Pinhole Project Start

This is the post I meant to put on my blog first. Instead I started with Pinholes and Ice Monsters which is actually the third installment. But now—I take you to the start of my mad pinhole experiments.

I’ve been interested in pinhole photography for a while. I have some great cameras and I love them. They are my spendy pencils. They can take amazingly sharp and beautiful photos. But I also love low-fi and DIY styles of photography so I’m quite keen on pinhole photography.

One thing I like about pinhole is that you really need to know how to manipulate the basics of aperture, time and ISO. It’s a good way to hone photographic thinking. I love the point and shoot of my iPhone and digital functions and algorithms are great. But there is also something about an analog image where I can look at the photo and honestly say to myself, “I figured out how to get that image.” Maybe it’s more of an artisan approach?

Detail of Hasuki. Canon Eos DSLR Pinhole
Detail of Hasuki.

My first foray into pinhole photography was in 2007 with my Canon Eos Kiss (Rebel in N. America) and Kenko Pinhole Body Cap 02 with a Canon mount adapter. The image looked really dirty like someone had a party on the sensor and forgot to sweep. It had little of the pinhole charm so I was unimpressed. Mostly I freaked that I was ruining my sensor. But I think the actual pinhole is covered with glass so I don’t know where this dirt came from. I let the body cap sit in a drawer, this exercise to be forgotten.

But this DIY concept won’t leave me alone so this pinhole thing has reemerged in my brain. This time I have more lo-fi standards. I don’t expect digital quality. I’m going to try making my pinhole cameras or at least cobbling things together.

Step One: Research
Getting the exposure guide times for pinhole was my first start. I like this site. Second is to review the whole thing. I bought this book: Pinhole Cameras by Chris Keeney. His site is super inspiring. I’m looking forward to building according to his directions.

Step Two: Cobble something together.
I found a Minolta SR-7 at Ozawa Camera in Ebisu (minutes from the station) for 500 yen.  The shutter worked, the bulb function worked and the film seemed to wind. No lens but perfect for my needs. I was planning on using the Kenko body-cap pinhole I had lying around from last time.The metering doesn’t work but I wasn’t planning on doing TTL (through the lens) metering. I’m going to use my lightmeter and make calculations. Yay, math! Joking. I’m using a chart so I will use someone else’s calculations. So yay sharing!

I looked on the internet and found some body caps for Minolta but I will have to order them. I want to try now. If I use that old canon body cap pinhole I can stash-bust (yay yarn terms crossovers!) not buy more stuff. So old body cap and tons of black-tape it is!

minolta_pinhole_setupHere’s a photo of the adaptation I made to the Minolta. Only I didn’t have any black gaffer tape. I suppose I could have used tinfoil to block light. Also used a cable release to reduce shake.

Step Three: Try it
Film used is Fuji Natura 1600. Meter reading was so according to the chart my exposure time is

Step Four: Evaluate Results 

Step Five: Review
The film has a really greenish cast. I will put that down to using film that expired two years ago. Now I know a lot about actinic radiation. Future post perhaps. Maybe it’s a waste of money to develop that old film, but I honestly didn’t think I would get any images. The color and the grain, plus the softness give the images a romantic feel. The next day test was to check the DOF. I read that there is no DOF to speak of so I wanted to see how close I could get. Meh. I need a grander scale.

I have to admit, I’m fascinated by this camera. Though I’m tempted by the idea of a 500 yen dedicated pinhole, I feel this need to let the camera be it’s true self and get it a real lens. I found a lens for 3000 yen in Nakano. I might take it to National Photo and ask them if they have any opinions.

Pinholes and Ice Monsters

This post is going to be out of order. I wanted to start with a general overview post about Zao, Yamagata, but I am working on my photos at the same time and the pinhole work a is little more compelling at the moment.

In January I did some pinhole experiments using a Minolta SR-7 (1964?) that I bought for 500 yen. I brought it along on my trip to Zao. I wanted to photograph the ice monsters, the juhyou, but I wasn’t sure about snowshoeing for the first time with nice cameras. The regret potential, it was just too huge.

In order to avoid the tripod (though I just bought a nice Photo Clam which I should figure out how to trick out for deep, deep snow) I used high speed film. Ilford 3200 BW, Kodak Portra 800 and Lomo Purple 400. Hand held shooting all the way, baby. Mostly at 1/2 second so my expectations were low. But hope springs eternal right? But because I also like “trust but verify” I only got the film developed and didn’t ask for prints. I’d scan them and then see.

Lesson One:
My scanner has some weird white dot and dust going on that I can not physically remove. It also gives me some weird color cast and Holy Film Grain, Photoman! (No photos. I can’t bear the mess. I cloned stamped them out)

Leson Two:
I totally abused the Lomo by exposing as 800 ISO then pushing the development 1 stop (Thank you National Photo. I couldn’t get that done without you.) The Purple is supposed to have a purple tone (shocker) but if you over expose it, you get an indigo color. Perhaps.  But I think Lomo Purple and snow scenes are not ideal matches. The purple needs some color to make it sing. Snow scenes are too monochromatic. I did get some shots I like but I’ll have to compare to my digital shots to see what was going on.

Lesson Three:
For a 1500 yen roll of film, Kodak Portra 800 is not thrilling me. I’ll keep in mind that my scanner picks up every bit of film grain, but… blechy! What is this green cast? This is unedited and it was a misty part of the day.  I’ll hold off judgement until I see a developed print. Ach… I’m hoping.

Lesson Four:
Ilford Delta 3200, why do I try other things when you are so reliable. Yes, you are a grainy beast, but your grain looks like a deliberate aesthetic instead of a hot mess. And you are so hand-holdably good. You’re my reliable best friend while I try out all these other flash films but you know I always come back to you. I promise to expose you better in the future. (wait… that sounds weird now. The personification stops now)

Lesson Five:
These images were hand-held at 1/2-1/8 second while standing on snowshoes on the top of the mountain? I could have been a surgeon! (Not)

Lesson Six:
The Minolta SLR-7 is a workhorse! I had it outside, in my hand, at temperatures ranging from 2 to -3 degrees C for 5 hours and that camera worked like a charm. I planned to use a cable release to reduce shake but it gave up in the first roll. I have another 50 year old camera, christened Grampa Petri because it’s a Petri 1.9 that stops working if it even gets chilly. The SR-7 was produced between 1962 and 1966 so this camera is not much older than Grampa Petri. Maybe it’s just happy to be rescued from the junk bin. The meter doesn’t work (because the battery is that old scary kind they don’t sell anymore) but I use a hand-held light meter anyway. I feel like this camera deserves a second life, so I went and bought a 24mm 2.8 lens for it. We’ll see how it goes.

So far, sorting out the work from the Zao trip is interesting but I can see it’s going to take me a while.

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