I did a bad thing!

As a result of a discussion on the most recent pinhole podcast I have to confess that I did a bad thing. If at this point you are wondering what a pinhole podcast is then I suggest you check it out immediately (and then come back here). So now you’re back, you might be wondering what the heck I have done…read on Pinholista.

San Francisco 2

As a general comment, I am of a view that the method used to create an image should always be secondary to the image itself. It doesn’t matter hugely to me whether an image is made on paper, film or digitally. I shoot film as a rule, but that is largely an aesthetic choice as I am hugely interested in the additional characteristics an emulsion can add to an image, more of which later. So when my fellow poddies started discussing digital pinhole I tried to provide a balanced view, though not a ringing endorsement. Really though, I was speaking from a place of ignorance, I knew I had to try it for myself.

San Francisco 1

I have a Skink pinhole body cap, which I purchased to use on M mount cameras, really as a way of trying to cut down the number of cameras I travel with, a not entirely successful endeavour. When I’ve used the Skink I’ve been fairly happy with the results, wideish angle and nice and sharp…just like a pinhole should be (the non SF shot is an example for you). I also have an M-mount adapter for my X-Pro1…you can guess what’s coming next.

Skink Woods

I’ve recently been on a business trip to the US (from the shots I hope you can guess where). One of the pains of which (and in some ways pleasures) is the early rising due to jet lag. I took advantage of that to shoot some digital pinhole of the bay, as I had no film pinhole to use.

The process of image making was a little different, for a start I could use the camera’s level to get my horizons straightish. The biggest difference though was immediately being able to view the results of each shot, which meant I could use the Force to get the exposure time and then confirm it with more terrestrial means. I could also play with ISO to change the exposure times. So far so interesting, although I have to say I didn’t like being able to review the images, I was able to take a number of shots and that beautiful serendipity that comes with film was lost (as well as the tension being shooting and developing).

San Francisco 4

I guess that’s OK though, it’s just a different technique, and that doesn’t make it bad. What was bad though was the softness of the images. I can’t explain whether that is due to the nature of a digital sensor, something to do with use an adaptor that changed the focal length or what (I’ve ruled out bad technique, I like to think I have a small idea about what I’m doing). Regardless, the softness surprised me and immediately made me think about the subjects for my images.

Then my battery ran out! I’d made about 14 images and that was it. I couldn’t tell you if it was fully charged when I started, I mean it’s not something I normally have to check when shooting pinhole. So, with a film camera I’d also have a limited number of images but surely one of the points of digital is the ability to take a lot of shots.

San Francisco 5

So it goes though, and I went back to my hotel to load the images onto my iPad. I did this for archival reasons but also to see if the images were as soft as they appeared on the camera’s LCD. I wasn’t prepared for what I found though…dust spots! Every image was riddled with dust spots. Now I know you can clone them out in post (and I did except for one example) but seriously, what a  drag.  With film of course you can get scratches and the like but not freaking dust spots on every image. In many ways this probably means I need to keep my sensor cleaner but honestly it’s not something I’ve ever had to worry about. By that I mean I’ve made a ton of images with my X-Pro1 including long exposures and have never had that problem…must be a pinhole thing!

Overall I don’t mind the results of this experiment. Sure they are not the greatest pinhole images ever made but that wasn’t the point. What you do lose with digital is those beautiful colours that come from selecting the right emulsion for the image. I mean, imagine if these shots were made on Portra or Reala! I tried to rescue them through post-processing to black and white…hmmm!

San Francisco 6

However, I guess I still think there is a place for digital pinhole. It could be a good way to introduce someone to the delights of becoming a Pinholista as long as the limitations are clearly understood. But that might be the main problem, if you were experimenting without that understanding then the whole process might be off putting. For that reason, whilst I agree there is a place for digital, I have come to a conclusion. I may have done a bad thing, and I may pay for it with bad karma, but at least I can now say with certainty that for my own personal use and pleasure digital pinhole sucks!

Transformation

I guess I’ll give an advance warning that this is a bit of a reflective post. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my photography has transformed over the last year, and I thought I should probably put some of that down in writing. This will probably ramble a little but here goes.

I should say from the outset that I make pictures for myself, but I’ve been very grateful to discover than some other people like them as well. I don’t think I need that validation from others but I’m delighted to have it and I thank you all for that.

Holt

About a year ago I went to the pub with my neighbours and got into a conversation about art. Now I’ve never thought of myself as an artist, and I’ve never been particularly comfortable with the term. Without going into details, that conversation opened my mind a little to the possibility that I might, occasionally be making art. Now I’m not really sure of that, and I don’t think it matters, but I’m at least a little more comfortable with that now.

I think it was that change in mindset that allowed me to experiment more with my photography (particularly pinhole) and to actually develop the idea of having projects rather than individual images. As it happens, the two pinhole projects that I have been pursuing are abstract in nature, and I guess to some there is a form of art in there somewhere. In both cases (Messages and A Short Walk in the Dark) I’m using the camera to create a light map, which can be deciphered if they key can be found. I’ve presented those projects on my portfolio site so I won’t write about them much here. The images in this post are from those projects (and some were created with a griddle girdle with breakfast attachment…which will mean something to someone).

East Dereham

Having a portfolio site has been another change. I’m posting less on Flickr than I did and the portfolio site gives me a chance to present images in a sequence, and I think that will become more important as my photography develops. I’m not sure where my lens-based photography is going to go, but I think I’m beginning to formulate a style (through showing the mundane) that I like and I’m happy with. I don’t, as yet, have a story to tell in my photography or a coherent theme and style. I’ve met some incredible photographers (virtually) in the past year who do (Jim Mortram and Niall McDiarmid spring immediately to mind) and I’m in awe of the apparent ease with which they execute their projects. I say apparent as I know just how much work it takes.

Norwich

So I guess what I’m saying here is I’ve developed (pun intended) over the last year and I’m beginning to feel much more comfortable with my photography. This is really down to some excellent support from all of you, as well as being exposed to other photographers whose work I really, really admire. I like this transformation so thank you for being part of this, for reading and for inspiring me. Happy shooting!

Denmark Part 2 – Bornholm

When I wrote my first Denmark post back in October I really didn’t imagine it would take so long to share some more photographs of my trip. Since then I’ve recorded my first podcast, had my first photographs on show in a gallery and become a published photographer. Oh well, back to reality!

Aarsdale Molle

All of these photographs were taken on the island of Bornholm. Stuck in the middle of the Baltic sea, Bornholm is the most easterly part of Denmark, and we had to go through Sweden to get there. The island itself is stunningly beautiful, small villages and towns, mills, round churches, a beautiful coast and a beautiful interior. There are even some waterfalls (and what Pinholista doesn’t like a waterfall) although as you’ll see they weren’t up to much when we were there (spring when the snows melt is the time apparently).

A waterfall, apparently

Although we went in early September we were blessed with beautiful weather, so much so we could eat outside and enjoy the clear air. One of the great advantages of Bornholm is that the island is so compact, you can get from one place to another with complete ease.

Hammeren

Possibly our favourite day was a walk around the rocky headland of Hammeren (or Hammerknuden, which means “hammerhead-shaped crag of granite” – thanks Wikipedia). We passed the beautiful lakes and wandered through the forest down to the sea. At one point as we rounded a corner we came across a deer, I’m not sure who was more surprised…we stared at each other for a few seconds before scampering into the forest. We also came across some sheep (not a bad subject for a pinhole) and visited the lighthouse.

Hammeren Sheep

We also walked around the beach at Dueodde, through the extensive dune system and again to a lighthouse. This was the windiest day we experienced on Bornholm, our cheeks were stung by the sand and taking pinholes proved a little tricky to say the least.

Dueodde

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these shots of Bornholm, I still have some shots of Copenhagen to share at some point. Happy shooting Pinholistas!

Obscura Book Vernissage

About two years ago now a pinhole photographer in Germany was looking for inspiration. After hunting high and low for books of pinhole photographs she was unable to find what she needed. That pinhole photographer was Larissa Honsek (Novemberkind), and after an e-mail to some of her friends and colleagues Obscura Book was born.

Vernissage 2

The call for submissions was made, and (as I understand it) thousands of entries were received, which were whittled down to a long list, and eventually to 121 photographs (11 in each of 11 themes). Both the Obscura Book team and the panel of judges that made the selection must have had an incredibly hard job to make the final selection, but what a job they have done.

But that was not the end of the story, it never is that simple. The team put out a call for crowd-funding and managed to raise the cash required to print Obscura Book, and the physical product that now exists was born. To launch Obscura Book, a two week show at Pfluger 68 in Berlin was planned featuring many of the photographs from the book (including two of my own). The show lasts until 11 February, and this is my report on the opening night.

Vernissage 3

As I wandered through the Kreuzberg area of Berlin to the gallery I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I mean, if you count WPPD as your barometer the number of pinhole photographers really active is probably less than 5000 (last year there were 3426 entries). If there are less than 5000 photographers could there really be much interest in pinhole photography. As soon as I arrived at the gallery my fears vanished and I was blown away by the sheer number of people in attendance. I’d estimate that probably over 200 people were in attendance, at times there was no room to move. Obviously there were a lot of locals but what was great was the number of photographers in attendance.

Vernissage 4

As well as Larissa (of course), there were photographers from elsewhere in Germany (Marcus Kaesler – look for his pinhole work under “Linsenfrei” on his site), the Netherlands (Jos van Roij and Lucas Kastelijn), the Basque country (Succubus™), Slovakia (Jozef Pajersky) and Colombia via New York (James Cathcart). Oh, and I was there from the UK! As an aside, I need to give props to Jos’ business cards, each of which came with a precision drilled 0.5mm pinhole, soon to appear in a number of cameras worldwide!

Each of the photographers has their own style and it was amazing to see the variety of work on display. The work was a mix of black & white and colour, shot both on film (including instant) and on paper. I have to admit after seeing some of the work on paper my mind has been changed, I didn’t really get it before but now I’ve seen work from some really skilled practitioners I’m sold.

Vernissage 5

The prints in the gallery were great, a few were sold on the night but that’s not really the point, the point is that the book was launched…and boy what a launch it was. If you need a single bottle to launch a ship then we launched an armada. I’d make a special point to let you know that if you are of advancing age like myself then it does not do well to try and keep pace with two young Slovaks and a couple from the Basque country. I dragged myself away at about 12:30 (am…I know, late for an old dude!) but many kept going until 06:00.

Vernissage 6

Special mention should go to Eli and Mila from the Obscura Book team who managed to get up to meet a few of us at the gallery the following day at 11:00 for a photowalk. We walked, we chatted, we shot a bit of pinhole and we had coffee and cake…what could be better after an amazing vernissage. Larissa joined us for lunch and I managed to grab some words with her and with a lot of the photographers I’d been speaking with the night before…more on that to come!

Vernissage 7

As a final note, I got my copy of the book and it’s a triumph. I guess we all knew the photography was going to be amazing but the unknown was the layout and quality of the book. Rest assured that it is fabulous, great paper, printing and superb design and typography. There’s just the right amount of white space to let the photographs sing. If you haven’t got a copy coming through the funding then I strongly recommend you get hold of one (try through the Obscura Book website). The book is a fantastic achievement and it shows what can be done when a group of people follow a dream and get the support of a great community of photographers.

Congratulations to Eli, Fine, Mila, Nadine, and of course to Larissa, you should all be really proud of what you have achieved. I’m delighted to have been able to be involved and was thrilled to be at the vernissage.

As a quick final note, all the photographs here are my copyright (and not of great quality…damn digital compact), but of course the photos on the walls of the gallery are the copyright of the original photographers…if you buy the book you’ll see them in all their glory!