Pinhole Photography!!!

For those who are unfamiliar with pinhole photography, or those who are, but still find themselves wondering (in this day and age of instant digital gratification) Why?, I’ll tell you… but I’m going to use someone else’s words. There’s a wonderful short essay titled “Why Pinhole? Why Indeed!” and the crux of it is this…

Pinhole is photography at its most basic. I love the freedom it affords any and all who take it up. As a means of expression it frees us from the bonds of the camera salesmen and the companies who seek to create ever fancier cameras that take the intuition out of making photographs.

I couldn’t agree more.  And that’s one of the wonderful things about Looking Glass Photo… in addition to the latest and greatest in digital, they’ve got all kinds of fun “toy” cameras (I bought my Holga there) and they’ll talk your ears off about film.  Yes, FILM.  I don’t know about you guys, but I actually miss film. The folks at Looking Glass encourage me to pick it up again, experiment with it, and remember what it was I found so captivating about photography in the first place.

Here’s my most successful image from last sunday’s Pinhole Photography Workshop…

pinhole photo, negative print film

As you can see, this is a negative print. We used negative paper because it has more “latitude” than positive print paper (meaning it’s more forgiving when you screw up). Which is easy to do with pinhole photography because there’s no light meter and no built-in computer determining the perfect exposure for you. Below is the inverted image, which you can see is slightly overexposed (at 30 seconds)…

I tried to create a ghosted image of myself by standing in the photo frame for about half that time, but all you can see is my ankles and calves (between tree and stop sign). Not exactly the effect I was going for. But that’s half the fun… it’s a bit of a mystery.

pinhole photography, negative print paper

We started out the workshop by building our own pinhole cameras. Boxes were provided, or you could bring your own, and the helpful folks from Looking Glass instructed us to:

  • paint the interiors and any see thru parts black
  • drill a pinhole into a tiny super thin sheet of metal (this would be our lens)
  • drill a larger hole into our box
  • mount the tiny sheet of metal with hole behind the larger hole (tape in place)
  • create “shutter” with piece of gaffer’s tape
  • and VOILA, one camera created!

Here are some pics of us building our cameras…

pinhole camera workshop, looking glass photo

pinhole camera workshop, looking glass photo

pinhole camera workshop, looking glass photo

Next we went into the darkroom to load film into our boxes. As I mentioned above we started with negative print film to work on getting our exposure right. We were instructed to try various lengths of time, develop each one, and see which one worked best. The exposure times really varied depending on the size of the hole drilled, and the lighting conditions (full sun, shade, etc.)

Probably the most fun for me was developing the sheets of paper in the darkroom. There’s nothing quite like watching an image unfold, almost magically, as your paper sways back and forth in a small sea of liquid, dimly lit by a single amber bulb. It’s pretty cool.

Here are a couple shots of the darkroom…

pinhole workshop at looking glass photo

looking glass berkeley, photo darkroom berkeley

The Looking Glass is in the process of scanning all the images from Sunday’s workshop and will have one from each participant online.  They should be up by Friday, you can check these links…

4 thoughts on “Pinhole Photography!!!

  1. Ryan Sullivan

    Very cool. I had no idea that there was a pinhole photography day until a co-worker inadvertently got a search result about it while doing a search about photography last week.

    Your post reminds me of a great photographer I forgot all about whose name eludes me. Our team the Urban Gorillas was defending its crown at the Alameda Sandcastle Competition when a photographer appeared with a most impressive pinhole camera. He quietly took several photos of our sandcastle with pinhole camera on a tripod. I managed to give him my email address and about a month later a very impressive photo appeared in my In Box. It was my first experience with a pinhole camera since childhood. Turns out the guy is a pro and teaches pinhole photography at one of the local collages. I will forward more info about him and the photo, if I can ever find it.

    Thanks for the great post.

  2. rattlebox333

    What an awesome DIY experience. It has been years since I played around with an enlarger and a B&W darkroom. Me and my friend Chuck used to take razor blades and bleach to our negatives before developing the prints in his darkroom. It was a very primitive and unforgiving process (no undo button on a razor blade). We came up with some cool prints that would be impossible to create in PhotoShop with a digital image.

  3. rattlebox333

    That’s crazy! It makes me want to hang soda can pinhole cameras all over the city. What prevented the film from being overexposed? The photo posted above was overexposed after 30 seconds?

Comments are closed.