Pinhole & Zone Plate Photography. Back to the Basics – No Lens, No Meter, No Viewfinder
A couple of weekends ago I was fortunate enough to partake in a day trip down Titus Canyon in Death Valley. A colleague was wanting to work on some landscapes for the upcoming “Shooting the West” photo symposium and as I had always wanted to see this canyon and the en-lying ghost town of Leadfield, off we went.
Also around this time I had been studying the effects of pinhole photography. For the price of a lens cap I was able to pick up a pinhole/zoneplate optic for my Lensbaby to give it a try. I hadn’t really done any pinhole since college and never tried anything like zone plate photography, so was curious to see the effects and try the skills myself.
The pinhole is around an f177, so there is not enough light passing through to frame anything in the viewfinder and of course no in camera metering. While the zone plate is an f19 because of the concentric circles, the same applies.
It was a lot of fun to point the camera where one thinks the framing will be and then estimate the shutter exposure to achieve the shot. Fortunately in this digital age, rather than having to process the film/paper, find out I didn’t get what I was looking for only to return and try again, I was able to review immediately and readjust.
I had read that both pinhole and zone plate photography emphasize the dust on the digital sensors, so I made sure I did a sensor cleaning before we went. Even so, the dust particles that remained showed up the size of elephants. I must admit the time in post to remove them was more than I would usually spend processing a normal shot.
Still, I found I really like zone plate photography and am intrigued enough by the pinhole that I will continue to work with them.
Plus it is nice to get back to the basics of photography and have to do it myself rather than let the camera do it for me.
Below are a couple of examples, the first of each is the pinhole and the second the zone plate.