Saturday, July 25, 2015

Gotta Love that Pinhole!

There is something really special about pinhole photographs. The one above was a 1 second exposure taken on Kodal Ektar 100 (ISO) film with a Holga Pinhole Camera on the lawn of the Louisiana State Capital building on a bright Memorial Day. The lawn was decorated with 11,214 flags in memory of 11,214 Louisiana natives who have given their life for their country over the years.

In retrospect, maybe I should have used the Holga WPC (wide pinhole camera). I might have gotten a much more dramatic wide angle shot maybe with the entire building but as it is, this one, with its infinite depth of field and the flags waving gently in the breeze evokes a feeling that somehow seems consistent with the time and scene portrayed.

The truth is, even with the naked eye it was a little overwhelming. The image leads the viewer to think that the flags go on forever as indeed they did – right up to the Capital steps. So many have given so much. The image forces us to stop and ponder for a moment, the stories represented by each of those flags.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pinhole Portraits

There is something truly unique about portraits made on film with a pinhole camera. There is of course, the infinite depth of field and special distortions associated with pinhole photography. More importantly however, because long exposures are required there is the special confluence of spatial and temporal factors that come together for a single moment in time and pause for the sake of a photograph.

I have wanted to do pinhole portraits for a while. The image above is my first real attempt at it and I am pleased with the results. This was shot with the Holga pinhole camera on Kodak Ektar 100 color film. The exposure was 45 seconds.

For 45 seconds the photographer (me), the subject, and the camera all agreed to stop and wait while the light painted a picture on the film emulsion. The rest of the world carried on as normal but right here in front of the camera we all paused as if for a moment of prayer and waited 45 seconds for the light to do its work.

This is one of the really cool things about film (or photographic paper etc.). It’s a chemical thing. Each emulsion allows this process to occur over time in a unique way that cannot quite be duplicated by digital sensors, at least not yet.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Kodak Duaflex IV Rides Again!

In my last blog I spoke at length about 620 film and cameras in general and the Kodak Duaflex IV in particular, as a tribute to “620 Day” (June 20th) and noted that this was the day every year when some folks (including me) dedicated themselves to shooting with the now (nearly) obsolete film format.

I also talked about how these 620 box cameras provide huge negatives and resulted in photographs that have a unique look and are absolutely beautiful. As you can see the image above shot on re-spooled Kodak Tri-X 120 black and white film supports that claim pretty well.

This photograph is uncropped and pretty much right out of the camera. I straightened it slightly because it was “cocked” a little but otherwise what you see here is the rich black & white image provided by the Kodak Tri-X film.

Tri-X has been my favorite black & white film stock for over 40 years. Known for its “white whites” and “black blacks” it still manages to rival other black & white film emulsions in producing a full range of gray tones to result in of the most striking monochromatic images.  

No doubt, a super high resolution scan of the image above would produce a sharper image but that would kind of defeat the whole point of this exercise. Kodak produced “tons” of relatively inexpensive 620 cameras like the Duaflex for amateur photographers and family snap shots. They were never intended to be used for so called “serious photography” but the amazing thing is they routinely produce some truly beautiful images.

This Kodak Duaflex model, the “IV” was discontinued in 1960 so it is at least 55 years old and performed beautifully with this first roll (for me) except for a few minor light leaks that showed up on a couple frames. Some folks think this just adds to the “unique character” of the photograph. Personally I would be happier without them but can’t complain if the seals leak a little after 55 years of use and now that I know about it, I can easily fix it.