Thursday, December 23, 2021

Pinholing on the Shortest Day of the Year

Joe by Fence
23 December 2021 Blog Article

Ethan made the exposure of me, seen at the top of the page, as I posed, with my cigar, in the midday sunlight on the shortest day of the year. It was about a 15 second exposure.

I also made several of Ethan. Here's one of him posed by his Jeep. The logo on the hood of the vehicle looms large in the foreground, due to the extremely wide angle view of the camera, and Ethan is left rather diminutive in size in the background. He was actually only about six feet away.

Ethan by Jeep

What I like about this image, besides making Ethan look like a homeless guy (that's the power of pinhole!) is the sky detail that emerges. Typically the skies in these paper negative images will be blown out to pure white, due to the preponderance of UV and blue light that the paper is very sensitive to. I try to compensate by a slow development (using dilute developer) and monitoring the process so I can pull the negative before it becomes too dense. This of course requires that I tray-process them in the darkroom, rather than in the convenience of a developing tank. To do this properly also requires that you have experience in judging what good shadow detail looks like under the dim red safelights, because good shadow detail typically looks darker than normal in the developer tray. And because my garage-based darkroom is cold this time of year, I had to run a space heater and microwave the chemicals to room temperature before use, which makes the process less spontaneous than I'd like.

Another factor in achieving some sky detail in this image was because the camera has such a wide angle of view, it naturally produces a light-falloff caused by vignetting, which tends to darken the sky if it's placed near an edge or corner of the image.

Here's a close-up image of Ethan, I think this one was 30 seconds long, which of course makes it difficult for the subject to remain entirely still (we haven't yet used a head-brace, like the 19th century portraitists did), but I still like this one, and the wild look it gives Ethan, exaggerated by the camera's extremely wide angle of view:

Ethan by Fence

I do like the rich shadow detail of the fence behind Ethan, which remains remarkably sharp despite the use of a pinhole for a lens.

People have asked me about the pre-flashing I do to the paper in the darkroom beforehand, and what effect it has on the final image. This is done to increase the shadow detail of the image without influencing the highlights, which tends to moderate the otherwise excessive contrast intrinsic to photo paper images. I pre-flashed these particular negatives when they were already in the film holders. But the angle of view of the camera is wider than the pre-flash light source I used, hence if you look at the upper left edge of the above image you can see a direct comparison between pre-flashed and normal paper. You should notice in the upper left edge the sky is darker than in the main part of the image, as is also the edge of the roof line of the shop building. The pinhole image extends slightly beyond the pre-flashed area of the negative, making it very obvious the difference that this technique makes.

The typecast was made onto newsprint paper using the Royal KMM with the very inky cotton ribbon. Not ideal, a bit messy-looking, but I prefer that to a too faint imprint. The search for the perfect ribbon for the KMM goes on!



Blogger Mike said...

Ethan looks to be channeling one of his ancestors from a century back.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Bill M said...

Nice work Joe.

9:37 AM  

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