Let's start with the obvious statement - this is a beautiful camera (check it out here), and probably for many a bit of a luxury given that you can make a pinhole camera from a shoebox. But it IS a beautiful camera, and more importantly is an absolute joy to use. This is just as well as there were times I felt that I could not do the camera justice - I just wasn't happy with the results I was getting - but perhaps the ease of use was also beguiling me a little too much.
If I'm honest then, it's fair to say I've taken longer to be happy with anything I've produced with this camera than with any previous camera I've owned.
However, as I look back on my stock of images made over the summer since I started working with the Parrot, I can see more in the images that I did originally. In hindsight I think I was expecting too much; I was probably expecting the camera to do all the work for me - which is just stupid.
It's also really clear to me that some of the light I was shooting in was less than optimal. I blamed the light, but I don't think this was the real challenge though. I was simply not used to the characteristics of a curved plane camera. For a start, I didn't expect the curved plane to be quite so obvious in the images, so I either didn't plan or account for it.
I'm also very used to working with pinhole cameras with a short focal length. I would say wide-angle, but the Parrot is also a wide-angle camera (at least that's how I would term it) but wide at what most would consider a "Normal" focal length - that's the curved plane for you.
So...we have a wide-angle, normal focal length, joy to use camera that I was struggling with. An odd one indeed, but that's the truth of the matter. As I got more experience though, things began to pick up a bit. Firstly, I started to account for the wideness of things.
Its not obvious from the image above, but the first dustbin (or trashcan for my American cousins) was hard to the left of the camera, and (for the first time) this image came back as I planned it. A pleasing moment then, albeit not the most exciting image ever made (with credit as always due to the artists of The Yard).
As the summer progressed, the light improved, and my planning got better...a lot better. I began to understand what I needed to do to make an interesting image. Not always (of course) but enough to feel my investment (time and film) was beginning to pay off.
Sometimes though, I still was somewhat underwhelmed by the results I was getting - at least when I reviewed the images when I received them back from the ever wonderful Canadian Film Lab.
I really didn't like the image of the yellow boat when I first got it back from the lab - it seems crazy now but I flipped straight past it to other scans - filed it in my Lightroom queue and forgot about it.
I kind of like it now, in face I think it's one of the strongest pinhole images i made over the summer. This does also raise another point...I've been more excited about my lens based than my pinhole images for a while now. I've developed a bit of style with my lens based work that I've been happy with, boring though it may be for others.
Sometimes though, pinhole is all you have with you and you just have to shoot. I would have liked the alpacas in the above shot to be more obvious...they're not and we'll just have to trust that they're there.
The eagle eyed amongst you might also note a change in the image qualities between the earlier and later shots. One of the joys of the Parrot P90/2 is you can swapped out the pinholes. After some discussion with Kurt (the maestro behind the camera), I flipped out the supplied pinhole for a pinhole from Edmund Optics (similar to those supplied by Lennox Laser, but UK based). I should say that Kurt has been a brilliant guy to deal with. He's always been there to answer questions and to provide some tips...he's also a damn fine craftsman to boot
Flipping out the pinhole gave me just a little bit more sharpness, as well as some proper funky lens flare.
Which brings up to date and some final thoughts. I'm now pretty comfortable with what I need to do to make the best of this camera. I'm also no longer expecting miracles. I need to do the work, I need to understand what makes an image work, I need to be a photographer basically.
Am I always successful? No, of course not. Am I generally happy? Heck yes.
With a bit of work I can make an image I'm genuinely pleased with. I'm no longer seduced by the beauty of the camera, and the ease of use, to the extent that I forget its just another tool. I think this is a lesson for us all, its not about the camera it's about the mind behind the hole. It's still bloody gorgeous though, and sometimes...just sometimes...I hit lucky.
For all the challenges I've faced, the journey has been more than worth it.