Recycling the Christmas packaging

When the turkey’s done, the pud’s been eaten, the bottles emptied and all are sick of sweets and chocs, there’s one more thing to do before trashing the wrapping.

With the Christmas festivities over, there’s nothing I like better than rummaging through the discarded tins, boxes and packaging in search of a potential pinhole camera.

Top of this year’s list was a neat cylindrical box that had housed some deliciously more-ish dark chocolate mint thins. Here’s how I elevated it to its true purpose! (click on the images to view full size.)

For the pinhole I use Art Emboss matt black aluminium foil – a roll cut into 2 cm squares makes a lifetime of pinholes, but the simplest pinholes are made by making a hole in a piece cut from an aluminium drinks can. To make the pinhole I use a punch/drill made from a cut-down eraser pencil with a pin pushed into the eraser (cut off the head of the pin and push it in with pliers). Lightsealing is achieved by the judicious use of sticky-backed felt cut from inexpensive sheets.

At this time of year the A&E department of the local hospital is likely to be busy so I took particular care using the craft knife when cutting the hole in the box over which the pinhole was to be placed. I use black PVC electrical tape, which is light tight, to stick the pinhole in place.

It took only an hour or so to convert my Mint Thins Chocolate Box into a Pincam, photographing the process as I went. I loaded the camera with a piece of Ilford MGIV RC Satin paper and gave an exposure of about fifteen minutes under the same lighting and of the camera I used to record the conversion. The camera lens was about 80mm from the pincam. Here’s how the paper negative and the scanned, inverted final image look:

Now, with Hogmanay coming up I’m sure I spotted a big tin box of shortbread and at least one Laphroaig cylinder box …

Going for the dDoOuUbBlLeE. Part 2 … and a schoolboy error!

Developing a film that’s been through the camera twice is no different to developing any other film … or is it?

In Going for the DoUuBbLlEe. Part 1 I exposed a roll of 35mm film which was then rewound back into the cassette and put into a film swap with friends who had similarly exposed films. We would each then put the swapped film through our cameras for a second time to produce random double exposures.

For my roll of Kentmere 400 I got a roll of Ilford Delta 400 in return. I was told that it had been exposed by Dan who I know to be a considered, careful, precise photographer and that he had underexposed by one stop, a series of textured, patterned backgrounds. And he’d marked the leader to help line up the frames when I loaded the film in my camera. Out of respect for Dan, I wanted to be sure to make my exposures on the film with the same degree of care and attention that he had for his part.

I decided to set up a table-top style of studio where I could control lighting and background and to take close-up shots of photography related and a couple of other objects. The closest focussing lens that I have for a 35mm camera is a Vivitar ‘macro’ zoom. Although described as ‘macro’ it is in fact a 1:4 close-focus lens rather than a true 1:1 macro, but that would be good enough for my purpose.

All done and as long as Dan’s textures and patterns weren’t too strong and the frames were in register, my second exposures should show up as subtle highlights against Dan’s backgrounds. I proceeded to the darkroom where I carefully loaded the film onto a spiral reel, secured it in a developing tank and then set about preparing the chemistry to develop the film.

I prepared all the chemistry fresh: developer, stop and fixer each in clearly marked bottles. I brought the chemistry and bottles containing the water I would use for rinsing up to temperature and placed them all in a water bath to maintain temperature from start to finish. Whatever could go wrong?

With everything ready, I checked the clock and poured the developer into the tank. As I did so I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the bottle marked ‘Developer’ still sitting in the water bath – what I was pouring into the tank was the fixer! Panic stations. I immediately poured out the fixer and rinsed out the tank. It had only been briefly in contact with the film and I reckoned that if I rinsed it out well enough there was a chance that something could be retrieved.

With my composure regained and the attitude that what’s done is done, I set about making fresh fixer to replace that which had been poured unceremoniously down the sink, replenishing the used rinse water and setting up the water bath for another attempt, this time with a somewhat greater degree of concentration.

The film developed with images but the emulsion side has a thick greenish appearance, rather like a film that’s been inadequately fixed. I’m not sure how well the negatives will print but I scanned them and with quite substantial tweaking of levels the files produced images not too far from what I was hoping for.

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They say there’s a first time for everything. That’s the first, and I hope the last, time that I’ll drop my guard and pour the wrong solution into the tank. I’m just gutted that it happened with a film that someone else, my friend Dan, had put time, thought and effort into. I’ll find out soon enough if he’s OK with the results!

Ideas of Beauty

The Democratic Camera Club which meets monthly at Stills, Edinburgh and of which I am a member has organised a Winter Exhibition. I am thrilled to have had four of my pinhole images accepted and am honoured that they will be displayed alongside the exhibits of fellow club members and artists whose work I admire and take inspiration from.

My images were made with my Harman TiTAN pinhole camera on Direct Positive Paper and so each exhibit is an original, unique image. They were made in the area of Talla Water reservoir in the Scottish Borders.

I sought to find a balance between the rugged beauty of the natural landscape and those elements of that landscape which man has used to his own end: reservoir, walls and bridge. I find serenity in contemplating the purposeful recreation of these elements blending with the land from which they were formed. A new ‘natural’ landscape is created wherein the man-made draws the eye and the mind to the beauty of the natural shape and form of hill and valley.


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The originals have so much more depth than these scans can show. Come along to the exhibition, see it for yourself and enjoy all of the excellent photography on show.