Backyard Pinhole Photography: Diptych

Sunday, April 30, was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. Anyone who takes a pinhole photograph on WPPD can upload one image to their gallery which hosts over a thousand images from 53 countries. There is no entry fee, no judging, no rights grabs, no advertising, no prizes. Just a celebration of lensless photography.

It’s been five years since I participated, not for lack of interest but because I didn’t have the necessary chemicals on hand or the weather was not conducive. This year was different. I selected a camera, had paper to produce negatives and developer and fixer for processing. While it was overcast, it was bright enough to produce a good exposure and it wasn’t raining.

I had a box of 8×10 paper that I cut in half and loaded into 4×5 film holders. Not only was this economical but the large paper negative could be contacted printed, or scanned and inverted in Photoshop. Another option would be to peel the emulsion from the backing and print the negative using an enlarger.

Another advantage to making paper negatives is that processing can be done in trays under a safelight, using only developer; stop, fixer and a short water wash. As you can see the image coming up in the developer you can quickly evaluate both exposure and composition. The paper was outdated so I added a bit of liquid orthozite to the developer to minimize fogging.

As I hadn’t shot paper negatives in a while I limited my subject matter to the backyard. By staying close to home I could leave the camera set up while I ran into the darkroom and processed the negative. If that negative wasn’t quite right I could go back to the camera and recompose or vary the exposure time.

Determining pinhole exposure times can be tricky as the apertures are tiny and the photographic paper has an ISO of around 3. I took readings with a handheld light meter. Using a pinhole exposure slide rule, I found the suggested exposure for my f/419 pinhole, 8 minutes! 

4×5 Speed Graphic Pinhole camera

The Speed Graphic is perfect for pinhole work. It produces a large film or paper negative. It can zoom from wide angle to telephoto depending how far I extend the bellows. It can be used in either horizontal or vertical orientation. I can load multiple film holders and stay in the field as long as I like. The flip-up eyepiece and wire finder aids in composition. It folds up for easy transport and with the exception of the bellows, is anything but fragile.

I purchased laser drilled pinholes from The Pinhole Resource to remove any doubt concerning the quality and size of the pinholes. I also bought two additional lens boards from eBay so I could have a choice of 60mm,160mm or 240mm focal lengths.

Unfortunately, the cloth shutter stopped working shortly after I purchased the camera. I now use a refrigerator magnet as a shutter.

If you participated in W.P.P.D either this year or at some time in the past, leave a comment with a link to you image. If you haven’t participated yet but would like to in the future, just remember it’s always the last Sunday in April.


I’m sure many of you, like myself, started blogging with high hopes of  developing a large following of loyal readers. We started out enthusiastically, uploading our best photos and writing clever, insightful copy. We posted often and always had one or more new ideas percolating in the back of our minds.
After awhile and dozens of blog posts, reality sets in, our following consists of only family members and a few close friends. Disillusioned we stop blogging and turn our attention to Facebook, or the 140 characters or less, Twitter. Yes, Facebook and Twitter have their place but they are no substitute for an interesting, well maintained blog. 
Rosh Sillars presented “Secrets to Driving Traffic to Your Blog,” at Strictly Business 3 in L.A. and in Philadelphia and will be presenting in Chicago as well. 
Rosh gave insight on finding your own voice and developing your own style as well as tips, tricks, and tools to build the following your blog deserves.
For me the biggest take away was “Givers Gain.” Help promote others and they will do the same in return. So I’ll try to give a little back to Rosh and say, go hear him at SB3 in Chicago, or visit one of his links below.
Rosh co-authored The Linked Photographers’ Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media along with Lindsay Renee Adler. You can order it from Amazon.
Thomas Werner speaking

Thomas Werner speaking at SB3 in Philadelphia

I was fortunate enough to be asked to be “Photographer of Record,” for the Philadelphia Strictly Business 3 seminar sponsored by The American Society of Media Photographers. I had covered SB2, Philly back in 2009. Some posts from that seminar can be found here, here,and here. This is the first of several posts I will publish about the event.

SB3 made it’s first stop in L.A. on Jan 21st-23rd, then came to Philadelphia this past weekend. If you wanted to go but didn’t you have one more opportunity to attend in Chicago, April 1st-3rd. This program is not cheap to produce so don’t assume you’ll just go next year. There was a two year hiatus between SB2 and SB3 and nearly a decade between SB2 and the first SB seminar. I’m sure your aware how quickly the photography business is changing so even if you attended SB2 I assure you there is be plenty of  new information to help you grow your business in today’s marketplace. Here’s a link to register for SB3 Chicago.

Pictured at left is Thomas Werner of Thomas Werner Projects. He is an educator, lecturer, curator and consultant based in New York City.  Thomas reviewed and compared galleries in several major U.S. art markets. He offer insight and advice on to how to match your body of work to the appropriate galleries. Your not just looking for a space to hang your photos but seeking representation by someone who understands and shares your vision, ultimately leading to increased sales.

Photojournalist Dirck Halstead speaking

Photojournalist Dirck Halstead speaking at University of the Arts, Philadelphia.

While Dirck Halstead has photographed more Time Magazine covers than any other photographer, he may be best know for his image of President Clinton and Monica Lewinski embracing.

Dirck wasn’t the only photographer covering the event, but he was the only photographer shooting film. At the time the relationship between the President and Ms. Lewinski, was not known. In an effort to save space on their hard drives, the digital shooters deleted anything that did not seem newsworthy at the time.

After the story broke, a headshot of Monica, wearing a red beret, appeared in the media. Dirck thought her face looked familiar. He hired a researcher to go through the thousands of transparencies from the event. On the third day of searching she found it. There was only one frame, but it was perfect.

Dirck’s Presentation was an ASMP Philadelphia event and was held in the Levitt Auditorium at The University of the Arts. His presentation contained images of the Vietnam War, and his years of covering the White House from Richard Nixon to to Bill Clinton.

In 1997 Dirck started The Digital Journalist, an online, journalism magazine. Dirck realized the massive changes that where about to take place as a result of the World Wide Web. In 2000 he started the Platypus Workshops to teach photojournalists how to shoot HD video for television.

Vanity Fur

Mock magazine Cover "Vanity Fur"

Mock magazine Cover “Vanity Fur” spoof of Bette Midler in “The Rose.” Shot for The Mainline Animal Rescue.

This mock magazine cover was shot for The Mainline Animal Rescue. It is a parody of the December 1979 cover of Rolling Stone which featured Bette Midler. She had just starred in The Rose, a film loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin.

The concept and tag lines were from the mind of Bill Smith, founder of The Mainline Animal Rescue. Had he not set his sites on helping animals in need, he surely could have been a successful copywriter for advertising or public relations. Bill is never at a loss for great ideas to promote his cause. When he starts brainstorming better bring an umbrella!

Thanks to Mayr Budny of notsoldseparately for her skillful photoshop work multiplying our rose petals.

TTV Photography

Through the viewfinder photography,

Through the viewfinder photography, using a macro lens on a DSLR to photograph through the viewfinder of a vintage TLR.

Many photographers collect old cameras, myself included. I find them at flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. I once bought an entire box full of them at a Salvation Army. I display my favorites on shelves in our dining room. From time to time I load one with film and take photographs with it, just to be reminded of what photography was like pre-digital, pre-auto exposure, pre-auto focus, pre just about everything we expect from a modern camera.

One evening while surfing Flickr, I stumbled across an interesting collection of images made by photographers utilizing vintage cameras, but not in the usual way. Rather than capturing the latent image, the vintage camera served only as the host, to a parasitic, macro lensed, digital camera.

Through the viewfinder photography, or TTV for short, is photographing any subject through the viewfinder of any camera with another camera. The viewing camera is most often a vintage TTR (twin lens reflex) from the 50’s or 60’s, like the Ciroflex or Duaflex. A digital camera with a macro or close focusing lens is used to record the image framed in TTR viewfinder.

To prevent stray light from making reflections in the viewfinder and to increase contrast , a long box usually made of cardboard is taped over the top of the TLR and the lens of the digital camera is inserted in the top of the box. The inside of the box should be painted flat black to prevent stray light from bouncing around inside. While it is possible to hold the viewing camera with your left hand and your digital camera with right, most TTV photographers devise some type of rig to hold it all together.

What makes these images appealing is just how different they look in comparison to photographs taken with a digital camera. In my opinion, digital has homogenized modern photography. First of all, TTL viewfinders are square, some have rounded corners. Some have grid lines or cross hairs and most have specks of dust, heaviest in the corners, making a cool vignette. Pin cushion distortion is prevalant, as the manufacturer spared the expense of correcting for distortion, in the viewing lens.

Check out other TTV images and discussions, including D.I.Y. TTV rigs @

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning you may recognize the top two images as Gus’s old Dodge!

Save Polaroid!

Honda engine,

Honda engine, manipulated Polaroid SX70

In February of this year Polaroid announced they would cease production of instant film, closing two plants and laying off 150 employees. No doubt in reaction to decreased sales, as digital has become the new instant photography. While Polaroid does produce point and shoot digital cameras, there is virtually nothing that distinguishes them from others on the market. The company is turning its attention to consumer electronics such as televisions, digital frames, printers and scanners.

The announcement sent Polaroid film lovers scurrying to buy up as much stock as possible. Others took action by starting web sites to circulate petitions hoping to convince Polaroid to license the instant film process to another film manufacturer. Fuji and Ilford being the most likely candidates. For information on what you can do to help save this art form as well as learn about the history of Polaroid and it’s creator Edwin Land, visit Save Polaroid.

I used an SX70 to create the image of the motorcycle engine. After taking a photo I would fold up the camera and lay the photo on it’s leather surface. I then used the wooden end of small paintbrush to rub the emulsion around until it looked more like a painting than a photograph. I liked to use this camera in the summer when it was hot, as the emulsion stayed pliable longer.

With its sharp, focusable lens, through the lens viewing, automatic exposure and folding design, the SX70 was the pinnacle of Polaroid cameras. Another interesting fact is that the batteries for the camera are in the film pack. While later in production SX70’s were made of plastic but the original version was chrome and real leather.

The Magic Mirrors

Three children depicting Magic Mirrors in school play.

Three children depicting Magic Mirrors in school play at Miquon School in Conshocken, PA.

My son Wynn, came home from school one day and asked if I would help him make his costume for the school play. I told him ”Sure,” and asked him “What are you suppose to be?” “A magic mirror” he replied, then added “I have to be able to dance in it too!” I told him ”Okay, let me think about this for a while.”

My first thought was to glue aluminum foil to some foam core board and cut out a hole for his face. Then I remembered the foam building insulation I had seen at Home Depot that already had silver foil attached on one side. I remembered it because I thought it would make good reflectors for photography.

I had a 4’x8’sheet of the 3/4 in. pink foam insulation. I had bought it to make mountains for Wynn’s train layout. I’d use the thicker foam for the frame. It was cheap, lightweight and cutting, gluing and painting was easy. We also had a foam cutter (much like a soldering iron with a shaped wire) that I could use to cut scrollwork into the frame.

Wynn was very excited about his mirror and told his teacher, Pat, about it. Later, I get a call, “Hi, this is Pat, Wynn told us all about his mirror.” She then told me that Wynn was one of three Magic Mirrors and wanted to know if I would mind making two more! Of course, I agreed.

The play was called Character Matters, a musical featuring F.T.A.C. (The Fairy Tale Advisory Council) where fairy tale characters would tell their story and get advice on how the situation should have been handled. Of course the Magic Mirrors where from Snow White. Their dilemma was, should they tell the Evil Queen that she was no longer the fairest of them all, or should they lie, to avoid upsetting the Queen and possibly getting smashed? We all know how that story ended.

The Play is one of many offered by Bad Wolf Press who specializes in musical plays for kindergarten to ninth grade, as a way to bring music, theater and art into the classroom. Many thanks to Ron Fink of Bad wolf Press for permission to use the material in my blog and on YouTube.

For the photographer’s: I used two small strobes, a Nikon sb24 and a Vivitar 285. One strobe was mounted high on each of two center tent poles that where on either side of the stage. Both strobes were set to manual at full power and bounced backwards into the sloping top of the white tent. The result was soft even light over the entire stage and enough power to allow me to shoot at ISO 200 at f/2.8. Quantum battery packs where attached to each strobe for quick recycling. Pocket Wizard radio receivers fired the strobes. Wynn is the mirror on the right.

Sky Glider at sunset, Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Sky Glider at sunset, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, California

Here’s one from the archive. Taken at sunset at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. My wife’s best friend from college, Pooz, had moved to California after graduation. They stayed in touch via telephone, emails and exchanged gifts on birthdays and for the holidays. It’s one of those rare friendships that survive both time and distance. My best friend Peter and his family also moved to California so when it was time to plan our summer vacation, it was not hard to pick a destination. We’d spend the first week visiting Pete and his family near Los Angeles, then head north along the coast to visit Pooz. We spent one day with Pooz and her partner, Brent, riding the rides and strolling the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Pooz, had told our son Wynn, we were going to a lecture on global warming, and though he was okay with that, he was pleasantly surprised when he realized we were going to the boardwalk instead. So was I. It was a vacation after all.

Evil Clowns

 Carnival Game

Clown Tooth Knockout Carnival Game

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting warmer. The trees are growing back their leaves, the grass is green and flowers are blooming everywhere. Spring is definitely here! And so is the local carnival. My son Wynn, now eleven, looks forward to it all year long. We never miss it and some years we even go twice. It’s not a big carnival, and the rides aren’t that spectacular but it’s our carnival. While I enjoy watching my son have a good time at the carnival, my motivation for taking him is not completely altruistic. I like to go there to take photographs. I try to be inconspicuous by taking only one camera and one lens, the 70-200 2.8. With this lens I can photograph colorful details of the rides and games. I can photograph people from a distance to capture them acting naturally rather than mugging for the camera. I take enough shots that at some point most of my subjects realize I’m photographing them. I smile and give them a little wave, most smile back, then continue with what they doing before they noticed they were being photographed. Once in while, someone will ask if I’m with a newspaper. I tell them I’m photographing for myself, it’s a hobby. While it’s not the whole truth, It is the truth. My favorite question is “Hey, am I going to be on TV?” I think it’s funny when someone confuses a still camera for a broadcast quality video camera but I guess those lines are blurring more everyday. I photographed the “Evil Clowns” last year. We’re going tomorrow night so I’ll post some new carnival images in a couple of days. If you’re going, don’t forget to check your local newspaper for the two dollars off a wristband coupon. It will pay for the 1/2 gallon of gasoline you’ll need to get there and back home again!