As a result of a discussion on the most recent pinhole podcast I have to confess that I did a bad thing. If at this point you are wondering what a pinhole podcast is then I suggest you check it out immediately (and then come back here). So now you’re back, you might be wondering what the heck I have done…read on Pinholista.
As a general comment, I am of a view that the method used to create an image should always be secondary to the image itself. It doesn’t matter hugely to me whether an image is made on paper, film or digitally. I shoot film as a rule, but that is largely an aesthetic choice as I am hugely interested in the additional characteristics an emulsion can add to an image, more of which later. So when my fellow poddies started discussing digital pinhole I tried to provide a balanced view, though not a ringing endorsement. Really though, I was speaking from a place of ignorance, I knew I had to try it for myself.
I have a Skink pinhole body cap, which I purchased to use on M mount cameras, really as a way of trying to cut down the number of cameras I travel with, a not entirely successful endeavour. When I’ve used the Skink I’ve been fairly happy with the results, wideish angle and nice and sharp…just like a pinhole should be (the non SF shot is an example for you). I also have an M-mount adapter for my X-Pro1…you can guess what’s coming next.
I’ve recently been on a business trip to the US (from the shots I hope you can guess where). One of the pains of which (and in some ways pleasures) is the early rising due to jet lag. I took advantage of that to shoot some digital pinhole of the bay, as I had no film pinhole to use.
The process of image making was a little different, for a start I could use the camera’s level to get my horizons straightish. The biggest difference though was immediately being able to view the results of each shot, which meant I could use the Force to get the exposure time and then confirm it with more terrestrial means. I could also play with ISO to change the exposure times. So far so interesting, although I have to say I didn’t like being able to review the images, I was able to take a number of shots and that beautiful serendipity that comes with film was lost (as well as the tension being shooting and developing).
I guess that’s OK though, it’s just a different technique, and that doesn’t make it bad. What was bad though was the softness of the images. I can’t explain whether that is due to the nature of a digital sensor, something to do with use an adaptor that changed the focal length or what (I’ve ruled out bad technique, I like to think I have a small idea about what I’m doing). Regardless, the softness surprised me and immediately made me think about the subjects for my images.
Then my battery ran out! I’d made about 14 images and that was it. I couldn’t tell you if it was fully charged when I started, I mean it’s not something I normally have to check when shooting pinhole. So, with a film camera I’d also have a limited number of images but surely one of the points of digital is the ability to take a lot of shots.
So it goes though, and I went back to my hotel to load the images onto my iPad. I did this for archival reasons but also to see if the images were as soft as they appeared on the camera’s LCD. I wasn’t prepared for what I found though…dust spots! Every image was riddled with dust spots. Now I know you can clone them out in post (and I did except for one example) but seriously, what a drag. With film of course you can get scratches and the like but not freaking dust spots on every image. In many ways this probably means I need to keep my sensor cleaner but honestly it’s not something I’ve ever had to worry about. By that I mean I’ve made a ton of images with my X-Pro1 including long exposures and have never had that problem…must be a pinhole thing!
Overall I don’t mind the results of this experiment. Sure they are not the greatest pinhole images ever made but that wasn’t the point. What you do lose with digital is those beautiful colours that come from selecting the right emulsion for the image. I mean, imagine if these shots were made on Portra or Reala! I tried to rescue them through post-processing to black and white…hmmm!
However, I guess I still think there is a place for digital pinhole. It could be a good way to introduce someone to the delights of becoming a Pinholista as long as the limitations are clearly understood. But that might be the main problem, if you were experimenting without that understanding then the whole process might be off putting. For that reason, whilst I agree there is a place for digital, I have come to a conclusion. I may have done a bad thing, and I may pay for it with bad karma, but at least I can now say with certainty that for my own personal use and pleasure digital pinhole sucks!