I didn’t participate in “World Wide Pinhole Photography Day” last year. I don’t remember exactly why, maybe the weather was lousy or maybe I was too involved in a project around the house to go out and shoot. This year was different. My wife and son left to visit relatives, our recent house guests returned to Maine and the cloudy skies and rain of that morning had given way to a warm, sunny afternoon.
I had forgotten WWPD was the last Sunday in April. But was reminded after reviewing  my  Google alerts. This year, because Easter falls on the last Sunday as well, participants have the option of shooting the Saturday before or the Monday after and still be eligible to upload their image.
My darkroom is a mess, more a storage closet than a room for making photographs. I had no Dektol to process paper negatives, no  D-76 to process film so I decided to use the pinhole body cap I had made for my digital cameras. While searching through various boxes for the body cap, I came across my NPC instant film back for my Canon F1 film cameras. The back still had film in it, not a full pack but hopefully enough to get one good photograph. Even though the film was several years out of date, I had faith it could still produce an image. I wasn’t concerned, that due to it’s age, the color might be off. I’d be scanning the print and could  make color corrections in Photoshop. I kept digging until I found the Polaroid 100 camera that I had converted for pinhole use.
I love the Polaroid 100 for pinhole for several reasons. According to The Land List, Polaroid made 1,200,000 of these cameras. They have little value to the collector and can be bought cheaply at thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets. They use relatively inexpensive pack film that can be purchased in a variety of  emulsions, both color and black & white. While Polaroid has ceased production, Fuji instant film is easily obtainable. Expired Polaroid pack films are also available from places like The Impossible Project.

Naturally, the Polaroid 100 can be used as a pinhole camera with the bellows drawn all the way out, as with traditional picture taking . This yields an image with normal perspective. It is also possible to make pinhole photographs with the 100 by not extending the bellows at all, by doing so you are shorting the focal length ,yielding an ultra wide view. The only caveat is that you need to change the pinhole to match the shorter focal length. I tape this smaller aperture to the removable plastic front cover so I can switch between the two focal lengths.

The Model 100 has a flip up viewfinder that is accurate enough for normal shots and even when shooting ultra wide it helps to at least determine the center of the frame. There is a tripod socket which is a must for the long exposure times necessary due to the tiny apertures. The lens can be removed with out too much difficulty or special tools.

The Image above is of The Manayunk Bridge over the Skuylkill River. Based on the design of a Roman aquaduct , The bridge is the symbol of Manayunk, a Philadelphia neighborhood. Once a railroad bridge now an icon, soon to be bicycle path. I’ve lived here 20 years and had never photographed it until yesterday. My inspiration came about a week ago, after viewing the web site of another local pinhole photographer Mary Agnes Williams. I have never met her but perhaps I should.


There’s still time to make your pinhole photo, if not today, maybe tomorrow. Happy Easter!

Philadelphia International Bike Race

Philadelphia International Bike Race. Riders attack” The Wall” in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.

There are two days a year I’d would be rather be in Philadelphia than anywhere else. The first is New Year’s Day. While many people watch football on television while nursing hangovers, we Philadelphians make our way downtown to watch the Mummer’s Parade. The Mummer’s Parade is a day long procession of String Bands in elaborate costumes and magnificent floats, kind of like a one day Mardi-Gras.

The other day I look forward to, is the first Sunday in June (tomorrow) when Philadelphia hosts the top cycling teams from around the world.

The race, now in its 24th year, was always named after a big bank but mergers and losses in the mortage sector, have left this years race without a major sponsor. The race is now simply called The Philadelphia International Bike Race.

In the early years I photographed the race for the original local sponsor. I had a press pass, transportation around the course and I was paid well. That bank is long gone. Now it’s a family outing with my wife and son. I take a camera but without access to the course it’s hard to get good shots of the racers. The constant changes in helmets and cycling attire emblazed with ever changing corporate logos date the images, giving them a short life span for a stock file. I’ve let go of the angst, shoot what I can and just try to have fun.

Our friend Neil lives in Manayunk, only one block from the infamous Wall. Each year he opens up his house and patio for a bike race party. We use to live on the same street so it’s good to see some of our old neighbors again, some we only see once a year at Neil’s party.

We socialize, drink beer and eat burgers from the grill until we hear the helicopters overheard, telling us it’s time to stroll over to The Wall to watch the riders’ arduous accent. Then back for another beer or another burger and watch the race on T.V. until we hear the helicopters again.

If you plan on visiting Philadelphia to watch the race get here the day before or take public transportation. Septa’s R6 Norristown train will drop you off right at foot of the Wall. It will get crowded, very crowded, especially after Noon. If you have a car, park it! Do not even try to drive anywhere near the race course! Take public or better yet ride a bike!