Some time ago I read about a workshop dedicated to instructing participants in building their own pinhole camera and venturing into the field to record some images. Somehow this idea resonated with me. I didn’t attend the workshop but built my own camera anyway.

I decided that I would go for the 4×5 format as an ample-sized negative would suggest more in the way of sharpness I had always dreamt of dabbling in LF photography.

Jens Kotlenga DIY Pinhole camera in action
Jens Kotlenga DIY Pinhole camera in action

I chose Fomapan 100 film to experiment with. Cost-effectiveness was the deciding factor here, and I was more than willing to tolerate some quirks in terms of slight manufacturing defects. These, however, turned out to be minimal. I developed the sheets in Rodinal, digitized them and tweaked the files slightly adjusting brightness and contrast to suit the impression I wanted to create. No sharpening, though, as to me that seemed pretty counter-productive in the given context.

Recently I took the pinhole contraption with me on a short trip to the Baltic, focusing on seascapes and a bit of architecture. The atrocious reciprocity failure behaviour of Fomapan and an effective aperture of f/190 on the pinhole turned out to be a blessing in disguise: long exposure times of up to 10 minutes gave me soft skies and water, which was what I was after: light and time melting into one.

The experience also taught me to simplify my image composition, going for simple, straightforward compositions rather than relying on textures and fine detail. I hope that this insight will be reflected in my other work. In the meantime, the LF bug seems to have gotten hold of me and the pinhole experience has added two 4×5 cameras to my equipment. But that is a different story…

~ Jens



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