Saturday, March 16, 2013

Through the Pinhole

One of my favorite (and few remaining) camera stores is hosting their first ever pinhole photographer contest.  A departure from their plastic camera contest... in this case they'll accept any sort of pinhole shot, be it through a home made matchbox camera, a manufactured Holga/Diana pinhole, or the Lensbaby pinhole optic on a DSLR.  I happen to have the Lensbaby optic already, along with a home made pinhole camera  I built from a kit... though I haven't done a lot of experimenting with either, the contest has inspired me to break them out and see what I can't accomplish.

The Lensbaby optic takes some getting used to.  It sits within the Composer lens, which tilts easily unless it is locked in place.  The images are much more zoomed than I'm used to with pinhole shots, and the focus is quite soft (though this is indicative of pinhole photography)  I keep forgetting that I cannot look through the viewfinder to line up my shot, so there is a lot of guess work involved in framing and exposure - again indicative of pinhole photography, but difficult to "switch" my brain when I'm holding a giant DSLR. This shot was taken with my DSLR/Lensbaby pinhole loaded on the tripod

The advantage to shooting with the DSLR is the instant gratification of seeing the framing/exposure, and being able to make adjustments on the spot to get closer to the image I want to capture.

By contrast, here is a shot taken with the cardboard pinhole, sitting atop the flat surface of my tripod:

What I enjoy about the cardboard camera is the depth of field... everything is in focus from camera surface to infinity (again, minus camera shake)  I can't get this look with any kind of lens.  The frustrating thing in using cardboard is having to burn film guessing the exposure, then (in the case of color) wait for the lab to find time to develop the film (or, in the case of black and white, find the time to develop the film)

I loaded the cardboard camera with 400 speed color, intending to shoot the interior of the Seattle Aquarium.    Due to the high occupancy (school field trips that morning) and my daughter's desire to watch the sea otters, I did not have as much opportunity to experiment indoors as I would have liked.  Still, I did come away with this image, done at a 1 minute exposure with the camera propped on my tripod:

I discovered that my cell phone has a stopwatch feature, which was wonderful to use for the long exposures.  I was completely guessing on this, but that is why I chose 400 speed, it tends to be forgiving when you are a few seconds off.

My last test was to hand-hold the cardboard pinhole camera, for a short 1-3 second exposure, to see how steady I could hold it:

Not terribly steady, though I've made worse exposures.

As I go over my film, I see that most shots are surprisingly borderline overexposed.  Even when I had the camera set on the tripod, I found it difficult to drop the cardboard "shutter" for such a short exposure, then cover the camera back up without bumping into it.  Although it seems at odds with my normal conclusions, I think in the future I should stick with a slower speed film for pinhole photography, and always have the camera on a steady surface.  Tri-podding it will always yield sharper images, and the extended exposure will give me the time to drop the cardboard block and cover the pinhole back up again without fumbling.

No comments: