Friday, June 08, 2007

How close is too close?

Spurred on by this discussion on, I decided to see how close I could get a pinhole to Polaroid film and still get an image. I started with a Propack camera that I picked up at Goodwill for like 5 bucks. Didn't work, of course. Cut and tore off the front so I just had a back for holding film. Been wanting to do something with this for awhile, maybe stick it to a Diana, or build something new. So I have this Propack back. I wanted cheap and fast, so I used a Heart Healthy cereal box and aluminum foil for the pinhole. And tape, but not so much. I wasted film, but not tape. Hmmm? Aaaanyway. So here's the resulting pinhole camera.

I love the Adult Probation Dept. sticker on the side. This camera must have a fun history. I wonder how many convict headshots have gone through this thing?
As you can see, flat. The focal length is around 3/4 of an inch or less, which is about 1.5 centimeters. I used Type 664 black-and-white film. The first pinhole was fairly large and exposed for around 2 seconds. Too large and too long. (Hey! I know what you're thinking about. Clean it up...or call me.) This is what happened:

Fantastic! not. That's two McDonald's ice cream cones worth of film right there. The price of art. Reduced the exposure time, and actually got something almost recognizable. That's me, the big dark area in the middle. Hi. Nice to meet you.

Still not good, so I reduced the size of the pinhole. Scientific measurement? Less of the pin pushed through the foil. Smaller pinhole. Hey! Wow, that's actually pretty cool.

I like that. But the next shot didn't look as nice, so I decided to use a real pinhole that came with a Japanese 35mm pinhole camera kit I bought online. Really small aperture. Exact size? Really, really small. I've used it before and know that exposure times are about 10 times my foil pinholes, so 5 to 10 seconds, depending on light. After a few misses with exposure time, I got one right, in the shade at about 10 seconds.

Odd that it retained the shape of my distortion at all. I would have thought I'd be deformed or something. So, as you see, close to the film, tiny pinhole equals tiny photo on large film. I'm almost through a pack of film here. I tried one more with the tiny pinhole indoors. A picture of one of my cats, exposed for a 60-second mental count, which is probably like 74 seconds.

See the cat? There on the right side. Me neither. Funny story. Well, not so funny, more stupid, but I lost the tape for the pinhole cover while exposing the shot. I seriously lost it while sitting in one place, not moving, looking at the same spot the entire time. Probably on the cat. So I covered it with my thumb, slipped a few times, so the ceiling light is in the shot, and probably a few other unidentifiables.
I needed to try once more. You know how that goes. Took off the tiny pinhole, made another foil pinhole, got this beauty.

Photoshop only dreams of such perfect flares. Like a supernova. Okay, not that exciting, but I like it. Has a simple, if unoriginal, beauty.
So that was it. Today's pinhole Polaroid experiment. But wait, you say, how did you keep changing pinholes without ruining the film? Went into a dark bathroom (3 blocks down and to the left), and stored the film in my Super Shooter while changing pinholes, then swapping the film back into the pinhole in a dark bathroom (this one just around the corner). Does it matter? The details always matter. I've always wondered if you take a film pack out of a Polaroid, will all the film be ruined, or just the top shot? Well, I've always wondered since I've been storing a half used pack of expired color film that I didn't want to keep using at the time. Is it destroyed? Some day I'll check it out.


  1. Anonymous5:34 AM

    Great to have you back! I was getting kind a worried....

  2. Just the top shot Sean, perhaps some lightleaks at the edges of some of the others, but mainly just the top shot, at least in my experience.
    This post had me laughing a lot, especially the comment about the non distortion of your head. Yes, I laughed... (not at your expense, of course, honest...really). Nurses would never never laugh at anyone ele's expense now would they?!

  3. shoot, if i couldn't laugh at people in the hospital, i'd never make it through the day. how can a user who doesn't like needles not be funny?
    and i'm not sensitive about the shape of my head. just don't touch my soft spot.