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Archive for June, 2011

Pinhole Photography (Book Review)

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Pinhole Photography

Really good books cover enough background for you to understand the concepts behind their premise and enough practical guidance to start a journey along that path. In these criteria Pinhole Photography: From Historic Technique to Digital Application (Fourth Edition) by Eric Renner is a gem. The first half of the text moves through pinhole’s history (both in science and art), the revival of pinhole, and a chapter on the camera obscura. The second half introduces the practical side of pinhole photography and provides a how-to guide for all things pinhole from beginner to advanced. If you’re interested in, or shoot, pinhole then this book probably belongs on your office library shelf.

Another aspect of Eric Renner’s work is his fastidious attention to academic referencing. In many non-fiction books it’s left as a given that the author is an expert and they often fail to lead you through the gamut of knowledge by more than a nose-ring of aggrandised self-proclamation. Not so, Renner. Pinhole Photography: From Historic Technique to Digital Application is a work intended to credibly pass on a tome of the authors knowledge taken in stride of the footsteps that passed before. There is no attempt to self-proclaim all knowledge springs from the authors lips… instead, he walks the reader through the science, the art, the fascination of human beings with the camera obscura and the pinhole camera experience. And I, for one, appreciate being guided like a sensible adult along that knowledge trail.

My personal interest in pinhole has slowly been nurtured by the exposure that I’m getting to shooting medium format film. There is just something fascinating about dealing with film, having to make choices about making photographs that come at a time and money cost (as opposed to the digital spray-and-pray photography of my DSLR). What can be more challenging than going back to the most primitive equipment to explore what in some sense might be considered ‘real photography’ where the photographer has to understand the science. There is no camera or computer to think for you… it’s about science and knowledge and experiential exploration.

The single most fascinating part of this work has to be the huge number of pinhole images displayed and discussed throughout. My personal favourite being Figure 6.37 on page 183 – ‘Diva Tow-Up’, 10 x 8 inch pinhole photograph from Polaroid type 55 film, 2007. Jaw dropping powerful work that I wouldn’t have even suspected came from a pinhole camera.

If you’re looking for a definitive resource about pinhole then give this text your attention. The author is also heavily involved in a highly recommended website called Pinhole Resource where you can buy prints, equipment or share information. Maybe sometime in the near future I might see you on the dark side of photography shooting from a biscuit tin.

How to Process Black & White Film Negatives

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

The first few cannisters of 120 roll medium format film have passed through my recently acquired Zenza Bronica ETRS camera. The emphasis has moved from shooting using the sunny 16 rule onto loading a Paterson developing tank in a darkroom bag and processing my own medium format black and white film in the bathroom.

The Zenza Bronica ETRS shoots 4.5cm x 6cm with 15 shots onto a 120 roll film.

My source for this process is a photographer named Ted Forbes who has a video podcast series called The Art of Photography and is co-host, along with Wade Griffith, of the audio podcast series called The Photography Show.

Loading the Developing Tank in Total Darkness

Due to the extreme light sensitivity of film it needs to be handled with care. After removal of the 120 roll film from the back of the camera it was placed inside a 27″ x 30″ double lined darkroom changing bag along with a Paterson System 4 Universal Developing Tank (the tub, the screw on top, the seal ring, the lid and the film spool). Within the changing bag the film roll is carefully unrolled and fed onto the developing tank spool then placed into the tank’s tub and the tank is put together. This provides a lightproof environment that can safely be taken out of the bag for the film development process.

The System 4 Universal Developing Tank spool can be adjusted to feed on the following film – 35mm, 126, 127, 120, 220 or 620. Loading the spool is not difficult but it certainly proved advantageous to do it a few times in daylight with an old exposed roll of film before executing the procedure inside the darkroom bag.

The Nuts & Bolts of Processing Gear

The best place in your house to consider developing B&W film would be the bathroom. When steam is introduced into a bathroom it pulls the dust out of the air so it can offer the ideal dust free environment.

The tools to grab include three 500 ml pyrex jugs (one for developer, one for stop bath and one for fixer), a small measuring cup, a large container to rest the three jugs inside and bring them to temperature, a cooking thermometer and two clothes pegs to attach your film for drying. Essential is a clock with a second hand.

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The Sunny Sixteen Rule

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Shooting a few rolls of medium format film using an old Bronica ETRS, a camera that has no internal light metering, made me stop and think about the way I make photographs. The heart of photography is the study of light. The Sunny 16 Rule is a good starting point.

The Exposure Triangle (a Conceptual Model)

To better understand the exposure to light when you’re making photographs it helps to consider the ‘conceptual model’ of the Exposure Triangle. The three considerations to make in relation to each other are the ISO (sensitivity of the film or sensor), the Shutter Speed (how long the shutter remains open) and the Aperture (the size of the hole in the lens). A combination of these three elements of the triangle result in the exposure of the photograph.

In clear English, compromises are made in the amount of light you want to reach the film or sensor depending on the size of the hole and the amount of time the hole remains open.

Understanding the Concept of Aperture Fstops

Fortunately cameras have a logical way of dealing with the changes for Aperture and Shutter Speed – called Stops. The Aperture (size of the hole in the lens when the photograph is made) operates by fstops. The larger the Aperture means the smaller the fstop. While the smaller the Aperture means the larger the fstop. So as you move into lower light situations where your exposure requires the Aperture hole to be wider open then you need to adjust the fstop value downward.

An fstop downward doubles the size of the Aperture hole in the lens and an fstop upward halves the size of the Aperture hole in the lens. The full fstops are:

f/1 – f/1.4 – f/2 – f/2.8 – f/4 – f/5.6 – f/8 – f/11 – f/16 – f/22 – f/32 – f/45

Note: The first and second number are doubled through that fstop increment so that f/1 becomes f/2 becomes f/4 and f/1.4 becomes f/2.8 becomes f/5.6. Your camera may provide half or third stop increments so it’s important to remember these full fstop values.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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