Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Orange You Glad

Chalk one up for the Twitterverse, for through that I found out about Exaclair offering an ink-and-paper-sample giveaway over St. Patrick's day. Specifically, a sample of either green or orange ink from J. Herbin plus a bit of Clairfontaine paper to try it on. I've yet to get orange ink all over myself, so that's the one I requested, and joy! it arrived today...

J. Herbin "Orange Indien" + Clairefontaine cahier

First, let me say that I was expecting maybe a little plastic vial of ink and a couple of sheets of paper, stuck into an envelope. What I was not expecting was the arrival of a well-packed box containing what you see above: a 30 mL bottle of ink and a 48-page 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" soft-cover cahier. So just after the unboxing I'm already experiencing epic win.

Luckily for me, the win didn't stop there. This is a very well-behaved ink: I've swabbed it on a small Canson lined notebook, on a Black 'n Red spiral notebook that I use for work, on my small Rhodia #11 pad, and on a composition notebook from Staples made of bagasse paper (sugar cane remnants.) All four are known to be fountain-pen-friendly, and they did not disppoint: only on the Canson did I detect slight feathering from the swabbing, and none of papers even hinted at bleeding through. I torture-tested the Rhodia pad by swabbing back and forth over the same area for a while, and except for some wetness-induced curl, it behaved perfectly. Finding the good combination of ink and paper can be tricky, but no tricks are needed here.

The color in the bottle is almost iodine-like -- the resemblance was particularly strong on the swabs and (sigh) on my skin -- but on the page it is far lighter. This ink is aptly named -- Orange Indien -- for it puts one in mind of saffron or curry: it is certainly orange, but not neon colored. It's quite readable on a page by itself, which was one of my concerns after I selected it: fountain pens make poor highlighters, as the ink is water-based and will gladly smear any water-based ink they cover. My super-swabbing test on the Rhodia pad was over a section I'd written in ballpoint, which is oil-based ink, and there was no smearing or blurring as expected. But I would not devote this ink to life as an accent color. It dries a bit more slowly than the my everyday inks -- Quink Black and Waterman Florida Blue -- but perhaps because of this and the color, the dried ink exhibits the nice shading characteristics you expect when you think "fountain pen." And unlike other brightly-colored inks I've used, there doesn't appear to be any little "clumps" of dye. I'm going to leave it in the Parker that I loaded up to see how it behaves longer-term.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this, and send special thanks to Karen Doherty at Exaclaire, Inc. for sending these along. It was a pleasant surprise, made all the more pleasant by the high-quality ink and paper inside.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

They Ain't Bitin'

Faux Fisheye
Well, that didn't work.

Not entirely unexpected, but my home-grown fisheye lens didn't work. In fact, it alarmed the manager at Walgreens, who expressed genuine concern over the state of my camera. The lens swap threw it hopelessly out of focus. So that experiment... not so successful. Lesson learned: just because the focal length looks the same doesn't mean that it is the same.

But, there are some positives, like me gaining a better understanding of the workings of Chinese-made plastic cameras (they are all pretty much the same design inside) and finding some fairly ninja-esque directions for completely tricking out this model of camera. Thanks to those, I learned how to keep the shutter open, and use a piece of tape to check the focus. This isn't the easiest thing to see, but this is the landscape outside my window, projected (upside down) onto a piece of tape:

Focal Plane

(In retrospect, I should have done this first, since it would have shown that no combination of lenses projects a clear image except the originals.)

So those hoping for clever fisheye photos (me, *sob*) stand down, and watch for more experiments in the future...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Only Her Photoprocessor Knows For Sure

More news and musings from this corner of the typosphere:
  • Have you written your entry for Silent Type 2: Revenge of the Nerds yet? No? Egads, what are you waiting for? The deadline is three weeks from today. Send one in so you can bask in the awfulness of my poetical waxing. Go on.
  • Typewriters in the news have been pretty quiet as of late, except for their use as a marker of time passing ("Joe Blow started when the city desk was a typewriter and a broken mimeograph...") A few are worth passing along, though, including the obligatory piece on a typewriter repair business that's still in business, an art show in the Twin Cities about the life of secretaries, and a meditation on the value of typed work then versus now. I'll spare Olivander's modesty by not linking to his writeup (with photos!) in his local paper, but he gets a little dig in at keychoppers there, so Viva Los Retronauts!
  • My own adventures in camera restoration continue: the big Wollensak shutter I talked about here is humming along, as much as a seventy-plus year old shutter can hum. All the faster speeds are responsive, though I don't have a means to measure them. They sound fast, and given the latitude of modern films, it's likely fast enough. The challenge now is to make a measurement of the focal length of the lens -- the distance from the center of the lens to where the film would sit -- and then rig up something the same size out of cardboard. Sounds like a lot of work, but still simpler than what I had planned.
  • Still de-gooping the shutter mechanism of this camera, too. Works great when the shutter is bathed in alcohol, not so much when it dries out and the old oils redistribute. Kindly light a candle for us, won't you?
  • Also on the film front, I've tried coffee as a film developing agent for black-and-white processing, but now I'm reading about using hair dye for color processing. The process is slow, and doesn't sound as fussy as using a C-41 kit. In fact, it sounds like the opposite of fussy. I do have a copy of the Darkroom Cookbook at home which the thread author cites, so obviously I need to dig it out and do some reading. Can I say again: how cool is it that a trip to the grocery store could supply you with almost complete film-development chemistry? Answer: very cool. *
  • Kind of quiet out there in the typosphere, what's happening with everyone?
* Update: Cancel that "almost." A quick scan of the Intertubes shows that hypo (the classic name for fixer) is also self-mixable, as long as you are handy to a place that sells pool chemicals. As there's a pool supply store about three blocks from my house, I'd say that's a yes. Chlorine-reducing chemicals reportedly work for this very situation. I reiterate: very cool.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Twitting

Ah, I get it now.

A month ago I signed up for Twitter as a means to vote in the "Shorty Awards," a.k.a. a hunk of engraved lucite given to notable twits in various categories -- the Twitter Oscars, it's been called. I saw it as a way to show a little love to the few tweets that I actually do read on occasion, namely those "by" the various interplanetary probes sent out by NASA/JPL, especially the pair of rovers on Mars, operating years beyond their original mission and design. (I'm a space and science geek on top of everything else.) So anyway: signed up, and put my toe in the water, expecting to find it a barren wasteland of 140-character blips from people calling themselves "Snooki" who want to know yo where my ho's at or whatever.

Well, it is that, truly, but then so is the blogspace and the Internet at large. (This is the point when I usually slip into the "I remember the 'MAKE MONEY FAST' Usenet wars" story, but I'll spare you.) In fact, the Internet is pretty much a "seek and you shall find" proposition. I had no idea that the nascent typosphere was out here lurking in the shadows, until I stumbled on Will Davis' portable typewriters site, and then the Yahoo! group, and then Strikethru and Monda's blogs. I'm glad that I fell into it, and broke my own (unspoken) rule of "I won't have a blog, I don't see the point, I don't know who would even bother reading it, grumpy grumpy, stay off my lawn." Now I'm pleased to be in your virtual company, and am finding a lot of similarities with you folks, despite geography.

Well, I was wrong about Twitter, too. It can be a means for shameless celebrity-watching, which I'll own up to: I'm following the MythBusters, and Wil Wheaton, and Conan O'Brien's daily tweets (depressing and funny!) and a few others. And I'll admit, that it's a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation at a party, but then the likelihood of me even being at a genuine in Real Life party with these people is slim to none, so I'm enjoying it. (To be fair, the MythBusters are just across the Bay from me, and I could realistically go all creepy-stalker on them if I wanted to. But they also have guns and explosives, so... no.) And then I stumbled across Rogert Ebert.

I "know" Ebert from his days reviewing movies on TV, and from his excellent reviews and Q&A columns now posted online. I know about his cancer battle, and read the recent Esquire profile, and for fun, looked him up. And this is where I realized I was wrong.

Yes, Twitter can be an extended game of "Yes, and..." where jokes (and one-ups) zip back and forth among friends and strangers, in a sudden ephemeral cloud of words, and yes, it can all-to-often be an outlet for inane "I just ate a sandwich" updates. I've been guilty of a couple of these myself, as the guilt settles in for not updating "enough," as if there were a minimum participation level that I was failing to reach. It's all of these things, but it's also a chance to listen in on short bursts of thought from people like Roger Ebert, and Neil Gaiman, and Stephen Fry, and the like. Your tastes might very from mine -- Ebert is almost furiously liberal, based on his responses to Tea Party folks and Sarah Palin -- but chances are you'll find someone out there to listen to. For someone like Ebert, whose living is based on the written words, it's a pleasure to watch someone work, confined within the limits of the service. (He compared it to a word game: packing the most meaning in the least space.)

So there, I was wrong. And I'm willing to own up to it. But I'm still not following anyone named "Snooki."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Shutter Island

No, not the taught psychological cinema thriller, but my own taught psychological thrills while trying to figure out why my vintage shutter only worked in one speed ("T") Turns out I had accidentally let loose a small brass cylinder in the works which needed to be reattached, and I had to bend up a small worn nub of metal to engage some other speed-thingamabob. It's all very complex, but now I can honestly say that I have stared into the face of a shutter mechanism and lived to tell the tale.

I took this to document where are the parts were before I started messing around, but as an appreciator of fine mechanical handiwork, I realize now how pretty this is, too, in its own German-functional way. Hope you appreciate it, too.

Optimo 1A shutter mechanism

Click through to the actual image for a commented breakdown of the parts.