Guest blogger: Pro Photographer Elisa Bricker

“Film allows me to book more and spend less time at my desk!” – Elisa Bricker

Elisa Bricker

Elisa Bricker

Most photographers I know didn’t get into our field because they love spending time in the office. When I talk with other photographers, they share their love of people and stories, of documenting and sharing their work – not their love of editing! I share my love of film because I want more photographers to know how inviting the process is. I want to share how I was able to leave my desk to shoot more, without needing to reinvent my business.

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When I started photographing my clients using a digital camera, it was easy to over commit. My workweek was a mix of business tasks and hours spent at my desk culling and editing digital images. I loved the work I was doing, but I needed a better process, and I wanted to spend more time doing the work that really mattered to me – shooting!

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Film photography is an invitation to create with your subject. It’s an opportunity for thoughtful and intentional creativity, and it’s a way to streamline your workflow. The move back to film was an obvious one for me. It allowed me to book more work because I was spending less time at my desk. It freed my schedule for more personal projects, and simplified my week – meaning I had more time and energy for my clients and our work together.

To start 2015 we have an exciting opportunity to share our work, our lives and our love of film. We’ll be at Imaging USA, in the Kodak Alaris booth (#726). I’ll be in the booth twice: once on Sunday, February 1 at 2 pm and again on Monday afternoon at 1 pm. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

If you can’t make it to the Kodak Alaris booth, then Edward and I (my husband and owner of Contax Rental www.contaxrental.com) are teaching a workshop in France.

This workshop is designed specifically for film photographers because we recognize both the allure of film photography and how intimidating it can be to try shooting on film without training. Learning film on your own can be a tedious and frustrating experience. Learning to use film with others is a liberating one.

For more information about our upcoming workshop in France this coming fall visit: http://elisabricker.com/workshop/

I cannot wait to meet you at ImagingUSA.

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So Much More Than Survival: Achieving Sustainability in Professional Photography

Guest blog post from Tim Kelly, M,Photog., IE, Cr., Fellow-ASP

I love the art and business of photography.

Photography was and still is “magical”. Running a business was, is and always will be a challenge. The rewards are both personal and professional, and often extraordinary for those who are serious and diligent.

The digital revolution took its toll on many of us and many studios could not survive because they didn’t adapt quickly enough. I began experimenting with digital a full decade before it really hit our profession even though I was told that digital would never be good enough for anything serious. It was so expensive! Because I wanted my business to have a future, I was willing to work, experiment and invest. Still, there are things I don’t love about digital, but it is the language of our industry, and for the most part, we must accept it.

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I say this as a film lover – understanding that many reading this may have never known the excitement and wonder of what can be created on film.

If you’re in Photography now, you’re likely shooting digital and 97% likely to be using a lab to print your orders. This has been one of the industry’s biggest changes and challenges in the last twenty years.

While most don’t print themselves, it’s imperative that the digital photographer understand profiles, color space, and the importance of calibration to produce a decent file for the lab to print. Serious photographers need to stay current with the latest techniques for shooting and handling image files so that we get the best images possible from digital capture. ‘

I’ve been a Kodak Mentor for more than twenty-five years and I’ve witnessed the positive effect that companies who train and educate can have. Largely speaking, our vendors want you to succeed and Kodak Alaris is providing products and software systems that help you get the most for your clients and from your lab. Take advantage of the support they have to offer.

Being the photographer is just one of the hats you wear. If you own your business, a lot more responsibility comes your way and good business practices and policies are just the start. You’ll need to work towards mastering sales and marketing too, another necessary cog in the machine. You’ll need to be the visionary for your company, bringing in new products and services, motivating clients and employees.

I’ve always felt there is a balance between what needs to be done now, and what I want to do next. Everyone’s list is different, but real growth comes from the extra hours you put in proof of the passion that you have for your craft. I hope that if your camera work needs improving, or your retouching skills need work, you’ll put that ahead of buying new studio lights. If your studio lighting or posing could be better, you won’t jump into digital painting just yet. I also hope that you go above and beyond for your clients, always bringing them your very best work. Bring new services and products forward once they are fully tested – once you’ve proven that they work – and when you have your pricing, delivery, and all your other ducks in a row. It’s good for you and good for our industry.

This is a fantastic business, as individual and unique as you want it to be. Take the time to develop as an artist and as a businessperson. Change is constant, adaptability is a must and enthusiasm is the fuel! Photography is equal parts art and science and disregarding either is a mistake.

As a Professional Photographer, I’m always looking for new ideas, things to get excited about, and that’s why I’ve started producing large format film portraits again. This format challenges me, and revisiting film, large format film in particular reminds me why I’m in this business. Learning and growing helps sharpen my skills so I can continue to offer new and fresh ideas to my clients.

In fact, I’d love to get your feedback, meet you and talk about the future of film and digital capture. I’ll be making a special appearance at PPA’s ImagingUSA 2015 in Nashville, and Amherst Publishing will be releasing my new book on B&W portraiture there. I’ll also be sharing ideas from my new book at the Kodak Alaris booth #726.

This is an invitation. Come on by – Kodak Alaris #726.

– Tim Kelly, M,Photog., IE, Cr., Fellow-ASP
timkellyportraits.com

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Staying in the Moment By Michael Turek

The last time I was in a dark room was probably 2002, and the last time I shot film wasn’t too long after that. By the time I graduated from photo school I had switched to digital with a lot of conviction. I remember debating with some of my more reluctant classmates about it, and my argument was that I felt I could ultimately provide a better image with digital. It gave you more options, I said. Then around the middle of 2012 I started shooting film again, mostly out of boredom. After nearly a decade of digital, I found the experience of shooting on film to be a revelation.

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People ask me why I prefer to shoot film, expecting me to say something romantic about the way film looks, the texture of it. Instead, I completely stay out of that subjective and tired debate of whether it looks better than digital (off the record, I do prefer the way film looks). But what I discovered when I returned to film was that it had more to do with the absence of the LCD screen on the back of the camera than anything else.

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Putting any camera up to your face takes you out of the moment, but taking a picture and then looking at the screen on the back of the camera really takes you out of the moment. The disconnect is at its worst when making portraits of people. It’s uncomfortable enough to have your picture taken, but it’s even more uncomfortable to be snapped, and then seemingly judged by the photographer as he’s reviewing the image. The temptation to check the screen is way too strong.

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I’ve tried to turn it off. I’ve put gaffers tape over the screen. But these efforts are no better then a New Year’s resolution that I’ll never keep. Invariably, the subjects want to have a look for themselves and unless you’ve just shot a Pulitzer Prize winner, they’re probably going to feel less spectacular about themselves. Often subjects, assuming I’m shooting digital, will point to my camera and ask “can I see?” and I’ll respond, “No, but neither can I.” They then seem to be reinvigorated by the equality between us.

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I find that if I’m shooting with digital, I’ll be tempted to over-perfect any one shot. The instant feedback from the LCD allows me to make tiny adjustments, which many times are not imperative. Most of my best work is reactive, and when I start spending too much time on one shot I’ve only succeeded in making myself less open, less creative. Whereas with film, I may take two or three pictures of a scene, then say to myself, “OK, this is getting expensive, time to move on,” and then I change positions drastically, or take the subject to an entirely new location. As a result, by the end of the shoot, I’ve come away with true variations rather then just 75 versions of the same image. As it turned out, I was wrong about what I thought ten years ago; it’s actually the process unique to shooting film that seems to help me make a more creative image. Shooting film is a constricting parameter, and it’s well known that sometimes it’s easier to work when confined.

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Of course I still shoot digital for certain jobs, and for some applications, it’s the way to go. I can’t find an underwater housing for my Pentax 67 and I get seriously wet on a lot of my shoots. I can imagine digital is great for shooting tabletop still life with the client in the studio. For me, however, most of my best work comes on location assignments after I’ve had a day or two to get into “the zone.” Without trying to sound all metaphysical about it, shooting film seems to lessen the time it takes to get into the zone. I know I’m there when I’ve stopped thinking about the equipment, even stopped thinking about the composition. I only know I’ve been in the zone after the fact. You can’t be in the zone and recognize it at the same time; if you do, you pull yourself out of it. Digital, which makes so much possible, ironically causes me to be occupied by distracting technical options. Too many options are bad.

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It’s counter-intuitive but film makes me care less about getting the right exposure. (It must be said; the dynamic range of film is an amazing and forgiving thing.) Perhaps it’s because I’m preemptively measuring the light more often. Constantly taking meter readings, I have greater faith that my next shot will be properly exposed. In any case, I feel more present and more in tune with my surroundings, and I don’t have to spend much thought on operating the camera. I make do with what’s loaded in the camera, knowing that I can push process the next roll if I have to, and that’s that. Yes, it’s more challenging to shoot film but it’s less distracting then digital. Ironically I find shooting film to be more peaceful, almost meditative, and all I have to think about is where to put the viewfinder’s rectangle.

Carmel, CA, Coastal Living job

Michael Turek is a New York-and London-based photographer.

He first fell in love with photography on family trips to England and his high-school photo teacher urged him to pursue the medium. Four years later, he graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a photography degree and moved to Manhattan to assist prominent names. He soon began accepting his own commissions from publications on both sides of the Atlantic.

For Turek, photography is a way of experiencing life; it’s suggestive of a memory, but the immediacy forces him to move past the pictures he has taken to the images he hasn’t yet made. He is the recipient of accolades from American Photography, Communications Arts, and PDN; and he maintains The Turek Atlas, an online travel guide featuring his images.

Michael shoots with a variety of cameras but he is particularly fond of his Pentax 6×7 and KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 400 and 160 films.

Guest blogger: Tiana Stephens – Making connections from Korean War photos

A single photograph of a person—just one moment in someone’s lifetime—has a way of revealing things that are sometimes too complex for words. It conveys emotion, perspective, context, and evokes vivid memories, especially for the ones left behind when that person passes away.

He didn’t talk too much but he always greeted me with a drawn out “hell-o grand-daughter” through his mustache and long white beard. His voice was full and wise and came from the bottom of his pot belly with a slight southern twang. The most I knew of my grandfather, Crawford Flynn, was that he was good with his hands–thumb included–when it came to gardening, and that I had the special honor of sitting proudly beside him at the head of the table when I was too small to climb up there myself. I liked watching him make things in his workshop–wooden toys, instruments and eventually an entire miniature city, “Tiny Town,” for my grandma’s daycare. My brother and I would find scrap pieces of wood and swirl the layers of sawdust on the floor into designs while he worked. For many winters Tiny Town transformed into the North Pole and he was Santa to us grandkids and Smile Day Care kids at Christmas. We were all in awe of his talents. In the warmer season I was always amazed at his canopies of string beans, giant twisted cucumbers, dahlias and fluffy peonies bigger than my face. It was decades ago but the memories come back as colorful as his garden.

Two years ago on Independence Day I was watching a story on 13 WHAM news about a local woman who had inherited a very special collection of photos released by the Department of Defense that were taken during the Korean War. The reporter, Adam Chodak explained that Betty Perkins-Carpenter, a vet herself (among many other impressive accomplishments in her 83 years including an Olympic diving coach) was trying to connect veterans or families with the faces in the photos she calls her “gems.” The story flashed through some of the photos up close, and the camera moved over more and more stacks spread across a table.

These were not the type of wartime pictures that you see in history books, in the news on Veterans Day or when certain anniversaries come around. They were pictures of soldiers doing very ordinary things under not-so-ordinary circumstances, like posing with a dog or drinking pop. The story showed Betty on the phone calling small-town newspapers and people she found in the phone book whose names matched the names in the detailed captions printed on the back of the photos. She didn’t have any luck making connections during that story.

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In the two-minute news story I thought I saw something familiar. Maybe it was wishful thinking but in one of the photos there was a group of about a dozen soldiers and one man in the center of the of the group looked like my grandfather. I checked the list of names that was posted online with the story. No Crawford Flynn. I watched again a few days later on my computer, trying to pause the video just right on what I thought I saw. I told myself there was no way that out of the hundreds of faces that it could be so. No way. I’m from Colorado and my grandfather was originally from North Carolina, so how could a picture of him surface in New York? I dismissed the idea partly because of the low probability that it was him and partly out of fear of disappointment that it was not.

A little more than a year later I was going through a large brown accordion file that I keep old family photos in. The oldest photos are tucked safely in envelopes inside of folders and separated by family (Wong for my mother, Flynn for my father). I came across some pictures that my dad had given me when my grandfather passed away in 2005. Two small and tattered pictures were of him when he served in the Air Force during the Korean War. I immediately thought again of Betty’s story and her picture collection. I could still see the image in my head and decided to make arrangements to see the photo in person. I was nervous that I would be let down if it was not him in the photo but I knew I would regret it if I never saw it for myself.

I came to her house alone on a mild night in October, ringing the bell from outside the porch then reluctantly stepping inside the porch to knock on the door of the house. She answered with the same enthusiasm I saw on the TV story, greeting me with a hug and then leading me through the quiet house, explaining some of the various artifacts from around the world and how she came into possession of them before we reached her office. She had so many wonderful stories to tell that I soon worried I would disappoint her if I was not related to the man in the picture.

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We walked over to a bureau in her office and Betty picked up a manila envelope with the words “Our Gems” written with a marker on the front. She laid the photograph down carefully in front of me and I put my hands up to my mouth and gasped. I immediately knew that it was him! His posture, profile, hair—everything about him was so recognizable. We jumped up and down and cried with joy “it’s him, it’s him, oh my gosh, look at that!” I put my small photos next to the 8×10 for comparison. The images almost mirrored each other. It was an incredible discovery—Betty always says “she was all goose bumps” when we talk about it today and we still can’t believe our own story when we tell it.

On my next visit back to Denver, I brought this gem to my grandmother, father, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins. The image brought out so many incredible stories that I had never heard before. Wonderful stories about how my grandmother met my grandfather when he was stationed in Japan following the war. Nobuko Ikeda was a stunning, petite young lady working in a coffee shop on the Air Force base. She naturally attracted many admirers who would learn after waiting in a long line for coffee that she didn’t want anything to do with courters—let alone American ones. She was hard-working and humble, from a well respected Japanese family and she said she never wanted people to think of her as “a girl who goes with GI’s.” Yet, somehow my grandfather was able to convince her to marry him and then she did eventually “go with him”…all the way back to the United States.

I keep these family stories in my heart. But it’s the photographs—the illustrations from the years so far before my own—that I can hold and see, that will be my most treasured possessions until it’s time to pass them down to my own grandchildren.

When my grandfather died, I regretted not being brave enough to ask him about his experiences both in Korea and Vietnam. Was he scared? Did war change him and somehow was it worth it if it led him to meet my grandma? Now, having this extraordinary photo of him—obtained through extraordinary means—I found something that I didn’t know was lost.

The night I took the photo home, I knew the next thing I needed to do was to help Betty find more families that might be able to make the same incredible connection that I did. I knew that the picture collection needed to be available where the world could see it, that they should be scanned and posted online.

Betty and I talked about what we could do to make this happen, and I was able to eventually connect with Chuck Rudd at Kodak Alaris and a wonderful team of experts who were just as excited as Betty and I about the project. Kodak Alaris found a way to safely scan the pristine collection of glossy black and white 8×10 photos—nearly 200 of them—front and back!

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In Rochester New York–where everyone knows everyone–word travels fast and good stories travel faster. I’m happy to report that the Democrat and Chronicle heard about the project and is hosting an online gallery of Betty’s entire collection of photos, complete with the captions on the back complete with dates and locations and even names and hometowns on some.

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Words can’t describe how thankful I am to have connected with Betty and this photo, Kodak Alaris and the Democrat and Chronicle. I hope that through this project many more families, widows or veterans themselves of the “Forgotten War” will be able to make a connection with a photo and perhaps remember stories that will be passed along to future generations. After all, our story begins with the stories of those who came before us. And a picture is worth so much more than 1,000 words.

Capitalizing on the Preservation Era: The Opportunity for Photo Labs with Hard Copy Prints

By Joe LaBarca – Pixel Preservation International

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There’s a potential risk associated with the rise in digital photography. Most of us are unaware of the real possibility of losing our digital photos. We take countless images on digital cameras and mobile phones, storing them on hard drives, laptops and in the cloud. But what happens when you lose your phone or technology standards change or you have so many images that sorting through them is not only impractical, it’s nearly impossible?

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Printing is the simplest way for consumers to preserve their most valuable images. There’s a tremendous amount of technology and media that exist today that can preserve digital images for more than a hundred years at room temperature conditions. And yet, in today’s digital world, printing is rarely done. This represents a great opportunity for photographic printing labs – wholesale labs, large and small professional and school labs, in-store retail labs as well as on-online fulfillment services – to take advantage of a classic product: the hard copy print.

The key is to get the message out on the need for hard copy preservation. The trick is how the message is presented. A positive, value added approach is going to be more effective than a scare tactic. The positive approach is a message created about precious digital files of family events and how important it will be to have a record of these events in 20 or 30 years. Producing prints and photo books today will ensure the memories will be around for the future. The alternative scare tactic approach – imploring a consumer to make prints or photo books or else – is not only going to be less effective, it could also hurt repeat business.

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It’s also critical to make sure that you’re reaching the right demographics. Start with young moms. While historically it was often dad taking the pictures, it was mom who managed the pictures of the family through photo albums and scrapbooks. She essentially became the CFPO – Chief Family Photo Officer and that remains largely true today. As millennials become parents, they will easily identify with the preservation message for two main reasons: 1) they observe first-hand how quickly their children are changing and growing up; 2) their parents likely had hard copy photos of themselves as children and they will recognize the importance and value of seeing these images of themselves from 25 or 30 years ago. This easily translates to the importance of having images of their children 25 or 30 years from now. This will happen even though they may never have taken a film photograph or made a digital print in their entire lives.

While it may sound odd, a second important demographic is the baby boomer generation that are now becoming grandparents. Boomers made prints of their children when they were young and immediately recognize the value of pulling those photo albums and scrapbooks out to show their children who are new parents. This group also reinforces the value of printing and preservation to new moms and dads. Boomers are also active photo enthusiasts and will be taking their own digital pictures of their new grandchildren. Since they already recognize the long-term value of hard copy photos from their children’s photos, it should not take much encouragement for them to realize their best digital photos are important and need to be in hard copy form as a means of long-term preservation.

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A further component to hard copy prints and photo books, adding even more value for the consumer, is that hard copy comes “full circle” in the digital world. A print today was likely “born digital” – that is created from a digitally captured file. Because high quality scans can be created from hard copy prints, a new digital file can be created from the print, should the original ever need to be replaced. Clearly there is strong value from many perspectives to having a hard copy print and the key to unlocking this value is to insure that the consumer recognizes all the benefits the print has to offer.

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With state of the art image permanence and the longest lasting image in dark storage of any silver halide media in the industry, KODAK PROFESSIONAL Endura Premier Paper is the logical choice for long-term preservation. This paper provides high image quality today and maintains that image quality for generations to come in the future.

As a photographic lab, professional photographer, or a consumer, you’re probably interested in learning more about how you can take advantage of the opportunities presented by hard copy preservation using KODAK PROFESSIONAL Endura Premier Paper. Please check out two papers that were recently presented at the Society of Image Science and Technology 5th annual International Symposium on Technologies for Digital Photo Fulfillment at the annual PMA/DIMA/Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The first paper: Hard Copy Printing for Long-term Preservation as a Growth Engine for Prints and Photo Books, takes a deep dive into the trends around preservation and how to take advantage of them. The second paper: KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper: Still the Digital Imaging Media of Choice, looks at digital print technologies and how KODAK PROFESSIONAL Endura Premier Paper is optimized for long-term, hard copy preservation.

One Roll a Week by Charlene Hardy

This week’s Film Friday post comes from  Guest Blogger Charlene Hardy.

Photo by Jonathan Canlas

Photo by Jonathan Canlas

As a mother of four, I marvel at the everyday changes that happen so quickly in childhood. I get to observe the wonder of children experiencing things for the first time. I cheer them on as they learn and achieve. I get to laugh with them as they find joy in the simple things.

Like most parents, I take photographs of important childhood events. But I wanted to do something different. I wanted to look back and remember my children the way they were not only during those happy childhood milestones but also during the day-to-day happenings of life. At the start of 2014, I began a personal project to document my kids throughout the year.

As I contemplated this project, I thought of ways to slow down and really take time to know what was happening in my children’s lives. I thought of my own mother with her camera, carefully composing and changing settings as my brothers and sisters squirmed with the excitement of knowing our photo was being taken. I wanted to re-create that feeling for my children who have grown up in the digital age, where photos are taken at lightning speed, never printed and often deleted as fast as they are taken. I wanted them to feel the importance of knowing that the photos I would take were permanent. I had the tools to make this happen, I just needed to carve out time from our busy days and make this a priority.

I chose film for this project because shooting film causes me to slow down. It forces me to take my time and choose every exposure carefully. I chose KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX 400 film because I have always loved its versatility and beautiful grain. My children seem to notice a difference in the way I shoot with film and the photos I create have more depth and soulfulness.

My project is called “One Roll a Week.” Each week I limit myself to one roll of film and strive to document my children’s lives through timeless portraits that simply focus on their day-to-day growth. Every week, one at a time, I invite my kids into my small studio and take 4 frames of each one. In between frames we talk about their day, friends, or school; no topic is off limits.

WEEK 1

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by CharleneHardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

January 1st came and everything was set: film, camera and chemicals to develop the film myself. After setting up a stool and studying the light in my small studio, I called my 13-year-old daughter into the room. She eyed my equipment cautiously and asked what was going on. I told her about my project as she plopped down on the stool letting me know that she was not quite convinced this was how she wanted to spend her last moments of winter break. I put the camera up to my eye and studied the scene before me. I was taken aback by how grown up she has become. She sighed impatiently and I snapped the first frame. Lowering the camera, she looked at me in disbelief. I tried my best to explain how I was slowing down; I wanted to spend time with her, documenting her growing up in a meaningful way. Our first conversation of the year started in between those four frames.

WEEK 4

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by CharleneHardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

After school with my 8-year-old daughter, we talked about the week, her best friend moving away and recess. “The kids at school tell me my hair sticks up. I know it does but I like to think it just looks like I have wings and they help me run faster than all of the boys.”

WEEK 7

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

My 5-year-old son has just completed 100 days of Kindergarten.  I am amazed at how fast time has gone by. It really seems like yesterday I was dropping him off for his first day of school. I asked him how he felt and he excitedly replied, “I am 100 days smarter and I only have 80 more days until summer! Then I can go to college.”

WEEK 11

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

I spent two hours with my 11-year-old daughter at a retina specialist, where they numbed her eyes and tried to dilate them. It was an exhausting process- we got bad news about her progressing vision loss. That afternoon, her eyes were causing her pain and she kept closing them to try to ease the burning sensation. I took her home and we ended up in the studio talking. At one point I sighed, my heart heavy and I asked her, “What are we going to do?” Tugging her hair as she thought she replied quietly, “I just want to be able to keep dancing.” This is one of those weeks I will not likely be forgetting soon. Documenting the year is sometimes harder than I ever imagined.

WEEK 15

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

My five year old has an amazing imagination. One day he is a wilderness explorer, the next a gladiator. “Hey Mom, I’m a gladiator, gladiators are NOT glad. They make mad fighting faces like this.”

As of this week I have completed 17 weeks and it’s been such an adventure. I adore sharing my love of film photography with my children in a way that allows us to spend time with each other. It has really helped me to know them better. Some weeks are easy to document, filled with simple childhood pleasures: being chosen as part of the yearbook staff, dancing in a production or finally getting a 100% on a spelling test. But some weeks are tough. Childhood has its share of disappointments and it can be heart wrenching to experience. I try my best to capture a little of what is going on in their lives, the good and the not so good, knowing that together we are learning and growing together from these events.

Charlene Hardy is a portrait photographer specializing in Children and Family portraiture. She lives in Kennewick, Washington with her husband and four children. Charlene enjoys making timeless portraits of children using film and the hands on approach of developing and scanning the film herself. For more information on her work and her “One Roll a Week” project, please visit http://charlenehardyphotography.com

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day – Herschel Pollard

Today’s blog post for World Pinhole Photography Day comes from guest blogger Herschel Pollard.

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I began shooting pinhole about 10 years ago when a friend convinced me to build a camera out of foam core and an old Polaroid back. My first image was a 15-minute exposure in my living room on Type 55 film…and it wasn’t very good. The camera needed adjustment. I needed adjustment. But I got hooked. By the time I finished that box of film I’d managed to adjust the camera, and my thinking, well enough to produce amazingly sharp images. I felt chills every time a photo worked, like witnessing magic.

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Yellow Dress, Expired Portra 100T

I love pinhole because it requires long exposures, even on bright days, which means movement disappears. I love pinhole because there is infinite depth of field so everything is in focus. I love pinhole because when the focal length is short enough you get vignette and stretchy goodness at the edges. I love pinhole because it challenges me.[/caption]

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Apollo Lands, Portra 160

Most professional photographers shoot pinhole at least once, usually in some high school or college class, a lesson in the most basic form of photography using the most basic form of camera. Honestly, cameras don’t get any simpler than pinhole. No battery, no viewfinder, no glass, no focus, no auto anything, just a box with a tiny hole and some film.

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Dawn Through a Dirty Window On a Red Eye Train, Expired Portra 160

Behind this simplicity, though, is a learning curve that can be frustrating … maddening, really, when you consider variables different films throw into the mix, like reciprocity failure and long exposure color shift (Portra has a beautiful blue shift). That learning curve is why pinholers are some of the most serious and knowledgeable photographers I’ve met. Pinhole certainly improved my photographic skills.

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Pinholing Yosemite, Portra 400VC

My go-to camera is a 6×9 medium format Zero Image, made by Zernike Au in Hong Kong. It’s a teak (sustainably farmed) and brass beauty with an aperture of f/235 and considered by many the Leica of pinhole cameras. He also makes 4×5 and 35mm versions.  Other cameras I shoot: Nikkormat FTN 35mm with a pinhole body cap I made; a Holga 120 WPC, which shoots 6×12 on medium format film; a homemade camera that shoots Impossible Project instant film; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518 converted to pinhole; several others I’ve built.

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Traffic Circle, Portra 400

A common theme among my cameras is that they all shoot film…mostly 120.  I find that film works better for pinhole, although I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s just personal preference (although I’ve found most of my peers agree). I created a body cap pinhole for my Nikon DSLR and found the images were…well…weak is the best description.

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David, Portra 160 

I find 120 format Portra 160 gives the most reliable results, has a good contrast, and as I mentioned before, there’s a nice blue shift in long exposures. Also, reciprocity failure (the need to add more time to an exposure the longer you exposure the film) isn’t as steep with Portra as it is with most films. And it scans really well.

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Pitted Confusion, Portra 160

Every year, on the last Sunday of April, there is an international event to celebrate pinhole: Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. The idea is that photographers from around the world shoot pinholes on a single day and submit them to the group website (http://www.pinholeday.org/). This year’s event is April 27. To help new pinhole photographers get started, Pinhole Day-related workshops are offered in numerous cities across the globe. Most cover the process of building a pinhole camera and creating your first images. It’s a great place to start.

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7-Hour Lunargraph, Portra 160

There are numerous pinhole resources. The definitive pinhole book is Eric Renner’s Pinhole Photography. Renner, considered a pioneer of modern pinhole photography, knows how to break the subject into easy-to-digest chunks, although it can get a bit technical for folks who don’t know photography well.

Two less technical books I’ve read that cover the subject well are Pinhole Cameras: A DIY Guide, by Chris Keeney and The Pinhole Camera: A Practical How-To Book for Making Pinhole Cameras and Images, by Brian Krummel.

Check out F295.org, a forum and blog site dedicated to “Historic, Alternative and Digital Techniques.” It has tens of thousands of posts related to lensless photography, with a dedicated core group of users who welcome and assist people just starting out in pinhole. It’s where my pinhole network began.

If you want to build pinhole cameras then Pinhole.cz and MrPinhole.com provide online calculators for proper camera and pinhole sizes. And don’t forget Kodak’s own, “How to Make and Use a Pinhole Camera.” There are plenty of other resources out there – just search for “pinhole photography” and see what you find.

If that isn’t enough, I’m lucky enough to be part of the recently started “Pinhole Podcast,” on the pdexposures network — along with Jana Obscura, Shelly Sometimes, Alex Yates, and Jeff Soderquist — where we discuss all things pinhole. Recent episodes covered the differences between paper, film, and digital (humorous and engaging, I swear), and interviews with world-renowned pinholers visiting Berlin for the OBSCURA pinhole exhibit.

Finally, you can find me at SquarePegPinhole.com. It’s where I post most of my work, write about pinhole photography and share my experiences. I’m always happy to answer questions about pinhole.