Reality is so subtle

As regular readers (and Twitter followers) will know I have a small addiction to buying cameras basically because I love cameras, cameras are brilliant…so there it is.

My most recent acquisition is actually incredibly exciting as its another foray into large format pinhole (I already own an 8×10 pinhole from the very wonderful Wheehamx). To sum this rambling up I got myself a RealitySoSubtle 5×4 (or 4×5 for those of a trans-atlantic persuasion) camera, and these are my first impressions.

PierThe RealitySoSubtle 5×4 is made by the very wonderful James Guerin, who as well as making incredible cameras is a wonderful photographer. As you can see from his website, the camera is beautifully constructed from oak. There are a number of user friendly features such as the engravings for field of view, the spirit levels and the tripod mounts allowing for portrait and landscape shooting.

My favourite feature though is the multiple pinholes, allowing for interesting perspective effects and, potentially, for multiple exposures without moving the camera. The shutters are easy enough to use, although coming from cameras with cable releases I needed to adapt my technique a little. I found the best way to open the shutter whilst controlling camera shake was to use a darkslide (from the film holder, luckily enough) to open the shutter, then removing and replacing the darkslide over the pinhole for the exposure time…if that makes any sense.

Pier and shelterLoading filmholders was a breeze, and I found you don’t need to completely remove the back to load, which is useful as I didn’t run the risk of losing my nuts, which would’ve been a pain on Cromer pier. Which brings me on to these sample shots. These were all made on or around Cromer pier, North Norfolk, on Tri-X 320 film. The exception is the corn, which was made on the drive home. I don’t currently have darkroom access so processing was done by Ilford Lab and I then scanned, softly cursing all the while (scanning sucks).

I metered all of these shots with my Lumu, and I’m happy to say that I’m now getting really comfortable with this meter and its pretty much all I use, any underexposure in these shots is due to the fact that I miscalculated reciprocity.

Overall, if you’re in the market for a beautifully made 5×4 pinhole camera then you really should get in touch with James.



It’s with both pleasure and trepidation that I introduce you to my first zine, Japinhole. I’ve been wanting to make a zine for a while now, inspired by many other excellent photographers who are taking this step to publish their own work in an attempt to bring it to a wider audience.

Japinhole - 2

So, what is Japinhole? As you might expect, it’s a collection of pinhole images made in Japan, over the course of two trips. Japinhole contains thirteen images, some of which have never been published before (in print or online). In addition to the images I have added some ramblings in an attempt to describe my feelings at the time I was making the image. For me the text is an important part of this zine, pinhole photography is a thoughtful process after all.

Japinhole has been professionally printed by the very wonderful ExWhyZed, a printer who specialise in zines. The paper is silk and coated, 300gsm for the cover and 150gsm for the inside pages, which I think makes for quite a nice feel.

Japinhole - 3

I have to be honest that this zine is a little bit of an experiment. I have other projects upcoming that I want to print, and of course I also want to understand if people are interested enough to buy a copy. If you are then please head over to my portfolio site. I’ve tried to keep costs to a minimum, both for the zine itself and for shipping (where I am very much at the mercy of our postal service). If you do get a copy I’d love to know what you think. Happy Shooting!

Pinhole Portraits – not as simple as you’d think

For a long time I have been fascinated by portraiture in photography. This fascination mainly derives from my own limitations; I’m not good at asking people to allow me to make a picture of them, and I’m sure I’m not good at setting my subjects at ease (which probably stems from my own concerns). Nonetheless I’ve challenged myself to take more pinhole portraits, and here are some results.

Firstly, I should acknowledge that A has appeared in more pictures that I’ve made than anyone. She suffers for my art (or my attempts at art) and for that I am truly grateful. Fortunately A likes a stone circle so this picture of her in the mist in Scotland was pretty simple to make.


I also made a number of images in Amsterdam during our WPPD photowalk. I meticulously planned these shots in advance, working out the angle of view of my Zero to ensure I was at the right distance…I wasn’t! So apologies to Lorraine (above) and Inge and Moni (below) for photographically scalping them. Hopefully the experience wasn’t too painful and when we next meet I will do a much better job.


The results of my attempts in Amsterdam did at least help me learn a few things (apart from stepping back a little). Firstly, background matters. I kinda of knew that from marvelling at the incredible work of Niall McDiarmid whose Crossing Paths project is a lesson to anyone that its not just about the person but also about the place, thanks to Niall I’ve got a much better appreciation of that.


Amsterdam also taught me the importance of trying to blend movement with static. For the Amsterdam shots I had a static background with the subjects moving (intentionally or not, it doesn’t really matter). I also wanted to see what could happen if the subjects remained relatively stationary. I found that with a static background you get what is almost a relatively straightforward portrait (with unintended echoes of a well-known UK pop act), but the pinhole still adds it’s special something to the image.

Jon and Gav do Chris and Neil

However, when the background moves you can get a result that (at least in my eyes) is almost magical. I love the image below of Jon and Gav. This (and the shot above) were part of a series of shots made for online store NoKipple, and as an aside I also made some lens-based images for them, samples of which you can find on my portfolio site.

Under the trees

I included the context “Not as simple as you’d think” to the title of this post to reflect the beginnings of my own journey into portraiture. The technical aspects, which I am beginning to get a handle on, are just a drop in the ocean compared to the huge education I still have to give myself in interacting with my subjects (or should I call them sitters, friends…I don’t know but I guess I’ll figure that out as well). Its an education I shall be embarking on with gusto so you can expect more portraits at some point in the future.