From the Archives: Pinhole!

Back in 2006, I ran some pinhole photography tests as part of a project for the Art department at UIS. I recently came across the negatives and printed photos(!) produced during this project, and this is the story.A few weeks ago, I read a post somewhere (I’ve lost the link, sadly EDIT: Found it!*) that mentioned color-correcting the flash to minimize negative conversion times. This sounded like a good idea—it’s always best to get pictures right in camera—and since I’d wanted to pick up one of those color filter sample packs the strobist crowd uses, I decided to give it a try.

Roscoe will sell you a sample pack for $7.50, but you can also pick one up from B&H (like I did, though B&H is out of stock at time of writing) for $2.50 + $2.99 shipping, or at one of the big shopping sites maybe for less. The one I got from B&H has something like 100 filter samples in it, all of them perfectly sized to cover a standard hot shoe flash (but with a little hole in one corner that doesn’t effect performance much).

This is a good, economical way to get into playing with colored light.

Anyway. I got a big stack of filters, but really only needed a few. I didn’t run many tests, but had decent results with one full CTB, one half CTB, and one quarter Plus Green. These, stacked together, pretty much cancelled out the orange base in the negatives. Here’s the picture I shared last week, as it was imported into Lightroom.2006 Pinhole Experiments|5|©JamesECockroft-20150420It didn’t quite eliminate all of the Orange tint, and might’ve pushed it a bit green, but it’s better than the usual morass of orange I have to color-correct through.

Anyway, I was pretty hot to test out the color correcting thing, but didn’t have any film to develop. (Actually, there’s one undeveloped roll sitting on my desk, but I like to develop in pairs.) So I sat on them for a week or three until I remembered the pinhole experiments I did back in 2006.

It was just after I finished Undergraduate work at UIS, but before I moved to Long Island to study at Stony Brook. I needed some money; Brian (the Ceramics professor at the time) needed someone to run tests for a Chemistry & Art course he was co-teaching in the fall and so I was hired.

I tested a bunch of things, mostly forgotten. I tested this thing with clay or something… it was mixing different amounts of a grey thing and a green thing together and then cooking the results, but seeing as it was almost 9 years ago and that I was—at the time—a painter and not a ceramics person, I don’t remember much about it at all, but if I recall the results were not quite as obvious and disparate as Brian suspected/hoped.

And there was the painting technique thing where you paint all of one color, then a coat of glaze, then another color, then a coat of glaze, etc. I don’t remember the technique, but it resulted in this picture of Lynda. The technique was traditionally done with oil paint and linseed oil, I think, but I used acrylic and gloss medium for the Lynda painting. I started a couple of others (one of Schultzie and another of K.I.) after I moved to New York, but then I got busy being a grad student and never finished them.

The last one was pinhole photography. I made a pinhole camera out of an aluminum pie pan, some flat black spraypaint, and one of those plastic Folgers coffee cans. If I can get my hands on a decent scanner, or figure out a way to photograph those prints, I share them, though time has done something to them… not sure what.

With the coffee can pinhole camera, I shot straight to photo paper and developed it in the photography lab on campus. I had no idea what I was doing… I got a demo from someone early on, but didn’t know where any of the chemicals were kept or anything, and I did stuff that the real photo students tsked me for, like using the same paddle to push the paper around in the developer and the fixer and the stop bath.

I’d like to do some more of that actually: it’s rather trivial, since you don’t need absolute darkness to deal with the paper. But space is an issue and the darkest areas in the house are too small really to set up a 3 pan developing station. I suppose I could use the kitchen early in the morning or late at night… hummm.

Anyway.

I also made a sort of pinhole cap for the K1000 out of black foamcore… I just stuck it on the front of the lens and shot through it.

I remember Brian gave me a dubious look when I told him about the contraption. At the time, I had no idea why. Now, with hindsight, I know why, but I still think it made for some interesting results and the idea could be fun to play around with one day.

Admittedly, I knew next to nothing about photography or how cameras worked or anything, so it wasn’t really a proper pinhole, but it was still sort of interesting.

I put two rolls of film through this contraption: a roll of Kodak Ultramax 400 and a roll of Kodak BW 400+ Chromogenic film. I had them processed at the fancy photography studio place and had contact sheets printed… it was expensive, if I recall, maybe $30 for the two rolls developed, sleeved, and contact sheets printed, or maybe it was $30/roll. I don’t recall, and I didn’t get reimbursed.

I guess I knew something about photography, maybe, or maybe it was the art snob in me thinking that one hour prints from the Walgreens or whatever weren’t going to be good enough for my pinhole experiments (that’s probably it) but contact sheets are kinda cool, and negatives in fancy sleeves beat out negatives in those cheap one hour sleeves any day. (Interestingly, the lab sleeved them in the same archival sleeves I use now, even.)

From looking at the contact sheets and the negatives and the ‘scanned’ files, it looks like I took a bunch of test shots at varying exposures. I think I used a cable release and bulb mode and a stopwatch, so the exposures were probably something like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 seconds or so, but my notes are long gone.

Anyway… this post is getting long!

So let’s get to some pictures. I think I’ll share a couple of more color shots now, then put up the rest of the color ones and the two B/W pics in separate posts… Naw. They’re not really worth it, and if you’ve read this far, you deserve all of them.

So the color roll… As you’ve seen, I shot the lamp at home a few times. I still have the lamp, now with a new shade. My dearly departed uncle Mike made a pair of these long ago, and… actually, I don’t have that lamp anymore. I lost it somewhere. Maybe I sold it in the big Illinois yardsale, or just decided I didn’t want to move it. The one I have now is the other one, the one my mom kept safe.

So here’s another shot of the lamp.

Some time later, probably the next day, I went to this old boarded up train station and managed a few shots of it before the security people chased me away.

I went into the office and sought permission to shoot around for a school project and the nice Midwestern ladies in there were adamant.

So I went back to the car and since the security truck was way on the other side of the yard, I took the rest of the shots I was after in the first place. Even managed to catch a passing train before taking off.

You might have noticed something… the registration of my little foamcore-with-hole-poked-in lenscap thingy was off a bit.

After my adventure at the train yard, I shot the rest of the roll probably at the painting studio at UIS. It’s some shadows, I think. (These are the pictures I shared the other day.) I won’t bore you with them today.

The second roll was the Chromogenic Black & White. I didn’t get many pictures out of it. I think I got the timing wrong, because most of the roll is black or white, rather than black and white… Here are two shots of the same building, one at the beginning of the roll—you know how I like that stuff…—and one a few seconds later.

I think this was an old pump station or something, somewhere on the way to downtown Springfield from somewhere. I liked this building.

And that brings us to the end… Oh, right. The picture at the top.

That was a like half-second exposure at the trainyard. It only caught the sun shining off the white X… Cool.

So Pinhole was fun… I did a bit more with homemade pinhole back during the 7/52 project, and it might be time to do some more. The results can be quite interesting.

*And the rarely updated The Boy With Illuminated Measles blog has several useful posts on digitizing negatives (1, 2, 3, some is universal, some Windows-centric) and on converting negatives in Darktable.

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