Ultra-wide angle is almost a standard in pinhole photography. Among commercial camera sellers the longest I could find with a 6x6cm image was 32mm (86.3°).The widest was 20mm (113°). I’ve occasionally used cameras as wide as 30mm, but most of the time I use narrower angles of view ranging from still-pretty-darn-wide-angle 35mm to quite long 200mm. Last winter I decided to try to find the attraction in these extremely wide cameras, most of it done with 4x5 negatives at 35mm. When I made the 6x6cm Variable Cuboid, I included a 20mm front as an extreme example and I’ve used it occasionally. I loaded it up and set out to further my study.
One thing I’ve always disliked is the extreme vignetting this close to the pinhole. Mr. Pinhole says the image diameter is only 38mm. Working with these negatives I felt like I was slogging through mud to overcome the exposure gradient from center to edge. Scanned the way I normally do, I got a spot of overexposed sky in the middle of a black ring. The only way I found to manage them was to do a very low contrast scan and then, with constant adjustment of the range, size and intensity of the burning and dodging tools, I locally treated the image until I got a relatively uniform contrast across the frame. I think you’ll notice that there’s still significant vignetting with very dark edges and corners. A lot of people feel this is the best feature of ultra wide angle.
In response to a previous post, Tom Miller told me about a method Eric Renner suggested to manage this. During the camera exposure, he would hold a black dodging tool in front of the pinhole and withdraw it away from the camera to expose the edges more than the center. I’d like to see him do that during a one second exposure.
Wide open spaces can be made to look even more wide open, and particularly deep. Another prized feature of ultra wide angle is that optimal diffraction occurs at a significantly lower f ratio, f100 in this case. That, of course is accompanied by short exposures. Just under a second in this case. There are ripples from the wind in the water, you can see a few rocks under the water at the shore and the textures in the clouds are rendered in particularly realistic detail.
This is facing northeast so it’s not the sun behind the clouds that’s making the bright spot, it’s purely the vignetting, but it does draw your eye to the center, doesn’t it? The rocks at the bottom are of course underexposed so the contrast is pretty jacked. I don’t think they have that great a difference in brightness, it’s just differences in the angle of reflection between the sky and the camera, exaggerated by the high contrast.