I think photography should be unrestricted in ideas — and categorization being a red herring — with cameras not really creating any limitation to capturing what we want.
ok, so in the real world, we have to contend with myriad of limitations due to the physics of the camera/lens. coincidentally, the limitations in cameras, and/or film, is what also generated what I see as the "Language of Photography", where we attach emotions to imperfections, such as (excessive) grain, B&W, sepia, and vignetting.
vignetting is a funky imperfection: we intuit the appeal, but more often than not it can be overbearing. Holga cameras seem to inflict an alluring type of vignetting, and so can pinhole.
with the release of Pinwide, by Wanderlust Cameras [ link ], profiting from the advantages of digital photography, I was able to plunge into trying this “restrictive” form of photography. I was getting used to putting some boundaries into mobile photography already, such as keeping all the processing within the phone’s apps, and so it was good to see what would happen with pinhole.
in particular, Pinwide brings about three key restrictions: a wide angle view (22mm equivalent); vignetting; and uniform softness. the latter is a feature in pinhole, in that the depth-of-field is infinite. however, because of the sensor size of Micro 4/3rds cameras, and the super high f-stop (> f-192), diffractions will soften the photo. [ link ]
while mobile photography has some restrictions, pinhole offers some that I rarely visit in my photography. namely, I am not a fan of wide angle lenses as they can easily lead to clichéd-wow photographs — at least when I use them. I am used to applying a depth-of-field to my advantage; and vignetting rarely has an application to enhance the presentation because I am not trying to call attention to the center of the frame.
it was clear from sampling photos on flickr, for example, that pinhole was not an “every moment” photographic recording. yes, photography is fun, but also interesting to apply the perceived format, presentation and characteristics to a given topic/subject as we see artistically fit.
what was most unexpected was the ease of knowing how to apply pinhole to certain styles of photography I was pursuing, as well as taking me to some that I had not had any interest.
it is not difficult to realize that I would bring over from pinhole to mobile photography some of these characteristics. for example, the tall “hedges” at Versailles were photographed with three cameras, and here is the pinhole result:
the distance from the main subject is “far” because I did not want to create a distortion with the wide angle view on the main subject**. the camera needs to be set at true level, and preferably, if there is a strong horizon, set to the middle. (in post processing, the horizon bend can be undone with “pincushion” correction.) with any other camera, I can approach the subject closer, and work with another composition, for an alternate effect. for example, in this mobile photo:
yet, a softness and vignetting was applied to this photo, as recalled from the impression of a pinhole photo. the two photos were taken moments apart.
the three “classifications” of pinhole photographs linked below is the result of the application of the three main restrictions to a way of seeing. landscape is an area of photography that I do not pursue, but pinhole seems to bring an interest towards it, namely, because I do not see much of it.
there are many more ways to approach pinhole photography, like the inclusion of long-exposure required at low ISO settings. additionally, using medium format film, and all the care it demands, can also create a wonderful pinhole photographs outside of what I have been able to explore so far. one such excellent approach is what Jacqueline Walters has done with her Traces series [ link ].
** this is not a “rule”, but sometimes it applies. at other times, I want to use the wide-angle distortion to create a surrealism akin to German Expressionism [ link ]. for example: