Going backwards with the RSS pinhole

My first experience with the RealitySoSubtle 6x6F pinhole camera was fairly successful so naturally I was keen to get out and shoot some more film in the same camera. Probably a bit too keen, really, as I went out on two trips in bright sunshine, far from ideal conditions. One trip was to St Peters Marina on the River Tyne and the second was to Tanfield Railway.

The engine shed at Tanfield Railway.
The lower notice reads “No matches, cigarettes, or pipes allowed in this seam”
St Peters Marina

I did manage to get a few OK shots but there were three sets of problems – one specifically related to the sunshine and the other two related to the camera design.

The first problem was that if the bright, and fairly low, sunshine was at my back, this produced a shadow of myself or the tripod in the foreground of the image. In most cases I was able to stand back to get my own shadow out of the image, but avoiding a shadow of the tripod and camera was difficult, and made more difficult by the second issue.

Shadow of camera and tripod in the foreground

The second issue was that I didn’t always take account of how wide the angle of view is with this camera, so I ended up with too much foreground. I was able to crop in for a closer view but it would be better if I could get it right in-camera.

The second issue is also linked to the third issue, which is that it’s quite easy to get your fingers in the shot. Here’s the most extreme example, one which can’t be cropped out and still leave a worthwhile image.

The design of the camera requires you to place your finger fairly near the pinhole in order to grab the shutter release and pull it towards the edge of the camera, thus opening the pinhole (and the reverse to close the pinhole). That movement has the potential to produce some movement or vibration of the camera, and the shorter the exposure, the more likely that movement will affect the image.

In the bright sun, and using Ilford FP4+ rated at box speed, i.e ISO 125, I was getting exposures of 1.5-2 seconds even after using a polarising filter to slow down the exposure by 2-2.5 stops.

The RealitySoSubtle web site shows a method to reduce camera shake with short exposures, which is to :

  1. place a finger over the pinhole
  2. open the shutter
  3. lift the finger and start counting
  4. when the exposure is complete, replace the finger
  5. close the shutter

I can image that this works fine when a filter is not used with the camera, because the pinhole is obviously small enough to be covered by any finger. However I specifically purchased this model so it could be used with 52mm screw-in filters. The problem here is that attempting to cover the whole filter with your fingers is a clumsy process which lead to the fingers being in shot on several images.

I did manage to avoid the problem on some images, and these were probably the ones where I used the back of my phone to cover the filter, rather than my fingers. I was already holding the phone, since I was using it an alarm to time the exposure, so that wasn’t too inconvenient. In future I’ll use my phone or a grey card before opening the shutter.

That shadow again

I’ve also ordered a 5-stop neutral density filter, which means that even in bright sun the exposure will be around 30seconds, which should be long enough that I can open and close the shutter without needing to cover up the pinhole or filter.

Shooting into the sun avoided the shadow of the camera, but not surprisingly produced flare.
This is a mystery as I had my back to the sun so no idea how the flare happened

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