'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Pinhole Camera

It is surprisingly easy to take a detailed photographic image using a simple pinhole camera.

The 'camera' I used was a large tin with a tiny hole drilled in half way down one side. The hole needs to be able to be covered completely with a bit of tape; black sticky insulation tape works well. The tin also needs to have a well-fitting lid. A large cleaned and dried coffee 'Milo' tin or one that used to contain baby formula is ideal.

In the darkroom, I affixed a postcard-sized piece of unexposed photographic paper to the inside of the tin opposite the hole, with a few small bits of blu-tack. It was easy with a red filter on the light, but it is possible to do it by feel.

All that remained was to take my tin outside and prop it up somewhere stable with some suitable view in front, and remove the tape. It will depend upon the weather - ie light conditions, and the size of your tin, as to how long the hole should be open. This image below was taken with an exposure time of two and a half minutes. I experimented to get it right and used up three or four other prints that were too dark - too long an exposure, or too light - too short an exposure time.

I then closed up the hole, and developed the print back in the darkroom. This image comes out upside-down and mirrored. There's not much you can do about it being mirrored, but it's a simple matter for most people to turn the print up the other way.

I have just scanned the print into my computer, flipped it horizontally, and 'inverted' it. Hey presto: We have a reasonable image of the trees at the back of the tech, and a view of the fence-top upon which I sat the tin.


  1. Love this, Have thought several times of drilling a hole in a camera cap for the Olympus just to see if it would work.

  2. It all seems rather a lot of trouble to go to. The equivalent in the world of laundry would be to ignore the washing machine and proceed, with dirty washing on one's back, to the river with a couple of large stones. Still, most instructive.

  3. My original cameras were little more than that! I've never used a tin to make a photograph but I did used to use a similar device to project images onto a paper screen. It does seem rather a lot of trouble though...

  4. I remember having to do this for a photography class I took. It was back in the 70s before computers and I have no memory of how many tries it took to get a visible photo. I seem to recall it was of leaves on trhe ground, though. I think I was impressed that it could be done, but very glad to not have to do it again!

  5. Ben Bongers29.9.10

    How simple photography can be. But a lot of work! Do you know more tricks to make complicated things simple?

  6. Thanks for your comments everyone. Funny, but I didn't seem to find it trouble at all... just wonderful and fascinating.

  7. Your comment made me laugh Ben. It's my special talent. Reinventing the wheel.