Locked treasure room

A fresh new day and we start our journey back in time, moving forth towards camera obscura, in its truth of form and its functioning. Camera obscura in latin translates as ‘darkened chamber’. It is simply a box which is darkened inside and has a hole on the other side. Light enters the hole and reproduces an inverted image of the frame on the darkened interior of the box. This image can be exposed on film or even be directly exposed on photographic paper (exposure time would increase if the paper is being exposed directly by insertion in the light locked box). Perspective and color are also retained to large extents.

The precursor to camera obscura – the Pinhole was actually first heard of in the principles mentioned by a Chinese philosopher – Mo-Ti (470 BC to 390 BC), also a founder of Mohism which was based on the concept of “impartial love” or “universal love”. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, had a good understanding of the optical principles as well. By the 13th century, in England, Roger Bacon had described the use of camera obscura for safely viewing a solar eclipse. Artists began to invest thought in the idea of applying this to aid their artwork as early as the 15th century.The magic lantern, a type of image projector was developed in the 17th century. It was used to create dramatic projections on screens in front of an audience to a bizarre fictional theatrical show or a magic show, during the 18th century, the age of Romanticism and the Gothic novel.

The idea of image re-creation through passage of light in a light locked device has fascinated and been intervened as well interluded by scholars and engineers, artists and impressionists and various others time and time again. Hence another interlude into understanding and learning how to make the device, the light locked box – Pinhole camera.

We are guided by Edson Dias into the creation of a matchbox pinhole camera today.

Things required :

matchbox     scissors     paper cutter     sandpaper     empty tin can

black tape      black marker pen       35mm film       scale     needle      hammer

Making the pinhole :

1) The box

Remove the inner part of the matchbox, the match tray. Mark out a 24mm square exactly in the centre of the match tray. Alternatively, if you want standard format rectangular photos (some photo labs will find these easier to print) mark out a 36mm x 24mm rectangle. Carefully cut out the frame shape with a sharp knife, keeping the edges as neat as possible. Any rough edges and card fibres will appear around the edges of each photo. This can be saved with the help of black tape if neatly stuck along the edges.

Reduce internal reflections in the camera by coloring the inside of the tray with a black felt tipped pen.

Try to colour the inside front of the matchbox sleeve black too.

Exactly in the centre of the front of the matchbox sleeve, mark out a 6mm square. Carefully cut this square out keeping the edges as neat as possible to avoid fluffy fibres obscuring the image.

2) The pinhole

Cut out a piece of aluminium from the drinks can, about 15mm square. Smoothen it out by rubbing sandpaper on it in circular motions and also taking care that the sheet does not bend. Place the aluminium onto some thick cardboard. Using the fine sewing needle or sharp pin, gently press into the centre of the aluminium. The idea is to produce a very small hole with clean edges.

3) Shutter

Cut two pieces of thin card, a square about 32mm, and a rectangle about 25mm x 40mm.  In the square piece, cut out a 6mm square in the centre.

Place some black tape on one side of the rectangular piece to help prevent light leaks.

4) Loading

First, trim the leader off the film, cutting the edge as squarely as possible.  If the film stub from the empy canister is not cut squarely across, trim it square too.

Pull out a little more film and thread the film through the matchbox.  Make sure the emulsion side (non-shiny side) is facing the pinhole.

Using some clear sticky tape, splice the ends of the film together as neatly as possible.  Try to make sure the edges are lined up together so the film can pass easily into the empty canister.  Tape both sides and make sure the joint is secure.

The Matchbox Pinhole camera has an f number of about f90.  There’s no need to be very accurate about exposure times when using colour print film, use the following as a rough guide when using ISO100 or 200 film.

Outside, sunshine: 1 or 2 seconds

Outside, cloudy conditions: 5 seconds

Indoors, normal room lighting: 5 – 10 minutes

It’s good to follow certain conventional ways of doing things, taking down notes is one of them and it definitely helps.

Refer :







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