No lens at all – taking the Harman Titan out for a whirl…

A few weeks ago, I succumbed to the worldwide hysteria surrounding Ilford Photo’s release of their handy dandy new Large Format pinhole camera, and ordered one directly from the manufacturer – Walker Cameras. This is a bit of a technological departure for me – consisting of little more than an ABS plastic box with a tiny hole at one end, and space for a double darkslide at the other. There are no controls for anything, only a lenscap and a bubble level on two sides. How can such a device do anything?
Here’s my first go…

This is a pic of Ballarat’s tram museum, from a few metres out the front. Here’s the workflow:
1. Look at the weather. In this instance, it was ‘kind of sunny’.
2. Spin the pointer on a (supplied, but you have to assemble it) paper wheel to sunny – well, it says I need to expose the film for 8 seconds or so.
3. (with darkslide inserted) Remove lenscap for moreorless 8 seconds
4. The deed is done
So far… I don’t actually feel like I’ve done anything except point a plastic box at a shed and remove the lid. This compared to the faffing around I normally do to make a photo… Then the ‘worst’ thing happens – I get ‘STUCK’ in the tram museum chatting happily to very knowledgeable tram museum folk, who take me out the back to have a squiz at partially restored trams. This isn’t good – it’s like a happy vortex of tram factoids, and I’m not going to make any photos am I? Well, whilst I’m chatting, I vaguely point the tripod at the middle of the tram shed and remove the lenscap for a minute or so, producing this:

Later, when I get home and process the film, I’m astonished to (a) find there’s anything on the film at all, and (b) I’ve actually made two interesting pictures. The tones and exposure are pretty good, and very printable, and even though the pictures are really soft – everything is in focus – which is because the tiny hole (“pin” hole) has an aperture of f/206, which is rather small. I feel less cheated by the experience, but it’s still pretty jolly weird using a Large Format camera that actually doubles in weight when you put the double darkslide in the back.
Next weekend, on a trip to Noojee, I tried making the classic waterfall shot (of the Toorongo Falls), whereupon a long exposure gives the water that milky effect. So I pointed the plastic thing vaguely at the waterfall (in portrait orientation), levelled it, and exposed the film for a minute or so, frowning at the vibrations I could feel under my feet from the wooden platform I was standing on. The result was this:

Again, this is alright, isn’t it? During the same trip, I was making snappy large format pictures with the Wista, and sharp sharp Nikon lenses also – and I just can’t help loving them more… but it is a real eye-opener, and sort of refreshing that you can make decent pictures with something so darn simple. Hooray Ilford, for getting me (and a 1,000 others) enthused about another film photography tangent.

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3 thoughts on “No lens at all – taking the Harman Titan out for a whirl…

  1. Hi Marc, I’ve crossed pinhole camera stories nearly three decades apart recently. I have been re-reading my 1996-1998 Photography International magazines in preparation for doing my own developing in Large Format. The mag was one of the better photo mags around as it was minus the copious pages of ads and was Australasian based. The editor, Terry Barnett, spoke about the resurgance in pinhole cameras in one edition, this was back in 1998 when digital was just starting to become mainstream, so I’m assuming they were swamped by digital mania, went away and are now making another resurgance.

    I see them sitting on the counter at Vanbar and Michaels, very neat and classical looking units. Your shots have a timeless character and nice depth to them, a worthy exercise by the looks.

    1. Thanks Colin!

      I wouldn’t mind reading those – I wonder if they have them at the State Library (I detect some productivity-killing investigation of same looming…)

      I reckon this phenomenon is a bit similar to stereo photography, in the sense that it’s a tangential trend that flares up from time to time, but never really ‘takes off’. The nicest stereo cameras are still the really early 20th century ones (I reckon) – like the ludicrously expensive (on the 2nd hand market) Heidoscop by Rollei…

      I took the pinhole out on the weekend for some shots around Anglesea – and made some nice pictures in a similar vein. I can’t get past the detachment of not really being able to compose a shot, other than just the general sense of where one points the thing!

      Marc!

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