Handmade pinhole photos

“When people ask me what equipment I use - I tell them my eyes.” Anonymous

4 continents and counting…


PUre and simple

how it started…..


I realize that not everyone is familiar with pinhole camera, so the best way I can describe it is that it is simply a light-tight box with a hole in that acts as the lens, and some film on the other side of the box to record the image. The concept has been around since before Aristotle (4th century BC) and was used by painters and later, photographers, to capture images without the use of lenses or technical equipment. It is a fascinating history and even more fascinating to play with. The only difference between the ones I use and the ones Aristotle used is that mine have laser drilled holes to make the image far more precise than was ever imagined back then. I built my first one in junior high and 20 years later got one as a collector’s item that was handmade with beautiful wood. I never intended on using it, but soon after getting it I went on a photo adventure with another photographer to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. At the last minute I threw it in the bag just for fun and I am very glad I did. It poured rain the entire time and I didn’t want to pull out my good equipment so I pulled out my new pinhole camera. After all, there is nothing to hurt since it is just a box with a hole in it. I had sort of an idea of exposure times, but of course, I couldn’t be sure, so I just had fun. It was a great diversion from the technical side of f-stops, shutter speeds, file sizes, color spaces, compression algorithyms and all of that stuff. Once I got the photos back I was hooked. It was back to being an artist again, just looking at light and trying to capture mood in my photos. I chose to focus on rocks and water in unsettled weather because I love the moody look with the long exposures. Of course, that is a personal choice because if you shoot photos in the middle of a sunny day with a pinhole camera, the look isn’t that much different from a ‘normal’ camera. I love the moody look, whether I am using a pinhole camera or a high-end DSLR. To achieve that look, I shoot when the light is low, either at sunrise or sunset, or in the middle of a storm when the skies are dark. I can’t tell you how many crazy looks I get when everyone is running one way to get away from a storm and I am going toward it with a tripod with a little box attached. The problem is that because I am very specific about the light I want to capture, I am usually only able to get one or two photos per day, at most. My cameras are rigged to take roll film and after 3 weeks in Argentina I came back with 2 rolls of 12 images each. Goofy, really goofy, but really fun, too. The lab and my photographer friends thought I was nuts (and probably still do). I, of course, love it and find it very centering and a way to get back to the essence of being an artist. Capture an image that someone standing right next to me never saw. The exposures can be quite long, which means that there will be blur in the water and clouds, and people will be see-through if they are only in the photo part of the time. I have even rigged 3 cameras together so I can make triptychs. All of this to travel across the glove to do landscapes with a pinhole camera, with is the one thing I was taught to NEVER do with a pinhole camera because of the wide angle nature and softness of the image. But, I love the look and there is something very freeing about shooting this way. Not to mention, fun. Sometimes you just have to follow your own path …