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Monday, April 23, 2012

A Lesson in Art, Pinhole Photography, and the Goat Rocks...

Mt. Adams at sunset as seen from our camp in Snowgrass Flats.
The first weekend in September of 2011 I joined a few close friends for a weekend saunter in the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington. Kim, Steph, Nick, Bill, Todd, Duke and myself made up the mountain crew. On our way out of town, I stopped at Blue Moon Camera in St. Johns and picked up a medium format pinhole Holga camera along with a few rolls of Kodak film. It's basically a plastic lensless camera that takes 120 film. Shooting with this camera in the wild was exciting and delivered a certain type of freedom not easily found with digital equipment. These cameras don't produce sharp images with perfect color and contrast, they don't use batteries, there are no settings to adjust, HDR, huh? They are one of the rawest, and some may say purest, forms of image making with light. They also produce lots of failure. Most of that failure is human caused of course. But when it works, wow, it works wonderfully.
It is easy to forget to advance the film in a pinhole camera as it is 100% manual. The results of multiple layered exposures can be amazing though.
I have to admit, I felt like a failure after picking the film up from the lab. Originally I thought it was just that my lack of experience with using pinholes was to blame or that I'm just too used to seeing images from high-end optics and the right side of my brain had let me down. I now think it has to do with a reoccurring theme that happens when I get back from beautiful places. When I cull through my film/images right quick, I usually feel slightly overwhelmed and usually even a bit disappointed. This is because I critique my work harshly with the experience of shooting it fresh in my mind. Oh, I should have moved over to the other side of the meadow, or, why didn't I change the composition, or, that wasn't how that sunset made me feel, are a few thoughts that come to mind. Only after letting my work steep for a few weeks, or in this case, months, do I start to have an emotional response to them and see them for what they are. The longer I let images steep, the better I am at seeing photography for art instead of a technical way to record an experience.

Again, a bit absent-minded on the whole film advancing thing, but I love how  layered images can almost feel like a comic strip.
Well, I looked at the negatives again a few days ago and thought, wow, I really like some of these. More importantly, I responded emotionally to them in a favorable way and forgot all about them being from a pinhole camera or about any technical mumbo-jumbo that really doesn't mean a thing. 
Taking a lunch break near Goat Lake, incredible September mountain sun.
 I would be interested in hearing what emotional response, if any, this lo-fi form of image making does for you.
Group photo with lensless flair! Common to get lens flair, but amazing how this came out. 
 Stay tuned for more pinhole photography. I recently took a 35mm Zero pinhole camera with me on our Crater Lake circumnavigation via skis. I'm hoping this lensless medium will take me deeper into the art of creating emotionally charged imagery.
Sunset not far from our camp. This creek provided us with delicious water.

Sunset from camp

Crystal clear waters. 
My personal favorite. Mt. Adams from camp. Simple, the way wild places are meant to be.

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