DIY Pinhole Camera: The Great Pinholio

Pinhole cameras are something I’ve seen lots of photographers use, often to fantastic effect. Making great use of motion blurs, people moving, and the exaggerated wide angle that often accompanies the simplest of cameras. Surprisingly, I’ve never tried my hand at it, but I’ve been seeing so many interesting images created using pinhole cameras (for example, Moni’s Blatherskite blog – some great images produced while wheeling a camera around on a trolley in a library) that I thought I had to give it a go.

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The Peak District on Ilford Pan 100

Last month we took a trip with some friends to a tiny camping barn in the Peak District, for a 30th birthday celebration. Lots of laughs were had, new friends made, and I struggled to work through a roll of film. Not for any particular reason, I just couldn’t find anything that looked as good through the viewfinder as I expected.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I finally developed the roll of Ilford Pan 100 yesterday, (in Rodinal, 1+25, 9 minutes). The Pan 100 was a gift from the Emulsive Secret Santa last year, and I’d not used it before. It gives a wide range of tones, some fantastic sharpness and deep, lovely blacks. I’ll definitely be buying another couple of rolls!

A tale of a ruined film

It’s perhaps inevitable that at some point in a film photographer’s life, he or she will mess up a roll. I’ve been having ongoing problems with developing at home, and today was no exception. Yesterday was Grillstock, a festival of food and music here in Bristol, and I took my new 24mm Superwide lens out, loaded with a fresh roll of HP5+. I shot a whole roll in one day, taking loads of photos of the event in the sunshine, as well as lots of shots of my friends and I at night, drinking and chatting and having a lovely old time.

This morning (despite my colossal hangover), I attempted to transfer the roll onto a reel, in a changing bag. Same as I have done, many times previously. However the film just wouldn’t go onto the reel – it kept sticking and tearing and buckling. As I kept trying, getting more annoyed, making the inside of the bag sweatier (nice), the film kept buckling and creasing. After about 30 minutes of annoyance, I eventually had to cut the roll to eventually get it onto the roll. I resigned myself to the fact that this roll was probably ruined – the heat and moisture in the bag had made section of it stick to itself, which is not a good thing for delicate emulsion. I processed it anyway (stand developed in Rodinal 1:100 for an hour), fixed and hung it up to dry. Checking the date on my fixer, I groaned again – it was WAY out of date, and cloudy. This roll was doomed.

One small thing to take from this disappointing morning, was that I seem to have alleviated some of the problems of bromide drag, I’d experienced previously. I did this by pre-washing the film, and keeping the tank in a water bath while it sat for an hour. There is still some evidence of drag, but only on the portions of film where it was also very creased – this probably didn’t help.

So, what did I learn? I need to find out why my reels are sticking and tearing my film. I need to buy more fixer (in a smaller quantity, perhaps). I also need to perfect the pre-wash and water bath technique, to hopefully eradicate bromide drag altogether.

The few salvageable photos are below – I like the energy and fun times captured, but I can’t help but feel disheartened with the results, technically. I’ve been enjoying colour photography a lot more, recently, and this episode has only helped push me towards colour, as I don’t develop it myself!

If anyone has any rips for my reel problem, I’d love to hear them in the comments!