Always at the forefront of technological advances in photography, last weekend we were making photographs with… beer cans. And cream crackers. I kid you not.
The UK’s go-to Pinhole Photography guru Justin Quinnell made the journey up from deepest darkest Bristol to lead us through the low-tech but enchanting world of the pinhole and the camera obscura. And no-one does it quite like Justin. To acquaint ourselves with the principles of the pinhole, we began by playing with some of Justin’s own camera obscuras, the sort that Blue Peter would be proud of, including the legendary “eye-scura”, fashioned from a bin.
Then the group moved on to hand-crafted cameras made from drinks cans loaded with photographic paper which when exposed, was developed conventionally in our temporary darkroom (also known as the dressing room).
And here’s one of the better beer can results, a self-portrait taken by Chris Hurrell…
Here’s a developed print (a negative – it becomes a positive when scanned and inverted in Photoshop)…
Just to remind us we are in the digital age, Justin also converted a couple of DSLR‘s into pinhole cameras (temporarily, I should stress). And the last activity of the day involved taking pictures with a camera where the “pinholes” were actually the holes in a cream cracker gaffa-taped to the front of a camera (box) resulting in a sort of kaleidoscopic fly’s-eye image.
Never one to let a good thing get away, I hung on to Justin long enough for him to also speak to our f2 club meeting the following evening. As always, Justin is a fascinating and passionate speaker, infecting us all with his enthusiasm and passion. As one person commented on Facebook, “Fantastic talk, a really engaging man. Full of energy for what he does… I’m sure we all benefited from the message that sometimes it doesn’t matter what we get out of it, it’s the trying and the idea that are just as important. No rules, and as he said ‘just do it‘”.
Couldn’t have put it better myself. So I won’t. I’ll just say we look forward to bringing Justin Quinnell back again soon.
All colour images taken (hastily) on iphone.
As someone who has over the years spent enough money on photographic magazines to buy a very nice car, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to find a truly original contemporary publication online – and for free. No need to sign any forms, get out your credit card or hand over any cash.
Square Magazine has been going now for 3 years and is starting to snowball in popularity. Whether you are, like the magazine’s editor-in-chief and my good mate – Christophe Dillinger, a dyed-in-the-wool square format aficionado, or just like to see wonderfully unique and ground-breaking photography, you could do worse than start with Square magazine.
Edition 4.1 is now online and is packed with great images. It’s free! What do you have to lose?
During my weekly office tidy-up – okay, annual office tidy-up – I came across some old 120 negatives that I shot with my Holga many months ago, negatives that I haven’t even really looked at since having them developed. A bit dusty perhaps, a bit random certainly. But worth scanning, I thought.
So I asked my assistant Simon to scan them while I was teaching at the Botanical Gardens. Some of them were so underexposed (as I thought they would be) that neither the scanner nor Simon could tell where one frame ended and the next one began.
Nevertheless, there were a few “interesting” images among them. I did a very small amount of retouching on them (levels and cropping, mainly) and present them here for your amusement…
As you can see, I didn’t even remove the dust. I’m a total maverick, I really am.
Speaking of square images taken with a Holga – which we were, in my last post (See? I don’t just throw this stuff together) – I thought I’d show you a couple of images taken on my Holga during a studio session with the stunning Eliza Beth a couple of weeks ago.
Eliza came along to fotofilia for a shoot with myself and Christophe Dillinger, during which, Christophe and I experimented with some different cameras combined with lighting that they’re not necessarily associated with. I also shot some digital images as a kind of fall-back plan (I’d have hated to waste a shoot like this one). What I didn’t predict is that I’d much prefer the images taken with the Holga to those taken with my DSLR.
Christophe kindly developed and scanned my film and here’s the result, with only a smidgen of adjustment to contrast in Photoshop. In this case, I’ve chosen to display these two frames as a diptych…
Who’d have thought you could have so much fun with a beautiful woman, partially dressed in latex (Eliza Beth, not me – thankfully), in a darkened studio with a plastic camera? You would? Oh, yeah, okay.
Christophe Dillinger – http://www.cdillinger.co.uk/
Been away for the last week or so shooting graduations but now back and gradually recovering from 60 hours a week of “grin and grab”. Apologies if its all been a bit quiet on the blog front. Now, back to business as usual…
If, like Christophe Dillinger and his disciples of SQUARE, you favour the squareness of the square format, have a look at these natty square image frames from Phlib…
They come in various colours, display nine 3″ x 3″ prints (which can be changed whenever you like via the magnet system), can be hung alongside others to create a humungous veritable festival of squareness. Conveniently, each “window” is a whisker or two bigger than a single square frame of 120 film and so might also suit contact prints or cyanotypes shot on 120, as well as the obvious Holga and Lomo usage.
Get in early and order a pre-sale unit (they’re not in production as yet until they’re convinced there will be demand – ie. 30 units) for only £19.99 instead of the full eventual price of £32.48. At the time of writing, 20% of the initial batch have already been ordered and my order will boost this even more.
I think they look like an excellent and stylish way to present square format images. I’m even considering organising an exhibition/competition around images presented using them.
To read more about them and order, see http://www.phlib.co.uk/collections/frames/products/phlib-hipstamatic-3×3
And did I mention they’re square?
Further thoughts on my “discovery” of the Holga.
Format : So it’s plastic, with a plastic lens, and the back is held on by tape, and it shoots film. Not just any film, mind you. My Holga also shoots 120 roll film – not even the easiest film format to get your hands on – although there’s also a 35mm Holga. I could even (as I mentioned in Part 1) adapt my 120 Holga to shoot 35mm with a few more “mods”.
I have the option of 6x6cm or 6×4.5cm formats, simply by selecting one of the two easily-fitted inserts. I’m choosing the lovely square 6x6cm format, but I’ve removed the insert altogether which maximises the vignette effect that these cameras are known for whilst also providing a nice (some think) “bled” border to the negative. As with most 120 cameras, 6×6 gives 12 exposures and 6×4.5 gives 15 exposures. I’ve chosen to shoot on 6×6 square format even though this presents additional problems working out what will be included in the frame compared with what I can see through the viewfinder.
Operation : Well. It won’t take long to explain this at least – Shutter speed is about 1/100 second. End of. Aperture is either f8(ish) or f11(ish) and that’s the exposure control explained. There are a few focus options on the lens, but as you view through a separate viewfinder, there’s no way of knowing whether you’re in focus or not. The pictorial guide on the focussing ring is exactly that, a guide. Minimum focussing distance is said to be about 3-4 feet although the quirks of the plastic lens mean that nothing seems to ever be truly either in focus or out of focus.
Creative Liberation? : I’ve read (including in “Plastic Cameras”) that photographers find using the Holga a liberating experience because of the simple lack of options compared with your regular digital camera with its bewildering range of menu possibilities – just point and shoot.
That’s not necessarily my own experience though. I know my Nikon DSLR well enough to be able to take acceptable pictures in almost any lighting situation without too much stress or pre-planning. That isn’t the situation with the Holga – I have to pre-plan every shot I take. I know enough about photography to know that given the limited setting options provided by the Holga, there is a minimal range of lighting situations in which the camera will produce what would normally be thought of as acceptable results. With the cost of film + trade developing (excluding any scanning) amounting to close on £10 a film, I’m loathe to shoot away without the expectation of at least a reasonable yield of printable images for my trouble.
Consequently, I choose the film I use to be the most versatile in our miserable climate, usually 400 ISO. Apart from that I simply don’t even take a shot if I guess that the light isn’t right.
But this is, I think, the real value in my experiments with the Holga: I have had to approach taking photographs in a different, more thoughtful and deliberate way, just as I did when I exclusively used medium format film cameras. I’m flexing my “visualisation muscle” again and I’d say that’s no bad thing.
http://www.silverprint.co.uk/ – retailers of Holgas
After listening to several of Christophe Dillinger’s talks about the wonderful world of plastic cameras I eventually decided to invest a few of my birthday vouchers and buy a Chinese-made Holga camera.
It arrived in a nice box, with a very informative, refreshingly warts-and-all instruction book and I eagerly unwrapped it and held this unprepossessing plastic box in my trembling fingers. I already knew, having handled a few of these cameras, not to expect anything especially impressive – and in that sense I wasn’t disappointed – it certainly couldn’t be described as impressive.
The first thing that strikes you is the weight – or lack of it. This is a very light camera. In fact it pretty much doubles in weight when you load a film! But then it would be: the few bits that aren’t made of plastic are made of the flimsiest metal (such as the clips that hold the camera back in place). Build quality isn’t, as enthusiasts and manufacturers alike would acknowledge, exactly first class.
But then these cameras, and other similar plastic-lensed cameras, were first marketed as toys, only being picked up by “serious” photographers on a small scale at first before becoming the cult objects they have latterly become. I suspect though that my Holga would last about two minutes in the hands of most kids.
Mods: The manual that came with the camera, as well as the excellent book I spent the remainder of my Amazon vouchers on – “Plastic Cameras” by Michelle Bates – recommended certain modifications (or “mods” to the initiated) before putting a roll of film (did I mention that as well as having a plastic lens, the Holga shoots film?) through it. This included putting two strips of black electrical tape across the camera’s inner moulding to ease the film’s transport without scratching the film emulsion. I was also advised to put three pieces of gaffer tape on the back of the camera: two to hold the camera’s back on – yes, ON – the flimsy clips have a tendency to slip/spring off thereby revealing your film to the elements (and light) mid-shoot.
The third piece of gaffer tape goes over the small frame counter window, which is notorious for letting in light, so fogging the film. This means that during use, the tape has to be lifted (in subdued light) to check frame numbers or to advance the film to the next frame.
Some users surpass even these measures and insert all manner of sponge, elastic and tape to their Holgas. Many of the mods are to prevent stray light from flooding in to the sieve-like body but its also possible to adapt your 120 camera to shoot 35mm (but why bother? – they make a 35mm version!).
More in part two…
http://www.silverprint.co.uk/ – retailers of Holgas