Friday, April 23, 2010

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day!

Just a quick reminder to everyone that April 25 (2010) is Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day so get out and shoot some pinhole images, pick your favorite, and upload it to the site. Don't know what a pinhole camera is, or how to make one? Keep reading!

A Pinhole camera, is quite simply a camera without a lens which has a very small aperture (hence the term pinhole) it's very much like a camera obscura, but instead of being project onto a wall, your image is projected onto a piece of film, or sensor device. That's a really basic definition and for some more depth, consult a site like wikipedia.

Now to make one you've got several options, the first is perhaps one of the most old school ways of doing it, albeit a great weekend project--an oatmeal container pinhole camera. This is going to require a bit of work, and will be totally new to many people as it requires developing your own paper in a dark room. The a fore linked to site is the same I used when I made my camera years ago. The gist of it, is you cut a hole in the container, take a piece of soda can and put a pinhole in it, tape that in, put some photographic paper in in the dark, expose it, and develop it, the site gets much more into it. It'll take about a day to make, and you're getting 1 shot at a time. It must be loaded and reloaded in the dark, with the image being processed between each stage, a fun time though.

The next option is a 21st century approach to a very old school photographic style. This is probably going to be a little cheaper, unless you have darkroom supplies lying around. All you need is a (d)SLR, a body cap, and a soda can. Assuming you already have the (d)SLR (digital is parenthetical because this could be done with a film SLR) and assuming you have the body cap, if not its about 4usd (and you're going to put a hole in it, so it's a good idea to order another one if you don't already have 2.) The soda can could cost you between $.05 and $.08. Quite simply, find the center of your body cap, and drill a hole in it, 3/16 in diameter or so. a wee smaller than a dime. Next cut a 1" square from the soda can using kitchen scissors or tin shears if you have them, sand the edges down. If you really want to do a good job with making the pinhole, I'd refer to the afore mentioned site page 4 on "drilling in the pinhole." Now simply tape this pinhole square inside your body cap, so that the pinhole is in the center of the previously drilled hole. Put the body cap on, and start shooting. You'll be looking at roughly 5second+ exposures depending on the light, shoot a bit, and chimp away!

No Matter what you do, I want to hear from you, so leave a comment, send me a message on flickr, shoot me an email, or tweet me! If you shoot some pinhole images Sunday, I want to see them!

Eventually, I'll write a nice formal post on making a digital pinhole body cap, (A really good one) and I might even do some more with the oatmeal containers!

One of my First Digital Pinhole images

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sun Printing, for when the sun Comes out (Cyanotype)

A Brief History of Cyanotypes
Cyanotyping is a photographic printing process that gives a cyan(blue) print. It is one of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest photographic processes dating back to the 1840s. Cyanotypes are made by coating a piece of paper with a 1:1 mixture of Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Iron(III) citrate (C.F.) Cyanotypes were later used by engineers because they were simple and cheap to produce, this is where we get the term "Blue Print" from.

Making the Mixture
The Mixture is a 1:1 ratio (10ml:10ml, 1oz:1oz, etc) of Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Iron(III) citrate that applied to an absorbent surface and allowed to dry in the dark. The 2 mains ways to get your cyanotyping chemicals are to order them in liquid form. You get 2 bottles one is "Solution A" and the other, "Solution B" you can get around 1/2 liter of each and they're sold together for around $20.00 from B&H. ( That's how I get my chemicals. For those who want to be a bit cheaper, need more than the liter of solution that you get from Photographers' Formulary or are just a little more ambitious than most, you can order the chemicals in powder form, and put them in solution yourself etc, this will require a bit further reading and some experimentation, but it'll be cheaper and possibly more fun/versatile.

Once you have your chemicals in solution (whether you ordered them from photographers forumlary or you ordered in bulk) you now make a 1:1 mixture of the chemicals. Typically I do a 1/2 a cap of each. Stir this together (using the brush is fine) and now apply this to your medium. Typically I use watercolor paper, and apply it with a cheap foam brush, but you could use any number of surfaces/brushes (C.F.)After the mixture is painted on (and you want to do this away from UV light as we are dealing with a UV sensitive chemical) you want to store it in the dark until it dries.

Preparing the Print
This entire process will vary based on what you're printing, here's a basic guide, but be creative! Typically I try to print things I find outside, such as leaves and branches, but I've also tried other stuff--paper clips are an alternative. You're not limited to objects of course, you can make prints of (dense) negatives. Once you've chosen your object/negative/whatever, place it on the paper, put glass over it to keep it flat on the paper (the flatter the sharper) *Don't use glass with a UV coat! and clamp it together (between a board and glass or something of the such.)

Exposing the Print
This is the part where experimentation is really required. The amount of sunlight required to expose the print varies from region/time of day/time of year, etc. Most of my stuff I did in the winter in the north, not a lot of sun, I left prints out for a 1/2 hour or so. Its easy to tell when they're ready as they start to change colors a little bit and if you move what you were exposing there should be an outline.

Basically what happens is the UV light from the sun reacts with the mixture and causes it to become fixed and bond with the paper, where as what is hidden under the object/negative isn't exposed and when the print is rinsed this bit washes away!

Developing the Print
Once you've made the paper, let it dry, picked something to make a print of (the hardest part) and left it out in the sun for a suitable amount of time you now need to wash out the not exposed bits, and finish "fixing" the rest. This is accomplished by rinsing the print under some water! I usually do this with a big dish tub I got at the dollar store. Just put the print in, and you'll start to see the covered bits washed away and the greenish brown exposed parts turn blue. Agitate this solution for a few minutes/until it stops changing a lot. Now take it out of the water and let it drip off a bit, transfer into a tub with a bit of water (at least 4cm or so) and a cap or 2 of Hydrogen peroxide (h2o2) this acts as an oxidizer and gives the print its nice deep "Prussian Blue" color. Let it soak for a minute or two, agitate it around, take it out, shake it off and hang it up on your DIY/make-shift print drying line!

Sit back, and enjoy the time lapse of me making cyanotype paper, notice the proper lab technique of eye-balling my 1:1 ratio, and the fact that I'm wearing a lab coat.. I use any excuse to put it on. I apologize if you're in German, Apparently Sony doesn't want you to hear the song in the video. It's "Sunshine on my Shoulders" By John Denver--I saw the name as fitting the concept of sunprints here.

And Here's the video on how to expose/develop your cyanotypes! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned next week for some crazy cyanotype ideas!