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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Get Creative With Pinhole Cameras And Use Up All That Old Film

By DeeDee Dobson

When I went digital, I had a whole pile of film in the fridge that just sat there for a long time and eventually expired. If you (or your parents) have been into photography for a while, you're probably in the same situation. But as long as you don't expect perfection every time, even expired film can be used, especially for different creative projects using "alternative" cameras. The fact that it's expired may even add an interesting twist to your photos.

April 26 marks the 9th annual Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, and what better way to use up old film than in a pinhole camera?

Pinhole photography is nothing new - the basic optical principles are mentioned in 5th century BC texts from China, and the first documented photos taken with a pinhole camera are from the mid-1800s. You can make a pinhole camera from just about anything, and people do, but in most cases, you have to load and unload the film in total darkness, which can be tricky. If you do want to give pinhole photography a try, but prefer not to hide in a closet to put the film in, check out these cameras:

Pinhole Blender Cameras The film cameras from Pinhole Blender look like cookie and tea tins (with 2 dials on top) and come in small, medium and large format (35mm, 120 and 4x5). The small and medium format cameras can be loaded in daylight, but the 4x5 has to be done in total darkness. The small and medium format cameras come in two configurations: with one or three pinholes and the large format with three or six. Fun, easy to use and inexpensive ($20-$80), these are great cameras for those who want to try their hand at pinhole photography.

Holga Pinhole The medium format (i.e. uses 120 film) Holga Pinhole Camera is another inexpensive option ($60, which includes 4 rolls of film). It looks like a regular camera, but instead of a lens, it has a tiny pinhole with an aperture of f/192. You can use any 120 film you want - color, slide, b&w - and there is only one shutter speed: B (which means that the shutter stays open as long as you press the button). The suggested time is anywhere from 2 seconds to 30 minutes, so you'll have to experiment with that. (There is an optional cable release available, which I think is a very worthwhile investment). You can advance the film as much or as little as you want in between each exposure, so if you want to try double exposures, just don't advance it at all before taking your next shot, or if you are creating a panoramic shot, advance just a little bit, and the photos will blend together into one long image.

The Hexomniscope If you get hooked on pinhole photography and want to give something truly unique a try, check out the pinhole camera from Pinhole Resource. The Hexomniscope is a round, medium format (120 film) camera with 6 pinholes (f/180) and 6 shutters around its body, so if you choose to expose through all of them, you get 6 overlapping 60 degree images. It comes with a CD with instructions, and costs $1,590.

Digital Pinhole SLR All you need to use your digital SLR for pinhole photography is an extra lens cap and a drill. Find the exact center of the lens cap and drill, from inside the cap out, as tiny a hole as you possibly can. Use the lens cap instead of a lens and voila! Pinhole camera.

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day This annual event takes place on the last Sunday of April and was started to encourage photographers all over the world to leave technology behind for a day and go out (or stay in) and take pinhole photos. Once you've got some shots you're happy with, upload them to the official WPPD website for review. This isn't a competition, and here are no prizes, but the best shots from they day, as selected by the "Coordinating Team", are displayed online. There are tons of happenings surrounding this event both before and on April 26: workshops, exhibits, lectures and more, so if you need inspiration or want to share the day with like-minded photographers, check out the listings on the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day website.

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