Sunday, April 6, 2014

Holga Interlude 2: Pinhole Modification

I seem to be entering more of an experimental phase, for now at least, with the Analog Project. For this interlude, I'm returning to a previous modification of an older Holga camera: The pinhole.

Moving water makes lacy curtain among the rocks of a rain-swelled creek April 6 in Nacogdoches. Holga CFN, modified for pinhole photography; 1-minute exposure on Kodak TMax 100 film.

For these images I utilized a Holga CFN, the "color flash" model, which I purchased several years ago. I never really fell in love with this version of the camera, so it wasn't a stretch for me to rip it apart and modify it.

Pinhole photography goes back to the very beginnings of making images. It's related to the Camera Obscura, which is essentially a large room used by artists to capture images for drawing or painting. The concept dates to around 400 BCE in China and was one of the invention which, eventually, led to photography as we know it today.

Pinhole cameras are often used as teaching tools for students learning the basics of photography. They're simple to make, don't require a big outlay of cash and, above all, fun. Almost anything, as long as it is or can be made light-tight, can be a pinhole camera.

Surprisingly, perhaps, this modification of the Holga was my first venture into the realm of pinhole photography. I don't know why I haven't made a pinhole camera before. Perhaps having a father who was a photographer moved me straight into the realm of "traditional" cameras, those with lenses. But, as I began this journey to revisit my photographic roots, the pinhole concept seemed to be a natural road to follow.

Lone Star Feed plant in Nacogdoches.
(WARNING: Photographic math ahead.)

This particular pinhole has an effective f-stop somewhere in the f200 range and focal length of about 40mm which, on the 6x6cm 120 film the camera uses, pushes the upper limits of extreme wide angle. It equates to about a 24mm lens on 35mm film or (dare I say it) a full-frame digital sensor, with about a 75-degree angle of view.

What all that means, in simple terms, is there's no way to focus this camera. But, with that wide an angle of view and that small a lens opening, the depth of field is almost infinite. Or, rather, everything in the image is equally just slightly out of focus.

These images are from the third or fourth roll of film I've shot with this mod. I did the mod several months ago. (See original post about this camera here.) It was definitely a case of trial-and-error, having never done this before.

I sort of struck out on my own, relying primarily on information from the world wide interwebs and my own admittedly foggy recollections of reading about pinhole camera design. As you can imagine, it took a few tries (the first shots were dismal), but I finally got it right.

I still remember almost 7 months ago now (have I really been at this that long?) the thrill when I pulled that first successful roll of film out of the chemicals. I could absolutely tell right off the bat I'd got it right this time and I had a working pinhole camera.

Since then, I've had in my head the idea of building one completely from scratch. It just hasn't happened yet because, as I've said before, leaving an idea unattended in my mind is a little like abandoning a baby in a garbage can.

(DISCLAIMER: I don't advocate leaving babies in garbage cans. Don't do it!)

Another view of the Lone Star plant in Nacogdoches from down the tracks.
The whole idea was to have it built, tested, torn apart, rebuilt and ready to go by the next Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, which comes up April 27. I've linked to their website for those of you who don't know what that is.

In a nutshell, it's a day for fans of pinhole photography to go out and shoot, then upload their images to the WPPD website for possible inclusion in a gallery of pinhole photos from around the world. (More than 3,400 images were shot and uploaded last year to the on-line exhibition gallery.)

Well, I'm not going to get my scratch-build camera ready by then, it's pretty obvious now. I keep telling myself I have to stop procrastinating. Aw, heck. I'll do it tomorrow.

But I do have my first attempt at a pinhole camera working. So I'll definitely be out later this month banging away. If you don't want to build your own pinhole camera (you can find instructions all over the web) you can also buy one ready made. Then head out on WPPD on April 27 and discover the fun a lens-less photography.

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