Pinhole Project Update

I’m beginning my last photo project of undergrad and I’ve decided I’m going to build pinhole cameras out of mostly salvaged materials and make into a camera. Essentially, I am trying to explore what photography could look like after an apocalypse of some kind, like an environmental disaster where the latest Canon $3,000 DSLR could become useless.
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For reference I’ve mostly been using a book I bought used on Amazon, Pinhole Cameras: A DIY Guide by Chris Keeney, as my guide. I’ve also been reading Minimal Aperture Photography Using Pinhole Cameras by John Warren Oakes and Pinhole Photography From Historic Technique to Digital Application by Eric Renner, though these are more complicated.

Below is the first image I was able to create using a large peanut can and 5×7″ darkroom paper. I scanned the image and reversed the values in Photoshop.

scan

The best piece of advice I ran into was suggested by Keeney’s book: scanning pinholes to bring them into Photoshop and measure them. I used an online pinhole calculator to determine pinhole sizes for various containers. The focus on each of the cameras I’ve made so far has been far more sharp than I ever expected.

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Here are a few images I took just this week. You can expect to see a lot more as I start cramming my project into my last few weeks of undergrad.

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Just for fun shoot

I so rarely go out to shoot for myself. It’s a good thing Ethan’s there to make me get out there and create images just for fun. I’m always glad I did.

Graveyard 2
Mamiya 645 1000s, Kodak Ektar 100

 

Graveyard 3
Mamiya 645 1000s, Kodak Ektar 100

 

 

Graveyard 8
Mamiya 645 1000s, Kodak Ektar 100

 

Graveyard 10
Mamiya 645 1000s, Kodak Ektar 100

 

Medium format comparison

Take a guess: Which of the following images is medium format digital and which is film?

Graveyard digital mamiya

 

mediumformatbattle

I took the opportunity to borrow the University of Iowa’s Mamiya 645 camera with a digital back out to shoot and compare with my own Mamiya 645 1000s, which uses film.

Both cameras absolutely have their advantages and disadvantages. The digital is bulky, creates enormous files (which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage), and would cost thousands of dollars (probably $20,000+) if I were to buy it myself. Obviously, as a soon-to-be college graduate with a liberal arts degree, this isn’t feasible for me and likely never will be.

At the same time, I could see my images instantly on the back of the camera, never had to deal with film, and had great results.

I’ll keep this post short because I’m not going to debate which image is the winner. The compositions of these two images are of course not equal (I think the top image’s composition is much better) but it’s fascinating to finally observe them side by side.

Answer:

Top image: Mamiya 645 with digital back

Bottom image: Mamiya 645 1000s, Kodak Portra 400 film

 

Iowa Project Update 4

I’m beginning the last semester of undergrad and have decided to focus on my rural Iowa project for these next few months of school before graduation.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to open myself up to new techniques, cameras, and film stocks because I want to use whatever tools suit my project best (even if they don’t happen to be film).

During my first semester working on the project, I stuck to the Hasselblad exclusively because I didn’t want to mix square format images with other ratios. After spending a few days looking through artists’ photobooks, though, I found that many were able to mix ratios to great success.

I ended up trying a Canon 5D Mark III, which I mostly enjoyed, and a  Mamiya 645 digital camera (blog comparing this to my Mamiya 645 1000s film camera to come) to put any biases I had against digital to the test. I definitely like using the Mark III, especially for portraits and indoor work, but when I’m shooting digital, I work too quickly. I think it’s because I have so many opportunities to just click, click, click, click that I don’t take time to compose. I’ll definitely have to try the Mark III again in the future though and keep pace in mind next time.

Gear aside, scroll down to see my most recent results.

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Hasselblad 503CW, Fujifilm Pro 400H

 

Walcott 1.jpg
Hasselblad 503CW, Kodak Portra 160VC (exp. 2009)

 

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Canon 5D Mark III

 

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Hasselblad 503CW, Kodak Portra 160VC (exp. 2009)

 

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Hasselblad 503CW, Kodak Portra 160VC (exp. 2009)

To view my past updates of this project, click the links below:
Update 1 
Update 2
Update 3

January: 52-Week Photo Challenge

I’ve completed the first four weeks of my 52-week photo challenge where I am making Instax photos based on my partner Ethan Zierke‘s original haiku. Check out my first post for a full project description.

Jan. 1-7: Poets toss rotting
books from knotted shelves to fro-
-thing populations

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Jan. 8-14: A new snow dusting
Above old fixtures rusting
Long live frozen towns

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Jan. 15-21: the quiet surrounds:
swallowing sounds, each louder
than my heart expounds

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Jan. 22-28: impossible, yes,
the silence cannot listen:
what is there to say?

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Iowa Project Update 3

This winter I was able to use the university’s Hasselblad camera to continue my rural Iowa photography project over break. My goal was to shoot about 10 rolls of film in the five weeks but I ended up shooting only about two and a half, one still being unfinished inside the camera.

My motivation was definitely effected by the fact that I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my images for a month after shooting them because I lacked access to the school’s scanner. My sudden loss of interest made me doubt my long-term commitment to this project and also how sustainable it would be after I gradate in May, losing many of the tools I use.

Regardless, I sat down and scanned my two finished rolls of film on the first day of school and the good images reenergized me. Though I’m open to new ideas, I think I’ll continue this project until the end of the semester.

At the same time, I would like to expand on this project and push it forward. This semester, my goal is to keep working with the same rural Iowa themes and motifs but adding more portraits. I’m not sure yet whether I would like to capture them street photography style (which sounds funny considering they’re rural) or planned/staged yet. I’m not even certain I want to keep working completely on the Hasselblad. I’m considering switching to one of the school’s 4×5 large format cameras or (gasp) a DSLR.

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Hasselblad 501CM, Kodak Ektar 100

 

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Hasselblad 501CM, Kodak Portra 400

 

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Hasselblad 501CM, Kodak Portra 400

 

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Hasselblad 501CM, Kodak Ektar 100

Year in Review

I’m currently making photography resolutions including learning how to sell my photos and beginning a 52-week photo challenge. But I recently realized that looking back at accomplishments over the last year can be just as important as setting goals for the next. I also want to look at my year in review.

I learned a lot in 2016. I took a class on large format photography. I gained the courage to ask strangers if I may take their portraits. I participated in my first three photography shows, two group shows with my class and one online.

More than  anything, though, the best decision I made for my photography was starting a blog. In the past, I was reluctant to share my work. I didn’t want any of it out in the world for others to see until I felt completely ready.

Instead of allowing me to improve privately without judgement, hiding my work set me back. I was convinced I should keep my images private until I considered myself a fully fledged photographer.

But that’s just not how it works. I rarely shot anything except when it was required for class and I hated the results when I did. Working alone in secret gave me little motivation to make anything at all.

The piece of advice that changed my mindset came from Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. I read the book several times in years past but his words finally sunk in in 2016: “You can’t wait until you know who you are to get started.”

If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started “being creative,” well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.

—Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

I knew he was right. I couldn’t wait until I perfected my work to start interacting with others. I had to hone it by sharing. And so I launched this blog in September 2016.

Composing a blog post every week was a challenge, but now I’ve written over 20 posts and am glad I took time to make every one of them. I went through at least double the film I was before starting my blog, probably more. Plus, knowing the images would be public forced me to try even harder to produce my best work every time I went shooting.

Secondly, starting a blog allowed me to find a community of photographers online. Between this site and my Twitter account, I’ve learned acquired all kinds of useful advice. Any time I have a question, I now have a small army of film photographers I can call on for help.

Lastly, my blog offered me a space to share work in progress from where I am right now at this moment in photography, not where I will ultimately end up. Looking at my blog as a sketchbook rather than a perfectly curated gallery allows me to focus on what’s most important: to keep creating work. One day I might look back at the work I am making now and dislike it. But the fact remains that continuing to shoot is the only way to get where I am going.

Here are some of my favorite images I made in 2016:

marquette-1print

 

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oxford-1

 

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matthew_01

 

lomo-experiment-1

 

 

 

 

 

Video Review: Cinestill 800T

For my third and last (maybe?) 35mm film stock review, I tried CineStill 800T. The results were stunning and I would choose this film over Kodak Portra for portrait work any day. Below are some of the images I show during the video.

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Minolta X-700, CineStill 800T
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Minolta X-700, CineStill 800T
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Minolta X-700, CineStill 800T
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Minolta X-700, CineStill 800T
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Minolta X-700, CineStill 800T
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Minolta X-700, CineStill 800T
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Minolta X-700, CineStill 800T

Hanging Prints with Magnets

One year ago, I tried to Google how to hang gallery images with magnets and my search turned up almost nothing, so I wanted to share the method I’ve used to hang group gallery shows.

Using magnets is great because it’s much cheaper than framing work and it still looks professional. All you need are nails or screws from the hardware store (not copper or aluminum) and small disc magnets, which you can buy for about $0.25 each.

You can find the magnets I used online here. The discs are about the same circumference as a normal nail head and are strong enough to hold my 16×16″ prints.

The first step of this hanging method, and probably the most difficult one, is taking measurements. I used a ruler to measure out where each of my prints would go in pencil leaving several inches between each.

Next, I put nails on each corner about half an inch inward from my measurements. This way, the magnets will sit on the boarders of your image instead of insecurely on the very corners of your prints.

You can hammer the nails all the way into the wall so your prints will lie right against it, but I prefer to hammer the nails in just enough that they are secure. This way, my prints sit about one inch from the wall, which provides some dimension.

Magnet Mounting Diagram

Gallery display nail setup
I measured out 16×16″ squares in a grid pattern then hammered in four nails on each corner.

Once your nails are in place, hanging work is easy. Simply center the print on top of its four nails and place a magnet on each corner.

You can learn more complex methods that use magnets here.

 

Here are other supplies I used to hang my show:

  • Clamp lights, available at hardware stores
  • Outdoor spot floodlights
  • Hammer or screwdriver
  • Extension cord, preferably with several outlets
    • OR an extension cord and a surge protector
  • Printed/mounted artist statement

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Click here to view the images I displayed in this show.