 second exposures, about as fast as I can manage while still being fairly accurate. The results are not too bad for being over-exposed, there's still some sky detail faintly visible on several of these.

These first two are from my backyard:

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8750/16977580966_64c1475346_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rSfxkd)Trellis001a (https://flic.kr/p/rSfxkd) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8737/16817359029_7503dfedbc_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rC6mW2)Tree&Shed001a (https://flic.kr/p/rC6mW2) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

While these next three are at or near city parks:

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7603/16381153404_aa873123e9_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/qXxGco)Park&Tree001a (https://flic.kr/p/qXxGco) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8719/16381153974_458b101af2_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/qXxGnd)House001a (https://flic.kr/p/qXxGnd) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

04-01-2015, 08:28 PM
The last of these three:

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7654/16381154614_e0a96d9c63_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/qXxGyf)Altura_Park001a (https://flic.kr/p/qXxGyf) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

04-01-2015, 08:45 PM
Joe, those negatives are looking great! Remind me, your ultimate goal is to make positives by using 1:1 copy, right? That's why the box has to be at least twice as long as the focal length of your lens? I guess you can make a fixed "holder" for the developed negative that swings down in front of the camera, and then some way of marking just the right place for your paper holder for use as a copy camera. I think it will be exciting to produce those in situ! It is fun to watch your progress on this!

It also just occurred to me that if you use the copy camera outside on a bright day, you could have a green filter that would swing down in front of the lens. If you used that for a portion of the copy exposure it could provide very good control of contrast.... assuming you would use VC paper for the positive.

I wonder if you are already thinking of building one for 8x10!?

04-01-2015, 10:19 PM
Joe, those negatives are looking great! Remind me, your ultimate goal is to make positives by using 1:1 copy, right? That's why the box has to be at least twice as long as the focal length of your lens? I guess you can make a fixed "holder" for the developed negative that swings down in front of the camera, and then some way of marking just the right place for your paper holder for use as a copy camera. I think it will be exciting to produce those in situ! It is fun to watch your progress on this!

It also just occurred to me that if you use the copy camera outside on a bright day, you could have a green filter that would swing down in front of the lens. If you used that for a portion of the copy exposure it could provide very good control of contrast.... assuming you would use VC paper for the positive.

I wonder if you are already thinking of building one for 8x10!?

Ned, you're correct about when printing 1:1, but the box is plenty long for my longest LF lens, a 150mm binocular objective, where I have at least 300mm of draw on the focus rods, which run the entire length of the box.

For framing up the image when printing, I can view the ground glass through the rear door. I plan on making a collapsible bracket that attaches to the camera base.

I've already done some experiments with printing, using my Speed Graphic, and I'll being using multigrade luster finish RC paper with contrast printing filters.

8 by 10 is a bit large. I'm already thinking about a different box layout for 4 by 5, that's taller than it is long, with three vertically oriented chemical tanks in the bottom, along with two vertical paper safe boxes. The mid section of the box will be open space for manipulating paper, and for the arm sleeve, while the upper section will have the camera.

I also am not seeing real need for development by inspection, providing the developer is fresh and near normal temperature.

I might add that this series of images this week were done without inspection, as I wanted to eliminate leaks from the viewing port as an issue. What I am doing is varying the development time based on temperature and chemical freshness. A future box design might dispense with the inspection device altogether.


04-06-2015, 04:22 PM
This morning I finished building the optical printing frame, a wooden extension that bolts to the underside of the support base, which carries an upright sliding plate whose front surface is covered in a rubber magnet sheet, such that a paper negative can be mounted magnetically in front of the lens.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8806/17058263795_91526746cf_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rZo4wt)P1100014a (https://flic.kr/p/rZo4wt) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8734/17056794592_d4a9fa2a71_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rZfwMo)P1100013a (https://flic.kr/p/rZfwMo) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

And here's a scan of a finished print of the negative seen in the above shot. I'm pleased with the tones, as it very much resembles the kind of prints I've seen online from camara minutera photographers in Argentina, where the subject's face has nice tones, floating in an otherwise over-exposed background. Many such prints also seem to be masked with an oval border, which I'm thinking of employing with an oval mask made from a rubber sheet magnet. The original negative was f/22 for 3 seconds (he did a great job of holding steady and not blinking), while the print was f/8 for 10 seconds. This print was made on Ilford's multigrade warmtone resin coated pearl finish paper, rated at ISO 0.8 plus 1.6 stops, due to use of a grade 5 contrast filter behind the camera lens.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7619/17057266341_bee3b75ec8_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rZhX1Z)Noah003a (https://flic.kr/p/rZhX1Z) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

(The strange blotchiness to the right was an artifact on the negative from residual chemicals on my fingers while handling the paper, something I'm going to need to be more careful about.)


04-06-2015, 07:31 PM
Great proof of process print Joe! Know you are having a blast.Keep up the good work and keep pictures coming please.

04-07-2015, 12:06 AM
What Don said! You could have a set of choices of magnetic sheet masks... very cool!

04-12-2015, 10:45 PM
I just finished part 1 of a two-part video on the Instant Box Camera.



04-12-2015, 11:56 PM
I really enjoyed watching that, thanks for posting it Joe!

04-13-2015, 03:44 AM
Great work Joe, you should be proud and pleased.

I see one of your typewriters in the background which I assume you use to write your blog. I very much understand, appreciate and respect your dedication to the old ways and how you merge old and new technologies.


04-13-2015, 09:37 AM
Thank you for your comments. While editing video in iMovie on the iPad is a breeze, uploading to YouTube is a nightmare, because Google (who own YouTube) and Apple don't play well together. The problem, seen by many, is trying to log into YouTube in the iMovie app, it won't accept your password.

I ended up doing this: 1) Temporarily lowering my YouTube security settings through Google's main screen; 2) Logging out of YouTube in the iPad app, the iPad browser and my desktop browser; 3) Logging back into YouTube, not with my user ID but my email address instead. It's been almost a year since I last did a video, and while I recall some sort of difficulty, I didn't make any detailed notes as to the fix. Boy, I sure made notes this time!

I really enjoy using the Lumix G5 for video work. Its fold out screen is ultra important for self-focusing and composing. The main difference between it and the GH4 is lack of mic/line inputs, less control over manual exposures and the codec is not as sophisticated. But plenty good for my use. I've taken to always using manual focus, prefocusing on the important part of the scene, to avoid that distracting focus hunting that can occur. And being able to throw my old Minolta manual focus lenses on the camera is also great.

Because I can't use external mics, I have to record when the house is quiet. And remember simple things like take the phones out of the room, as on several occassions I've had a phone ring during a scene!

@Ray: I'm glad you noticed the typewriter. That's the SCM Galaxy 12, a $15 thrift store find and one of the best machines in my collection. I have nine typewriters currently, and so have to cycle them each through a period of usage. That's a good problem to have!


04-13-2015, 02:34 PM
Joe, you could try making a password specifically for imovie in your google account. The option should be under the security settings. That way you don't need to go trough all the hassle every time you want to upload something.

That said, great project. One of these has been on my to-do list for a couple of years now after seeing how some street photographers in afghanistan were basically running a passport / ID photo shop out of one of these "instant" cameras. Looks like I'll be looking to your project for some DOs and DON'Ts when I get around to tackling the project myself.

Tom Persinger
04-13-2015, 11:38 PM
like the others I really enjoyed your video Joe. Thanks for sharing!

04-15-2015, 07:28 PM
Another update of the Instant Box Camera project. I worked this week mainly on my optical printing technique, where I set up a printing easel in front of the lens and rephotograph the grade 2 paper negatives onto Ilford MG RC WT Luster paper.

I made some reference lines in the easel using drafting tape, and now I can accurately position the over mattes, focus the negative and compose much quicker. I was able to do a complete portrait session, from posing to exposure and development of the negative to setup, exposure and development of the print, all within 15 minutes, which is one of my goals for making this project practical in terms of public portraiture.

I was experiencing inconsistencies between my metering and the resulting exposure of the prints, until I realized that I was standing in front of the easel, blocking part of the indirect light, during the printing phase. And so I changed my technique to, after loading the film holder with paper, close the inner door and remove my arm from the sleeve, then stand behind the easel to make a final meter reading and operate the shutter.

I also made three different magnetic oval mattes with which to mask off the paper negatives, using rubber sheet magnets covered in adhesive vinyl film. One mask is black, rendering a white mask on the print; the other is white, rendering a black mask in the print; and the third is gray.

I also decided that, since I've gone this far with the project, it'd be worth my time to begin using my modern Fuji 135-5.6 lens, in place of the aged WWII-era Kodak Ektar 127-4.7. This means I now have a modern, accurate shutter, and that I can make sub-second exposures, and thus use wider apertures, for portraits where the background is more pleasingly out of focus.

Here's a reprint of a negative I made during that 15 minute session, this time printed lighter (I'm using a grade 3.5 contrast filter behind the lens) and using the black mask. I used the Fuji lens for both the negative and the print, F/8 for the portrait itself and F/11 during the printing.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8723/16954261477_57ee475110_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rQc2g4)Hunter001a (https://flic.kr/p/rQc2g4) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr


04-17-2015, 02:48 PM
Great result, Joe! Congratulations!

04-19-2015, 07:08 PM
I did a self-portrait session today. To focus my image properly, I employed a focusing target attached to the camera's support base via a string.

I first adjusted the tripod height to center my face on the lens as I was seated on a stool, then adjusted the stool fore/aft to make the string tight with the target adjacent to my eyes.

Next, I taped the target to the end of a wooden yardstick, and was able to monitor and focus the image on the ground glass, through the camera's rear door, while holding the string taught via the yardstick.

Then I loaded up a paper negative, closed the arm sleeve door and seated myself on the stool, target in my left hand and shutter release cable in my right. I pulled the string tight, positioned my face to the target, lowered the target and released the shutter. Exposure was f/8 for 1/4 second, at ISO12 on grade 2 RC paper. I should have exposed it a bit more, by adjusting the aperture down a bit from f/8. But the highlights aren't blown.

After processing and a few dunks in the rinse water, I squeegeed off the negative using a film squeegee, flapped it dry, then mounted it to the printing easel with a gray oval printing mask. The print was made with a grade 3.5 filter onto Ilford MG RC WT luster paper, at f/8 for 3 seconds, rating the paper at ISO1.6.

Overall the process took about 20 minutes. It would have been shorter, but I had to deal with focusing, and my grade 3.5 filter fell into the developer tray; I had to quickly rinse it off and dry it, then fixed it to the front of the lens via gaffers tape instead. I'm going to make a holder to mount these on the outside of the lens. The dyes on these printing filters are not water-fast, as my rinse water turned pink after I tried rinsing the filter off.

Here's an image of the focusing target affixed to the yardstick:
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8713/17016559988_55dcf96af2_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rVGjrj)P1100060a (https://flic.kr/p/rVGjrj) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

Here's how I held the focus target up to my face (but actually using my left hand - in this shot I was holding the Lumix G5 camera, LCD screen folded out, in my left hand):
https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8826/17018143749_366f08c82a_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rVQrex)P1100061a (https://flic.kr/p/rVQrex) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

And here's a scan of the print; I've made no attempt to dust spot the scan, but it appears very clean in person:
https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5443/17016575538_28158dd7df_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rVGp4q)Joe001a (https://flic.kr/p/rVGp4q) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

Though the shadows are a bit dark (the negative being slightly under-exposed), I'm pleased with this print, especially the focus on my eyes.


04-19-2015, 08:43 PM
Great results! That is a fine portrait.

Is there a way that you could make a mark on the rod, for example where your "focus clip" would go? Then you could have one or two fixed length strings for quick portrait setup. A sort of "scale focus" but specifically for a couple of nice portrait distances.

04-19-2015, 10:01 PM
Great idea, Ned. Having a preset string and focus rod position, along with printing easel markings, would certainly speed things up.

At one time I also thought of focal length markings on the rod, to aid in bellows compensation, but now that I have the printing working as it is, I don't think I'll be needing it.

One downside to using blue-sensitive paper, it exaggerates all of one's skin blemishes; I'm not quite that weathered in reality; but it does have a tintype kind of look to it.


04-20-2015, 10:13 AM
Joe, this just keeps getting better and better.Looks like you've worked out most of the operation kinks and are ready to go,congratulations
Keep the pictures coming please.

04-20-2015, 07:55 PM
Today I worked on getting the entire Instant Box Camera transportable as a system. First, I made a visit to my local Staples store where I picked up this collapsable dolly, with 70 pound weight capacity. Inside I can carry two 1-gallon bottles, for fresh water and waste chemicals; paper towels, chemical bottles, spare fixer and developer, and a funnel.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8703/17030089260_fd306a656b_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rWTEdC)P1100063a (https://flic.kr/p/rWTEdC) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

I also made a storage shelf for the bottom of the tripod. It's made from two pieces of laminate flooring that bolt together, with special notches cut out to fit around the center column and one support leg. This shelf gives me room for the two rinse containers, the smaller container with rinse aid and the other with fresh rinse water; along with other accessories.

For transport, I'm carrying many of my smaller accessories inside the camera itself, with the chemical trays dry and placed upside; there's room for my light meter, bubble level, printing easel and extension, spare magnetic oval printing mattes, and the viewing port (shown removed), along with the printing filter.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7617/17031450739_b69e583eda_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rX1CWp)P1100062b (https://flic.kr/p/rX1CWp) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

Here's the entire system packed up and ready for transport. I wanted to be able to move the entire rig in one trip from my car, so that I don't have to worry about the possibility of theft, especially if I'm doing this solo. The tripod collapses to a compact package and is wrapped in a towel, to keep from scratching the finish on the camera box. The towel might also come in handy to keep folded atop the camera, for cleaning up spills and drips. A bungee cord secures the load. Once the camera is set up, I'll be able to collapse the handle on the dolly and secure it under the lower shelf of the tripod.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8709/16595178784_ac18c0b5b5_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rhsCu9)P1100064a (https://flic.kr/p/rhsCu9) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr


04-21-2015, 08:25 PM
Today I took my Instant Box Camera kit on a practice session afield, placing a visit to my brother. I found it best to pack all the gear in my small car with the camera and tripod in the trunk, and the wheeled crate dolly, loaded with all the supplies and chemicals, including a container of water, in the back seat.

Once at my brother's, I loaded it back into one kit and wheeled it into his front porch area, where I set up for several portrait sessions. It took me all of about 20 minutes from arrival to having it set up, ready to seat him for his picture.

I seated him under the shaded porch, near the edge of the shadow, with the camera in the sun. Note to self: bring a sun hat next time. Actually, I have a list of lessons learned from this session, which I'd rank as successful.

The first negative went well, as did the processing. I had brought a container of rinse aid, along with a separate container of rinse water, and so I did a minute or so of rinse aid prior to a short water rinse, then squeegeed off the negative and flapped it dry in the sun.

Printing the negative was a bit more troublesome. I'd gotten used to printing under my back porch at home, but the light was a bit different at his house. I used incident metering for the print, as before, but the first print came out too light. I ended up adding an extra stop of exposure, for a nice print.

I then shot a second negative, and it too went well, this time I reflected metered his face, which worked well. For printing this second negative, I applied the same exposure as I'd found with the first. The result, shown below, is a bit dark, as there's more shadow detail that a better print might reveal, but I'm pleased with the light in his eyes.

https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5452/17227915361_71c11c4ee8_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/sfnz2t)Don001a (https://flic.kr/p/sfnz2t) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

I'm thinking that I should employ my Pentax spot meter for metering the prints. The reason being is that the Gossen is just not accurate enough to get a reading just off the face on the negative, and getting the meter that close to the negative means the shadow of the meter comes into play. This is on my to-do list, getting the spot meter running and calibrated for this purpose.

A few more lessons learned, such as I need to bring some plastic baggies to store negatives and prints. I'm thinking I could present the print to the client in a baggie, with an insert sheet printed on gray/silver paper with some description of the process, care advice for the print and my contact information. For the negatives, I'll store each one in their own baggie, with a preprinted form included that has the date, customer's name, email address, phone number and exposure information. Once I'm back home, I can archive these negatives, along with their data sheets, in a binder for future reference.

I also need another small plastic storage bin to hold the non-chemical related items, that end up cluttering the top of the camera, such as the bubble level, film squeegee, light meter case, spare printing filters, spare printing masks, etc.

Having the container for waste chemicals was handy, as I'd started with two day-old developer and dumped it and repoured fresh developer. My developer bottle I've marked with lines indicating the 150mL of water and 15mL of concentrate, so it was easy to pour up more working solution. For the fixer, I brought a spare bottle of fresh fixer, along with a small bottle of test solution, to test for exhaustion. I'll just pour the exhausted fixer back into its storage bottle and use the other, if needed; that way I don't mix used fixer and waste developer in the waste container.

I brought a roll of paper towels, which came in handy, along with a plastic bag for trash.

All told, it was a good session, and I now have a list of things to do to make the next one even smoother.


04-26-2015, 10:30 PM
A quick portrait session from this morning, of a friend of my grandson. The negative, on Arista grade 2 RC paper rated at ISO12, was F/8 at 1/4 second. I used incident metering, adjacent to his face, then added 1.5 additional stops.

The print was via the printing easel placed in front of the camera lens, onto Ilford MG RC WT Luster paper, rated at ISO1.6 and with a grade 3.5 filter over the lens, an exposure of F/11 at 3 seconds. For this exposure I reflection metered a gray card placed adjacent to the printing easel, which worked rather well.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7687/17282170052_398b2a9ff7_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/skaD4b)Mark001a (https://flic.kr/p/skaD4b) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

04-27-2015, 12:08 PM
Great stuff Joe.Looks like it's becoming second nature as you keep improving the portraits.
Wonder if a small light stand with a foil type reflector would help the deep shadow areas,which don't seem friendly with paper negatives sometimes.
Just a thought.

04-27-2015, 11:46 PM
I have a folding fabric reflector that I've just added to the kit, which should serve this purpose well. It's silver on one side and white on the reverse.

Here's a portrait of my grand daughter, made today. I had composed her nicely framed up, but she slumped down in the chair during the exposure, and so I couldn't get her face well centered on the oval mask, though I was able to avoid the borders of the negative from showing on the print. It was cold and rainy; you can tell she's snuggled in a blanket to stay warm. Incident metering +1 stop, for an exposure of f/8 at 1/2 second. For the print it was again at grade 3.5, f/8 at 3 seconds, metered by taking a reflection reading off a gray card. Thus far, this metering method seems to be working.

I had better luck with the focus today. I had her hold the focus target in front of her face, with the string tight, as I focused upon the target. After loading the paper and setting the lens, I stood next to her, with the string stretched tight and positioned her head so her eyes were adjacent to the target, then dropped it out of view of the lens and tripped the shutter. With small kids, it seems to work better for me to operate the focus target rather than them. I'm using a 3 foot shutter release cable, so I'm able to operate the shutter while working with the subject.


PS: I scanned this warm tone paper in color, hence the slight color cast.

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7706/17294704272_10ea3f28de_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/smgT3q)Indigo001a (https://flic.kr/p/smgT3q) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr


05-03-2015, 11:50 PM
Some former neighbors graced us with a visit today, prior to leaving the state for a new life in the Pacific Northwest. I took the liberty of making a portrait, and presenting them a print. The paper negative was once again Arista grade 2 RC paper, f/8 at 1/4 second, ISO12; while the print was Ilford MG RC WT Luster paper, exposure f/8 for 8 seconds, grade 3.5 printing filter over the lens, rated at ISO 1.6. I continue to use incident metering +1 stop for the negative, and a reflected meter reading off a gray card for the print.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8861/16742386543_e22069debb_o.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/rvt7dX)Kim001a (https://flic.kr/p/rvt7dX) by jvcabacus (https://www.flickr.com/people/31285363@N07/), on Flickr


05-04-2015, 05:38 PM
Wow, Joe, those have a wet plate look to them - must be the ortho response of the paper. Well done, all!

05-12-2015, 12:03 AM
A portrait in late afternoon on the shady side of my house, exposure: f/8 @ 1/2 second onto grade 2 RC paper, optically printed in-camera onto Ilford MG RC WT Luster paper.


https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8889/17356542839_643abcfb6c_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/srJPuB)John001a (https://flic.kr/p/srJPuB) by Joe Van Cleave (https://www.flickr.com/photos/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

05-12-2015, 08:33 PM
That one has real character!

05-13-2015, 09:32 PM
https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8893/17430135050_1caf265fbe_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/syeZTQ)P1100156a (https://flic.kr/p/syeZTQ) by Joe Van Cleave (https://www.flickr.com/photos/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

Today I conducted an extended printing session with the rig set up on my back porch, optically printing ten negatives I'd previously made during the last few months. While I made a few mistakes, wasting several sheets of paper, I'm pleased with the outcome. I switched to using grade 2 contrast filtration over the lens, the prints being exposed on Ilford MG RC WT Luster paper.

I still have some issues with my paper safe box. The first one was made from cardboard, but it wasn't moisture proof and so I spray painted it, resulting in the cardboard warping and ruining the box. The second one was made from sheet plastic, but was thinner than the first and thus could not hold as much paper.

This week I made a wider box, also from plastic, which I used today. It's proving to be too flexible, thus hard to load and unload from the box without light leaks. I'm thinking I'll have to make a stiff, liquid proof box from sheet brass, soldered together. That'll be for next week.

I made a presentation folder for the prints, that measure 4.5" by 6", made from silver/gray craft paper. Here's a scan of the back and front of the folder. Inside is a brief description of the print and process.

https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5336/17615372922_1895591154_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/sQBoEf)Luna Plata001 (https://flic.kr/p/sQBoEf) by Joe Van Cleave (https://www.flickr.com/photos/31285363@N07/), on Flickr


Barry Kirsten
05-14-2015, 04:35 AM
Hats off to you Joe. An inspiring project and impressive body of work; incredible images - I mean really good art! Thank you for letting us see them.

05-24-2015, 08:56 PM
https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5338/18061367095_0757970266_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/tw2ebX)Richard001a (https://flic.kr/p/tw2ebX) by Joe Van Cleave (https://www.flickr.com/photos/31285363@N07/), on Flickr

05-25-2015, 11:39 AM
Excellent image!