This project is the brain child of a serial tinkerer. By day I work in the corporate world in the realm of science and technology. Most of my work involves creating new things, testing new technologies, making things better. Family is very important, and whatever time is left after Family and work, I dedicate to several passions. They all converge on the same focal point: the creative process.
I love collaboration and what comes out of the synergistic brew that comes out of the interaction; setting up clear goals that a team can understand; the intermingling of minds that forge awesome ideas; the excitement and pleasure of making something totally new, innovate and functional.
The idea of using exposure automation in Pinhole photography is not new. There are plenty of examples out there on the web. Back in early 2000’s I came across a contraption designed and custom made by Australian John Fletcher. I had to have it – and purchased his Integrating Light Meter. Fletcher’s system had 3 parts: 1) the light meter; 2) an electronic shutter controller; and an electronic shutter from Milles Griot or an old Ilex Electronic Shutter. It worked and made wonderful images with it. About 2 years ago the system malfunctioned and was not able to get it repaired. The bug to fix it got transformed into a desire to make one after an inspiring visit to the San Francisco Maker Faire. Technology was accessible enough to build it from scratch. There was plenty of talent to form a team and just do it – build it. Arduinos, laser cutters, 3D printing were all readily available to make it happen. Most importantly, there is a lot of talent to work with – from all over the world.
The first thing was to design the Pinhole Exposure Brain. Scouted the world for an electronics engineer that was willing to work with me and demonstrate passion for the project. There was a lot of talent out there, and selected a young bright mind with a good understanding of photography from Mexico. While he was working on the Brain, I worked on preliminary prototypes for the wooden camera (The Heart). Learned CAD drawing and made 3 revisions of a medium format camera and 2 versions of a lens board for large format cameras. When the Brain was finished, it got coupled with the Heart, and started the process of calibrating the light meter and fine tuning the software.
A year went by. Countless hours and weekends of work – the prototypes were working.
All the images you see in this website were taken with the cameras. Every single shot in here was that – one shot – with perfect exposure. I had enough confidence in what we had created that I did not take multiple bracketing shots just to prove to myself that we got it right.
The first tour of the camera was on a long trip from Las Vegas to San Francisco – the long way – through Death Valley and across the mountains through Yosemite Park. This was meant to be THE big test. One shot. No bracketing. Not a trip you can make every weekend to go back and retake images that did not come out right. With great anxiety I left the rolls for development at Oscar’s Photolab (SF). Waited one day. Got them back with great expectations. Not a wasted image. The system had performed to high standards.
Now, the auto exposure is not magic. The Brains we developed are not TTL Matrix Metering. You MUST understand basic exposure and light metering techniques. The light sensor is calibrated for 18% gray – as any manual mechanical vintage 35mm camera. It will measure an average – and expose for that average. If your subject is darker or lighter – it will take it to gray. If you want a white building to be white, then you need to adjust the exposure EV. But that is all. After this, the camera takes care of the exposure. It will make a reading every second. It will calibrate ISO, focal distance, pinhole diameter, ever-changing available light, and reciprocity failure. Every shot you take will come out as close to perfect as you can get it.
The cameras have been tested in in extreme heat (at the bottom of Death Valley) and in cold weather (Yosemite Valley). Have taken images that take less than 1 second (ISO 4500 film at noon) or taken 4 hours (night shot with artificial lights). Bottom line, the system works and is a great tool to make amazing images.
Hope you like what you see and support us.