Continued from Film Photography Project Walking Workshop – Part 1
When I left Salt Lake City, I took five film cameras to use during the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop in San Clemente, California. One of the cameras I took was a Viddy pinhole camera from The Pop-Up Pinhole Company. I assembled it the night before, packed it in my camera bag, and took some time to experiment at San Clemente Pier.
Up to this point in my photography, I’ve never used a pinhole camera to create an image. It’s something that has always fascinated me. I’ve wanted to try it, but never had a real opportunity. That changed a few months ago while listening to the Pinhole Podcast episode #10. The guest was Kelly Angood, creator of The Pop-Up Pinhole Company. Kelly is known for creating a replica Hasselblad pinhole camera out of cardboard and publishing her blueprint online. On the Pinhole Podcast, she half-jokingly says that she was a university student and knew she couldn’t afford a real Hasselblad, so she created her own using cardboard. The success of building this pinhole camera inspired her to start her own company, launch two Kickstarter campaigns, and design two new cardboard cameras. I reached out to Kelly on Twitter and told her that I had never used a pinhole camera and asked if I could review one for UtahFilmPhotography.com. She responded and immediately shipped one out from the United Kingdom.
When the box arrived, it was roughly the size of a medium pizza box. I say this because (I love pizza) it opens identical to a pizza box and it’s the perfect package for shipping flat contents while keeping them protected. Using the step-by-step instructions online and watching the assembly video, I began the process of building my Viddy. The cardboard sheets are silkscreen printed and have a nice appearance. Punching out the various cardboard pieces was easy because the die cut process The Pop-Up Pinhole Company uses is very precise.
I am not a crafty or handy person. I have clumsy fingers and barely know which end of a screwdriver to use. When I assemble Ikea furniture, my family leaves the house and my neighbors get to find out all the profane words I know. The Viddy assembly process was straight forward, and as each piece came together I understood the simple functions of any camera. Kelly has taught countless school children, teens and adults the basic concepts of photography through the creation of pinhole cameras.
In about 40 minutes my new camera was completed. One thing to mention is the Viddy is capable of using 35mm or 120 medium format film. It’s important to make your film decision prior to building the camera because once you’ve picked a film format, the inside of the camera will be fitted and dedicated to that type of film. Kelly made the recommendation to use 120, so that’s what I stuck with.
Without attempting a single shot with the Viddy, I knew camera shake was going to be an issue. With the Viddy, you slide open the shutter, time your exposure, and the slide the shutter closed. The Viddy does not have tripod socket, so to help eliminate shake, I bought some generic Arca Swiss quick-release plates on eBay. I removed the ¼” screw and attached the plate to the Viddy using some tack putty.
One of the cool things about the online pinhole community is their willingness to share information. They know that someone like me is eventually going to come along, want to shoot pinhole, and have a bunch of questions. The Pop-Up Pinhole Company has created their own mobile app. With the app, you simply select the camera you’re using (Viddy or Videre), the film speed, and what type of shooting conditions are present (cloudy, sunny, etc.). The app will indicate the length of time to keep the shutter open for your exposure.
What did I learn about shooting pinhole?
- Camera shake is unavoidable. When you’re shooting long exposure times as I did on the beach, the wind and opening/closing the shutter are going to create movement with your camera. This is why many pinhole photographer duct tape their cameras in odd places and eventually agitate law enforcement with the unidentifiable boxes.
- Composition takes time. Because there’s no viewfinder, you have to pre-visualize your image composition. This can be frustrating if you’re someone that likes to line things up perfectly using photographic rules of composition.
- No two pinhole cameras or images are alike. My images compared to others that have use the Viddy are drastically different. No single person could assembly two Viddy cameras in an identical way. And because of this, images are going to be vastly different. For example, I managed to get a lot of vignette in my images and I think it’s the way I assembled the camera.
- Keep the shutter smooth. Aside from advancing the film and other moving parts within the camera, the single biggest component to creating a good image is an easy to use shutter. In the assembly instructions for the Viddy, it points out that you shouldn’t press the brass paper fasteners flat and tight. If they are pressed firmly, the shutter will not slide in a smooth motion back-and-forth. Too loose and you would run the risk of over exposing the image or possibly the roll of film. I think I’m going to partially disassemble my Viddy and see if I can improve the shutter movement.
- Keep things light-proof. The Viddy comes with some stickers to help seal the camera body. On my Viddy, I put black gaffers tape over the exterior openings to keep light out once I had loaded the film. However, removing the stickers or gaffers tape is eventually going to wear the cardboard thin.
- Ignore everything I said above. Why? Because pinhole to me is about experimentation and those occasional happy accidents while shooting. The only sure image is one you can chimp off the back of a digital camera. To me, the unexpected is what makes pinhole photography fun.
The Viddy from The Pop-Up Pinhole Company is a fun pinhole project camera. The Viddy looks cool. It’s a great conversation piece when you’re out shooting. It’s like a magnet that attracts attention from onlookers who have never seen a cardboard camera. This was a great introduction for me into pinhole photography. The simple and understandable process of assembling the camera really made it my own creation. Now that I’ve used a pinhole camera, I have far more respect for those that can shoot pinhole successfully and artistically. Using pinhole has also helped me realize all the modern tech in our digital cameras we take for granted. Along with my blue UTFP branded Viddy, I’ve decided that I’m going to continue to experiment with pinhole cameras. I purchased a pinhole lens cap and have dedicated its use to one of my Pentax Spotmatic cameras.
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To be continued…
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