27.12.10

Pinhole, Velvia 50, ferns and waterfalls...

There are numerous waterfalls around South Gippsland and I've seen images of one that I would like to see so we're off there today (or tomorrow if the rain continues) to test out some Velvia 50 in the roll film holder.

I also found a "wall" of tree ferns on Friday that I want to go back to.

I've not used Velvia before and with very fine grain and excellent saturation I'm looking forward to see some results with the pinhole camera. I will also take my field camera to see what things look like on the ground glass. I'm thinking that I will take one image with the pinhole and then a second with the field camera and compare.

I will also be trying some black & white shots so that I can process them at home. The results shouldn't be far away...

I also want to build a "biscuit tin" pinhole camera like this by the very talented Steph Tout and experiment with multiple exposure panoramas...

24.12.10

Merry Christmas...

Have a great Christmas and I hope the New Year brings all kinds of success...

I will be off for a brief break and then hope to take some pinhole images around South Gippsland. The results will be shown here when I process them.

Enjoy the festive season.

23.12.10

What to photograph?

Photography as art is one of those subjective things. It doesn't really matter what I like if I like it. So what I like to photograph may not be your cup of tea. However there are some things that should make taking pinhole images more interesting.

I need to explain a theory I have: There is a difference between "art" & "craft". Craft is the part where you know what you need to know to make art. It's knowing which lens to use, it's knowing how light will affect the image, it's getting a correct exposure it's framing the image properly it's knowing whether black & white or colour would suit better. Art is the end result of the vision and the craftsman's skill. Only the boffins look at the Mona Lisa and ask "I wonder what type of brush Leonardo used for the eyes?" That's the craft question...

It's interesting when you hear someone make the following statement; "That's a really nice image, I really like it. What brand camera did you use? The expectation is that if they went out and got that brand of camera they, also, would be able to take that image... Just because Henri Carteir-Bresson used a Leica doesn't mean that you will be able to capture the "decisive moment"...

There are some technical considerations that need to be considered when "crafting" a pinhole image.
  • Pinhole imaging is a slow process, the shutterspeeds are measured in tens of seconds or minutes (and in some cases months).
  • Pinhole images are inherently "soft", there is no glass make fine focus happen.
  • Pinhole images have an infinite depth of field. An object will be as sharp in the foreground as the same object in the distance. The limiting factor will be the film grain size relative to the size of the object. See the photo of the boat masts with Melbourne in the background in the previous post.
  • Pinhole images are slightly more difficult to frame.
  • Wide angle (short focal lengths) images will have distortions and vignetting.
So how can I use these technical considerations to craft an image? Personally I think that the easiest thing to experiment with is time... What can I have "move" in an image that will look good?

Think;
  • Waterfalls
  • Waves
  • Clouds
  • Stars
  • Heads, eyes, arms, legs
I took an image of a still life setting once and during the 11 minute exposure my wife walked through the background. I was expecting to see a ghostly image (of a beautiful female ghost) but there was no record of her being there at all. So we took another image and we stood in the background for a couple of minutes and guess what? We still didn't show up in the image! So my technical brain has decided that there must be a "percentage" of exposure time required for a subject to be collected on film... I'm yet to experiment with this but it is definitely on my list and you'll get to see the results here when I'm done...

So, back to the original question, "What to photograph?" I'm going to start wherever I start and see where it leads...

22.12.10

Framing with a pinhole camera...

One of the joys/frustrations of pinhole photography is that you are never 100% sure of what you will and won't get in the frame because a pinhole camera usually doesn't have a viewfinder at all. If it does have a viewfinder it will be a very basic framing guide that may, or may not be anywhere near accurate. With landscape images it's important to get a straight horizon, use a spirit level and make sure your tripod is steady. The following image was taken at Brighton marina in Melbourne (with Melbourne in the distance), Victoria in early 2010. From memory it was a 40 second exposure at 75mm focal length on Ilford FP4+ film. Scanned at full resolution the TIFF file is 352MB... Click on the images below for a larger view.

The image above is very slightly cropped from the original scan of a 5x4 negative. 5x4 is in inches in case you weren't sure. Each negative is 13 times larger than a 35mm negative and as the following images will show there is an awesome amount of detail in  a negative of this size. Click on the image and you will get a bigger view. Note that the image hasn't had the dust spots or marks cleaned up nor any adjustments made to the contrast/levels.

The image above has been cropped from the first image and cleaned of spots, dust and marks from the negative. It has also had the contrast and levels adjusted so that there is more detail visible in the clouds.
The image above is a different crop from the original with the same adjustments. This crop is a 6x17 ratio panorama and looks nice printed up large.

This is a 6x12 format crop from the centre of the image. Notice how at this size the film grain is visible and the details are very soft. I love the image like this as it looks very "dreamy" and has a certain old fashioned mood...
Next: What to photograph?



21.12.10

Alternative processes...

I have been doing some research and I've found something that has me just a little excited!

There has been a long history in photography of experimentation to find the chemicals that will react and produce either a negative or positive image. As a lot of these "alternative" processes require chemicals that include heavy metals they are probably not conducive to a long and healthy life if things go astray. But I've just found a recipe for a negative developer made from instant coffee and washing soda! 

The only problem it mentions is that it will quickly start to smell like old, burnt, wet  coffee dregs but I can cope with that.

I fully expected this blog to progress from pinhole to large format and then to alternative processes but not so soon.

If you want to start without me look here...

Exposure calculations...The art of working it all out...

One of the things that I believe will help anyone with their photography is to understand the basics. In this day and age cameras will work it all out for us and give correct exposures. Just set to automatic mode and press the shutter button and a correctly exposed image will just happen. Trouble is that this doesn't allow the creative juices to flow.

Where I can see detail in the dark/shadow areas and details in the bright/highlight areas my camera may not have the dynamic range to collect all of that data. A standard light meter will average all of the light in the image field and will give a correctly exposed image but the shadows will be muddy and the whites will tend to be a little grey.

Understanding this and how to make the adjustments properly is relatively simple but people never seem to learn it. Oh well, if mediocrity is what you are trying to achieve...

Pinhole imaging takes these basics to a whole new level...

First you need a light meter to collect an "average" for the image (ISO, aperture, shutter speed). Then you need to work out what size the aperture (pinhole) is for the focal length you are using. Then you need to  work out what shutter speed is required for that aperture relative to the light meter reading. Then you need to understand "reciprocity failure" (the longer film is exposed to light the less sensitive it becomes) and factor that in.

Here's an example: I'm using a film with an ISO/ASA rating of 125 (Ilford FP4+) so I set my meter to 125 and get a reading of 1/60th of a second at f/8. I then find that my aperture for the 75mm pinhole is f/216 so I have to then use a scale to see what shutter speed is required (I could work it out in my head if I had a better brain). The scale shows that I need an exposure of (about) 10 seconds. A 10 second exposure means that I need to factor in reciprocity failure and I need to multiply the 10 second exposure time x 10 = 100 seconds which means I need a tripod and a cable release.

My very first attempt at a pinhole image was taken in my kitchen and it's a photo of some seed pods on a black background. The exposure I calculated needed a 90 minute shutter speed. I actually went shopping and came back to close the shutter... The image is here. I was amazed at how good this image was (technically) and just how much detail was available in the negative. It remains one of my favourite images.

Next: Some images - stay tuned...

20.12.10

Pinhole gear...

There are a number of commercially made pinhole cameras available throughout the world...


Are just two but there are many more, just do a search. As much as I dream of being creative with my hands and making stuff from scratch I went with buying a new camera for my first attempts.

I chose the (beautifully built) Zero Image - Zero 45 Deluxe as it has a well designed shutter and three box sections that offer focal lengths (35mm equivalent) of 25mm, 50mm and 75mm with an adjustable dial that has various pinhole aperture sizes and zone plates for each focal length. This was the first camera I had owned in 4x5 and learning to use double darkslides, sheet film and dark bags was all part of the fun.

Being the tech nut that I am I bought a Fuji PA45 instant film back, a few double darkslides and a Horseman 6x9 roll film back for it as well. My logic was that if I was going to shoot 4x5 then I wanted to get a view camera as well eventually (it came sooner than expected) so I should get the film options I wanted for both cameras.

Then came the developing tanks for black and white film. I already had a light meter and the Zero Image camera came with an exposure calculator to make adjustments for the tiny apertures needed for (relatively) sharp pinhole images.

One day I'll make my and use my own pinhole camera... I may even design one myself as there are lots of resources out there to make pretty much any type of pinhole camera you could desire...

Next time: Exposure calculations...The art of working it all out...

16.12.10

New Years Resolution 2011...

Hi and welcome to my new blog.

I have been setting up a studio/gallery in Mirboo North, Victoria, Australia about two hours east of Melbourne for the last few months. Renovating an old bank building has been interesting and challenging but we're close now and should have it open by the middle of January...

I love pinhole images and want to fill the gallery with images taken by my 5x4 inch pinhole camera but I'm also keen on large format, macro and 35mm digital imaging so they will need a place too.

This blog will be dedicated to my journey with the pinhole camera and hopefully become a resource for anyone who is interested in the origins of image capture and the fun, mystery and unpredictability of using a tiny aperture to create images.

My New Years resolution for 2011 is to take at least one pinhole image per week, process the film, scan the negative (or slide or instant film image) and post it here as a record of my progress. On the way I will develop my creative brain and hopefully come up with some wonderful images. I will also be taking digital images in the very picturesque outdoors of South Gippsland and posting them here.

I invite you to come along for the ride, comment, teach me and perhaps learn from me as I go and if you happen to be in the area visit and have a coffee...

I will also be running basic photography courses in Mirboo North and the surrounding areas and these will include making and using pinhole cameras.

Enjoy...