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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

to pinhole or not to pinhole

I loaded some Fuji 200 color into my point-and-shoot pinhole and took a walk in the neighborhood.  It was the first time in quite a while that I had made pinhole images.

My new truck, a '96 Toyota T100 4WD. 

I thought I might use up the roll in a couple sessions, but I was surprised to find that I had all twenty-four frames accounted for in about an hour.


I spent about a year shooting mostly pinhole some time ago.  I used a medium format camera and shot only black and white.  I was pleased with my results in the end, but also felt I had reached my limits with the medium and went back to shooting my regular old film cameras.


In evaluating my work with the pinhole, I discovered that the things I liked about the images were mostly not unique to pinhole cameras or technique.  Most of the effects could also be accomplished with cameras with lenses: small apertures, great depth of field, extreme wide angle, diffraction flare, low-angled perspective, near-far effects, motion blur.  In fact, a lot of that showed up in images made with the little Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim with which I have made a lot of pictures.


Still, pinhole brings all those things together, and it is fun to try to bring it under control and to make it all work effectively.  It is also a good way to learn a lot of technique that carries over into lens-based photography.


Pinhole also has the virtue of producing unexpected and surprising results even when you think you have all the variables accounted for.  It can lead you into exciting and unexplored territory.


Every pinhole camera I have worked with has its own quirks, and it takes some time to learn how to aim and compose with some confidence.  Exposure in good daylight is pretty simple; one second gets it about right for me nearly every time.  In low light, the game gets trickier as films vary considerably in their capacity to record images with very long exposure times.


Part of the reward of pinholing is making your own equipment.  It can be as simple as a matchbox and a bit of foil.  However, using a real camera body can facilitate the process quite a bit as that takes care of film transport, light tightness, and can even provide an easy-to-operate shutter.


Perhaps the main advantage of shooting pinhole is that it lets you put aside preconceptions of how images should be made or how they should look.  It frees you to have fun and learn at the same time.

3 comments:

Jim said...

It looks like you do a lot of ground-level perspectives -- I'm guessing it's because the ground is often the handiest level surface for your second-long exposures?

These all have interesting colors, and I like the sunray effect in the shot of your new old truck.

Mike said...

The camera I was using has no tripod receptacle, so it does need some support for sharp results. I like low-angle shots, so that works out fine. However, I also use my knee at times, and anything else handy as a brace. The chair back was shot with the camera sitting on another chair. The doll shot was made with the front of the camera pressed against a shop window. I actually constructed this particular camera with the idea of exploring some motion blur effects, but I haven't gotten to that yet.

Norman Montifar said...

Very interesting results. I like the low angle shots and the light flares