Monday, 16 January 2012

D.I.Y. Photography

I just came across the great little film about Wet Plate Photographer Dana Geraths, a man who not only shoots wet plate photography, but also makes his own cameras.Its certainly worth a watch if you're interested in old photographic processes, or beautiful cameras.

It also got me thinking about my own traditional cameras and photographic techniques, so I thought I'd share a little about my experiences in making my own cameras.

Image captured on my original pinhole camera.
It all started back when I was studying photography at college. I was fascinated by film photography, and developing my own images, so when we were given the task of building our own basic pinhole cameras I was quite pleased. The camera I made was similar to most peoples first pinhole camera, a box which I painted black on the inside with a small hole in the front. It was simple but nonetheless managed to capture this shot, along with my immediate interest. Unfortunately, due to throw together nature of the camera, the image quality began to decrease quickly after this image was taken, but it was enough to get me hooked. I soon set to work on creating what was to become known as my Mk.II camera. I still have the notepad full of sketches, notes and specifications for my upgraded pinhole camera.

My Mk.II pinhole camera.
With some help from my father and his considerable woodwork skills, we created a pinhole camera that was permanently light-tight (you can't see, but there are more bits inside to keep the dark-slides in place without letting in any light,) and that was capable of taking several photos without having to return to a dark room between each shot. In fact you are only limited by the amount of slides that you have with you. It was now also capable of using either photographic paper like I used before, or 5x4 film for extra quality but at the expense of needing a completely dark space to change film rather than being able to change the paper under a safe-light.

The two images I have included below were shot on the Mk.II and have been scanned into the computer. Unfortunately, the originals have been lost, so I'll never be able to reproduce them properly, much to my annoyance. The first image on the left was taken in Scotland on a trail not far from Ben Nevis, and the one on the right was taken in Nottingham City Centre in the middle of the day. The long exposures create a brilliant ethereal feel to the images especially if you look closely at the second image, where you can just about make out someone's arm. The only way people appear in the photos if they stay still for the majority of the exposure, which is why most people seem to become ghostly shadows, or disappear entirely.

There is something so rewarding making images like this, knowing that you have been responsible for all parts of it from beginning to end. And most importantly, it can be done by anyone! Seriously, just go out and try it. I hope if anything this article shows you that you can get great images from just a box with a hole in it, and if you don't have to access to a dark room, there are still some labs that will process 5x4 film for you, or you can buy a cheap pinhole camera set that will shoot 35mm film so you can develop it at your local chemist or photography store. They only cost about £10, so get out there and start shooting!
Pinhole cameras on Amazon.

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