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Expand your digital outdoor photography with pinhole experiments

Pinhole photography can be applied to digital equipment as well as traditional film cameras.
Pinhole photography can be applied to digital equipment as well as traditional film cameras.
Steve Polston

By Steve Polston

Pinhole photography is one of the basic forms of photography that many people forget about when they want to experiment with photography. The concept is used in viewing solar eclipses and is based on the ancient art world.

Essentially, a pinhole sized hole in a container or room or box will project an image of the outside on the interior of the camera (or room, or box, or wall). The image can then be traced on a paper or a wall, or exposed to a piece of photographic paper.

In the case of a digital photograph, a camera body cap can be drilled then fitted with a pinhole. The cap becomes your lens and the diameter of the hole determines the aperture of the lens (its depth of field).

I use my home-made pinhole lens on a Nikon D300s digital camera and find that in bright daylight that i can make interesting landscape images, some of them with personal meaning, some with art aesthetics, and some that resemble journalistic intentions.

You can find more of my photography on my website.

The pinhole photography process can be altered to include a lens, but then it become traditional photography ... the lens focuses the light and image. The pinhole process can combined with photographic media, such as 35mm roll film or paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals, or, as I suggest, with a digital camera. In each case, the image is inscribed on the media by exposure. A shutter is attached to the outside of the camera and when you have timed the proper length of the exposure, then you re-cover the hole.

The media can be processed in many ways, but if you've used black and white film, then you can process with black and white chemistry in a traditional wet darkroom; if you've used paper, then the black and white chemistry for paper works, except you don't need an enlarger. You can even expose on paper coated with cyanotype chemistry.

If you decided to use your digital camera, be sure to afterwards replace the cover on the pinhole or change back to an unaltered body cap -- not doing so exposes your digital sensor to moisture or dust.