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Post 1…

This is intended as a place for me to write about things that are relevant to my practice.  At the moment this is not live, its only for me.  I may make it live at some point, i’m not sure yet.  Well I guess if you’re reading this then I’ve decided that I will open its up for everybody.  Just don’t be too surprised if one day the link disappears.

I have an odd relationship with writing, sometimes I don’t mind it, sometimes its the last thing I want to do.  You’ll notice a lot of spelling and grammar errors.  I make no apologies for that.  As I said earlier this is just really for me.  Unless I decide to publish it.  Whatever.

You’ll notice I ramble a lot as well.

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Macro Pinhole

One of things that draws people to pinhole photography is the ‘infinite depth of field’ that the medium is able to capture.  A lot of people assume that this means that everything in the composition, from the pinhole to infinity will be sharp.  Unfortunately this is not quite the case.  I researched this in quite a bit of depth for my Masters degree, but the general consensus is that if you have the optimum sized pinhole for your cameras focal length, then everything from 20 x your cameras focal length should have reasonable sharpness.

For instance.  You have made or converted a pinhole camera, and its focal length is 50mm.  Most online calculators will tell you that the optimum pinhole size for 50mm is around 0.3mm, give or take a few 0.01mms.

I have found this to be correct and with my 50mm cameras I use the 0.3mm laser pinholes made by James at Reality So Subtle and have no issues with them.

Your camera now has the optimum sized pinhole for its 50mm focal length and so the maths says that everything more than 1000mm away from the pinhole (50mm focal length multiplied by 20) should be of optimum sharpness.

This maths does start to fall apart though in my experience once you start looking at parts of your image that are a very long way away, but thats for another post.

Anyway the point of this post was to talk about a little experiment I tried a few days back.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but the guys at the Sunny 16 Podcast run a bit of fun called the Cheap Shots Challenge.  Each round has a specific ‘genre’ of photography and the idea is that you use the same cheap film camera for each round, and then the submitted images are judged by the guys and usually a guest.  This time around the genre was bloody macro, and of course my cheap shots camera is a pinhole camera…

Hence my ramble about how subjects too close to the pinhole are not in focus and therefore pinhole cameras are shit for macro…

So what to do about that.  Well unless I can find someway of altering the way light and physics work…(one day Neil)…the only thing to do is to incorporate a lens of some kind.  I don’t know if that’s frowned upon within the pinhole community or not.  And actually, I couldn’t care less if it is. 

I came across one of those crappy little lenses the other day that are designed to go over your mobile phone camera lens and are supposed to let you shoot fish-eye, wide and, yup, macro on your phone.

I tried looking through it at something really close and it seemed to work ok but I didn’t really know how it would perform on a camera, especially over a pinhole, so I tried it on the front of a pinhole body cap on my digital camera.  Yes I have one of those kicking about…it’s a Canon 600d if you’re interested. 

The principle seemed to work, very well in fact.  I did seem to be able to focus pretty well on subjects that were just a few centimetres from the pinhole.  So I made a very sophisticated coupling system that allowed my to securely attached the lens to my Zenit TTL pinhole conversation (Blue-Tac) and set off to find something interesting to photograph.

Well. Flowers. Macro always starts with flowers doesn’t it? They’re interesting and normally fairly common. Mine had to be static, indoor flowers as my exposure times were running five or ten minutes in some cases. 
And thats really about all there was to it to be honest.  I used the Pinhole Assist app as I would normally – again I cannot say enough good stuff about this app, and told it that I was using the Zenit, which is pre-saved in the app, and that I was using Ilford FP4, again, pre-saved with reciprocity failure rates, and away I went.

Some images worked well, some not so well.  I think the ones where I was too close didn’t come out so good.  Below are my favourites.

Oh yeah one last thing.  I mentioned above that they were taken using Ilford FP4.  Thats not incorrect and yes its a black and white film.  The colour that you can see is the result of scanning the black and white negs as they actual colour they are.  Just so you know, and just in case you care. I hope you care, I mean you’ve made it to the end of the post…?!

“Do You Name All of Your Cameras…?”

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Back in April I was at my local car boot sale scavenging for cameras when I came across an original Diana camera.  It was in its original box with one of the previous owners name and address written on the bottom and even had the instructions with it.  The only thing it was missing was a lens cap, but having never really been interested in the Diana range of cameras I didn’t know at the time that it was supposed to have one.  And I probably wouldn’t have cared – I certainly don’t now.

The chap was also selling something calling itself a ‘Vista Colour Camera,’ and bundled the pair together after some haggling for the princely sum of just £8.  £4 for an original Diana in its box isn’t to be sniffed at.  £4 for a boxed Vista Colour Camera…? Well I’m not sure about that one.  I’ll talk more about that monstrosity another day because its now fast approaching July and I’ve still not really tried it out.

 

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So a little bit about the Diana…  As I understand it, they were marketed by the Great Wall Plastic Company as an inexpensive gift/toy camera in the 1960s.  I don’t know if it’s made or Bakelite or some type of more recent plastic but it’s certainly very 1960s in its aesthetic.  You probably know already but since about 2007 Lomography have been selling a cloned ‘new’ version of this camera called the Diana +.  Hipsters want them now I guess…

Plastic lens – Check.  Ability to focus – Check.  Well sort of.  You’ve got a basic focusing ring that screws the lens towards and away from the film plane.  Options for 4 – 6ft, 6 – 12ft and 12ft – Infinity are marked on the front of the lens barrel but in the couple of rolls of film I’ve put through the Diana none of these have seemed to make the slightest bit of difference.

I think that the blue top plate looks fantastic.  In the sun it’s a cool baby blue.  Right now under a light in the kitchen its kind of grey with a blue hue to it.  The graphic design work on the stickers on top are a work of art, and leave you in no doubt which type of film to stick in there…!  Oh and turn that film advance and listen to the wondrous noise that comes out of it.  Its like a kids bicycle when the spokes are covered in those clicked clacker things.  It’s awesome really.

Mounted in this top plate is a big bright viewfinder so you can see what you’re pointing it at.  Although it’s not coupled to the lens and has no parallax correction markings so if yore attempting to shoot something vaguely close up be prepared to compensate for this.

The actual body of the camera is black and has this disgusting ‘pebbledash’ finish to it on both the front and the back.  The texture feels pretty shitty, but at a guess I’d say the thought behind it was probably grip in the hand.  I mean its pretty heavy.  Once loaded with a roll of 120 roll film it weighs about as much as a roll of 120 roll film…

It has three aperture settings (and I use that term loosely) that are simply marked with the standard recognisable ‘Cloud’, ‘Sun/Cloud’ and ‘Sun’ symbols.

These apertures are not formed by blades how you may be familiar with in a modern lens, rather simply just a plate that moves behind the lens when actuated by the selector switch underneath.  This plate has two different sized holes (apertures) in it, which correlate to the Sun/Cloud and Sun settings, and for the Cloud setting the plate moves aside.  Just make sure when you’re changing your settings that the aperture in the plate sits central as it has a habit of not centring itself.

 

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As for shutter speeds well what a choice you have here.  You’ve got your ‘B’ for bulb setting and your ‘I’ for…well to be honest I actually have no idea what the ‘I’ stands for…?  The ‘I’ setting is the normal picture taking made where even if you hold the shutter release down you’ll still get the same single exposure time.  I don’t know what this exposure time is; at a guess I’d say 1/60sec.  God knows what it is now probably at least 50 years since manufacture…

The shutter release button isn’t really a button, more of a lever.  Move from top to bottom and the bottom of the stroke is when the shutter is released.  There is no lock to prevent you making multiple exposures, but I guess that that is part of the charm of a Diana.

No tripod attachment thread.  Although nobody has probably ever needed one I struggle to think why the Great Wall Camera Company or whatever they were called thought people would like a bulb setting on their camera but no real way of steadying the camera other than the old ‘sit it on a wall or similar’ technique.

Now lets talk briefly about light leaks.  You know that the Diana’s and the Helga’s and all the plastic pieces of crap like this leak light onto your film.  Hell that’s part of the charm isn’t it?  That’s why you wanted one?  Right?  Meh…

Light leaks are present at the top of most images taken with this one.  I think it’s the red film number window.  Actually it’s probably the crap fit of the entire casing as well.  The damn thing is only held together with one lock (again, term used loosely) on the bottom of the casing, and that’s unlocked itself several times already…

Light enters the lens and is inverted thus producing an upside down picture on the film.  That would mean that the light leak being at the bottom of the camera, where the film number window is, puts the results at the top of the image. I guess that this could be sorted with black electrical tape over the window and possibly around the edges of the casing, but imperfections like this are why people want these stupid things aren’t they?  It’s like ‘in-camera’ Instagram or something…

So what do the images that it takes look like?  You know exactly what they look like…Square, 4x4cm (ish) frames with massive vignettes and with focus that drops of enormously at the edges of the frame.  But that doesn’t matter because chances are the centre of the image isn’t going to be razor sharp.  Or even just sharp sharp.  It’s going to be soft.  Soft as a soft-boiled egg.  But no really even if you actually used the focusing scale on the lens it’s hit and miss as to what you’re gonna get out of it.  And even then you’re beautiful image is going to have an enormous light leak smeared across it.  But you already knew all of this.  That’s why you wanted a Diana in the first place.  Be it one of the new variants from Lomography or an original one like this one.

 

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No flash sync and no light meter. It’s just a plastic box with some springs in it.  Normally how I like a camera to be, but it’s the emphasis on that word ‘plastic’ that doesn’t really do it for me.  Don’t get me wrong I like the images that come out of it, but the visual aesthetic of each of these images is always the same, regardless of the photographer or what they do with the camera.  It seems to be that a Diana is suited best to a sunny day (its definitely a summer camera) and a beach.  But it would probably get all clogged up with sand because the panels fit so freaking badly…

 

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Oh yeah.  And the strap is too short for a fat man.

Are You an APS Shooter…?

So the other afternoon I bumped into friend that I haven’t seen properly in years and the conversation naturally turned to the ‘what are you doing these days’ threa.  It wasn’t long before I was being offered an Olympus Trip. “You know, one of the old ones that takes film…” Sweet. I do like an Olly…

I arranged to pop round and pick it up and was presented with a camera case and immediately opened it up to find…a Kodak advantix F600…

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It’s certainly no Trip, But cosmetically it looks like it’s barely been used which is good, and it does appear to have a part shot film in it which is always fun. It’s takes a CR123A battery like the Olympus Mju as well so I swapped one into it and it fired up a treat.  It’s got a 30-60mm zoom lens so nothing special there, and comes equipped with the standard run down of flash settings. A chunky little late 1990s beast in that classic ‘1990s space age brushed crappy grey and black’ finish. Even has a tripod mount which I’ve always found a must have for small point and shoot cameras…!

I’ve been after something that takes APS for a while now. A pal of mine on instagram (yes you @londoncameraproject) is forever harping on about APS and how it’s a forgotten gem of a format. I’ve personally never shot it and personally can’t see why it was really ever a thing…but, I now have the F600 and a stack of APS in the fridge I’m going to give it a go once I’ve worked out a satisfactory bodge for developing and scanning it. I know that there are labs around that advertise dev of this format but I’d really like to work out a way of doing it at home. The main issue that I think I’ll face, other that the actual dimensions of the film are that APS isn’t supposed to be released from the cartridge. Well maybe it is for development but certainly afterwards it goes back in the cartridge to keep if clean and safe. I need to hack an old cartridge open really and have a gander at how it works.

Interesting thing about APS is that you can wind it fully back into the cartridge mid roll and swap it out for another. Say colour to black and white or ISO200 to 800, and then when you pop the cartridge back in it automatically advances to the next frame. Just like swapping the backs out on my Bronica… 😂

Anyway because of this feature you can’t open the camera until the film is wound back, the F600 has a lever on the side to open it and I assumed it was jammed…but a quick look at the manual online (available at https://www.manualslib.com/manual/89133/Kodak-Advantix-F600zoom.html?page=16#manual incidently) showed me my error.

Anyway. I’ve shot a few frames with it, and once I find a suitable way to develop and scan the film I’ll post some results. But really don’t hold your breath, you’ll probably pass out…

A New Addition To The Collection

So a few weeks back I ‘entered’  one of those competitions on instagram. You know the ones, where you have to repost something and follow their account and they’ll randomly draw some winners…

@streetsilhouettes were offering three Polaroid cameras from Mint Cameras in Hong Kong as prizes if you reposted the picture, and well I actually won one of them!

 

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It’s a refurbished SX-70 and they were good enough to include two packs of colour film from Impossible. It’s original production date was actually October 21st 1976 – Mint have a checker function on they’re website that recalls the camera details from the serial number…!

Its a great looking camera but as yet I’m unsure what I’m going to shoot with it.  All of my work recently is based around the notion of time and processes and using this camera goes against everything that I’m working with right now.  For the moment it’s another beautiful addition to my camera collection, but as soon as I have a project that’s suitable it’ll be straight out and into service 😃

 

I Guess The Book Succeeded…

I said i’d post again when/if I got some results from the book camera.  Well, I have some results from the book camera…!

I ‘loaded’ it in the dark bag as I mentioned before and went straight out into the garden to see if it worked.  The exposure was worked out by using the fantastic Pinhole Assist app on my phone.  (Other pinhole exposure calculators are available…! 😃 ) Fortunately I have a Paterson dev tray for sheet film which allowed me to dev the paper in the daylight.

 

So this is my back garden.  Also my hand holding open the electrical tape ‘shutter’…  Happy with that.

Went out again after loading it again and visited Walpole Chapel.  This place is just up the road from my house and is one of my go to places when I want to try an idea.  Its where Ash and I got married so the location holds a special place in my heart.

This time I gaffer taped up the book to try and cut down on light leeks.  Previously it was held shut with a couple of Manfrotto clamps.  This time the clamps served as a rudimentary tripod on the floor…!  I didn’t take a picture of that.

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So it works.  Very happy with that.  I seem to be on a mission at the moment to turn random stuff into cameras.  Not sure if i’ll use this again, or if it’ll just get relegated to my studio.  On to the next camera project.

 

The Book You Need To Succeed

When visiting the library last week I came across a trolly with some ‘free to good home’ books on it.  They were mostly titles on design and relevant software.  One was an old copy of the Photoshop CS3 Bible.  Its a fat old book, and I had the idea that it would be quite ironic to turn it into a pinhole camera…

…so I took it home, and thats what I did. 🙂

A few hours and some assistance spent hollowing out the centre created a ‘box’, and a pinhole secured into the front cover and hey, its a camera.  PVA glue holds all of the pages together and returns some sort of rigidity to its structure.  The inside was painted and gaffe taped to make sure its as light tight as it can be.

A couple of thumb tacks hold a piece of 5×7 photographic paper in the right place, and allows me to guide the paper in (hopefully) in the dark.  I know that the paper is safe under red light but I haven’t got a fully fledged darkroom right now, so a dark bag will have to do.

I’ll post again when I have some results to show…

Solarography & the Diet Coke Can

Read about the idea of shooting direct to paper and not developing it as a way of getting even longer exposures. This technique is called solarography and I believe was originally a way of photographing the movement of the sun. I put a piece of photographic paper into a diet coke can with a pinhole in the side, sealed it up and left it out for just over twenty four hours. The above image is the result. Even after twenty four hours it is still massively under exposed!
The paper is not developed, simply taken out of the can and scanned straight away. If left out in the light the image on the paper will fade away. There is no way of developing or fixing the image, you just have to keep it in the dark if you want to keep it.
This is really interesting, and I intend to try this some more.