Monday, March 3, 2014

Pinhole "Photography"

 3 hour exposure

The final goal I listed on 2014's goal list was to explore different avenues of photography by trying different equipment.

I have already talked a little bit about my foray into a high quality point and shoot a little bit.  I will write more about that later.

But, this post I wanted to write a bit about the other end of the scale.  I did, in fact, buy a pinhole camera.  I chose a 4x5 with a 75mm focal length from the Lensless Camera Company.  I bought it, a pair of 4x5 film holders, a box of direct Ilford Harmond positive photo paper (which I just saw maybe discontinued!), and a mess of chemicals from B&H.

So far I have made a total of 6 exposures, 7 if you count the paper I deliberately brought into a lit room to learn how the film holders worked.  Out of those 6, I'd say 2 were very successful, 1 was moderately successful, and 2 were either so severely underexposed or overexposed to be candidates to toss in the trash.  I'm keeping them, for now, so I can learn how the paper reacts to things like ironing!

14 minute exposure

And there-in lies one of two big mind shifts using this camera has rendered.  I have to learn the materials!  I really started studying photography in the digital world.  I shot film for years, but, in terms of really studying, and really shooting enough to improve in any noticeable way, it was digital capture.  My idea of the "craft" of photography was camera work like focus and exposure, artistic work like composition, design, color, contrast, etc,  the awareness of light and how to use various swatches of it in a picture, and the one I think is very elusive-- awareness of your subject and how you want to portray the subject in a picture.

However, working with this pinhole has made me realize a big part of the craft is simply "craft".  How to treat paper going into chemicals, having a roughly correct temperature of the chemicals, how to physically load film holders, how to dry prints, how to flatten dry prints, etc.  None of these I have managed to complete at a level I consider appropriate.  The other aspects of pictures are still there.  But, right now, messing with these the actual process is consuming a ton of my thinking, and it is very hands on.

14-15 minute exposure, during wind.

The other shift is in subjects I find myself selecting, and how I think about making the exposure.  Because of the exposure times, making pictures of people isn't practical.  I have a people picture I want to make, but will require insane subject participation, at least until I start using film instead paper in the capture step.  For now I'm selecting stuff that sits still.  When making a picture, I call it "collecting" the picture.  With other cameras I "take" them, or "shoot" them, or some other word like that.  I feel a pinhole camera "collects" one. For minutes, or hours, it sucks the picture in and holds it. 

Despite being wide angle, these pictures feel quiet to me.  I don't really know how to explain it.

If you are interested in a pinhole camera, there are plenty of ways to make them easily and cheaply. Buying a built camera isn't too expensive either.

I also just recently learned that using a pinhole camera isn't "photography".  The individual that invented the term, specifically stated that optics were used.  I think he's wrong, but he's long dead so we cannot have this discussion.

I look forward to world pinhole day this year.  It falls on April 27.

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