Resolutions 2014

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope 2014 is a good one for you all. We had a wonderful Christmas and New Year with our son and shared his first festivities with family.

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Another year and another set of resolutions. I've been making them since 2010 when I resolved to get back into a form of art, something that I had left behind in the late nineties. That was when photography raised it's head again. Since then I have made resolutions that tie into photography to direct what I'm doing, except for last year when becoming a Father seemed like a big enough challenge to set myself. 2014 is here now and I've been thinking lots about what I want to achieve in photography.

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Looking at 2013, my first resolution has to be to shoot more - it might seem like a simple resolution but, outside of my DSLR, I really didn't shoot much at all. I made a large format pinhole camera but never really experimented with it, I was out in the field with the Bronica medium format camera but the majority of those rolls still lie undeveloped, and I made cameras to create solargraphs which I have just had the results back from. I need to get these cameras out and working, and make sure the film is developed.

What I never shot a lot of last year was 35mm. I was put off after using my Nikon F60 last Christmas and then again during our trip to London. This demand has now passed since I have a DSLR so I'm going to take my favourite 35mm camera - the Pentax SP500 - and my favourite film stock - Ilford Delta 100 - and start carrying it around in my bag as well as capturing my family.

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Next up, I want to print more. Nearly two years ago I searched Gumtree looking for an enlarger that I could use to print at home. Eventually I found what I was looking for and after a 150 mile roadtrip to north of Aberdeen, I had what I wanted and lots, lots more. For the small sum of £40 I had a 75% of a darkroom and a plethora of photography books. Scouting eBay got me the rest of what I needed and I was ready to go. What I soon found was that setting up a temporary darkroom is quite a task and it took me a few attempts to get it down to a reasonable time. The truth is, it was a hassle to do and maybe one day I will be able set it all up permanently in my house.

At Christmas I decided to make a print for my wife and used my local darkroom, Stills, instead. This proved to be a quicker and far more productive time in the darkroom and I would like to do more of it.

So those are my resolutions for 2014 - shoot and print. As I said, they may seem like simple resolutions but I really want to get back into the flow of creating images and that doesn't need to be complicated

Let me know your resolutions.

 

 

Making a Solargraphy Camera

Before every summer solstice I aim to make myself a pinhole camera to start a six month solargraph and each year I fail by forgetting. Not this year. I found the perfect tins for this after a couple of presents were finished off at Christmas - Fortnum & Mason Christmas blend coffee and Lemon Curd biscuits. I love them. I hid the tins away until last week when I brought them out to begin the project.

If you're unsure, a solargraph is a image that is made with a pinhole camera. The camera of loaded with photo paper and pointed in the direction that the sun moves across the sky for a long period of time - from days to years. As the days pass, the image is imprinted onto the paper (viewable without chemicals) and maps the sun's movements through the sky getting lower or higher each day.  Typically you can do this between the summer and winter solstices to capture the sun's highest point to it's lowest point.

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The tins I am using both take a 7x5" piece of photo paper nicely - one portrait and one landscape. I'm using Ilford's Multigrade Art paper by Hahnemuehle which I've had for a while and one of my favourite papers. You'll also need duct tape or electrical tape (duct tape preferably but I didn't have any), a knife, an empty drinks can, a needle, and - depending on where you're loading the paper - a dark bag.

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Due to the thickness of the tins, I had to drill a hole 8mm wide into the middle of each of them as trying to force a needle through them wasn't going to work. Don't put too much pressure on the drill either, as it will bend the tin creating a slight lip. I managed to bend it slightly but, with some persuasion with the end of the Stanley knife being used as a hammer, I bent the lip back.

Cut a piece of the empty drinks can big enough to cover the hole you drilled. With a needle, make a hole in the middle of the cut metal. I used a small needle but there was no calculation to get the perfect needle size - any needle will do. I then taped the piece of metal to the tin ensuring to get the pinhole in the approximate middle of the drilled hole.

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Normally I would have put lightproof tape on the back of the cut metal with the pinhole in it but I forgot. Doing this would have stopped any direct light leaking in that wasn't coming through the pinhole. Instead I taped up to the pinhole leaving a millimetre or so I didn't obstruct the view.

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Put the tin and your photo paper box into a dark bag or move into a darken room to load the paper into the tin. Complete darkness probably isn't necessary for the piece of paper you are using due to the few seconds it will be exposed but you don't want to ruin the rest of your paper.

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Finally, screw/push the lids on and make sure you cut a piece of tape to go over the pinhole as a shutter before removing from the bag. 

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Tape the lids closed and you're ready. To be extra careful, I then attacked the tins with tape and covered every part of them (minus the pinhole/shutter) to block out any unwanted light. The only thing left to do is find your location to install them.

Make sure you attach them to something that won't move and where no one will disturb them. I have put one outside my house since I know I won't and another at my office. I've told people what it is so that it is not confused with anything else or treated as suspicious.

Enjoy and I'll update you in 6 months.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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Test Shots

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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.