Spring is here, and hibernation time is definitely over! More art and ideas coming soon!
Winter–in the eleventh month
Snow falls thick and fast.
A thousand mountains, one color.
Men of the world passing this way are few.
Dense grass conceals the door.
All night in silence, a few woodchips burn slowly
As I read the poems of the ancients.
–Ryokan (Japan, 1758-1831)
I’ve recently started up again with some explorations in digital pinhole photography. How this works is: you take a digital SLR, take off the lens and replace it with a modified body cap that serves as the ‘pinhole.’ (I don’t recall where I purchased the pinhole cap, but if you Google ‘digital pinhole – Nikon‘ you’ll probably find it quickly). Your camera needs to be sophisticated enough to have all manual settings — and most importantly, the ability to manually hold the shutter open — it’s called ‘bulb’ on my Nikon.
Shooting pinhole is a very different experience, and I imagine it is closer to what the earliest photographers experienced. It requires patience and a great deal of practice.
One difficulty is that I can’t really get a good view through the viewfinder of what the shot is going to be. It takes some practice to aim the camera body in the right direction. Since the shutter needs to be open for a good 5, 10, 15, 20 seconds or more, one needs to be really immobile (a tripod or monopod helps).
Digital pinhole also suffers from the problem of dust on the sensor: something that wouldn’t normally happen with film pinhole technology, since each frame of film is virgin. The digital ‘film’, i.e., the sensor, is hardly a virgin, as it gets used over and over again, and my Nikon is pretty filthy at this point. Photoshop is a huge help at this juncture!
Shooting this way is a [potentially] meditative experience. In a recent outing, I came up with a number of really interesting shots that I can then liberally work with in Lightroom and Photoshop — it really brings photography closer to painting — and for me, provides fascinating subject matter for oil paintings I want to realize. (See Lifeworld series). So this pinhole outing is a form of visual research.
Below are a series of abstract detail shots that were all created from the full image shown above.
Which of these should I use for a painting?
Because you think your time or your being is not truth, you believe that the sixteen-foot golden body is not you. However, your attempts to escape from being the sixteen-foot golden body are nothing but bits and pieces of the time-being.
— “Uji,” Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253)
Winter is decidedly on its way out in these parts, but I couldn’t resist giving it one last parting glance this afternoon as I reviewed some photos I shot near Ivoryton, Connecticut in late February.
I’ve been a photographer from an early age, at least since my grandmother passed along to me my grandfather’s old Leica, if not before. I use photography as a research and compositional tool. Much of the inspiration for my paintings comes, directly or indirectly, from photographs I’ve taken of beautiful places.