(This email experienced a delivery failure last night, here is to hoping it works this time…)
Thanks to The English Game I am running way behind on writing this. So let’s get right to the pictures.
As you can see this week went better… but was still mostly a failure. After last weeks experiments in homemade developer, I went to the photo paper makers website and bought real chemicals. It made a huge difference.
This photo I tried to capture the high of our bean plants. It was a one hour exposure from about two feet away at night with our kitchen lights on. As you can see, it kinda worked. I think the exposure could have gone for longer. After taking this photo I realized I need to be taping the film to the back of my cardboard box as I’m guessing that the white block near the bottom was caused by wrapped paper.
Washed out Arugula
This photo is of our garden beds. It was exposed for ten minutes in lots of sun light. Below I’ve included my cellphone version. The black on top is from the tap inside of the box. I closed the box in-front of the film on this one so moving forward I’ll put this flap outside the box and tape it closed.
White, Try 2
This photo is a retry of the one above. I exposed it for two and a half minutes. Still way too long. Next time I have full sun I’ll do it for less than a minute. The brown marks on the bottom were caused by my developer tongs. I accidentally used the ones I hadn’t washed the coffee off of from last week. I think that mistake might be the only thing interesting about this photo.
A few people have asked what I’m using for a camera, expecting me to share photos of some grand “old timey” contraption. And while I’ve dreamed of such pursuits, the real thing is just a cardboard box, tape and part of a Guinness can. A camera can be anything as long as it has a lens and keeps the light out. It’s common in schools to teach photography by poking holes in soda cans. I used a cardboard box because cardboard is something we have a lot of laying about. Since poking a hold in cardboard doesn’t create a clean cut lens, I used a cut up can of Guinness instead.
Most of the work for this camera was me taping the edges with black duct tape to cover up any light leaks. Here is a GIF of the process with my hand cameos of my kids “helping” out.
How much light is required
I’ve begun to think of photography as a game of trapping the right amount of light. I build a light trap. I set it up and open it. I wait and then quickly close it when I think I have caught enough. If all variables are kept constant, you could say there is the perfect amount of time to keep your light trap open. The art then is knowing what that perfect amount of time is despite all variables being in flux. There are two methods I’ve read about so far to do this. The first is to do a light test and the second is to use a light meter.
Since using a light meter means buying a light meter, I won’t be learning how this works. The goal here isn’t to buy my way into good photographs, that will end me up back at my cellphone. So here is a quick overview of a light test. I’ll need to build a new camera to do this, so next week I’ll tell you about if it helped.
What is a light test?
A light test is when you expose a sheet of photo paper to the light in stages. You start by only exposing a small part of the paper and then you expose more and more of the paper. The first part of the paper expose is exposed for the whole exposure when the last part is only exposed for a short time. If you exposed a new part every fifteen seconds for two minutes you’d end up with photo with 8 different exposures. You then develop that piece of photo paper and see which exposure time looks best. For the real photo, you expose the whole sheet for that amount of time.
To do this well, I need a camera where I can expose the photo paper in stages. Since my current camera is just a box with a pin hole, I’ll need to build a new one. One that allows me to slide a piece of cardboard along the photo paper so that it gets exposed gradually. I’ll share my design next week.