Selfie Trifecta

October 20, 2017


A bright sunny day, and I decided to do three shots of the same subject, each with a different camera.  Naturally, the subject is myself.

The first one, shown above, is with my original box, the modified Stenoflex pinhole, with a laser-drilled 0.2mm aperture, 0.9-inch focal length, f/120.  The iPad meter said about 10 seconds for an exposure:  you can see that I had to rush to sit down after I removed the “shutter” from the camera.  I think that’s my dog to the right of my arm.  I am sitting in a brightly lit spot, but the image falls off all around.

Next up, the same subject with my 0.3mm aperture, 2-inch focal length homemade box, f/169.  The meter said use a 15 second exposure.  The wide angle format loses everything to the right and the left.


Finally, my newest camera obscura, with a new 0.406mm aperture.  I ordered a variety of apertures from a vendor on ebay:  they come as very thin metal rectangular sheets with a precision drilled hole, but the increments are in inches, thus the oddball millimeter value.  This box has a 5-inch focal length, giving it an f/312, and requiring, according to the meter, a 60-second exposure.  You can see that before I reached the chair to sit down after removing the shutter tape that the reflection from the plastic seat back had already registered in the image.  It shows right through me!  My ghost dog appears twice.  Overall, this is my favorite box right now.


Take Me to the River…

October 17, 2017

USS Ling BBBack again to the Hackensack River, which divides Teaneck from Hackensack, and where the ghosts of 20th century industry and war yet live.  I tried again (0.3mm aperture – 5-inch focal length) to capture the USS Ling, a rusting hulk of a WWII submarine, but in the bright morning, it appears only as a white “shadow.”  In addition, I came too early in the day to catch it at low tide when the mudflats are impressive, and the rotted portion of the lower hull is revealed.

The image below was taken with my modified Stenoflex (0.2mm – 0.9-inch focal length):  the USS Ling is just visible at the far left of the image.  A thread from the tape used to put together the camera pieces got in the way…

Hackensack River



Another New Camera :-)

October 16, 2017


I was growing tired of wide-angle shots, so I constructed a third pinhole camera from a shoe box, cut to about one third of its length.  Keeping the box lid intact at the end allowed me to easily construct a flip-up paper loader along the back of the camera box.  It seems to be very effective at sealing the box, and I put in some tabs to hold the photo paper in place – no curved photo-plane this time.  I improvised the usual tripod mount with scrap wood and a piece of hardware from Home Depot.

I cannibalized the aperture (0.3mm) from my wide-angle camera to use with this one, even though all the formulae indicate that a 0.45mm pinhole is optimal:  I have new ones on order, but I couldn’t wait.  Rushing again…  With a focal length of 5-inches, the f-number is about 425.

My first attempt with the new box was a shot of the USS Ling taken from down near the water, a great shot of the rusting hulk of a submarine, but I noticed that the aperture didn’t seem to be properly fixed to the camera body.  Sure enough, in the darkroom, I got an all black print.  😦  I had made a too big hole in the box so that when I taped the aperture holder over it, I didn’t quite close it. It was hard to tape on without bending the camera wall since the hole was almost the same size as the aperture holder.  I fixed this by gluing a sheet of matting over the original hole, with a smaller hole punched in it, over which I taped the aperture holder.  The thickness of the whole deal is so little that I don’t have to worry about vignetting the image.

After the repair, the camera worked great.  Perhaps a little light leak showing in the upper part of the image, but that might just be the bright sky with tree shade.

backyard new camera b

And a nice gothic shot of our town hall shot with my 0.2mm camera.

teaneck gothic2


October 14, 2017


A rather dark day out, but I tried for a self-portrait.  This is my homemade camera, with a 0.3mm aperture, an f-stop of about 170, and the exposure was four minutes long.  No wonder those people in 19th century images are never smiling…except for Nadar!


I also have problems drying my negative prints on photo paper, which is the cause of the spots all over the scanned image.  I have bought a squeegee to try and address this.

Not a flattering image, but…

Pinhole @ “Ground Zero”

October 13, 2017


Yesterday, I ventured into Manhattan to meet a friend for lunch down near where I used to work, and afterwords, we strolled over to the WTC Memorial, directly across from my old office.  (Also from Century 21,  where I bought a pair of Italian shoes. 🙂 )  I had been planning to take some pinhole shots, and the weather was good.

I had my 5″x7″ photo paper camera loaded and ready, and I set up my tripod for what was to be a one-minute exposure.  Oops, no tripods allowed, I was informed by two policemen.  I can see how they would need to have that rule to prevent the area from being clogged with photographers at their stations.  Nevertheless, when they saw the nature of my equipment – clearly, I was not a professional doing commercial work – they looked the other way for sixty seconds, and I got this shot.

Over near the Santiago Calatrava PATH terminal, I took another shot, this time with my 0.2mm, 0.9″ pinhole using 3″x 3″ paper.  I crouched down and held the camera in my lap for a thirty second exposure.  Not tripods there, either!  I like the spooky, Expressionist feel to this image.



Through a Pinhole, Darkly

October 10, 2017

Shot AA interior desk

My third attempt at an indoor still life of my desk yielded mediocre results.  With an exposure time of about 70 minutes, an aperture of 0.2mm, and a focal lenth of 0.9-inches, the angle is too wide, the light too dim.  It might have been better if I had used my initial configuration, with the camera on a tripod a foot or two away from the desk, instead of sitting right on it.

I got better results with my second visit to capture the USS Ling on the Hackensack River, however!  As usual, I was impatient, and the print is not absolutely dry.  Those tiny droplets seem never to evaporate!  Next purchase, a mini-squeegee to wipe the prints right out of the fixer bath.

The paper is 5×7 inches, but I have cropped it somewhat; the boundary of the image circle is clearly visible.  Once again, I curved the paper concavely, with the aperture directly on center.  It appears that I may yet have some light leaks at the bottom of the camera, visible here at the top of the image.  The black line at the top center is from a small cardboard piece in the camera that holds the paper in place.

Ling 2

Here is a further cropped image, with the smudges in the sky cleaned up a bit.  The USS Ling is visible on the left bank of the river, but it is over exposed:  it’s faded grey hull was very reflective.  Perhaps a shorter exposure time would have been better.  My respect for the early photographic artists has grown astronomically!


USS Ling…

October 9, 2017

USS LingA rather grey, humid, drizzly day today, but I decided to try and get another wide-angle outdoor shot with my homemade pinhole.  I found a great vantage point at the open lot at the intersection of Bridge and Court Streets, visible in the satellite image-map below.  The view encompasses the Hackensack River, the decaying USS Ling, a WWII sub moored to the shore and slowly getting silted in place, an old truss bridge that was one of the “shovel-ready” infrastructure rehab jobs in Obama’s economic stimulus package (much to the scorn of some people who followed the project) , and some old warehouses and factories.  Real not-quite-rustbelt retro scenery.

The results are both encouraging and discouraging.

Pro:  The scene is very cool, and if done right, could yield a good picture.  The fragment of the photo that came off looks very dreamily 19th century.  If the Ling had shown up, it would be a great contrast.  The shrubs and rocks in the foreground look good, and the distortion of the wide angle view seems to have been minimized by curving the target photo paper.

Con:  The image is spoiled by over-exposure, which I suspect to be light leaks in my camera.  I noticed that the corners of the top lid didn’t look secure, and I had loaded the camera the night before.  I also had been carrying it around for a while.  I have to take much more care, and not rush.

The image posted here was created by taking a snapshot of the still wet developed paper, then reversing the tones.  When it is fully dry, and then scanned, the successful portion of the image will be sharper.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I will revisit this site for another try, and it does appear that the light meter and indicated exposure time (50 seconds) was on the mark.


{Cropped image from the scanned dry photopaper, with some image abrasion that I caused during the clean up.  😦 }

USS Ling 03mm 2in 55sec_Light_Leaks