Small Journeys

I was interested in exploring the world by sending pinhole cameras through the mail, and having them record their small journeys.

I built pinhole cameras and loaded them with photo paper. I took them to various post offices in the area, opened the shutter and then mailed them to myself. They would generally arrive back within 2 to 10 days.

After the camera returned home, I developed the photo paper to reveal a record of the camera’s journey. I then rewrapped the camera with brown paper, and then sent it out on another journey. The camera pictured below, was reused 9 times.

I conceived of this project before the pandemic, but as things progressed, the idea of sending something out to explore the world, became more relevant.

The pinhole camera. The pinhole is in the “eye” on the shipping label.

Digital Pinhole

Over the years I have made or purchased countless pinhole cameras. What they all have in common is that they recorded the image either onto film or photographic paper. I had always hoped that a pinhole lens on a digital camera would be a viable option, but unfortunately, I have never been satisfied with the results. Here are four different options that I have tried for my Olympus Micro 4/3 camera.

All of the photographs were taken under the same conditions with only the levels adjusted in Photoshop.

Pinhole Body Cap

Quite simple. A body cap with a hole drilled in it and a pinhole put in place.

Pinhole body cap
Taken with Pinhole Body Cap

Pinhole Rising

I bought this commercially made pinhole body cap from a local camera store. It is a body cap with a metal insert that has the pinhole drilled in it.

Taken with the Rising Pinhole

Wanderlust Pinwide.

I got this one by supporting the original Kickstarter campaign. Made of plastic. It extends well into the camera body and is very close to the sensor.

Wanderlust Pinwide
Taken with the Wanderlust Pinwide

Thingyfy Pinhole Pro S

Well made of metal and like the Pinwide, extends well into the camera body.

Thingyfy Pinhole Pro S
Taken with the Thingyfy Pinhole Pro S

Final Thoughts

The Pinhole body cap produced images that are sharper than the Rising Pinhole.

The Wanderlust Pinwide has the widest field of view with some vignetting at the corners. In my opinion it is the sharpest of all 4 lenses.

Both the Pinwide and the Thingyfy show the yellow “blotch” in the upper right side of the image. The Pinwide exhibits this more than the Thingyfy. This “blotch” is caused by the angle at which the light hits the sensor. If the image is converted to black and white it is a non-issue.

All 4 of the lenses produce reasonable results in the Micro 4/3 format, but don’t produce the same image quality that can be had shooting film.

Aqua Oculus

I first became interested in how elements of the environment could participate in the image making process during the “Beneath” project. For “Beneath” I was using a modified film development tank as a pinhole camera. As I was filling the tank with water in order to make the photograph, I realized that the water became an active component in the image making process.

I was interested in seeing how the water collected from the environment where the image was being made, could contribute to the final image. The clarity and quality of the water all had an effect on the final image.

I constructed the camera around a 4×5 film holder and a salvaged shutter from a discarded Nettar camera. I created a compartment in the front of the camera to hold a plastic sphere that I could fill with water. I filled the sphere with water that I collected on location, placed it in the compartment and taped it shut to make it light tight. The light entered through the shutter and the water filled sphere became the lens to form the image.

I made the exposures onto photo paper that I had loaded into the film holder. Most of the images had exposure times of 1/25 of a second.

Aqua Oculus Camera
Water collected to form the lens
The lens chamber
Bow River
Bow River – Elbow River confluence
Fish Creek
Kananakis River
Nose Creek
Nose Creek Bow River Confluence
Sylvan Lake
Weasel Head
West Nose Creek