Making big images from pinhole photography

Black Mountain News

Photographer Lynette Miller has her boxes lined up for participants who are eager to experiment with photography at its most simple. Cigar boxes, empty tea tins, Christmas cookie bins and hat boxes, all with a small hole in the side - these are cameras?

Photographer and artist Lynette Miller poses with some of the many pinhole cameras she has made and offers to participants on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day April 30 at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts .

Miller, a resident of Black Mountain, is an enthusiastic champion of the natural optical phenomenon "camera obscura." Every year since 2004 on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, she has shared this miracle of basic photography with the Black Mountain community. Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day this year falls on Sunday, April 30.

From 1-4 p.m. rain or shine, Miller, an affable, seasoned instructor, will be guiding participants through the steps taken to capture images with the pinhole cameras, from exposure times and depth of field to the dark room and finessing the next image. This free event takes place on the theater space of the Black Mountain Center for the Arts at 225 W. State St.

“You don’t need any experience, and families with children are welcome to give it a try,” Miller said. "Some people come in, take one photo and leave; others stay the whole time taking repeated shots of the same view in an effort to get a successful image.”

Here's a pinhole photograph taken on Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2016 by participant Zee Cox.

For an entire generation that knows nothing but digital image making, pinhole photography is a fun way to learn about basic concepts that are quite complex.

“Pinhole is the Zen of photography,” Miller said. "It’s photography at its most basic. You’re never sure what you are going to get, especially since with pinhole photography you need a long exposure. You can’t freeze motion over time, so motion become fluid in the image. Not all blurs are bad!

"You can play with scale and depth of field because everything in front of the pinhole takes equal focus. You can have multiple exposures that make people almost transparent. But the most amazing thing is that this low-tech box with a hole in it and a piece of sensitized photo paper produces an image.”

Miller has the help of photography students who chemically develop the photos in the arts center’s kitchen, which has been transformed into a dark room. Participants can wait while their photograph is exposed and take the image home, or they can leave the image with Miller who (through the wonders of Photoshop) inverts and reverses, then scans and uploads them to the Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day website to share space with images from all over the world.

On Friday April 28 at noon Miller will explain the magic of pinhole photography, talk about its history and then help anyone who is interested can make their own pinhole camera. This lunch-and-learn event will take about an hour. Homeschoolers are welcome.

Though light-tight boxes and tins are provided, Miller can always use more, especially for those who want to leave the lecture on Friday with their own camera to use on Sunday.

For more, call the Black Mountain Center for the Arts at 669-0930 or visit ThroughThePinhole.weebly.com or pinholeday.org.