Long Exposure Portraits and Pinhole

Posted on September 12, 2012


I got my pinhole attachment for my Hasselblad a couple of days ago, so I thought I would wander out into our local woodland Burnham Beeches to try things out. I also thought it would be an opportunity to try some long exposure self portraits.

I learned a number of important lessons.

First, the pinhole is very slow….in the shaded woods and allowing for film reciprocity exposure times would be around 10 minutes…..this seems very long for a portrait pose….chances are it would be very blurry… I did not try one today but I plan to give it a go once I  have got my mind around how to set up the shots.

Instead I thought I would practice with slow exposures on the digital back with the Hasselblad. For these I set things up so that the exposures would be around 20 seconds and deliberately moved pose mid exposure. What I found with these is that if the background is bright then the features of the sitter bleed into the background too much and become unclear….so look for situations where the background is darker than the subject. Also the resulting images with two ghostly figures of me look a bit too contrived.

The idea of this work  follows the general theme of much of my work on the Advanced programme which is to explore ways in which portrait photographers seek to distract their subjects from self conscious posing. The rationale for this new work is that using long exposures may well serve as such a distracton as a sitter would be unlikely to hold a pose for an extended period  – for this it seems to me that 20 seconds is not long enough and that moving about is both disruptive and the end result manufactured. I need to think through the rationale for the project more clearly…not there yet, so need to do some research and put my thinking cap on. Here is the best portrait from today….

Double self portrait by long exposure, Burnham Beeches September 2012

I have also had in mind a landscape project in Burnham Beeches. My idea is to make a series of intimate landscapes of small pathways and clearings within the woodland, looking to take advantage of the play of light through the trees. My first effort is below:

Pathways and Clearings Burnham Beeches,12 September 2012