A year or two back I bought a Robert Rigby 10×8 pinhole camera, mainly because I wanted to achieve as big a negative as possible and this seemed the cheapest way of reaching my goal. Plus it was a manageable size compared to the huge large format contraptions I was looking at on eBay.
It rather goes against the DIY ethos of the pinhole movement not to make one yourself, out of a shoe box or a tin can, so maybe that’s why I never really got into using it. I did some experiments using photo paper as a negative but ended up with nothing that really inspired me. The exposure calculations were complicated and I realised I needed some good light and a calm day to ease things along.
This year I resolved to do better and found some 10×8 Fomapan 100 and loaded up the dark slides I’d acquired with film. I then waited for a sunny day without too much wind and after the wettest April since records began, this week that day finally arrived.
The Robert Rigby 10×8 comes with three focal lengths: 150mm, 200mm and 250mm; plus there are three apertures to match with f stops of: f429, f449 and f480. This is achieved by changing the size of the box and switching the pinhole you are going to use. It is actually a very neat system and works well.
I found mrpinhole.com very useful in showing me a method of calculating exposure. I simply set my meter to its highest aperture of f152 and, using a chart that mrpinhole provides, changed the ISO on the meter for the actual f stop of the pinhole. As an example with 100 speed film, the meter is set at ISO 10 for f480. I confess I embarked on this with only a small amount of faith but the results were very good. It suggested 8 secs given the sunny condition and who was I to argue.
I took a couple of shots of the house and then processed the film in trays. This, of course, is done in total darkness which with Rodinal 1+50 @ 20 degrees meant about 10 minutes in the dark after stop and fix. I still find slightly unnerving the sensory deprivation of being in complete darkness with only the indifferent voice of the talking timer to punctuate the silence. I was willing the time to pass and tension was mounting as I reached the point where I would see if it had been a success or failure. Deep joy when the lights went on; there was at least some kind of image on the negative. I can’t tell you the relief. Nothing is perfect and I could see I had a bad light leak, but I also had the biggest negative I’d ever held in my hands so I had to call this a triumph.
With this encouragement I steeled myself to go out on the streets of Penarth and use up the other three dark slides – that’s a whopping six more shots. The camera is quite light and with a carbon tripod and a small backpack for the dark slides I loaded up the car and went hunting something to shoot. I attracted some looks as I wandered the streets and at one point a passing cyclist shouted “Look he’s got an old camera”. I found the process of taking a shot very simple as you just have to line the shot up by triangulating some pins on the top of the box. Afte a hour I had my 3 darkslides exposed.
Below is what I achieved with the light leaks cropped out of most of them. I’ve since stuck a torch inside the pinhole box and turned the lights out so I could see where the holes might be. It seems I need to increase the rubber seals and I should be able to solve the problem. The photos aren’t always sharp but they do have a certain evocative mood. I’ve toned them in Lightroom with an Antique Greyscale pre-set. I’m keen to contact print them on to photo paper at some point.
I didn’t do enough research on agitation methods with trays and seem to have flows of developer across some of the negatives. This I think can be solved by larger trays. I used 10×8 trays for 10×8 film which is a mistake by all accounts. Also continuous agitation seems to be important so I will try that next time with, I assume, a reduced processing time. I’m far from disappointed by the results and am in fact encouraged to perfect my technique.
It still amazes me that a tiny hole in a box with film at the other end can produce such images. If you don’t believe in magic, give this a whirl and you’ll be convinced.