Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2013

On the 28th April 2013 it was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day and I had been building a camera over the last three weeks to take part in it. As it turned out, I was quite busy on the actual day but managed to make a still life exposure with my creation as well as some self-portraits with the Holga 120WPC.

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With my pending fatherhood, I decided that I would make a still life based on my wife and I's past, present and future. Fatherhood is something I'm looking forward to and marks a big change in our life together. The exposure took about an hour but I cut it short by 15 minutes as we were leaving to see friends.

Later that night I set up my trays in the bathroom and developed the paper. It was looking great but had a slight mottling effect across the image. I mulled it over for more that a week as to what this could be with the prime suspect being the filter I was using. What didn't make sense was that the image was fine - distortions in the filter would cause the image to be distorted too and I couldn't see any in the still life. A couple of people suggested the paper and that is when it hit me - during the developing stage I had forgotten to click the bathroom door shut. This usually isn't a problem as our hallway is quite dark but on this occasion my cat had decided to see what I was doing in there and pushed the door open to stick his head is. Bingo!

Earlier in the morning I made a few exposures with the Holga 120WPC pinhole camera to make sure I had something with mark the day. It was a lot of fun. I played primarily with double exposures and movement within single exposures but, again, my cat was making this difficult as he walked around my statue pose so here are the best.

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This roll of film represents the last of my Fomapan stock. Fomapan is a cheaper brand of film from the Czech Republic and is really good for playing around with. It's major downside is how easy it is to scratch. As sheet film I can imagine it is far more forgiving as the film is not moving but pulling a roll through cameras like the Holga is something it doesn't handle well. The entire roll from this session was scratched badly from a small imperfection in the moulded plastic. For that reason, as well as others, I am glad to see the back of it and would only consider it again when I dabble in large format photography. I'm an Ilford man at heart and will be returning to them with my next bulk buy.

Infrared Photography

I've watched a lot of people try out infrared photography recently and decided that I would quite like to give it a go myself. I had the location in mind and had bought the accessories I needed so headed out one Sunday morning to give it a try.

The day started off very promising but by the time I had reached Princes Street Gardens in the centre of the city the sun had disappeared and I was left with a very overcast day. I shot my film regardless to see what I could get but there just wasn't enough sun. Determined to try again, I set out the next morning back to Princes Street Gardens with much more success.

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I got a couple of photographs that I really liked. This one above was one of my favourites with the dark and looming Castle in the background and the bright trees and grass. I also love how few people there are in this photograph which is quite common in my other work.

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With a few shots left on the roll, I headed back out the following weekend. The meadows in the south of Edinburgh has one of my favourite stretches of path - Coronation Walk - so I set up my camera and took a couple of shots. I am very happy with this one - the grass as white as snow, the dark path with sun patches from the trees, and dark tree bark - it's all there in equal measure.

If you're interested in the technical aspects then I used Ilford's SFX200 medium format film, which really isn't an infrared film but behaves like one. Coupled with a R72 filter and the results are far better than I had ever imagined getting. I was using my Bronica S2A with the film which is a temperamental camera to use but only adds to it's charm.

Let me know what you think. The one of Coronation Walk will be printed later this month for my exhibition in October so I'm looking forward to seeing it in it's full glory.

The Forth Railway Bridge

On Saturday night I set to take a few long exposures of the Forth Railway Bridge. I had tried a few weeks before during the day but it was ruled out with heavy fog so, keen to try again, I headed out with the Bronica at around midnight and spent a couple of hours shooting.

Forth Rail Bridge Shoot

Forth Rail Bridge Shoot

Night shooting is quite relaxing - no one is around so there is a silence in places that you wouldn't normally have it. South Queensferry is a great example of this - it's on the outskirts of Edinburgh and during the day it is a tourist hotspot to see the bridges, but at midnight it was silent apart from the water lapping on the shore and the odd train passing overhead.

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In this particular scene the buildings to the left were causing terrible light  pollution and the boat was moving with the water. If you look next to the boat you will see white lines where a couple of swans were moving about.

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I moved closer to the bridge, away from the buildings to see how that worked, and that has come out better. There was a slight cloud cover which has given the lighting a nice effect projecting upwards.

I jumped back in the car and went to Dalmeny railway station, the last railway station before the bridge and composed a beautiful shot of the station lit up and the track entering the bridge in the distance. Just as I was about to push the shutter all the lights went out at the station so I abandoned it and drove over the road bridge to North Queensferry. Here you can get really close to the bridge which I thought would help.

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When I arrived in North Queensferry I was amazed at the moon - unlike a lot of night shooters on Twitter and Flickr, I was actually unaware of the "Super Moon" that night and it was nice added bonus. To capture it and the bridge I needed to get underneath it so I moved the car and mounted the tripod to the roof. Unable to see the viewfinder, I pointed in the general direction and took the shot. Sadly the light pollution was too great here for this photo to work but the added moon was welcome.

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Back where I initially wanted to be, the moon was a little out of shot for the railway bridge with square format so I decided to take in the road bridge instead.

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Back onto the main subject and I much preferred this view, I was up close and personal. During this exposure a small tug appeared from under the bridge and exited stage right - in the silence it was the last thing I expected.

Working with pinhole photography earlier this year sealed my love for long exposures - I enjoy the set up, the calculation and then the waiting. I enjoyed the peace and quiet too - if a little creepy at times - so I will do a lot more of it when I can.

Bronica S2A

In March I met with Twitter/Flickr buddy, Simon Kidd, who was trying to clear some space in his house by reducing the amount of cameras he had (his impressive camera collection can be found here). One of those was a Bronica S2A and I had wanted one for a long time, so I naturally jumped on the opportunity.

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The Bronica S2A is a medium format camera from around 1969. It has a focal plane shutter rather than a leaf shutter, and lenses made by Nikon and Zenza Bronica which gives you quite a few choices in what you can have. With this giveaway, I got a Nikkor 75mm f2.8 lens, a Zenzanon 150mm F3.5 lens, an additional back, and a Bronica green filter.

I was warned of its problems beforehand, and it did have a few - it didn't focus properly and the shutter was a little sticky but I had nothing to lose. I had not planned to invest in medium format for a while but this allowed me to sort it over time.

To see what I was dealing with I loaded it up with film the next day and headed out for a day shooting. The shutter was indeed a little sticky, but the biggest issue was the focusing. When focusing at infinity, it was very obviously out of focus in the viewfinder.

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The shutter was a simple fix, it was all in the technique. When you cock the shutter it will sometimes refuse to fire but if you roll the shutter wheel back and the forward again, nine times out of ten, it will fire perfectly. The focusing was a bit more tricky. When you focused at infinity the viewfinder would appear out of focus, but the photograph would be fine. When focusing closer, the viewfinder would be perfect but the photograph would appear out - the picture above was focused on the light but it actually focused behind the arch.

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I bought a light seal kit from Bryan McCansh at Camera Repair Materials based in Worthing, UK. He had a kit for £10.00 that would be enough to sort this and every camera I own if I wanted. I did, so I order a few other parts from him too, all for under £15.00. The only thing I needed next was some lighter fluid to breakdown the glue, cotton buds to apply it and something to help remove the old tacky light seals - an unused Chinese takeaway chopstick. Perfect.

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With all the escaping glue removed from the body, you can see how the viewfinder works and why it went out of focus. The Fresnel lens sits on the metals arms within the two chrome bars. The ground glass then sits on top of the Fresnel and and rests on the chrome bars...except it doesn't...the metal arms cause the fresnel and ground glass to sit too high and it is only once the frame is screwed into place that this happens and keeping it all tight and in place. Because the seals had perished, the metals arms were causing the viewfinder to sit too high and out of focus. The final thing to do was to reassemble the viewfinder and remove any sticky marks left from Dymo labels which I had removed from the body .

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It was ready just in time for our trip to Bath so it was an ideal time to test it along side my 35mm but I actually ended up shooting four rolls of film through it, two Ilford FP4+ and two Kodak Portra 400. It was a gamble I shouldn't have taken but one that paid off with images that were in focus. It was sorted.

The medium format bug has bitten, I've shot more 120 film this year than 35mm between the Holga pinhole and now this. I carried it around Bath like a small child - which made my wife nervous - and it attracted a lot of attention from various people who once shot film and have since moved away. I enjoyed this method of shooting,  but what I actually want to do is head out to a location with it mounted on a tripod and fire a few rolls. With that in mind, I'm sure you'll see more of the results from this camera from now on.