Blind composition and Pinhole cameras!
Pinhole cameras fascinate me, but something I find baffling. My good friend Bjorn agreed to write a blog post for me...Thank you, Bjorn! Your work is amazing!
I have been putting this off for a while….what does one say in a blog?
First, I want to say that there has been a great amount of inspiration from many who have picked up a camera and have used it to express themselves. Best yet are those who have become true, supportive friends; those that have accepted my idiosyncracies in a world dominated by professionals and artists and dedicated amateurs.
I’m not a professional, nor am I an artist. I like to know how the things work and if I can help others use what part of that I have figured out to advantage, so much the better.
One aspect of visual imagery I have always appreciated is the pin hole image. The work of pinhole artists is wonderous and exemplifies their dedication to their expression of their self.
Myself, I decided to bring the pinhole into my realm of the digital age by adapting it to my full frame DSLR.
Sure, it seems the smaller sensor (film) size of a full frame DSLR can’t match the images of a medium format or that of a large format, but for me, the fun is in the taking the image. I don’t have to worry about restocking a darkroom or buying film, or reciprocity, or other issues. Pinhole photography has its own unique considerations.
Inherently with pinhole photography, long exposure (time lapse) is a huge consideration. As is the problem of “blind” composition. One can’t compose through the view finder when there is an f180 or smaller lenseless pinhole in front of the shutter. To top it off, the viewfinder is usually shuttered closed to prevent any stray light affecting the inherently longer exposure. As example, I have an image I took with my lensless cap on (fashioned from a white plastic cap and lined with a blocking card cutout) over the pinhole adapter which left an image after a 10 minute exposure due to light leakage through the white plastic body of the cap.
It seems too that the quality of an image is inversely proportional to the length of exposure. Fortunately, with DSLRs, we have the advantage of adding ISO to the exposure equation to a limited degree because it is hard to discern where the inherent quality of the pinhole exposure are lost and where noise takes over. We also have the advantage of viewing the image immediately after taking an image and recomposing as we see fit. In hind sight, a dedicated B&W digital camera without the colour array in front of the sensor may be better for capturing the nuances of pinhole photography. There are some companies that will alter and remove that filter from a digital camera, usually for IR and UV modifications.
Another aspect of the fun in pinhole is the creation of the pinhole itself. Sure, there are many manufacturers of pinholes and pinhole cameras. I do love that film is kept alive by professionals, artists and those fascinated by the unusual aspects of photography, but I like “home made”; that’s where part of the fun is. So I use aluminium pie plates, fine sharps needles, a hardwood maple block and some 1200 sandpaper to make a pinhole. A good magnifying glass helps as does a micrometer or some other means of measuring or approximating the pinhole diameter. I was amazed at how rounded the tips of my sharps were and took some time to grind down (sharpen) the tips to get a finer pinhole. I used the 1200 grit paper which I use to clean the dross around the pinhole as it is formed by the displacement of the aluminium. I use the gap of a preset micrometer to approximate the diameter of the needle where I need to stop when “cutting” the pinhole as I drilled the needle tip into the maple block. Some matte black paint is handy when creating a “lens less” lens, as is black tape which I use to tape the pinhole to the adapter for the camera. For myself, I find the closer the pinhole to the sensor plane, the better the image. I won’t go into details why as there are many treatises written about the physics of the pinhole and its use, and many sites and groups dedicated to this unique aspect of photography. Google and FaceBook harbour lots of information on the pinhole, the pinhole image and ideas to help one make their own. Some manufacturers, notably Holga, offer a medium format film pinhole camera as an artistic digression into one’s creativity.
f2.8; 1/100s; 42mm 28-70mm lens
f22; 0.5s; 42mm
same light extrapolated: f128; 20s
at f180; 42s
I also use a light meter and gray card (for reflective metering) to help take the guess work out of exposure timing since I can’t get a reading out of the DSLR. Most light meters don’t give exposure values below f64 (i.e. f256). Many meters don’t cover Ev in the realm of low light either, so some extrapolation and guess work is required. It’s worth realizing that your light may have actually fallen two f-stops or more during the time of a long exposure as well as the fact that a measurement at f16 can become considerably over or under when extrapolated to f256.
But what the heck, that’s what the sliders are for in the digital processing software.
Strange enough, I had one fellow PM me in a FB group for permission to take my pinhole image and show what he could do to sharpen it for me.
I am including a few images ( landscape and a portrait) for comparison and to give an idea of what a homemade full frame image can look like out of a DSLR.
I hope this has been of interest to some, and for a few, an inspiration to delve into the realm of unusual photgraphic expression.