Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

This past Sunday was World Pinhole Photography day. Needless to say, Alex and I built pinhole cameras. Alex took the smart approach, and modified an existing camera, removing the lens and replacing it with a pinhole. You can see Alex's very successful results here.

In contrast, I took the "lots of cardboard and silver tape" approach:

This approach proved to be considerably less successful, as can be seen from my finest result of the day:

Wadda ya mean you can't tell what that is? Maybe you should try squinting. And ignore the dark blobs on the right, since that's just stray cardboard fibers or something. No? Still nothing? How about now:

This picture was taken at the Essex Steam Train yard in Connecticut. If the scan looks a little weird, it's because the scanning was almost as improvised as the camera itself. Walgreens was, shockingly, unable to adequately scan my utterly whacked and irregular negatives. The "photo cd" that I got from them contained only this:

Which, now that I'm thinking of it, might be a better picture than the one of the train. In any case, I scanned the negative myself. Lacking a film scanner, I used a flatbed scanner, and backlit the negative using an iPod touch with the Flashlight app:

Necessity is apparently the mother of both crappy cardboard pinhole cameras, and crappy film scans. Next time I'd like to try modifying a digital camera. Maybe I'll use my FX37. Which, incidentally, Panasonic has returned to me, fixed and good as new, at no charge.


  1. Nice picture of you and the two modified cameras Ben.
    What kind of motorcycle was that?
    Your attempt at the camera reminds me of an exhibit at the MN Science Museum - a small dark building that has a peephole cut so that the outside world is projected onto an interior wall, just upside down and backwards.
    - Chris

  2. Hey Chris! That is a 1977 Honda 550 F. It was my motorcycle back in the day, and the last time I traveled around the US I rode that motorcycle as far as Alex's place, and then abandoned it there, thus making it Alex's motorcycle.
    My camera was like that building, only with less image, and more failure.

  3. Oh, what memories this brings back. I used to get World magazine and they had all these things for kids to do. One was building your own camera! We also used to go to the creek and catch tadpoles and bring them home. Until dad said to put them back, as they would grow into big frogs and scare the dogs. And play in the sprinklers in the front lawn and do cartwheels. I wonder if kids still do things like that. Or if they are too busy downloading music and watching youtube.

  4. I don't know if kids are still doing things like this, but clearly I am. Except for the tadpole catching. Haven't done much of that.

    Is it the frogs that were going to play in the sprinklers and scare the dogs? Because man, he wasn't kidding, those would be some big frogs.

  5. When I was in school my roommate took me along with her to work on her pinhole camera project around town. I had no idea what she was doing or what a pinhole camera was, only that I was holding a round Christmas tin with a tiny hole in the top. It is partially her fault for not really explaining what she was doing, but in my never-failing need to investigate curious-looking things, I popped the lid off the tin to see why there was a hole in it.

    Thankfully my friend, Bethany, had plenty of replacement negative film/sheets with her. Live and learn.


  6. Yeah, my entire pinhole experience falls into the "live and learn" category.