The Snowdonia files, Part 3

OK so Anglesey isn’t actually in the Snowdonia National Park, but you can see Snowdon from Anglesey, so that’s close enough isn’t it ?

I took a trip from my holiday accommodation just south of Caernarfon over the Menai Strait onto the Isle of Anglesey, with the first priority being to visit the South Stack lighthouse near Holyhead.

Holyhead itself is a rather dour town (sorry, Holyhead residents) which is best known as the ferry port for travelling to Ireland. But you don’t have to go too far out the town to see stunning coastal scenery. I was very pleasantly surprised by the coast of Anglesey because when you travel on the main road across the island to Holyhead, it seems to be mostly flat agricultural land and keeps it’s coastline hidden. I definitely want to go back and explore the coast some more.

The film photos I took at South Stack were all pinholes ; some large format pinholes in mono using Ilford FP4+ on the Intrepid 4×5 and some colour pinholes with Ektar in the RealitySoSubtle 6x6F.

At the time of my visit, there was a helicopter flying between a ship off the shore and the lighthouse. It was moving what may have been building materials, not people, and it was exciting to see it landing on a tiny pad in a strong wind. At first I though that I had no chance of capturing a moving chopper with a pinhole camera, but I saw that when it got ready to lift some materials, the chopper hovered in one place for a few seconds – so that was when I made 3-second exposures and managed to capture the helicopter in a couple of images.

When shooting large format, and particularly large format pinholes, I often use an app on my iPhone called “Viewfinder Preview”, written by Adam Fowler.. This handy app allows me to preview the image using any image format I choose and any lens I own. I have it set up for 35mm, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9, and 5×4 image formats, and with all the lens focal lengths that I use. Usually I will scout the location first with the viewfinder app, selecting a place and angle of view that I want to view, so that when I get the camera out and put the tripod up, I already know that there’s an image which seems to be worth taking from that precise spot and I know what lens to use.

Since most pinhole cameras don’t have a viewfinder, the app is even more useful with pinholes (unless your pinhole has a very wide angle of view, which I’ll come back to discuss later.).

That arrangement generally works very well but something went wrong with the next shot. I previewed the image by configuring the viewfinder app to use a 5×4 image format and a 150mm lens – which would correspond to the angle of view I would get if positioned the Intrepid front standard in the middle of its’ range.

The Viewfinder Preview app allows you to take an image, not just preview it, and the scene looked like this:

You can see that the pinhole image I actually took is missing, err, a lighthouse…

The most likely reason is that I just didn’t have the bellows adjusted as I thought I had, so I got a more narrow angle of view. In my defence, I had climbed down about 500 steps to get to this point and would have to climb 500 steps back up, so I may have not been thinking straight.

I do like the pinhole version even without the lighthouse, but maybe I’ll need to go back to have another go.

The Viewfinder Preview app also allows you to choose a film emulation, both colour and in black and white. I can clearly see a difference between choosing, say the FP4 emulation and the HP5 emulation, but I haven’t yet compared the captured Viewfinder image with the actual film stocks. Just viewing it in black and white is helpful, though, because you may observe that a particular scene is too flat in black and white to make a good image, or alternatively that it really comes alive in black and white.

After taking the above shot I changed to using the RealitySoSubtle 6x6F camera, loaded with Ektar. I don’t use the Viewfinder Preview app with the Reality, because my iPhone is not capable of capturing the very wide angle of view that the Reality has – about 15mm in terms of 35mm-equivalence. I know that you can purchase accessory wide-angle lenses for the iPhone but I don’t have one.

I’m a but mystified by the pinhole flare in the image above. The sun was to my left so that explains the flare on the left – but I’ve no idea where the thing that looks like a firework at the top came from.

In closing, South Stack is a great location for photographers. I also highly recommend the Viewfinder Preview app; despite me not getting it right for one image discussed here the app has saved me taking lots of photo’s that weren’t worth the film !


  1. Interesting to hear how you deal with framing when the pinhole camera has no viewfinder.

    My favourite photo I think is the first colour one.

    The last image reminds me of quite a few I took with cheap plastic 35mm cameras like the Superheadz Black Slim Devil (Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim clone) and a Pentax PC something (perhaps 3000 or 5000). Both flared very much like this with their plasic lenses pointed into the sun. Does that pinhole camera have a plastic lens?

      • Oh yes of course, I just realised what a silly question that was, ha ha! I just assumed with my cameras it was defects in the plastic that added these kinds of effects to the image. I wonder if it’s minute imperfections around the edges of the pinhole that do the same thing?

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