Chasing Waterfalls

Being from Norfolk there is an argument that I should have stuck to the rivers and lakes that I’m used to…but I didn’t. As my long suffering love knows I love a good waterfall, it could be almost the perfect pinhole subject, and here’s why.

Firstly, the motion, the movement the energy. I mean what’s not to like, a waterfall, like Ashgill Force above, is an amazing source of energy. Motion in a pinhole image is a wonderful thing. Subjects that move can become ghosts, or in the case of water can either smooth out or become emulsified like the creamiest milk (jings, I must’ve become romantic for just a second…I’ll get that fixed).

Ashgill, from the back

Waterfalls also give you surprising and wonderful opportunities, as shown in the shot above which was made behind Ashgill Force. Yes, in this case I was actually able to stand in the cave behind the fall, just touching distance away from the torrent. Until recently I had not had that experience, and I’m delighted that I’ve been able to have that pleasure, it was on my bucket list!

High Force

Waterfalls also give you the opportunity to make images which illustrate the flow and motion of the stream below the fall, as in the shot of High Force above, which incidentally is one of the most impressive falls in England and has been visited by such luminaries as J.M.W. Turner.

The Reekie Linn

The Reekie Linn, which is an easily accessible waterfall on the River Isla in Angus, Scotland, is almost as impressive as High Force. Unfortunately the Reekie Linn illustrates another of the problems inherent in waterfall pinholing…access. The Reekie Linn can only be shot from above or from a distance (at least in my experience) due to the sheer sides of the glen that the river runs through. With the wide-angle of a pinhole this can make it difficult to really access a falls unless you are willing to get your feet wet…generally I am not.

Zero Milkfall

Sometimes though, it is possible to get close…and that also brings the advantage of being able to see how man has harnessed the power of the water. Lumsdale is now a peaceful valley near Matlock in Derbyshire. There was a time though when the valley would’ve been filled with the sound of industry. Indeed, Lumsdale is one of the most impressive sites of water powered industry in the UK, which you couldn’t tell from the shot above.

Zero Eau Chaud

So now we find that waterfalls can also be deceptive. For example, you would never have guessed that but a short walk away from the peaceful scene above is a hot spring filled with cavorting naked hippies. OK, I may be exaggerating a little but springs that fall down the side of the valley near the spot above are a favoured bathing spot. Prats Balaguer, a small hamlet in the Pyrenees, is blessed with this hot spring, a small church, and not much else.

Placid Pool

Splendid isolation, then, is also a possible feature of a waterfall. But not in the case above, which was just off the path towards the ropeway taking you to the top of the island of Miyajima in Japan. Patience was key here as the light was beginning to fade leading to a very long exposure. Metering can be a bit of a challenge with a fall. They’re often situated in the depths of woods and valleys so careful metering, adjusting for reciprocity, and patience is key.

Zero Utsue 4 - the top

Patience is, of course, not a problem for the dedicated Pinholista, but we also rely on the patience of others. On so many occasions during so many holidays I have taken A on a trip to a waterfall, or two, or three…or in this case forty-eight! The Utsue waterfalls near Takayama are, for me at least, almost the ultimate falls. You get to travel by various means of transport to a path and a rest area at the foot of a mountain. Then you climb, climb and climb some more, whilst passing 48 individual falls. As you can imagine, this takes a little while for a dedicated Pinholista. Then you have to head back down again, only to meet 5 coachloads of Japanese pensioners all walking up the path (which incidentally is only wide enough for a single person to pass safely). Whilst there could be some worry that you’ll miss the transport links the cheery calls of konichi-wa will nurture you on the descent.

So there we have it, chasing waterfalls will give you many fine experiences, and with careful metering so pretty fine images as well. Happy Shooting Pinholistas!

WPPD 2014 – The Aftermath

Well…it actually happened, I travelled to Amsterdam and met a bunch of people that I have only ever been in touch with on the internet. Fortunately this is not a story of financial ruin and exploitation…this is a story of just how awesome WPPD can be. To find out more read on, and maybe (just maybe) get inspired for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) 2015. Many thanks to (from the top right) Moni, Brendan, Danny, Jesus, Jeff, Lorraine, Inge, Remko, Lisa-Marie, Todd and Markus… you all made this day unforgettable.

Taking the opportunity

Thinking back, its incredible that what started as a joke on Twitter quickly snowballed into a serious plan, and suddenly Inge from Pinhole Obscura and I were organising an event for WPPD. We selected Amsterdam as the venue of choice and planned some routes. Both of us were, I think absolutely petrified on the day…after all people had travelled from the US, Spain, Ireland and Germany for this one day. Fortunately it was an incredible day. I’ve said this many times but pinhole photographers are amongst the nicest people you will meet. I think that a shared passion for an obscure, old, unwieldy and unpredictable (at least to a degree) photographic process ties us together.


Starting off from Dam Square we meandered a route through the city. I have to say it was both odd and inspiring to see a large number of tripods being set up for the first shoot. We wended our happy way through the city, picking our steps carefully through the detritus left after the King’s Day celebrations from the day and night before. Near Waterlooplein we stopped for coffee and bagels and much examination of cameras ensued (and of course some pinholes were made).

Camera envy

More meandering through the streets took us to a spot for noodles for lunch…and more pinholes were made, after which we headed to the Vondelpark. As you might be able to tell from this portrait of Jesus and Danny, it was wet, really wet. Spirits were not dampened as we split to enjoy the sites of the Vondelpark. I even managed to buttonhole a few of the participants with my digital recorded for a future episode of the Pinhole Podcast (and thank you to you all).

Jesus and Danny

We then carried on through the city, stopping in at a photography exhibition…where more pinholes were made. We eventually made our way to a Jenever bar near the red light district. Markus split to scope out some modern architecture and then returned to join the party and to find…more pinholes being made. Finally, the group called time of the jenever (boy that stuff is good) and headed back to the south side of the city (or to the station) passing by a funfair that was going full steam in Dam Square…more pinholes were made.

One last shot

Overall the day was awesome, I’ve summarised about 8-9h of fun in a few short paragraphs. I wish I’d been able to spend time with everyone. It was great to organise something for WPPD and if you are even slightly contemplating this I’d encourage you to do so. Its great, a little stressful at time when you get near to the day, but the sense of achievement and satisfaction seeing everyone having a good time and shooting pinholes is just brilliant. I’m sure that the group will organise something next year, and of course I’ll post that here. In the meantime you can see the groups images in the WPPD gallery, including my own meagre effort (also shown below). Incidentally, as these things matter, I was shooting with both my Zero 69 on Reala (as for the shot of Jesus and Danny) and with my Ondu 35mm Panoramic on Velvia 50 (as in the shot below). I metered using the Lumu and am happy to report it worked perfectly.

Happy shooting to you all, and a belated happy WPPD.

Cycles Doubled