Check out my nifty new camera! Is it not just gorgeous? Top of the line paint can, er, pinhole camera, and I had an absolute blast with it, thanks to my most awesomely talented cousin, Therese's and her pinhole workshop. (Follow the link for some photos and a description of the fun.)
Picture about 9 or so women, most of us with no experience using this technology, but all of us anxious to learn. Therese gave us a bit of history, examples of pinhole photographs, a handout with technical info, and then the fun began.
She led us upstairs into a darkened room, with what looked like a huge brown trash bag taped over the window. In reality, it was some sort of light blocking photo paper. One tiny hole in the "trash bag" admitted a tiny bit of light into the room.
We ringed the outside edges of the room, waiting for our eyes to adjust. Ever so slowly, an upside down image began to appear...the house, trees, and yard across the street. Lots of oooohs, ahhhs, and excited talking.
Basically,we all had gone "down the pinhole" and straight into the inside of a camera obscura! In other words, we stood inside a camera, seeing an image the way it would see it, and I loved it!
Back downstairs, where Therese issued our new paint cans, cameras, explained how to load the paper, work the "shutter" or black tape covering the pinhole, and about how long to expose the photo, which, turned out to be a real guessing game.
Before letting us out, she took us into the dark room, another new experience for me, and we talked through the four steps of what we needed to do - photo developing solution, a solution that halted the developing process, a solution that that fixed everything, and then a water rinse. This room was DARK, only lit by a few red bulbs.
Then, out we went, scouting for things to shoot...pine cones, ourselves ( pinhole selfies!), prayer flags, etc. Eventually, we shot the skeleton residing on Therese's porch, ultimately dragging him into the bright sunshine.
Go out, shoot, come back in, enter the darkroom cautiously. We didn't want to let light in at the critical moment, nor did we want to bump into or step on each other. The light into dark business took some adjusting.
We dropped the paper into the developer and held our breath. Some photos came out pitch black (over exposed), some came out nearly white (underexposed), both which elicited groans and a few mild oaths, but every now and then we got something really cool, which resulted in shrieks of delight.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Inevitably, we lost track of watching the clock, which threw off the timing of it all. No matter, we just kept playing. One type of paper gave us a negative print, the other a direct print. It turned our that each type required different timing, both with exposure and developing.
For me, I learned to totally surrender control. With digital, the result is instant. I can see if I got the shot or not, then adjust accordingly, right on the spot. With a pinhole, I did a lot of estimating both when shooting, and then again with developing. My images had a softer and definitely less focused feel, and since I wasn't looking through a view finder, I could only guess at what the camera saw. I had quite a few surprises!
Even though I ended with precious few "good" shots, I loved it all, the newness of it, Therese's unflappability in dealing with all these women needing help, the learning curve - just all of it. I want to do more.
If I stick with the pinhole camera I brought home, I need stuff I don't have - a dark room, chemicals, so on. If I get really brave, I can buy a more elaborate pinhole camera, use film, and travel back into time, when I sent away the film and had to wait for it to come back to see what I got. I can see it happening, folks!
So, thank you Therese, just thank you and I'm hoping for more workshops on cyanotypes and lumen prints. I'd gladly pay to repeat a pinhole workshop, because I'm so obviously at the start of a learning curve.