Monthly Archives: July 2013

35mm and the Holga

HOLGA35

FULL SET HERE

I found my Holga! I had this terrible thought that it had been accidentally taken to the charity shop or left behind the last time I moved house. But there in a inconspicuous box lay the most precious and brilliant piece of plasticky tat I own. If you’re unfamiliar with the Holga then is a very ‘affordable’ no frills camera that takes film.

I’m sure there are many that would stick their noses up at these very modest cameras but this is probably because there comparing the Holga et al to super fancy digital cameras. Well STOP that right now! For me the Holga isn’t about if its better of worse than another camera but rather a creative tool; a means rather than an end. For example, when I went to art college we pretty much spent the first month drawing things with sticks or  with our left hand or with our eyes closed etc. This was simply to get us out the mindset that we all had to be classically trained sketch artists. These exercises helped us learn to let go and maybe tap into or find something that we didn’t know was there.  This is something you’ll ever or very rarely achieve with digital and this for me is why film is still relevant and worth using.

UNDER THE BRIDGE

UNDER THE BRIDGE

So the Holga is a simple camera. It has a shutter with one pre-set  shutter [1/100th of a second], a maximum of two apertures [post 2009 models have two f/13 & f/20]. You have focus although limited [here’s proof http://bit.ly/13mcRj2%5D. Finally, it’s up to you which film you load the camera with and how you develop it which are possibly the two biggest factor in the end result. But in short these limitations force you to approach and think about what you’re pointing your camera at in a different way which can be quite liberating. Also, it makes you really appreciate light metering and auto focus when you do use your digital camera.

HOLGA_FRONTNow I’ve justified my existence I’ll get to the point.

There are 35mm Holga’s available but the model I use can be loaded with both 120 medium format film and 35mm and that’s what I did here.

LOADING CAMERA:

HOLGA_BK

Here I used some foam cut from a cheap sponge to hold the film in place. There are many way so do this but I like this method as the sponge can be squeezed into the gaps to give a nice snug fit. Once the film is in place you have to wind it onto the take up spool. As there are no sprocket wheel that will catch the film and help in advance easily we have to tape the film to the 120 sized take up spool.

The easiest way to do you is to take the spool out and slide the film through the slot in the spool. Then use some tape to stick it to the spool but making sure the film is still straight. Then put the spool back into place and turn the advance a few time to make sure it’s secure. That’s it, replace the back of the camera and tape it up as you normally would. Remember if your using colour film to tape over the red viewing window so not to let any light in.

ADVANCING THE FILM

Now because there no counter you have to work out how much to advance to film between exposures. Whilst you’ve got the back of the camera off mark the film and the advance wheel and see how many rotations it takes to advance the film on. It’s good to check this but it will be somewhere between 1 full rotation and 1.5 rotations. I find 1.5 is a little too much and I like to use as much film as possible even if there is some over lap so now I just do one full rotation.

UNLOADING CAMERA

Your Holga doesn’t have film rewind crank so you have to do this yourself and this has to be done IN THE DARK! If you’ve got a darkroom then your away but if like me you don’t, the easiest and cheapest way is to use a changing bag. These cost about £15 and are super easy to use. Simply put everything into the bag, put your hands through the arm holes and remove the back of the Holga. Once the backs removed simply take the film canister from its foam holders and start to feed the film back into the canister.

PROCESSING:

Well that another story for another time. You can obviously send your film off the the lab but it far more fun to process it yourself. If you are processing the film yourself then make sure you put you developing tank in the changing bag as well and instead of putting the film back into the canister just load it straight into the tank.

HOLGA35_02

I’ve skimmed lots of details here. I will hopefully make a video on the whole process soon but in the meantime please get in touch if you have any questions.

Bob

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Sardine revisited

Greenhouse

My greenhouse: Best shot

It’s been a while but I’ve finally got around to developing the film I exposed with the Sardine tin pinhole camera. Check out the results! Of course they’re not the best images; there are flaws but with a little refinement I think it’s the start for something beautiful. I’m just relieved and stoked that it bloody worked! Even with very meticulous calculations there are a plethora of variables and thus still an element of the unknown.

So Bob just how did you do it? Well, I’m glad you asked. Although, I might be going over some of the things I mentioned in my last post about this camera I think it will further highlight the challenges and limitations of making a pinhole camera from a sardine tin.

In principal you just need a sardine tin, make it light tight, put some film in it and expose it – easy aye! Well almost. Like I mentioned in my previous post, the sardine tin is very shallow which, intrinsically creates a handicap. Because the film sits at the bottom of the tin and the aperture in the lid means that it has a very short focal length, i.e. the distance between the film and the aperture. If we consider that the average pinhole is between 0.5 – 1 mm in diameter then having a such a short focal length means that too much light gets through the pinhole risking over exposure.

SARDINE_PINHOLE_09

Static caravan. I added a warming filter in Ps to try and bring some of the sky detail out.

For a while I couldn’t work out why the focal length affected how much light got to the film, surely that’s more to do with the aperture? This is true but as the aperture gets closer to the film it has to get smaller if you want to achieve an identical exposure. The way I think about this is to remember the aperture is the source of light. Now gather your mental imaging faculties and imagine that your walking along a dark road and there is a person say 300m away walking towards you with a torch. The torchlight appears as a dot or a very small source of light. As you get closer the torch light get bigger until the person is shinning the light right in your face and the source of light seem huge. The light isn’t any more powerful just bigger.

It’s the same with our pinhole cameras. As you move a 1mm aperture closure to the film it gets bigger in relation to the film.

So this means that for the camera to work I need a super smaller aperture or a shorter exposure [or both]. However, the smallest pin I could find was 0.2mm which was still to bit to big and thus would have required an exposure time of somewhere between 1/30 & 1/125, which is just too quick. Ideally you need an exposure time of around 1 – 2 seconds so you have a little room to manoeuvre.

SARDINE_PINHOLE_08

Farm house: possibly best exposure but upped the contrast in Ps

So what do you do? I can’t reduce the aperture and limited to how short I can realistically and reliably reduce the exposure time. One other option was to reduce the ISO of the film I was using. If you’re unfamiliar, the ISO is how fast the film reacts to the light hitting it. So on a nice sunny day then ISO 200 will probably do you fine. If you’re shooting in low light you might want to use ISO 400, which is more sensitive, and will react twice a quick to the available light. Equally lowering the ISO means the films reacts slower to the light available. The slowest film I could find was Ilford PAN-F 50 [ISO 50]. Nevertheless this didn’t significantly reduce my exposure time.

So I was stuck. That was until I got a great tip off a local photography guru: Bob Clayton. Acupuncture needles!

SARDINE_PINHOLE_05

I think that’s a massive light leak. I think this exposed well but just can’t see its a tractor front on

So I contacted my local acupuncturist who was lovely and more then happy to oblige to my bizarre request.  Turns out she drives past my house on the way to dropping her kids off at school so one morning she just pulled up and gave me a handful of needles. It felt a little dodgy but I got a collection needles with three different diameters: 0.2mm, 0.16mm and the smallest 0.12mm. [N.B. If you’re going to go this route PLEASE be careful and hygienic with the needles and dispose of them correctly]. The 0.16mm would have worked but using the 0.12mm together with the ISO 50 film gave me a ‘sunny day exposure’ time of 3.39 seconds. Spot on! So nothing left to do but to load the camera and get out and take some pictures.

LOADED_TIN

Loading the film. Once I had secured the lid I also put black tape around the film holder to stop any light leaks.

My method was simply: Wait for a good sunny day and due to the 3 second exposure use a tripod. Also this freed both my hands to gently operate the shutter. I also took multiple photos of the same thing with different exposure times just in case.

SARDINE_TIN_10

Camera held by a manfrotto super clamp mounted on the tripod

There were a couple of operational issues with the camera. First I had to guess how much to turn the advance between each exposure and the film did tear which also made loading it into the developing tank a little tricky. Neither were the exposures amazing but I think using a light meter would of help judge / calculate a more accurate exposure time. So, there are a few issues with the design of the camera that I will address these for ‘sardine camera – mk ii’ but considering so many things could have gone wrong  [even in the processing] I’m pretty happy.

SARDINE_PINHOLE_03

My Dad and my brother-in-law posing next to the tractor. Probably needed to be closer.

This entry is just an update and will hopefully get mk ii operational soon and start to produce some better images.  In the mean time if you have any questions or want to leave any comments I would love to hear from you [please keep it positive].

Please also check out Mr Pinhole’s website as he knows more about it then me and his site has been my reference book throughout this process.

Adios

Bob

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