World Pinhole Photography Day 2022

This was my third World Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) and as in previous years I had definite plans for the day. In 2020 a global pandemic confined me to the backyard; I compensated for the disappointment by using one of my last rolls of original Acros. In 2021 I planned to use two pinhole cameras at a coastal location but travel restrictions confined me to the local area. On both occasions I still produced results I was happy to submit which eased the blow a little.

The marina

2022 was to be different. My plans revolved around a favourite location locally and so I felt very confident. The weather was forecast to be favourable and I had cameras readied, film holders loaded and everything was set for a pinhole Trichrome-fest on the Sunday. I was planning on using 35mm, 120 and 5×4; my most ambitious Trichrome project yet. However, I failed to anticipate the demands of family life and totally didn’t see the curved ball which relegated me to chauffeur and my WPPD plans to the bin.

Brighouse, upper lock

BUT. Where there’s a WPPD there’s a way and I found myself with a short window whilst in Brighouse to disappear for a short period. Allowing for walking to/from the location I had around 30 minutes to play with the ONDU 6×6 that I’d managed to slip into the car. I had loaded it with a roll of TMax 100 and a mini tripod completed the set up. I decided to head for a weir on the river that I’d seen images of but never photographed myself. I spent fifteen minutes trying to find the way down to it but failed miserably. To fail to prepare etc although in my defence this wasn’t what I’d planned for! I decided to cut my losses and walk back to the adjacent canal.

Brighouse, upper lock

I chose a part of the canal that I was familiar with to start my brief “shoot” and from there walked down a very short way to a lock that I’d not photographed before. Fifteen minutes probably stretched to twenty five but I still got back to the car on time and with a roll of exposed TMax in my pocket I was pleased that I’d managed something for WPPD 2022.

Footbridge over Calder & Hebble Navigation

The following morning I loaded the roll into a tank, made up 600ml of Rodinal (at 1+50) and set to one of my favourite parts of working with film. I find developing film therapeutic and a good way to switch off. It wasn’t long before a roll of properly exposed negatives were hanging to dry and I eagerly anticipated looking at them properly on the light box later.

Footbridge and walker

The first two frames (bracketed as it was a low-contrast, dimly lit scene) failed to Wow! me but it was good to see them in the right ballpark for exposure; it boded well for the rest of the roll. Frames three and four were both views of the marina with the only difference being the addition of a yellow/green filter for the fourth. I left the filter on for the rest of the roll as I felt, rightly it transpired, that the sky would benefit from its presence.

Lock keepers gate

I “scanned” the roll using a Fuji mirrorless camera and, unusually for me, processed them on my computer using Photoshop. My usual approach is to upload the “scans” to my iPad and use Snapseed but this is WPPD so deserved a more consistent approach. I made very similar adjustments to each image, made easier by a consistently exposed negative, and finished each with a gentle selenium tone in Silver Efex Pro.

From the roll of twelve I shortlisted seven from which to select my WPPD 2022 submission. All of them are presented in this post and as only one of them can be submitted I will make my choice after I’ve cogitated for a few days at least.

Bridge and mill flats

So, in conclusion, WPPD 2022 followed the tradition of not going entirely to plan but it was still a success in my eyes. It may not have been what I intended but I’ve managed some very pleasing images and I am definitely not disappointed as I was in 2020.

Here’s to WPPD2023!

#WPPD2022

Cross Street – a work in progress

I photographed these disused, near-derelict houses in Cross Street a few weeks ago for my 365 Challenge and at the time decided to return when I got a chance with a medium format camera and a couple of rolls of black and white film. This short series of images puts Cross Street in context and finally focuses in on the small vignette that so attracted my attention on that first visit.

Looking at these again this morning before posting them to my blog I am thinking about printing them but also about producing a zine with a series of short urban vignettes such as this drawn from my local area. Before I do either of these though I need to reprocess them to produce a visually consistent set of images. I believe this will help tell a more coherent story.

Which, I guess, tells us a little about how we consume images these days. Increasingly, images are viewed individually as little bite-sized portions on social media. The photo-essay (and I’m not suggesting this post constitutes a photo-essay) is less often seen in an environment where individual images are the predominant form in which photography is viewed. That said, I actually took these with the intention of creating a short series that hopefully told a story but I then post-processed them as individual images over the course of an evening and morning. This was partly because I wanted to see how they had turned out and also partly because I wanted to post one to Flickr as that day’s image for my 365 Challenge. In other words, they were produced individually to feed social media in as timely a manner as possible. As such, the “final” series doesn’t fully reflect my aims when starting out so I shall consider this set as a marker along the way. A more visually coherent set is the next step, followed by a set of prints (I will print more than this selection and play with the sequencing on the table) and finally their inclusion in a zine as the “final” form.

So, having used this blog post to choose the final images and view them as a set, I will now transfer the RAW files onto the computer and re-process the final selection using a consistent and hopefully coherent treatment. I might even try a sepia feel to them too but that’s getting ahead of myself.


TECHNICAL NOTE: All of these were made with a Bronica SQ-A medium format film camera and I used two rolls of film, one my old faithful Ilford HP5+ which I rated at 250 ISO and processed in Perceptol and the other a new-to-me roll of Kodak TMax 100 which I developed in Rodinal (1+50). I “scanned” the negatives with a Fuji X-H1 and post-processing was done using the JPEGs on an iPad with the Snapseed app.

Mavic Air 2s – Take Two: the second take!

Two identical images … one in the original colour and the other in fabulous mono! The replacement drone got a second flight on Sunday morning. A frosty morning with the sun just starting to peak into the scene.

A more abstract view of Brookfoot Lock
So, which do you prefer?

DJI Air 2s, captured as RAW and processed in Lightroom.

Mavic Air 2s – Take Two

Two identical images … one in the original colour and the other in fabulous mono! The replacement drone got a second flight on Sunday morning. A frosty morning with the sun just starting to peak into the scene. I will pop a small gallery of images on as another post.

Brookfoot Lock

The sun is rising in the top right of the image hence the warmer tones on the left of the image and the cool blues in the shadows on the right.

A straight desaturation for the mono version

Guilty pleasures

Eyemouth – sunrise

I’m sure we all have many guilty pleasures, mine, photographically at least, is drone photography. It’s something I only tend to do whilst away from home and typically only early in the morning. There’s exceptions of course and in fact I bought the drone specifically to photograph a location very close to home.

The drone I use, a DJI Mavic Pro, is the only example in my photographic history where I bought the right tool first time and avoided the pecuniary losses associated with upgrading within a short period (or twice in nine months as happened when I bought my first DSLR). It was top of the range at the time and whilst rather long in the tooth these days still gives me what I need. I’d gone in to the store, which specialised in drones of all types, and was looking at a mid-price model as that fitted my budget nicely. However, after a long and useful chat with the salesman I came to the conclusion that I might as well go for the better model from the outset. Not wanting to rush in I thanked the salesman, drove home and rang the wife. An hour later I was back in store, card in hand and was soon the owner of the Mavic Pro, three batteries and a fast charger.

Woodside Mill lock – inspiration for my drone purchase
Woodside Mill lock – another point of view

As I mentioned above, my interest in a drone was raised by a specific location – the lock at Woodside Mill. I had photographed the lock in all seasons, all weather and from all angles … apart from above. Since then I’ve photographed that section of canal many times from the air as I also used the flood plain alongside the lock to learn how to operate the drone and its camera and also practice flying before venturing further afield.

I don’t use the drone enough to claim to be expert but I do have sufficient proficiency to capture some pleasing results. I usually fly it before breakfast as there are fewer people around but have been known to try sunsets on occasion. Mornings though are best as fewer people tend to be around plus I’m more of a morning person so am often back in the caravan or B&B in time for breakfast with the wife knowing I’ve got something “in the bag” for that day already.

View from above Woodside Mill lock looking along the canal

If I’m totally honest I have been tempted recently to upgrade as some of the newer models have far better cameras on board but have always resisted. If I used it every week I wouldn’t hesitate but it’s a guilty pleasure so not something I do every week.

Mist on the canal
Ringstone reservoir – above low cloud as I turned to see the view across to West Vale
A few moments later, with the sun forcing itself into the frame

One thing that I like to try is putting the drone up through low lying mist or cloud. It needs to be done carefully and for me at least preferably somewhere I’ve flown before so know where the obstacles are. Watching the greyness on the screen suddenly burst into life as you rise above the mist is always a treat.

Ringstone Reservoir – location of the two Misty images above … on a brighter day

The drone is great for creating abstract views or patterns too as the image of Ringstone above demonstrates.

Birthday sunrise at Bamburgh

One of the advantages of buying a better spec’d model was the built-in features that help you fly safely and with confidence. Remove your hands from the controls and it simply hovers where it is – great for us photographers. Some have a “return to home” feature and I found this very useful on at least one occasion early on in my drone journey. When I first bought the drone there were very few restrictions and it was possible to fly the drone well out of sight and pretty much as high as it would go … I avoided doing so for obvious reasons but on one occasion got so absorbed in making images that I completely lost sight of the drone. Slightly concerned I pressed the RTH button and scanned the sky anxiously. Several minutes passed before I heard the buzz of the motor and glancing at the screen realised it was now above my head and starting to descend. Finally I could see the drone by which time the low battery signal was sounding. I was extremely careful after that and indeed legislation since that date has, sensibly, brought in a requirement to always have eye contact with the drone.

Another from the sky above Eyemouth

I’ve finished this post with an image from Scotland that means a lot to me. The image quality isn’t the best but the conditions were not very good for photography that afternoon and after struggling with cameras and tripods for an hour or more we decided to pack up for the day. There was a persistent drizzle, it was blowing a hoolie and we were totally fed up. We dumped our wet gear into the van and sat in the cab with a coffee and biscuit before heading back to our holiday cottage when suddenly the sky lit up. It was still drizzling and the wind was still blowing away but we jumped out of the van. Dave grabbed his camera and for some reason I grabbed the drone.

Above 100 feet the wind was even stronger and we watched as the drone was buffeted and blown but I persisted and managed a couple of quick “snaps” before the rain returned with a vengeance and I brought the drone down for safety’s sake. It had been blown about thirty feet off course and I ended up bringing it down to just a few feet above the loch to fly it back without it being blown even more off course. Hair raising, adrenalin pumping but I felt alive!

Scotland close to sunset

Favourites from the edge – a few images

I’ve written recently* about two topics that crept into my consciousness a few years back and have influenced my urban photography ever since, particularly in the last eighteen months. Fortunately for my legs Elland is a small town and I can walk to any of its edges with ease. So, I thought I’d go back through my archive from these “pandemic” wanders around Elland and pick out a few favourites from the edge.

My exploration of the edges will continue!

* Psychogeography and Edgelands

A Cumbrian interlude

We are taking a short break next week, over to the east coast of the Scottish Borders. Normally when we take a short break in a caravan we come straight home at the end of the trip, with the car full of self-catering paraphernalia, including the indispensable coffee machine. This time is going to be different however as we are detouring to the Cumbrian coast over on the western side of England on the edge of the Lake District before heading south to Yorkshire.

The Jaws of Borrowdale from Friars Crag – where else?

Cumbria and particularly the Lake District was a real favourite holiday destination of ours especially when the girls were younger. Pre-pandemic we enjoyed quieter visits with just the two of u. However the hordes of people begrudgingly taking a “staycation” over the last 18 months have made booking a Lakeland break both problematic, as demand outstrips supply, and also more expensive. But I digress, thoughts of a trip to Whitehaven and hopefully Bassenthwaite too before wandering south through the Lakes on our way home have me thinking back to past Lakeland adventures and searching the archives.

Derwent Water (March 2019): With all the jetties underwater and only accessible by wading out the photographer who chose wellington boots was able to access them for long exposures with no tourists milling around.
The most recent image in my archive – March 2019.
The last of the day’s sun light illuminating the Newlands Valley and glancing off Robinson

I’ve not been to the Lakes for several years and the last time I took a film camera was more than fifteen years so I’m looking forward to some Lakeland pinholes and panoramas. I might even blog “live” from vacation!

Chocks Away!

Just got back from a few days on the Norfolk coast and having spent most of yesterday developing the film from that trip I am now faced with the bit I like the least – the scanning! So, by way of putting it off for a bit longer I thought I’d post a few of the drone pictures I took last week.

These were all made on Tuesday morning. Drone regulations mean that this is the only practical time when I can fly the drone in this location. It is also one of the better times of the day light-wise usually. I’d love to fly the drone in a location such as this at dusk but there are usually too many people about to do so whilst staying legal.

I usually take advantage of being an early riser and go out every morning, rain or shine, but in the event this was my only flight this week. A catalogue of things meant I wasn’t able to manage the other three mornings – but I’m keeping those to myself!!

Into the Woods

Over the course of five days last week I made four visits to a small wooded area close to where I live. Carrying an Intrepid 5×4 camera in my backpack and a tripod in my hand it was my intention to use the dull, dismal and damp conditions for some atmospheric woodland images. To be fair on the fourth visit the sun did play cat and mouse with us a little but it was still quite challenging and every time I got something set up and metered the sun disappeared/reappeared just as I inserted the film holder into the back of the Intrepid and I had to repeat the metering dance again, only to revert to the original when the sun promptly did an about face.

My mission was twofold. Practice with the 5×4 was high on the agenda as most of my 5×4 work this year has been with various pinhole cameras. As I’ve already mentioned, I also wanted to test myself in less than ideal conditions to produce something atmospheric and engaging. Another consideration which quickly revealed itself under the tree canopy was focusing. I quickly recalled that the last time I’d tried using the 5×4 in a dimly lit woodland I had considerable difficulty focusing the 90mm lens with its f8 maximum aperture. I had previously removed the fresnel screen as I’d not been happy using it despite it adding some brightness. A few visits with more time to spend would of course help me hone my skills and also I hoped determine whether or not I’d made a mistake and I needed to restore the fresnel screen.

Over the course of four visits I exposed a selection of black and white films. Some Fomapan 100 and 400, a couple of sheets of Ilford HP5+, my last two sheets of Ilford Delta 100 and a dozen sheets of Ilford FP4+ kindly given to me by John Martin.

I thought however that I’d use this post to share my approach. John shared his thoughts on “the dance” of large format photography recently and it’s a performance that all large format photographers can probably relate to. I have found that having a set routine definitely helps avoid schoolboy errors but sometimes, especially with rapidly changing light, it can be a bit of a scramble to do everything in the correct order and complete it all before the light changes again. That’s where practice comes in so useful – muscle memory is only created through repetition.

With the tripod and camera set up and the composition chosen the next step for me is to focus, something I always do before worrying about exposure. Deciding where to put the main point of focus is the first decision and then deciding how much needs to be in focus follows quickly; both are aesthetic choices even if achieving the desired result is a very technical process. Choice of aperture comes in here too as it is closely allied to the focusing considerations. I’m not going to walk through the focusing process here, it’s something better suited to the video format I think, but it was one of the main skills that I was practicing last week. I found over the course of the eleven to twelve hours in total that I spent in the woods last week that I could focus in the dim light even at f8 but I needed to let my eyes become accustomed to the gloom under the dark cloth before attempting the final, critical focusing. I also needed to ensure I was looking at the ground glass screen straight-on and not from an elevated or indeed lowered position. It reinforced the concept of practice, practice and practice, so if anyone reading this is new to large format photography let me reiterate that there really is no substitute for putting in the time.

Focus achieved its time to consider exposure. Aperture was already determined as part of the focusing process. Film speed is determined by the film being used so in reality it’s time to determine the shutter speed. If you’re my regular reader you will already be aware of my general approach to metering from a blog post earlier in the year. I use a spot meter for determining exposures but recently I’ve also taken to using a metering app on my phone to record a snapshot of the scene to keep with my exposure notes. This also shows what exposure the app would suggest and a couple of times I found this useful as it was so different to what I was planning on using that I stopped and rechecked everything thus averting possible exposure errors (on one occasion the app had been set to 100 and the meter to 400 when I was using 400 speed film so my chosen exposure was correct but on the other occasion it was the spot meter that had the incorrect film speed and not the app).

On my first visit I wasn’t really sure that what I was capturing was meeting my original “moody” objective but back home with negatives developed and scanned I could finally get a look. The first couple reminded me of some images I’d taken at another part of the woods a few years back with a converted digital camera creating false-colour infrared images. Those had what I can only describe as an under-the-sea kind of feeling (sort of) due to the rendering of the false colours and so on a whim I applied “Vintage” filter 10 in Snapseed and immediately knew that I’d met my objective and that I’d also found the “look” for this series. It’s a split tone basically, something I’ve played with in my digital past as Duotones in Photoshop. Incidentally, whilst all of the images posted to my Twitter account last week were created with Snapseed I’ve since reprocessed all of them in Photoshop using a custom duo tone. I shall hopefully be using the PS versions in a ‘zine later in the year. The pictures here are a mixture of both.

Now whilst I’ve tried to fully embrace the hybrid digital/analogue approach it’s always been an uneasy alliance at best. Last week, probably for the very first time since I moved to a primarily film-based approach two years ago, I fully appreciated what the hybrid approach could do. For the first time I wasn’t just using the digitising as a way to share images in social media I was actively using the software, first Snapseed and then Photoshop, to realise my artistic vision. A small lightbulb moment but an important one. On the final two visits I was trying to think in terms of a split/duo toned final image.

I tend to use the darkroom mainly in the late Autumn and Winter months so my printing gets saved up for me to binge-print as it were. Whilst I’ve always restricted my software usage to the types of things I can do in the darkroom this is the first time that I’ve consciously gone beyond that to create a coherent series of images. Yes, I can tone in the darkroom but not with the finesse and fine control that I can in the software. I shall get some of this series digitally printed when funds permit and it will be interesting to compare them with what I create in the darkroom. Time will tell how fully I embrace the hybrid method; all of us who share film photography on social media have to accept the need to digitise our creations, whether that’s the negative or a darkroom print.

Toning? Take your pick!
Or keep it black & white!
Spot the walker!

One thing I have been pondering is how to replicate the subtle glow within the darkroom that the Snapseed filter has added to some of these. Or, indeed, if it is achievable. Quite by chance I found the answer. With no wifi in the holiday caravan I was pleased that I’d taken an old book to read. It was a series of film landscape images with notes on how they were taken and in many cases how the print was handled in the darkroom. Much of the text talked about bleaching and toning prints but towards the end of the book is a woodland landscape, and the photographer has used a diffuser under the enlarging lens for a third of the exposure. Not only that he actually specifies which filter, the Cokin A Diffuser 1, a filter which I have somewhere in the depths of one of my drawers back home. I have the beginnings of a printing plan!

So, how did I do against my original objectives? Well, I certainly got some focusing practice in low light and looking at the negatives I definitely got them right. I started by using f32/f45 just in case but by the fourth trip most of the images were exposed at f16 or f11, using front tilt to achieve the desired plane of focus. I did replace the fresnel screen at the weekend but haven’t yet been out again to see if it is an improvement.

Ilford Delta or FP4+?

In terms of the images themselves I’m very pleased with the series I’ve produced and they’ve also had a positive reaction on Twitter particularly the toned versions. The proof though will be in the printing!

If you’ve made it this far then I applaud your stamina! There were frustrations aplenty along the way, and no doubt more are ahead when I open the darkroom in a few weeks time. But, overall it has been a very successful project with hopefully a little more to be wrung out of it in the coming weeks.