Camera obscura

Today has been gloriously sunny and I’m not at work… so in advance of Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, I took my homemade pinhole camera Button for a spin to check that everything is working properly. It’s been almost a year (don’t judge me – I’ve been busy!) since I last indulged the poor thing. I know this because it was pinhole day last year that I last took her out.

She seems ok. Even if my ability to stay really still for a minute and a half isn’t quite as impressive. I have never used myself as a subject before.

Focal length: 4" Pinhole diameter: approx. 0.5mm Paper negative: 7" x 5"  Exposure time: 1 minute 40 seconds

Focal length: 4″
Pinhole diameter: approx. 0.5mm
Paper negative: 7″ x 5″
Exposure time: 1 minute 40 seconds

Pinhole photography can be really exciting and rewarding. It is like watching magic happen. At some point I will probably write a full post about how I built my camera. There’s a little about it already over on flickr.

I already have an idea in mind for an image for pinhole day this year but I’m not sure yet if it will really work… we shall see.

Focal length: 8" Pinhole diameter: approx. 0.5mm Paper negative: 7" x 5"  Exposure time: 1 minute 45 seconds

Focal length: 8″
Pinhole diameter: approx. 0.5mm
Paper negative: 7″ x 5″
Exposure time: 1 minute 45 seconds

I use photographic paper 5″x7″ in the camera, which I then develop in a makeshift darkroom at home. Because of the way that Button is designed I can put the paper 4″ away from the pinhole – half way down the camera for a wider angle setting, or 8″ away from the pinhole – sitting flat at the back of the camera for a “normal” view setting. My good friend Rob came up with this idea and I think it was truly inspired. I love that I can use two different settings.

For digital versions of my pinhole photographs, like the ones here, I then photograph the negative. Once I have that digital negative I invert it in Photoshop to get a positive “print” – then I crop and enhance the image where necessary.

This might seem a bit long winded, but in relation to making and developing a print with photographic paper each time it’s a cheaper and quicker way of finding out what the prints are likely to look like before using paper. It’s not always easy to judge what a print will look like from the negative, so I always convert the negatives this way first of all. It’s a good enough rough guide.

If I’m making a physical pinhole print, I’ll make a contact print in the darkroom straight from the 5″x7″ paper negative.

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