Pinhole Adventure: Portrait experiment with Erika O’Conor

Last Wednesday I met up with Erika O’Conor to do a little experiment photo shoot. With my obsession with my pinhole camera, I’ve been looking for more things to do with it. Lately I’ve wanted to see where you can go with it in regards to portrait photography. As we talked about what kind of shoot we wanted to do, the idea of representing the classical elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water) came up.

Since the pinhole never really gives you a super sharp image (especially if you’re doing 20 second exposures for portraits) I thought the images might lend themselves to giving the subject a bit of a mythical look to them. So the idea was that the subject would kind of represent the “keeper of the element” and we would try for portraits with the subject involved with a particular element. On this day we decided to take a stab at wind and water.

Since this was gonna be a fun experiment day, I decided to shoot with a roll of infrared film and had a 25 red filter on my camera. This is something I’ve started playing around with, and I’m still trying to find the sweet spot. Exposures have to be greatly increased when playing with the red filter, and while you can get pretty close figuring out the exposure, I’m finding that you still need to be able to improvise a bit with exposures. What is definitely clear is I pretty much need to shoot in sunlight.

We also shot at a creek and reservoir, but got there a little too late in the day and had to shoot in shade. I did exposures between 1 minute and 2 minutes 30 seconds and only one shot barely came through (and it was so underexposed that a decent image couldn’t come from it). I shot a couple of shots with my digital while we at the reservoir (the last two images are from that), so you can kind of see what we were doing. I think with a long exposure her slow movement while floating would of given a neat effect to the image, it just needed to be done in sunlight (it wasn’t as dark out as the digital images suggest, they look that way because it’s how I edited them).

The first image above was my favorite from the day, and the one of her standing with arms down next to some rocks came out nice as well (might work ok for representing earth element). I included the image of her holding up the scarf, despite the large white spot on her face, because I wanted to show how neat that effect came out in the long exposure. The  scarf was see through and I feel it helped add a bit of wind element to the image (too bad about that white spot!).

Not sure we accomplished the goal of representing the elements, but I do think we came out with an interesting image. And I definitely came out of it with some ideas on how to move forward with this idea.

Note: Film used was 120 Rollei Infrared 400, shot with the camera set at 6×6. The Pinhole exposures were between six seconds and 20 seconds.

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