Author: demaakbarewereld

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Pinholes à la Holga

Holga PC 135 and HEMA CN 400 film.

Holga PC 135 and HEMA CN 400 film.

In a fit of madness, I once bought a Holga 135 PC. After several DIY projects, I wanted a “real” pinhole camera for a change, with a decent shutter and a proper advance mechanism. Now there are brilliant pinhole cameras on the market, made of wood and copper, a joy to behold. Rather on the pricey side, though. So, cheap as I am, it became the plastic Holga PC 135.

Holga PC 135, shot with a Yashica 109 and Lomography CN 400 film.

Holga PC 135, shot with a Yashica 109 and Lomography CN 400 film.

To be honest: I don’t really care all that much for this camera. I find it hard to use. Being a pinhole camera, you always need a relatively long shutter speed. So you always need a fairly solid surface, because handheld long exposures (1/30 second and up) seldom goes well. In the absence of a sturdy tripod, I am always dependent on walls and fences and the like, which limits the composational possibilities. In addition, the Holga is made of light plastic, which is nice when you have to carry it about all day, but also tends to lead to motion blur if you don’t have a steady surface to place it on.

Still, I have made some beautiful pictures with the Holga 135 PC. It may not have the charm of a homemade pinhole camera, but (unlike the Holga CFN) it also lacks the light leaks. The lightflares it produces are beautiful, and I have made some pretty neat flower photos. I would not call it a total misconduct.

In general, I think that the Holga PC is most suitable for (extreme) close-ups, for example of flowers (that is, if it’s not too windy). You only have to take care of enough light.

Architectural Flowers

Holga 120 CFN and Fomapan 200 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Fomapan 200 film.

A fun technique for getting cool double exposures is using a splitzer. A splitzer is a fancy name for half a lens cap that coveres half the lens. It’s simple, and fun to use. You cover half of the lens, take a picture, do not advance, cover the other half of the lens, and take another photo. This way you can make beautiful in-camera remixes, no Photoshop needed.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale XR 50-200 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale XR 50-200 film.

On the Lomography website, I came across a few photo albums by user maximum_b (https://www.lomography.com/homes/maximum_b) with wonderfull semi-abstract images of buildings. A kind of christmas baubles made of skylights and windows. They were made with a quarter-splitzer. Or a 3/4 splitzer: with three-quarters of the lens covered. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I blatantly copied the idea and tried the 1/4 splitzer.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

Assembly was easy as pie: strip of cardboard around the lens, circle and cut out, cut out the quarter circle, tape here, tape there, done.

Holga with 1/4 splitzer.

Holga with 1/4 splitzer.

The trick is then to put the quarter splitter on the lens and take a picture (keeping in mind what quarter of the image will be visible). Do not advance the film. Then turn the splitzer a quarter turn, and turn the camera a quarter turn. You should now have the same corner exposed. Take the same picture again, and still do not advance the film. Do that two more times, so that all four quarters of the negative are exposed to the same image.

For the best globe effect, you should be looking for a building that strikes a bit of a point against the sky. A corner of a modern building gives a nice, tight view, but turrets and the like of older buildings can also provide an interesting image. It takes a bit of experimenting what buildings give a nice result. Personally, I think it’s most beautiful if the image is as symmetrical as possible. All four the quarters the same, nicely centered. With some clouds in the background you´ll get a beaufiful architectural balloon.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

The result is super cool. The best pictures look like architectural flowers or stars. It’s an effect that goes very well with redscale film, or expired slide film. Ordinary color film tends to get overexposed, but that does not happen quickly (rather the opposite) in redscale. Black and white also looks beautiful.

Holga 120 CFN and Fomapan 200 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Fomapan 200 film.

As far as camera choice is concerned, I prefer the Holga. I have used the Diana F+ as well, but with that lens, the end result is just too image-filling to my taste: the image spills off the sides of the picture.

Diana F+ and Fuji Provia 400X film.

Diana F+ and Fuji Provia 400X film.

Square images work best, which quickly leads to 120 film. Ihis also has the advantage that you have a high resolution and you can get the overlapping details in the center of the picture beautifully clear. But who knows, maybe it works on 35mm as well. I should try with the Diana Mini some time.

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji T64 Pro film.

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji T64 Pro film.

Flashy Holga

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

One of the advantages of the Holga 12 CFN is the built-in flash. Not just any flash, but one with four color modes: white, yellow, red and blue. You can do fun things with a flash like that.

In general, don’t use the flash that often. With the simple cameras and flashes I prefer, when you use the flash you can easly kill a photo by flooding it with hard light. A colored flash in itself is not necessarily a bonus either. It can all too quickly lead to an monochrome flood of color. Maybe fun at start, but I quickly grow tired of it. This is actually the main reason why I was disappointed at first when I got my Colorsplash camera.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography  CN 800 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 800 film.

But unlike the Colorsplash, you can make double exposures with the Holga CFN. And then those colored flashes do become fun. By shooting a few layers while flashing with a different color each time, a festive mix of colored layers is created. Especially in party situations, this works very well, as if you are recording the disco strobe. But a harsh camping trip also can also be improveved with some colors.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography  CN 800 film.

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography CN 800 film.

It works best when it’s dark. In theory, you could also flash in daylight and make multiple layers. However, with too much light, the different color layers don´t really come across.

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

A variant is advancing the film al bit between each layer you shoot. This will give you a more elongated photo in which the time passes in different colors.
It’s a simple trick that gives a spectacular result.

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Velvia 100F

Accessories: Holga Lens Filters

Macro snail. Holga 120 CFN with macro filter and Fomapan Creative 200 film

Macro snail. Holga 120 CFN with macro filter and Fomapan Creative 200 film

The Holga is a sturdy brick of cast plastic. It doesn’t do interchangeable lenses, you’re stuck with the plastic lens it came with. That lens is beautiful, so why look for anything else? But every now and then it would be nice to get a bit closer with the Holga. A beautiful flower in close-up, a distant mountain a bit nearer. For these situations there are accessories for sale.

In my collection I have a set of close-up filters, a few macro filters, and a telephoto lens. Thus, my Holga is fit for all situations. In theory, that is. Those filters and lens are nice to play with, but it takes a lot of practice to actually get good pictures.

The telelens, for example, brings the image 1.5 times closer. The thing consists of a plastic case with dito lens that slides over the Holga´s lens. Make sure the camera is in the infinity (mountain) setting. A side effect of the telelens is extreme circular vignetting. It does have a certain something, but you should keep in mind that not everything you see through the viewfinder will be in the actual photo. More than ususally, make sure that the subject you want in focus is in the middle of the image.

The close-up and macro filters give a strong vignetting as well, but less than the telelens. They are much flatter filters, that you put on the front the lens (again with the camera on infinity). I am most fond of the close-up variations, which allows you to make photos at 50 cm, 25 cm and 12 cm, distance. Especially when using the smaller distances you should not depend too much on the viewfinder, because the lens is of course a few centimeters lower.

The macro filters allow a distance to your subject of 6 or 3 cm. In theory, these make for great extreme close-ups, but there are a few points of concern.

For example, at this distance – even more than when using the close-up filters – the viewfinder is completely useless. You will just have to look over the top of your camera and aim the lens at your subject. This takes some practice, and I have several pictures with just a bit of subject matter at the bottom of the picture to prove it.

Also, if you are this close to your subject, mind that it is not too dark. You can quickly block the light with your camera. You allready have an extra layer of plastic in front of the lens blocking light, so be sure to have enough iso, an extra lamp, or use the flash.

It is important for all filters to use the correct focus distance, because the depth of field is narrow. A measuring tape or ruler will probably come in handy. Or choose a subject with enough depth so that there is always something in focus.

Holga Saga I

Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

Random Holga picture. Holga 120 CFN and Lomography Redscale 100 film.

With fantastic timing, a few weeks after it was announced that the production of the cameras would be stopped, my Holga gave up the ghost. A sad moment, because the Holga is high in my top five of all time favorite cameras. Even my digitally minded friends found it a cool thing, and nicknamed it The Big Green Monster. I did see it coming a little bit. It had been slowly crumbling ever since I bought it a year or five ago.

Now the whole Holga charm is that it’s a cheap Chinese plastic camera, so small wonder that it’s not top quality. Moreover, I did not treat the thing very gently. It was dragged halfway around the world, loosely trown in a backpack, trough rainy northern swamps, dusty Mediterranean islands, hot and humid Asia… All this time losing small bits of itself and producing gorgeous photo’s.

The foam-rubber cubes that kept the film tight in the camera were the first to go, with the first roll of film that I ever shot with the Holga. The foam was rolled into the film, leaving sticky glue residues inside the camera. I learned that those bits of foam are superfluous. Film can be kept tight just as well with some pieces of cardboard.

During a trip to Ireland, I then lost the lens cap. A pity, but no drama.

It was a lot more annoying when, on a next holiday in Corsica, the glue that kept the advance knob in place melted. With some difficulty I could still push the knob down on the shaft and advance the film. When the groove in the shaft was worn out, the knob no longer had grip and didn’t work anymore. I had to try to re-attach the knob. Different kinds of glue all failed because no glue could stand the forces working on the knob when advancing film. For a while, I used pliers to grab the shaft and turn it. In the end, it seemed like Sugru, a kind of instant rubber did the trick to hold the knob in place.

Next, the nib that held the film spool in place broke off. A little more cardboard solve that again.

The light leaks became slightly larger, but some more black tape along the edge of the door helped to correct it.

Then the advance knob came loose again. There were some pictures left on the film, so I thought I’d use the pliers again for a while to finish the film. Then I’d try to fix it again with fresh sugru. But this time I squeezed too hard and the shaft broke off. This really seemed to be the end of the camera.

I just bought a new Holga the Second.

Then one day I came across a crowdfunding thing for a new repair product, the Formcard. I’m a fan of the rubbery Sugru, but that wasn’t strong enough for the knob, especially with only small bit of shaft left to attach it to. The Formcard is a hard plastic that you heat in water, and then it becoms mallable. When it cools, it hardens again. I saw possibilities! Of course, I hadn’t trown Holga the First away, because you never know. A few weeks after later a couple of credit card sized bits of plastic arrived in the mail. No green unfortunately. But black kind of fits the wear and tear on the camera, so black it was.

And lo and behold! It works! Out of the hot plastic I formed a little knob (without burning my fingers too much), pushed it on the Holga (with a piece of aluminum foil underneath so that it would stick to the shaft only and not to the camera body) and waited until it cooled and cured. Pretso! A working knob! It´s may not be the best looking knob, and I had to carve away a bit with a knife to make it run smoothly, but it works.

Holga the First lives!

Crummy tablet picture of Holga the First and it's new Formcard advance button.

Crummy tablet picture of Holga the First and it’s new Formcard advance button.

12 Months, 12 Projects – July: Up and Down

For my July project, I had decided on photography from extreme angles. That is, shoot straight up and shoot from just above the ground. This was actually inspired by those pictures of skyscrapers from below. You know the type, straight edged pictures with a bright blue sky between three or four imposing buildings bending to the center of the picture. Or those pictures straight up from Parisian courtyards. A whole alphabet has even been created from pictures like that. The close-to-the-ground part of the project was a sort of saftey, in case I didn’t find cool shots straight up.

I must admit, I didn’t really try my best this month. I wanted to use the Holga, because I have decided that August is Holga month on my blog. That limited the possibilities a bit. In the absence of too much angle of view, the those high-rise building did not really work out. I don’t have any handy skyscrapers or quaint little courtyards close by. Our local office buildings are not so high or close together that it makes for an interesting picture. Some old alleys in the inner city proved to be slightly interesting, and the art at Amsterdam sculpture event Art Zuid produced a nice straight up photo, and that was more or less it.

The low pictures were easier to realize. Though I have to learn to keep my camera straight, since in half of my pictures the horizon is skewed. I really should put the camera on the ground for these kind of pictures. Half a meter above the ground doesn’t quite produce the extreme picture I was looking for.

Well, all in all, not a very spectacular result. Nevertheless, it has encouraged me to look for other points of view more often. For example, when I didn’t just took a regular frontal view of the monument at the center of the Netherlands, but also tried an extra low point of view. I probably wouldn’t have done that if it handn’t been for my project. I wouldn’t have photographed the artwork either, and have missed a fairly nice picture. It once again made me realize that it’s good to think about things in a different way. That’s another win.

Book: Holga – Life Trough A Plastic Lens

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Provia 400 film.

Random Holga picture. Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Provia 400 film.

In the series of books that come with Lomography cameras, I have the book Holga – The World Trough a Plastic Lens. I got it when I bought Holga the First from the Lomography Shop. I got Holga the Second from a diffrent shop, so no book with that one. The book is not a publication of the Holga manufacturer. It was written/compiled by Adam Scott, a Holga enthusiast who got Lomography to publish his book. It is more or less the same book that comes with all Lomography cameras: lost of photos in bright x-pro colors, tips on tricks that you can use with the Holga, and mini portraits and testimonials of Holga users from the Lomography community.

It’s all not terrible exhaustive. It’s a nice little book if you’re not yet familiar with toycameras and Lomography. However, the seasoned lomographer does not find much news in the book. These are the same tips I have read in half a dozen other books: multiple exposures, colored flashes, endless panoramas… That a lot of tips appear in the book several times (first ‘officially’, then repeated in the chapter with tips from Holga users) does not really help either.

Still, it’s nice to browse through the book for the pictures. It can get a bit tiresome, all those hysterical colors and extreme points of view, but hey. It does contain some really nice pictures. So we probably just shouldn’t look the gift horse too deeply into its mouth.