We Tried Salehieh, Hakomori

Just as it served as an apt introduction to the concepts of photography when we first entered this class, the pinhole camera is a good way to start talking about what we've learned since then. In manifesting some of the most basic principles by which light and photography function, it provides a useful reference for the application of those same principles to more complex cameras and scenarios.
The underlying ideas behind pinhole photography are universal to all manner of imaging techniques—there is an object whose light is directed through some aperture or lens (in this case, a pinhole), and that light is then cast onto a photosensitive film or sensor. Cameras are, in their barest essence, dark boxes with a hole in the side; pinhole cameras just happen to represent that description a bit more literally.
Making these simple cameras, therefore, proved to be a useful way to learn about the practical implications of otherwise abstract ideas about light and art. In needing to find a truly light tight container for our film, we learned about the necessity of being mindful of how we expose our photos. In poking our own small apertures into aluminum sheets, we learned how simple differences in the shape of our openings can dramatically affect the photos we take. We wielded our tape, foil, paper, and pens in a wearing attempt to correct the minor aberrations that destroyed our photography. Our materials were few and simple, but their manifest effect was astounding and frustrating. As these diagrams depict, neither the construction nor the operation of pinhole cameras is particularly difficult. However, their proper use relies on an understanding of the optical phenomena that photography makes use of. A smaller hole will let in less light, but what little light makes it through will not have diffused—it will be coherent and focused. A slow shutter can light up the dark, but any instability or motion will be dramatically amplified—any slight blur that might have kept itself hidden is made impossible to ignore. Our pinhole cameras lent us the opportunity to see these ideas in practice, providing us with the information necessary to start our photographic journey.
It wasn't long before we put that newfound knowledge to use. The same actions that before led to unintentionally hazy or dark photos were quickly translated into something more functional: shutter speed. For a photo to be taken, the small hole at the front of a camera must allow light to reach and expose whatever film or electronic sensor lies behind it. To that end, timing is endlessly important. Above is an example of what happens when the shutter speed is slowed down, letting light in over a greater length of time and thus capturing the movement that the camera or subject experiences in that period. Practically speaking, this is what happens when the photographer chooses to turn the dial at the top right of their camera to a greater fraction of a second (represented by the lower numbers on the knob's face).
In contrast, a fast shutter speed appears to freeze its subject in place, capturing the brief glimpse of the outside world it is exposed to before excessive light has an opportunity to blur its lines. In more concrete terms, letting light in for just a brief moment only allows motion that occurs in that time to be caught on film. The shorter that moment, the less movement you see. This effect is brought about by selecting faster speeds—higher numbers—on a camera's top right dial.
Shutter speed is only one part of taking a photo, however. After all, more light doesn't just mean more motion—it also means greater brightness. In order to maintain a proper exposure, it is occasionally necessary to compensate through other means. Namely, sometimes you must adjust the aperture (hole) diameter, represented on most cameras as an "f-stop."

The f-stop is indicative of the size of the hole that light enters the camera through. If you're to imagine a camera as an artificial eye, the f-stop tells you the size of the pupil. As a result, adjusting your camera's f-stop to correspond with a larger hole (or aperture) will make your photos brighter, a fact that is sometimes a godsend when a scene doesn't allow for slow shutter speeds or a tripod isn't immediately at hand. More than that, though, expanding a camera's aperture allows light from a greater variety of directions to enter its chamber. In other words, a relatively incoherent barrage of light rays is able to pass through the wider hole, mildly distorting whatever is not explicitly the focus of an image. In fact, this phenomenon is what allows photographers to take those photos where all but certain key objects fade into a sort of fuzzy blur. These photos would be referred to as having a shallow depth of field.

Photos like these, for example. All of that was pretty impractical sounding, though. For the sake of common usage, some people might prefer to think of f-stops with respect to their most noticeable effects. Lower f-stops, then, lead to brighter images with blurrier backgrounds (as low f-stops mean big apertures), and higher f-stops give rise to dimmer, more generally in-focus shots.
These images see the use of a high f-stop, which is what gives them a deep depth of field. By constricting the aperture, you only allow light to stream in from relatively few directions, making it much easier to obtain a picture without any of the fuzz associated with a low f-stop.

As new and unfamiliar as photography was, though, we delved into areas even more alien in this class. Specifically, we began to learn how to develop our own film and photographs.

The whole process started in here, the changing room—the room where we would switch our film out from its canister and into the carrier we'd use to process our negatives.
We came to know these tools pretty well. We would first use the menacing, bottle-opener-esque thing (pictured above) to pry open our canisters and remove the film we were to develop, proceeding then to fumble around in the dark as we tried to wind it into the plastic spools that ensure no photos touch during the development process.
Spools like these, basically.
After cutting the little tab from one end of the film and the metallic rod from the other, we would insert either end into the plastic feeder that guides the film along the grooved tracks of the spool. Following that, it was a simple matter of rotating one side of the spool back and forth until all of the film was wound into place. We'd then plug the center opening of the spool with a black stopper to prevent light from reaching our film after we closed it into its carrier (spool and all).
Ultimately—that is, after placing the spool in its container and winding the top on—the whole apparatus would look a little like this. The purpose of this entire procedure, really, is to isolate the film from light as much as possible while still creating room for the chemical development process. If you were to remove the red cap, there would be a large hole through which chemicals could be poured, and it is so light does not enter with those chemicals that the black plug was inserted earlier.
These were the main chemicals we had to familiarize ourselves with: D76 (or developer), fixer, and water.
Step 1 consisted of mixing 5 mL of water with 5 mL of D76 to make our developer solution, which we would pour into the film container after checking its temperature. Depending on what temperature we found, we'd then let it soak for something like six and a half to eight minutes (we used a chart), shaking it for the first thirty seconds and then again for five seconds every remaining minute. This brought out the images cast onto the film when it was exposed to light inside the camera.

In step 2, we poured out the developer solution and replaced it with 10 mL of plain water in order to prevent further development (which would ruin the contrast and make everything look cloudy and dark). This step lasted only thirty seconds, after which we would pour the water down the drain. We referred to this part of the process as the stop rinse.

Following the stop, we moved on to the fixer—part 3. You may recognize it as the solution inside the drum marked with a skull and crossbones. Highly toxic and somewhat malodorous, fixer was nonetheless critical for film development, as it made permanent the recently developed negatives that might otherwise have distorted. After 10 mL of fixer were poured into the container, this step would take five minutes (with 10 seconds of each minute devoted to shaking the whole ensemble). It was at this point that we could unscrew the container and remove our film spool, though first the fixer had to be poured into a large jug for disposal.

Still in the spool, the film then went into the "whirlpool rinse," a cylindrical tube that would spin water up and down in a vortex pattern. The rinse would take about three minutes.
Subsequently, we would finish the chemical development process off with thirty seconds in "PhotoFlo." This marked when we could unspool our film and actually see our photos for the first time.
Weighed down at the bottom and hung in the dryer by a clip, the film looked something like this. We had to leave it drying overnight before we began the enlargement process.
The next day, after the hour long effort to create this continuous coil of photo-negatives, we chopped the product of our labors into pieces. For ease of access, a greater ability to examine and judge our photos, and protection from dust and scratches, it was necessary to take scissors to our film and separate it into segments. Usually about four or five frames a piece, these segments were fitted into plastic sleeves that afforded them some separation from the forces of the world outside. The sleeves were important too in making contact sheets.

At this point, most of the next two days would normally be spent in the dim of the dark room, greeted at every turn by the sight of these enlargers. It was with these metal monstrosities that we turned our film negatives into enlarged prints.

The first thing to do was usually the creation of a contact sheet. Made by overlaying a sheet of photosensitive paper with the sleeve containing our negatives and exposing it to an enlarger's light, these were mostly used for checking the approximate focus and exposure of our photos. Exposure time (at f-8) tended towards 10-15 seconds.

Having chosen a picture to develop from the contact sheet, we would then place its corresponding negative in a negative carrier like the ones pictured above. Inserting it below the light source of the enlarger, its filtered light would be projected onto the surface below. A handle on the right side of the enlarger could be used to change the projected image's size.

With the speed easel (the small yellow platform) positioned such that it encompassed the image cast by the enlarger, we used a knob adjacent to the size-adjusting handle to fine-tune the picture's focus. This procedure was aided by the use of "grain focusers"—optical devices that magnified a reflected version of our picture so we could see how well the sand-like grains of pigment on our film were in focus. We also placed trash photo paper underneath the grain-focusers so minor discrepancies in height wouldn't disrupt the focus and changed the enlarger f-stop to 2.8 to achieve better detail.

After focusing was done, we would begin Making our prints.
Usually, this meant making a test strip to determine proper exposure time.
In order to test a variety of exposure times, we would cover all but a section of a strip of photographic paper and expose that section to five seconds of light, shifting the cover over each time so that a larger section would be exposed the next time. This was done to obtain bands of different levels of exposure on our test strip, separated by increments of five seconds. Based on which exposure time had the best contrast, we could then approximate for how long we should expose our prints to light.
Both our test strips and our prints had to be processed through these chemical baths after exposure.

Chemical bath procedure in 6 steps:

1. Place the exposed paper in the tub farthest from the dark room entrance. This is the developer. Let it soak for 90 seconds while gently tipping the tub back and forth.

2. Remove the developed paper from the first bath then proceed to dunk it in the neighboring tub. This is the stop bath, whose main component is vinegar. It prevents the image from developing further, and the paper must be left here for 30 seconds while rocking the tub as before.

3. Move the paper one tub closer to the door, into the fixer. It can now be left alone for the three minutes it takes for the chemicals to fix the image permanently (it would tint pink upon exposure to light otherwise). This step can be shortened or skipped when developing a test strip, as it is only necessary to keep the strip as long as it takes to determine correct exposure time.

4. Rinse the photo paper. This can be done either by moving it to the final tub (which is just water) and allowing it to sit for five minutes, or by inserting it into the "aquarium" wash for the same length of time. The aquarium is a tank near the squeegee that allows water to slowly run over the photos placed in its slots. Either way, simply allow the residual chemicals to rinse off and then go on to the next step. The time can be decreased again if it is a test strip you are developing.
5. Use the squeegee to remove excess moisture.
6. Feed the print into the dryer, unless you are making a test strip. Absolutely do not put a test strip in the dryer. Otherwise, just let your photo be drawn into its tracks; pushing it in faster would risk warping the paper.

Once completing this process for a test strip, we would then refer to the strip for exposure time and then repeat the whole procedure with an actual print.

Our prints would generally look a bit like this, though without the glare from overhead lights.

When a print didn't come out with the contrast we hoped for, however, there were usually two ways to deal with it.

One method was to use "burn" or "dodge" tools—black paper that either resembled a stencil or a wand—in order to provide different amounts of light to different areas of a photo and thus darken or brighten any of its over or underexposed portions. The alternative was a bit simpler; plastic sheets called contrast filters could be switched out in the enlarger to change the balance of shades in the photo. Higher numbers corresponded to higher levels of contrast.

Having learned the basics of photography and development elaborated upon above, we then went on to apply them to more specialized tasks. However, for lack of space, I'm going to include the miscellaneous things we did among those tasks in the following sections.

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