Pinhole Photography in Niagara River Gorge

September 26, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

ZeroImage 35mm Pinhole Camera and Kodak Max 400 color negative film.ZeroImage Pinhole CameraPhotography simplified One of the reasons I love photography so much is that gets me out, away from the busyness and routine of the everyday life. It gives me an opportunity to get lost in my thoughts and vision and see the world around me with a renewed interest and intensity. It was this feeling years ago that prompted me to start closing my blog posts with "enjoy the beauty that surrounds you" #etbtsy.

Pinhole photography takes that concept to the next level. It drastically simplifies the whole photographic experience and allows me to fully focus on the experience. Most of the technicalities simply go away.

There is no lens, just a tiny hole through the front of the camera in its place. As a result, any considerations for the aperture opening (f-stop) go away. These cameras have a fixed aperture size and it is very, very small. The resulting f-stops are usually between 100 and 200. That removes any depth of field considerations. Anything front to back will have the same level of focus. You will often hear that pinhole cameras have an unlimited depth of field. That's an interesting combination with the other fact that images from pinhole cameras are never really "sharp", especially by today's standards.

Down the Lower Niagara Rapids, Niagara River Gorge. 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max color negative film.Down the Lower Niagara RapidsNiagara River Gorge

Down the Lower Niagara Rapids
Photographed with a 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max 400 film

Since I am talking about pinhole photography on film here, once the film is chosen and in the camera that removes another variable during photography. There is no changing of the light sensitivity (ISO/ASA) mid-roll. With the aperture fixed and the light sensitivity fixed only one variable remains, and that is the shutter speed. And that is usually not a real variable. The shutter speed needs to correspond to the level of light hitting the scene to achieve a proper exposure. Whirlpool Rapids Bridges, Niagara River Gorge. 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max color negative film.Whirlpool Rapids BridgesNiagara River Gorge

Whirlpool Rapids Bridges
Photographed with a 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max 400 film

I carry an external light meter when out and about with a pinhole camera but whether I use it or not depends on the situation. On a sunny summer day no light meter is needed and the good old Sunny 16 rule works remarkably well. Sunny 16 states that you can set your aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to 1/ISO. For example, with an ISO 400 film, 1/16 and 1/400 sec. will result in a good exposure. With today's cameras that would mean using a 1/500 sec. (if shutter speed set manually). Rocky Banks of Niagara River, Niagara River Gorge. 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max color negative film.Rocky Banks of Niagara RiverNiagara River Gorge

Rocky Banks of Niagara River
Photographed with a 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max 400 film

Now let's see how this applies to the pinhole camera used for all of the photographs in today's post. The 35mm ZeroImage camera features an f-stop of f/136. Going from the Sunny 16 f/16, we have these steps: f/22, f/32, f/45, f/64, f/90, f/128 (close enough to f/136). With each next f-stop the amount of light hitting the film is cut in half and thus the shutter speed needs to double to compensate. In our example, we have to double it 6 times: 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8.

The Kill Zone, Niagara River Gorge. 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max color negative film.The Kill ZoneNiagara River Gorge

The Kill Zone
Photographed with a 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max 400 film

Things get a bit fuzzy from here but in my experience that is just fine with pinhole photography. The Kodak Max 400 I was using was over 10 years expired and thus I decided to rate it at 200 instead of 400. With that the shutter speed goes to 1/4 sec. And the light was not really at a full summer blast so I decided to go to 1/2 sec. All this "accuracy" is not really critical with this camera. As you can see in the picture the shutter is a wooden slider that is moved manually. However, what this helped me determine was that the required shutter speed was slow enough and I could use this camera and film combo and simply open and close the shutter within about 1/2 second.

After this initial mental exercise, it was just photography. The lighting remained about the same the whole afternoon and all I had to do was find a scene I liked, lay the camera on a rock, guess the angle of view, press the camera down with my left hand and open and close the shutter latch with my right. And don't forget to advance! I always wind to the next frame right after taking a picutre to avoid unintentional double exposures.

Water Zooming By, Niagara River Gorge. 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max color negative film.Water Zooming ByNiagara River Gorge

Water Zooming By
Photographed with a 35mm ZeroImage pinhole camera on expired Kodak Max 400 film

I rarely use expired film but did have a few rolls of this expired Kodak Max 400 and figured this was the perfect use for it, with the lose definition of focus and proper exposure. It was also an opportunity to try pinhole photography in color as I almost always use black and white film for this purpose. And finally, I took advantage of the dual formats supported by the ZeroImage camera and removed the frame spacers for a slightly wider panoramic view.

What do you think about this bare bones take on photography? Does the lack of sharpness bother you or are you alright with it? In 35mm, the effect is definitely more pronounced as the tiny original image gets more magnified for viewing. With 6x6 or 6x9, some pinhole photographs may be hard to tell from regular lenses photos. And in large format, it they may be unrecognizable.

A different point of view to judge this lack of sharpness by is my reality. I have been wearing glasses for a while and every few years they get stronger. When I take them off my world is far from sharp and exact. Pinhole photography gives me a chance to show the world more of what I see without my lenses.

Enjoy The Beauty That Surrounds You! #etbtsy

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