Pinhole Photography is something I really love to do. I find it totally relaxing and is a great balance to my Street Photography. I have three different pinhole cameras each one has a different focal length which makes me take stock and really think about what I am doing when I am using them. Pinhole cameras are very simple in design, just a light-proof box with a small hole in one side and no lens attached. Light from the scene you are capturing passes through the aperture and projects an inverted image onto the opposite side of the box this is known as the camera obscura effect. Pinhole cameras do not have viewfinders so it’s down to guess work or good judgement, depending on your experience of working with the particular camera that you have.
The pinhole camera I am using at the moment was made for me by a good friend of mine. It’s made from wood and is quite a solid unit but very, very light. It has a 5×4 film holder which holds two sheets of film. The advantage of this is that I can load up several film holders in the darkroom before I set off and have them with me pre loaded and ready to go. It means that I can shoot as many pinhole images as film holders I am carrying… Great!
So let me set the scene…it’s a damp cold Boxing day and a long walk is in order to shake off the excesses of Christmas day. We head for Scarbrough and stop off at a big pine forest along the way. For a long time now I, Pat and our Lurcher Roxy have been promising ourselves a walk through this forest as it’s perfect for Roxy to run around and explore and for me and my new pinhole camera. I had loaded the film holder with Ilford Delta 100 a superb film for this sort of occasion. We walked for approximately an hour leaving the camera in my bag. Knowing that we would take the same path back I had already spotted a couple of images I would take but waited as you never know there could be something better around the corner.
On our way back I stopped at the first location and placed my tripod where I wanted it to be. I have several tripods and the one I am using today is my lite carbon fiber manfrotto tripod. It has a ball and socket head which has a quick release and plenty of spirit levels, this is important because it’s the only way you can make sure that the pinhole camera is level, as I mentioned before there is no viewfinder. The focal length on this particular pinhole camera is 35mm so when you factor that into the fact that it’s 5×4’’ format it means it’s very, very wide.
The next bit of essential kit I use is my Sekonic light meter. I took a reading of 1 second at F22. The size of the pinhole is rated at F170 so rounding it up to the nearest stop F180 gave me an exposure time of 64 seconds or 1 minute and 4 seconds. Now, because the value was over a second you have to take into account the reciprocity law. This is a complicated mathematical equation so my way of assessing it is if the exposure value is over one second I add half a stop, if it’s over ten seconds I add one full stop and if it’s over one hundred seconds then it’s 1.5 stops. So I added one full stop to take care of the reciprocity law, giving me a final exposure time of 128 seconds or 2 minutes and 8 seconds…perfect.
When I got to my second location I got the same reading from my light meter, one second at F22 so with the same calculation added it gave me the same final exposure of two minutes and eight seconds for the second pinhole photograph.
On my return back to the studio I processed the two negatives in Ilfosol DDX, one to four dilution for 12 minutes which gave me the results you see here.
Pinhole photography is such a lovely medium to work with it keeps you on your toes and honest. It’s a small box with a pinhole in it and nothing more. No viewfinder so you have to see the finished image in your head and guess whether you have placed the camera in the right place. But with a little practice and experience it can produce such wonderful results.
If you have an interest in Pinhole photography and would like to learn more join me on one of my Pinhole Photography Workshops.