Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Kid in All of Us: photographic toys that make great art

In college one of my professors shot an entire assignment for Starbucks using a disposable camera. The photos were fantastic, you would never have known they weren't taken with a "real" camera. Her point? She wanted all of her students to realize that photography isn't about the equipment you use, but how you use it. Even the most inexpensive camera in the right hands can take images worth publishing in magazines and on billboards. This lesson has stuck with me and I try to always remember that great art is about portraying a vision and showing the world how it looks through my eyes. Good examples of this can be found all over the internet where groups of loyal photographers come to share their images shot with pinhole cameras, Holga and Diana Box cameras, and toy lenses like the Lensbaby.

I own a Lensbaby control freak. This image was shot with it. The control freak is a 50mm that allows for swing and tilts like a medium and large format camera. The basic operation is easy.

1. Choose the aperture you want to shoot using the interchangeable aperture disks.

2. Select a shutter speed (or set the camera to aperture priority and let your camera help you find the right exposure.)

3. Bend, twist and adjust the focus until you find what they Lensbaby people call the "sweet spot".

4. Shoot, play, adjust and shoot some more.

    It's my experience that the Lensbaby is perfect for shooting infants (sleeping of course so they don't move) macro photography, and very patient people. Finding the sweet spot can be challenging, especially in low light, but when it works it's worth it!

    Pinhole photography is something that every kid and photography lover alike should do.  Due to the nature of photographing with out a lens the images are soft (not sharp focus) and require long exposures, oh yah, and film. I know that's a weird concept in today's world but it's results are unlike anything you can produce in photoshop. (That's not entirely true I guess- you can fake it, but why spend all that time playing in photoshop when you could be shooting?) In college I made a pinhole out of some cardboard, cut film holders, a lot of duct tape and a piece of tin. Quickly it became my favorite camera and for weeks on end I didn't shoot with anything else. It was fun to shoot the long exposures- a few seconds to over an hour in some cases. After writing this blog post I've decided to buy a Holga pinhole camera. Winter in Western Washington is probably not the best time or place to be playing with a camera that needs tons of light to expose anything but if I get something good, the followers of this blog will be the first to know.

    Want to make your own pinhole camera? Use the links below for information on making a variety of pinhole cameras, where to buy a Holga like me, and where on earth you can still get film processed.

    • How to make a pinhole camera. (this is just one of many ways- search Google for all sort of varieties. I heard of one being made out of an old refrigerator once.)
    • Holga Cameras for sale and B & H Photo Video . Swan Labs is one of the only ones I've found that processed and prints true black and white specifically from the Holga cameras. I haven't tried them yet, but when I do, I'll let you know. If any readers have better suggestions please enlighten me!

    Next up: We're taking it back to basics and discussing the power of perspective.

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