Getting Started with Your Camera

All cameras consist of four basic parts: a light-tight box, an aperture (controls volume), a shutter (controls duration), and a film or focal plane (where the image comes into focus). For this workshop the aperture will be a pinhole drilled with a needle through .002 of inch thick brass shim. (These cameras can also be modified to take a plastic or glass lens). The shutter will simply be an index finger covering and uncovering the pinhole. The camera is constructed to fit precisely a 4×5 inch, large format film holder.

The focal length of the lens or the distance between the aperture and the film plane is roughly 1.5 inches long. The shorter the focal length the greater the angle of view.

Angle of view refers to the number of degrees out of 360 that the camera will record (think of it as a slice of pie). For example: human vision sees approximately 47 degrees which is why a 50mm lens is considered normal for a 35mm camera. Anything more than 50mm is considered a telephoto, and anything less, a wide angle. Your cameras are extreme wide-angle cameras and take in almost double what normal human vision sees.

To maximize what your cameras are capable of recording make sure to use all of the space available to you as an image-maker.

  1. Find out–––by placing objects to the left and right of primary subject
  2. ––– how much space your camera records from side to side (angle of view) in both vertical and horizontal positions?
  3. Take a horizontal and vertical image of the exact same scene and take note of the differences.
  4. Also, determine the number of inches from the camera where you can first begin to see an image. After looking at your prints from yesterday my guess is about eight inches (it will be different for vertical and horizontal images). Therefore as you test your cameras today. Place images and objects in front of your camera beginning at a distance of no less than six inches.