Monday, April 26, 2010


Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day - yes, there is such a thing. It happened again this year on April 25, which is now in the past. I haven't worked in the medium of pinhole photography for months, having been drawn away by the allure of the digital Lumix G1 and a glass-lensed box camera project, but was inspired by our global annual celebration of the lowest-tech approach to photography that is pinhole, and trekked out to the Ojito Wilderness in New Mexico.

It usually starts early in the morning, when I'm still half-asleep and the first cup of coffee hasn't set in yet; but in the case of this morning, we got a later start, getting the four double-sided 8"x10" sheet film holders loaded in the darkroom with preflashed grade 2 photo paper only after a leisurely breakfast; loading my Grandson's sheet film holders; getting the backpack filled with film holders, light meter, ruler, calculator, pen, paper, stopwatch timer, a few tools and an old black shirt for a darkcloth; loading up two tripods and two cameras, and some water in the truck, and heading out, twenty-some miles north on Interstate 25 to the town of Bernalillo, then northwest on state highway 550 another 20 miles, almost to the even smaller village of San Ysidro, turning off the highway onto Cabezon Road, past the gypsum strip mine, across Zia Pueblo land and into the public, BLM-maintained lands of the Ojito Wilderness.

It was already noon and the day was getting warm and windy when we arrived. I didn't think it would pan out; that the lengthy exposure times required of pinhole cameras would be fouled by the camera's vibrations upon its spindly tripod in the afternoon winds. But we persevered, hiking and setting up for a shot, hiking again and once more setting up for a shot, waiting for the wind to die a bit before pulling the shutter open, a ritual repeated eight times, each time wondering if all this effort was for naught. There's so much that can go wrong with this antiquated process of exposing silver-coated paper in pinhole cameras, a sequence of events, each of which have to work out to an almost ideal state, for there to be adequate results. I think it's the not knowing the outcome before hand, the resulting anticipation and subsequent satisfaction of viewing the results in the tray of developer afterward that brings me back out to the wilderness time and time again with these bulky box cameras.

Today was WPPD, and I feel good for having participated. It reminds me of why I've spent the last decade or more addicted to this pastime of pinhole photography, and why I continue. Now, my Grandson has gotten a start, making a pretty good picture of a boulder that I had trouble with in my larger camera. I think he has a good eye for the craft, one that needs to be honed and refined, of course. Another project, this passing on of the skills and secrets of the craft to the next generation. Life goes on.


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