Living in 18th century – Pinhole Camera – Making and Experimenting

How does it feel to replicate an 18th century technology — its borderline feeling stupid and exhilarated. Stupid because, well, the technique was used over a century ago, exhilarated because of the joy of learning something from first principles. We – Priyanka, Khusboo, Yashi, Puneet, Geeta and I – successfully made and operated a pinhole camera resulting in a photograph that was developed and fixed at home. Without overloading with the how and whys, this was the final outcome. Yes, its a negative image because we directly exposed the photopaper. It was inverted in lightroom to get the positive.

Now there are numerous websites talking about what a pin hole camera is. Wikipedia article on pinhole being a good start. In short its just a light tight box, where on one side there is a ‘pinhole’ and on the other side is a negative or photo paper. We directly used photo paper as a negative as to use a real negative, develop it, fix it  and to make a print from it  required more equipment that we were ready for. In all we used,

To make the pinhole camera

  • A cardboard box
  • Black tape to make it lightproof
  • Aluminum foil
  • A needle
  • A cutter or knife

To make a print

  • Photo Paper
  • Developer
  • Fixer (Hypo)
  • Water
  • Plastic Trays

Getting Photo Paper, Developer and Fixer in Bangalore itself was a challenge, but finally got it Foto Circle near Majestic (Ph: 080 22874356, Mr. Jayesh). We actually made two, one was made in the night, but did not yield well exposed prints (even after 30 minutes of exposure). The other one shown below was used to expose an outside scene around 5pm in the evening.

There were lot of thing I was not sure in the whole process. Learned some basics in the process.

  • Size of the Pinhole: I had read that it should not be too big which will cause blurring and should not be too small as it would also lead to blurring due to diffraction. I think the optimal size is somewhere around 0.2-0.5mm diameter, although there are more refined calculations available online.
  • Focal Length: The focal length of the camera we built is about 125mm as the paper is kept at about that distance from the hole, however this is for a 125mm negative (or the size of the paper on one dimension). Thus the 35mm equivalent focal length is about 35mm itself (35mm x 125 / 125). Meaning that this camera is good for semi-wide angle images.
  • Aperture: The width of the hole in our camera is about 0.5mm, thus the fnumber is about 125mm/0.5mm = f/250
  • ISO of the paper: Now, usually people will use negatives in pinhole camera but we used photo paper directly. It took us about 3 minutes to expose a 5pm cloudy scene. The same scene was rightly exposed with the DSLR using 35mm, f/3.5, 100ISO, 1/120 sec. Mapping to the numbers of our camera f/3.5 to f/250 is about -12 stops, 1/120 sec to 3 minutes is about +14 stops, so most likely the ISO of the paper is 100 with – 2stops or about 25ISO. This is just a wild guess, but I think good enough to measure the right time of exposure for our pinhole camera by using the DSLR to get the times.
  • Developing/Fixing: I used the measurement mentioned on the pack, and using normal dilution of the developer it took about 20 sec to develop and 10 sec to fix, followed by washing it for 15 mins.

The next step would be how to make the photo paper, developer and the fixer at home or make it from first principles. Ultimately I want to try tintype and ambrotype photography for which I will also need to make a large format lens based camera at home.

Bannerghatta National Park, Karnataka

A short pleasant trip to Bannerghatta National Park

I am not a very big wild life photography person, or so I think. But Bannerghatta was a pleasant experience. About 40 kms from my home (near IndiraNagar), its a perfect day trip (prefer the elevated toll road and another toll road instead of the Bannerghatta Roa if you are going from Kormangala/Indiranagar area). Bannerghatta National Park is basically divided into three parts – The Safari, The Zoo and The Butterfly House. It costs about Rs 235 to visit all three and in my opinion all three are nice. I have not seen many animal safaris / zoos but honestly having seen some (both in India and US) I never had high opinion of them. Either the animals are in cages, creating a not so nice feel watching them, or are so far away that you are not even sure if its there. The Safari at Bannerghatta was a good balance between the two. The animals here were kept in huge enclosed compartments, and the caged bus takes us inside them to see the animals in their almost natural habitats and upclose. Yes, the cages on the bus windows were a let down, but I was offered  the staff seat right at the very front near the driver which helped to have a better view (I guess the SLR camera made the difference, had to give a baksheesh of Rs. 50, felt little uncomfortable but…). So I think I can say this was my first experience photography only animals. I am happy with the outcome, given that all the animal shots are taken from inside the caged bus.

ps: Checkout the butterfly in the tiger images 🙂

Distance: 80 kms
Time: 11/6/2012 11am – 6pm
Driving Time: 2hours
With: Shreyas, Yashi, Sarita Mausi, Mom

An interesting (scary?) anecdote: So while I was sitting at the front seat I had the pleasure of the company of my two  year old nephew, Shreyas Todi. He was sitting on my lap looking at the animals and looking at me looking at the animals and then looking at me looking at the animals through the camera and taking a shot. Now we both are looking at the tiger, both of us with our naked eyes, and he says ‘Kheecho (take a pic)’. I tell him, ‘Udhar Dekho, tiger (look there, tiger). He again tells me ‘Nahi, isme dikhao (No show me on the camera)’. I was  kind of baffled. Here is a kid, two years old and he believes more in taking photographs. After taking the shot and showing it to him on the camera he says, ‘Acha hai, nice, very nice (Good one, acha, bahut acha)’. He is just two.


A quick Gokarna, Karnataka trip

The plan was to spend time around Shimoga and Jog Falls, but given the trickle at Jog Fall, we – Ankan, Esha and I – ended up in Gokarna. Not many photos, a quick short trip it was. It is indeed a relaxing place.

Trip Distance: ~1000kms
Trip Time: Friday Evening to Sunday Evening
Driving Time: 20 hour

Aseem Weds Sharon

Professional candid wedding photography coverage. 30 photos from Aseem Weds Sharon.

Thanks a ton to Amit Agarwal for the lead. First christian wedding coverage :).

Also new website design pre-alpha release. The comment system there and most other head links are not working. Would love to have feedback on both the coverage and website design. ps: I know time for a new camera to handle low light :/.