It was Worldwide Pinhole Camera Day on Sunday 27 April, so on the Friday before the big day I went to Vernon Street to make a pinhole camera and buy some photo paper.
The camera was really easy to make. It was a bit of black mount board, laser cut to shape, that you folded so the black was inside and the white on the outside. You had to cellotape the edges together with black tape and make sure no light could leak in. You also had to make a surdy lid for the box. The hole on the front of the lid was cover on the inside with a black sheet of something plastic and meshy, and I got to give it a prick with a pin.
I was sent home with a black bag that you could shove your arms in and change your sheets around in the pinhole camera without the photo paper getting ruined by the light. I was also able to keep my spare and used sheets in there, as only one could be in the camera at a time.
It was a very different experience to only have four sheets of photographic paper, so only four chances to take pictures. I used to snapping hundreds on my phone or digital camera. It really made me think about what may be worth capturing. In the end, after very careful consideration all weekend, I decided on a natural scene in my local park, the brutalist architecture of the EC Stoner building at Leeds University, and some more city scenes on Victoria Gardens in Leeds city centre, by the art galleries and library.
All the photos turned out well at 4 minutes 30 second exposure on the overcast day, except the photo of Thomas Houseagos new sculpture at the Henry Moore Institute. I should have shorten the exposure time because the camera was angled towards the sky and got more light. It’s a shame because the test image I took on my phone looked really good, and it would have been even better in a rough grain black and white pinhole camera photos.
I processed all my photos on the Monday straight after and got a reverse picture. I managed to get back to the dark rooms today and used the enlarger to copy the picture through onto another sheet of photo paper, but in the reverse so the black and white shadings where you expect them. It took a while to figure out that the photos needed at least 180 seconds exposure to the light, particularly as normal negatives can be anything from 2 to 64 seconds usually. It took so long because my photos that I was working with were quiet dark. I think some of them would have benefited from a bit longer.
I choose my Victoria Gardens photo as my favourite, and uploaded it to the World Pinhole Photography Day site to share with everyone. There are some amazing photos, and very imaginative cameras on the site, I’m quite in awe.
I described my photo as: “The Tour de France will be having its Grand Depart from Leeds in the summer of 2014, and in this spot on Victoria Gardens, Leeds city centre, the teams will be signing in. Hopefully the weather in Yorkshire will be much better on 5 July than it was on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.”
I like pinhole photography, and I feel like I’ve had a little taste and would like to try some more and improve on my compositions and developing. Madeline from the dark room at Vernon Street (she organised the making day and promoted the photography event in college) says they’re open over the summer, so it might be a chance then to do some more.