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