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Dave's Pinhole Camera World Tour 2021. Leg 1 (Part 1)

I was very lucky last week to receive on loan an amazing pinhole camera from a very kind and generous gentleman. Excited, I unwrapped the bubble wrap to find the camera depicted above. For those that are unaware, a pinhole camera is basically a light tight box with a tiny hole in the front to let the light in and illuminate the photographic film at the back of the box. In the case of this camera the hole is 0.2mm in diameter and the film at the back is 5 x 4 inches in size.

I have used 5x4 cameras a lot over the years and am well used to handling the film and determining exposures but really had no idea what to expect from this camera.

I understand it is "homemade" but to be honest is very well built and looks amazing. The cap on the front you can see in the picture unscrews to reveal the hole and light then falls onto the film for as long as it takes to build up the image on the film. For me on this first foray with 6 sheets of film last Saturday this ranged from 13 seconds to 2 minutes and 53 seconds.

I vowed that I would try to do something different with it than what I normally photograph with these first 6 exposures ..... but as I have discussed before, when you respond to something , you make more heartfelt images than if you "try" to see something different, in my experience anyway.

Anyone that read my last blog and its reference to aphantasia would have picked up how important to me viewing the image in the field via the ground-glass or viewfinder is as I can't imagine the finished print or at least I can't visualise it in any way. So to be going out with a camera I could not do this with and had no idea really of what the area in front of me that would be recorded was going to be, was quite daunting and also quite liberating as I had freedom to just do it !


I had 3 film holders loaded with FP4+ that had been in the freezer for 18 months and set off, very excited.

I then immediately photographed two trees I had made photographs of many times before as I couldn't resist the light ! I had seen Dave Whenham's pinhole images that included the sun in the frame and some beautiful effects of flare and knew that, rarely for me, I had to include the sun in the frame for the first image. I took a few minutes to place the camera , remembering Dave's further advice to get really close, angled the camera up to make sure the sun was in the frame.

Once in position I took some readings with a light-meter to determine the exposure at F250 and decided on 8 seconds, knowing the sun would be blown out in the image. Adding additional time to account for reciprocity failure (the break down of the films reciprocal response to increasing light exposure. Typically but not always when exposures are beyond a second depending on the film). This adjustment took the exposure to 13 seconds.

I removed the dark-slide and released the cap to allow a little bit of reality to trickle through the small pinhole on the front of the camera until the image had built up on the emulsion.

I had walked no more than a further 200 metres when I saw my second opportunity and once again set up the camera. I found a familiar tree with a host of back-lit leaves framing it. I set the camera up quite low again and as close as I thought I needed to be to the tree ( turns out I needed to be a bit closer perhaps).

This time the exposure was 2 minutes and 53 seconds and I feared after checking my readings that I may have messed up the first one as the light "seemed" the same to me, but it turned out they were both about right. There was a gentle breeze during the exposure so I knew this would cause a lot of blurring but didn't know if the tree surrounded by a halo of light would come out OK.

I took another 4 exposures that day and although 2 of them from my point of view are duds, 2 of the others may be worth scanning.I developed all 6 negatives during the week and this was the first time "the darkroom light" had been on for a while. I had great fun both making the exposures and developing film again.


The Images

My first ever pinhole camera shot and got a bit lucky with the flare and the brightness in the background creating an almost swirl effect with the sun blazing into the frame ! I am quite pleased with this for a first shot.

The second shot and if anything I like it even more ! I was a lot closer to the tree than it appears so obviously needed to be a bit closer I think. I like the flare almost spilling towards the camera and the light !

Both of these images above were "scanned" with an iPhone (i.e. the negative was snapped while it was on a lightbox) and both will be scanned with a proper scanner this week.


The loan of this camera to me by Dave Whenham (link on my links page to his excellent blog and photographs) has taken on a life of it's own now. I have the camera until next week and then it is being forwarded to James who will use it for a while before it again gets sent on to the next photographer for a while. This is now known as "Dave's Pinhole Camera World Tour 2021" (#DPCWT2021 at twitter). Starting small but you never know maybe a zine or a book could come of it. In any case anyone that uses a pinhole camera for the first time is very likely to enjoy the process. The results, although unpredictable (to me anyway) are different and exciting !


What did I learn with my first 6 exposures?

  • It's great fun !

  • It has a very wide angle of view, approximately the same as a 15mm lens on a 35mm camera. (Wider than anything I normally use.)

  • Shoot what you respond to just the same as you would normally...but..

  • ....get close to the subject

  • Make sure it is on a solid tripod or placed in a stable position, the exposures are long.

  • Don't be afraid of the light !

I am making as many images as I can with it at the moment before I say goodbye to the camera. I will probably write another post on the subject next week with results from my subsequent exposures

Hoping for sunny days and light!


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