I was aware of people using 35mm, generally with body caps on SLR's, but that just didn't seem pinholey enough, and like most others, accepted the common wisdom that 35mm wasn't appropriate for pinhole (I still hear this a lot).
In 2005, I helped my father move from Wisconsin to Florida. At the time on f295, the possibly erstwhile internet forum, there was a participant (Hi, Darrell!) who assumed the persona of a drill sergeant and constantly exhorted everyone to shoot more film wherever they found themselves. Traveling with my single shot foamcore cameras, and hauling along paper and a changing bag seemed impractical, on top of the exposures of at least a minute in sunshine, and struck me like more than I could deal with on the road in the cab of a 27 foot U-Haul truck. Film is a lot faster and would get exposures down to seconds. As kind of a joke for Darrell, I decided to build a 35mm camera for the trip.
I was familiar with the Dirkon and I think I even downloaded the plans, but it's got a lot of parts and is pretty fussy to build and everything I read from people using it said it was really tough to prevent light leaks. It's big advantage is that it has the appearance of an SLR and I didn't really care about that. Sounded like a hassle and not a particularly good road camera.
A 35mm camera is basically a box with a chamber for the supply cassette, a chamber where the film is exposed, and a chamber for the take-up reel.
I built this first camera out of foam core held together with glue and good old 3M #235 opaque photographic tape. I don't quite remember why I chose the 50mm focal length. When I was using lenses, I almost never used a normal lens, but the 6 inch 4x5 camera which I primarily used is pretty close to normal. I thought the conventional 24x36mm format of 35mm film was a little too common and boring, so I made it a little wider - 24x50mm. That prevents getting prints made by the standard photo processors, but I had my own scanner which accommodated wider formats and never really intended to print them anyway.
I drilled the pinhole by hand, and I don't remember much about that either.
Mr. Pinhole says .298mm is the optimum for that distance. I had been using a too small .5mm pinhole on a 250mm 4x5 inch camera and getting good results so I probably thought I would get the same in this case.
To protect the film from scratches, I glued felt to the back and the internal dividers that the film would ride over. I now think that's a little overkill, which I discovered when I was working on the minimalist Populist design.
The winder is a piece of 3/8" dowel with a slot in the end. I put the collar on it to provide a little extra protection from light leaks.
I created the take-up chamber to hold an empty film cassette, as in the Dirkon, out of an abundance of caution to protect against light leaks, and because I didn't create a way to rewind the film into the original cassette and I would have to take the film for processing in the take-up cassette. The disadvantage of this is that you don't know you're at the end of the film until it stops winding, and then to get the film out of the camera you have to sacrifice the last frame. That kind of bothered me and I ended up going into the darkroom to unload the film and rewind it into the original cassette.
There's no way to determine how far the film is advanced, but led by the Dirkon instructions, I determined that rotating it a revolution and a half would sufficiently advance to the next frame. As the film wraps around the supply side the diameter of that revolution and a half increases the farther into the roll you get so the gaps between frames get wider, but, it's a compromise you have to make.
I viewed all this as somewhat of a lark and I never really intended on continuing to use this camera except for this road trip, but then a funny thing happened.
My Dad's new place in Florida was in a Retirement Park on the shore of Lake Griffin. My Dad's house was the closest one to the lake. While we were there, I took these two photographs of the lake at dawn and dusk that are pretty close to my favorite pinhole photographs ever, and got me really hooked on 35mm color pinhole photography.
I continued to use this camera for a while and once pulled off by the side of the road just south of Hudson, Wisconsin and got this rather dramatic photograph of a shelf cloud which is the only one I've ever seen.
Although Sarah and I had been going to Mosquito Hill Nature Center since we moved to Wisconsin in 1985, this camera was what I used to begin taking pinhole photographs there which I continue to do to this day (although not with this camera).
In 2013, in order to do something different for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, I pulled out the camera again, and submitted this shot for the gallery.