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The pinhole challenge

The pinhole challenge

The effect: Let’s face it — every rock, twig and water feature in Yosemite has been photographed so many times that there are now petrified tripod holes on the banks of the rivers and in the meadows. To combat that feeling of sameness, many photographers are seeking to create alternative views by using techniques and cameras that are less than perfect.

The shot: I decided to break a few barriers for myself, and ventured into the park with a Holga wide view pinhole camera (Holga-120WPC). The camera is made of plastic, features a working aperture of f/135 and exposures (using 100 ISO film) average seven to 10 seconds. Use a long cable release, a tripod and a lot of patience in making these pictures. The beautiful simplicity of a plastic toy camera and the imperfect images that it renders made the camera a pleasure — and added to my fun in the park.

Don’t expect any fancy optics. There is just a small, clear plastic disc below the shutter where a lens could be. There are a few tricks to advancing the film that didn’t make it onto the tiny instruction sheet that came in the box. Since the negative sizes are so huge (roughly 2 by 4.5 inches), remember to skip two frames between pictures or you’ll get one long continuous negative,  as I did on my first try.

Every frame has black vignette edges, and the image is not perfectly sharp every time, but the results are fun; they remind me of pictures my father would take with his old Kodak Box Brownie.

The tip: Another trick worth trying is called cross-processing.  I loaded several rolls of transparency film in one of the Holgas but had the transparency film processed in color negative chemistry. (Most labs will do it for you; just ask for your film to be cross-processed. ) The resulting images will be lime green in appearance, but once you scan the image and correct for the green in Photoshop, the images look slightly sepia, slightly magenta, with a hint of green. The final pictures look like the faded, old color prints from the ’50s. The pinhole camera is a study in simplicity. The basics of light, composition and exposure still play a role, but the unexpected results are what make it adventuresome.


Into the darkness

Magical ‘moonbows’

Dazzling dogwood

Slow and splashy

Scale it back



1 Comment

  1. October 18, 2010, 3:26 pm

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