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.


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.


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.

Project Pinhole: The Camera

In the last couple of posts I have been talking about the large format pinhole camera that I am building. I started with the film holder made from thick card which was looking good and only needs a couple of tweaks to get it perfect for it's use. The decision had been made to make the first incarnation of the camera out of card too so I got started.

I divided the build into three parts - the rear standard, the bellows, and the front standard. In large format camera terms, this refers to the rear section that houses the film holder and viewing glass, and the front section that houses the lens. Between the two of them you have the bellows bridging the gap. That is a very simple way to look at it - the sections do more than that but those are the basics you need to know.

With a pinhole camera, things are even simpler. There is no viewing glass so you only need to house the film holder and there is technically no lens either.

The structure of the camera would be built from thick cardboard and I would then cover all the visible surfaces in nice white card that would help with the rigidity but also make it prettier.

The Rear Standard


I started by building a tray that the film holder would slot into from one side. I left plenty of room for it to slide in and out of as the plan was to have a second piece of card slide in behind the film holder once it was in place and pin it to the top of the opening. That along with a soft light seal along that edge would make the opening light tight. This method would give the cardboard structure of the camera an easier time - creating an opening that was perfect in size would eventually weaken the film holder and camera, and would be at risk of falling out when being moved.

The Bellows


Pinhole cameras don't need bellows for focusing as everything from right in front of the camera to infinity is in focus. This meant I could just build out the camera to the focal length I had decided on and leave it there. That said, I had originally designed it to have a tapering effect from the rear to the front. It's an effect that would have been quite obvious in thicker wood but not to much with the thinner card. It looks good though and I'm glad I stuck with it.

The distance between the front and the rear plays a big part in what the final images will look like. Close together and the image will be very very wide. Further apart and the image will be zoomed in. I'm a big fan of my 50mm lens on my SLRs so I wanted this camera to have the equivilant size - that was 300mm. Once I started building I saw some images of shorter focal lengths and changed it to 240mm and then again to 210mm which I've stuck with.

The Front Standard


The front standard needed to do two things - house the pinhole and also a shutter. The design for this is very similar to the Holga 120WPC that I have - a shutter that slides back and forth in front of the pinhole. To do this I made two square pieces of card, one bigger that the other, stacked on the front. The lower square had the middle cut out of it horizontally to allow another longer piece of card to take it's place. When I say longer, I mean long enough to span the width of the camera and then some. This would let me press in either side to open and close the shutter. I cut a square into the shutter to allow an open state when pressed in from one direction.

The Pinhole


The size of the pinhole is determined by the focal length. There is a website that is superb for determining the size you need by the focal length you've decided on and vise versa called Mr Pinhole. By entering the focal length it will give you the diameter of the pinhole you need. It also gives you the f/stop that will help to meter your compositions.

For a focal length of 204mm I needed a diameter of 0.6mm. The first needle I found in the house gave me a diameter of 0.588mm which was close enough for me. At this diameter I would have an f/stop of 347. This is a very high f/stop and would result is extremely long exposures - in my first meter reading on a bright sunny day I was told 2mins 30secs. Inside in a bright room it would take 45mins to 1hr.


Because I would mainly be using photo paper with this camera, I needed to cut down the contrast that happens when doing this. There are a number of ways of doing this - pre-flashing the paper can do it of some kind of filter. I opted for the filter method and taped my 00 multigrade filter from my darkroom enlarger to the rear of the frot standard. I use this filter in the darkroom for exactly the same reason as I needed it now - to give an even exposure with normal contrast.

The Finished Result


Test Shots


I took two tests when I'd finished the camera. The first one from our balcony which I didn't expose for long enough. The second was towards our local football team's stadium when there was a match on. This was was far better.

Overall the result was good. There is a slight light leak from the film holder which I expected but nothing like what I thought it was going to be. It's an easy fix.

I've really enjoyed myself with this project and I'm looking forward to tweaking the design and taking it out into the field. I'll keep you posted.

Points Make Prizes

I've been a bit quiet recently - on here, Twitter to a degree, and definitely on Flickr - but there have been things happening in the background that I thought I would let you all in on.

Firstly, the group exhibition in May - "Two Cities" - had a prize giving night where a panel decided which photos were the best of the bunch for a handful of categories. The prizes were divided into "winner" and two "commended" slots for each category and then there was a "Viewers Choice" which was voted for through the week by visitors. If you missed the theme of the show then it was to display two photographs of Edinburgh with contrasting views of the city.

Two Cities Prizes

Two Cities Prizes

I was delighted to win two "commended" prizes on the night - one for best photograph with "The National Monument" and one for best photographs that matched the theme. For me, these were two main categories - they showed your ability as a photographer and that you can curate your work adequately enough to a theme.

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Shortly after the exhibition in May I heard that The Edinburgh Sketcher, Mark Kirkham, was displaying his work at Tidalfire in Edinburgh. Tidalfire are not a gallery but a training company that specialise in Adobe products, design and coding languages. Inside their shop on St. Mary's Street (just off the Royal Mile/Canongate) they have blank walls and an empty window so they created "WoO" - the Window of Opportunity. Artists can use the space to display their work for two weeks using the walls inside and the window display. It's an opportunity I want to be part of so I will be displaying my photography there from the 22nd October until the 5th November 2012. I'll post more details as I have them.

Friends and family have been very supportive over the last year or so by promoting my work, but I also love the honesty when you need to hear it most. "Iain, you need to get some new photographs up" said Matt, my brother-in-law, and he is absolutely right. I've been shooting quite a lot over the summer, experimenting with different techniques and formats so I have a lot of black and white film still to be processed which I hope to have done soon. The summer months have had me on holiday quite a few times with my wife including visits to Bath, The Highlands, and Venice where I have shot a lot of colour film for a change. With all that I'll have plenty of photos to be sharing with you all soon.

The Royal Mile Through a Pinhole

To be a tourist in your hometown is quite a hard thing to do; you ignore things everyday that someone who was visiting would stop and notice. In the last couple of years that we've travelled ourselves, it's something I have become more and more aware of.

Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile, the hub for all tourists, runs from Holyrood Palace up a steady hill to the top of Castle Rock where Edinburgh Castle sits. It is the focus of Edinburgh's Fringe Festival in August but, unlike any other location in the City, it has a buzz of festival about it throughout the year with street performers, stalls, and "heritage" shops to entice the tourist to part with their money.

I headed out with my Holga 120 Wide Pinhole Camera and my Pentax SP500 35mm to try and capture it as I journeyed from Holyrood Palace/The Scottish Parliament building, up the mile to Castle Rock.

The Scottish Parliament Building

The Scottish Parliament Building

Canongate Kirk

Canongate Kirk

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Whisky Merchants

Whisky Merchants

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The Artist

The Artist

William Wallace

William Wallace

The Castle Cannons

The Castle Cannons

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

All photos were taken on Ilford Delta 100 and developed in Ilford Perceptol 1:3 at 20°C for 22 minutes.