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Monday, 9 September 2013

Projects: a photo book and a pinhole camera


By on Monday, September 09, 2013

Photography is one of the favourite pastimes of my husband and myself, and over the course of our stay here in Hong Kong, we have surely taken a lot of photos from the places we have visited and the experiences we have encountered. Of course, we have shared those photos on Flickr and Instagram, but we thought it would also be nice to have something more tangible, like an old-school photo album or better yet, a coffee table book. So one evening, the idea of co-authoring our first photo journal was made into reality, and #HongKong (Volume 1) was born.

The photos in our book were taken using either an iPhone (4 and 4S), a point-and-shoot camera (Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3) or a DSLR (Nikon D3100). While we also have some background on taking photos using non-digital devices, ie film cameras such as the rangefinder and the SLR (without the D), we thought of further expanding our knowledge in that area (and hopefully include some film photos in Volume 2) by going back to the basics. So we decided to attend a workshop on pinhole cameras and work on our next project – taking photos using our own DIY pinhole camera.

FYI, a pinhole camera is a very basic camera which only has a very tiny hole as 'lens' and a light-proof box (or even a roasted duck, according to our workshop instructor Martin Cheung) as body. Simple as it is, there is nothing simple about the way one could achieve a perfect photo. But that is the challenge and the beauty of it. Our goal is to be able to apply the basic principles of photography to be able to achieve 'artistic' results. Beat that, ready-made lomo cameras!

Anyway, during our workshop, Martin was kind enough to provide a pattern for creating a pinhole camera made out of a black cardboard box. For first-timers like us, it proved to be very helpful. It may seem to be just a matter of following the pattern but cutting the cardboard and creating a box isn't what matters. What's in the box is what matters.

What's in the box? It's the film with your shots, that is!

First of all, make sure the no light will be able to come through your box, except for the light that will be coming through the pinhole. Equally as important is that the hole should only be the size of the head of the pin, so that the resulting image would have the right level of sharpness. Once you are able to achieve these, it is time to load the film. Martin has an ingenious way of making the roll of film rotate inside the box, by using an empty canister and a cut piece of plastic from a ring binder. Finally, seal the box with black tape – everything inside and outside the box should be made out of non-reflective materials.

You can customise the size and shape of the box as you please, and even add other materials to the body of your pinhole camera, like a magnet so it could easily attach to poles, or a tripod socket. It's all up to you. Just be reminded that some considerations are required when shooting with a pinhole camera, ie the focal length, which depends on the distance between the hole and the film; the f-stop, which depends on the focal length and the size of the hole (aperture); and the shutter speed, which depends on the f-stop. Most of the time, it is a matter of trial-and-error. The most exciting part is being able to see the results of your shots once you have used up and developed your film. And that would be a topic for a future post.

Iza A.

Iza A. is a former writer and freelance editor in the Philippines. She now lives in Hong Kong and works in an office. She enjoys blogging during her free time, which explains why she doesn't blog as frequently as she used to anymore.

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