As a reaction to the plethora of modern day digital imagery that abounds everywhere these days, I like to use both a 6x6 Holga 120n and Zero 2000 pinhole medium format cameras. These cameras are considered to be lo tech equipment, the Holga is completely plastic with one shutter speed of 1/100th and a "B" Bulb setting. It has two apertures that are notionally f
8 & f
11 along with crude zonal focusing. While the Zero Pinhole is basically a wooden box with a small hole in the front. However both cameras are more than capable of producing intriguing atmospheric images that are unique and different from conventional film photography. Images from both these cameras will also sit well along side each other in a body of work.
Use and Modifications
The unique character of Holga photography is defined by the appearance of the images, they normally have evidence of camera light leaks, esoteric focusing and heavy vignetting in the corners. For my own approach to Holga work I try and exert a little more control over the whole process. Before putting any film through a Holga camera, I make a few basic alterations to the camera before using it. The first modification is to paint the interior of the camera with a matte black paint, I do this to minimise any internal reflections that might come from the plastic material that is used to make the camera, this alway appears to have a sheen to it. I then apply a thin layer of an opaque sealant to all the exterior joints. And when I have loaded a film in the camera I also take the precaution of applying black masking tape around the camera, including the red film indicator window on the back plate, from experience I have discovered this window is not light tight and will cause fogging even through the backing paper. The sliding locks on the side of the camera can also be knocked open and are best covered with masking tape tape to prevent accidentally opening the camera. I also remove the foam strips from inside the camera as well, I find they can sometimes make loading and unloading the film difficult. They are there to provide tension to the film, but I have not noticed any difference without them in place.
When it comes to taking pictures with a Holga I like to have more input over the final images than the only shutter speed of 1/100th allows. Hence I mount the camera on a tripod, using a cable release adaptor and the bulb setting, this allows me to modify the exposures with neutral density filters. A further modification I have done is to attach a 46-52mm step-up ring to the front of the lens barrel, enabling me to use the full range of 52mm glass filters from my Nikon system. The procedure and method I have adopted for taking pictures is to meter the scene as normal using my Gossen Lunasix, taking into account the only apertures available are f
8 & f
11. Then add an appropriate neutral density filter to lengthen the exposure time to a manageable level. This allows the exposure to be made using the "B" bulb setting and the exposure timing made with my wristwatch, which will usually be several seconds or longer depending on the filter used plus any reciprocity factor that also has to built to the final exposure time as well.
Currently the only pinhole camera that I have at the moment is a basic Zero 2000 6x6 camera. There are a couple of other models in this range of cameras, one that has a filter holder and another that includes a cable release mechanism as well for releasing the shutter.
As pinhole exposures are usually in the realms of seconds or minutes, I thought when I bought mine that I wouldn’t need any filters to control the length of the exposures, hence the reason for choosing the basic model. I have since discovered that even with a pinhole aperture of f
138 when using a 400iso film, I sometimes want to lengthen the exposure time for creative expression. The result was, I made a filter attachment to fit onto the front of the camera that still gives access to the shutter slide. It is made from a piece of MDF painted matte black, with an old 52mm UV filter ring minus the glass glued in place at the front allowing the use of 52mm filters. As seen in the picture below.
The process of taking a picture with a pinhole involves a certain amount of guess work when it comes to composing an image without a viewfinder, and any viewing aid is helpful. I also use a small spirit level that I keep in my camera bag. Arriving at an exposure using the Zero 2000 with an aperture of f
138, is achieved by metering at f
8 and then reducing this exposure by 8 stops. Adding any filter factor and reciprocity value to arrive at a final exposure time.