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Experimental Photography

We can all learn a lot from experimenting, and photography is an area where this is particularly applicable.

We can undertake experiments to refresh our memory and check we have understood things, to question areas of knowledge that we read in magazines we feel are wrong, to testing the combination of knowledge and developing new skills.

Take for example the pinhole camera, most photographers have an idea what this is, but few realise that you can create zooms, or that you can correct perspectives, stopping buildings from leaning back, with a pinhole camera.

Take a look at :-

Image taken with a camera with no lens, but using a pinhole instead

You will see that the last 4 of the articles listed above have practical experiments that you can do yourself.

You will find within the photography section a lot of other  articles that have an experimental aspect to them, for example:-

and photography projects on various topics.

There are a lot of areas where photography is misunderstood by many people and these errors echo from one to another, particularly through magazines. Take for example, the concept that depth of field is a third in front and two thirds behind, so focus a third into the shot. This is not completely correct, it only applies when items are very close, less than the hyperfocal distance, beyond that it's about 50/50 in front and behind. As an experiment, photographing railings at different distances will show this.

Here are a few tips to assist you in the world of experimental photography.

  • When we experiment we want to tie down as many variables as we can, so we are only changing, if we can, one variable at a time.

  • If experimenting with lighting use something that is stationary, i.e. a Girlequin, rather than live models, or a still life.

  • Make a note of everything that you do, you won't remember it fully afterwards.

  • Don't accept as gospel anything that you have not proven yourself.

  • Always look for exceptions to everything, so if it works at one setting try others, this rules out chance combinations that work.

  • You can connect up many items, for example non Nikon lenses to Nikon cameras,  electronic triggers  to fire cameras, and more, so keep an eye open for sources and information that will assist with this. Add information you find to a scrapbook, or if you feel a bit of a wizard or a witch you could call it a book of shadows and include your experiments as well.

  • Develop aids as you go, and collect aids others have developed when you go on training courses. For example like our three fold laminated EV Guide which you can download, print and use.

  • Watch this online magazine for more projects and other information.

But most of all do more experimenting, play with lenses, look at perspective, look at sloping back effects when using different lenses close to buildings, look at effects you can produce by changing the white balance settings including to non standard settings, try to use everyday items for other uses, look at filters, filters, again using them in imaginary ways, play with lighting, fill flash, reflectors and....  well just about everything.

Why not try to put aside a few days each month just to experiment, to develop new skills and reinforce old ones. What you will discover is that it follows the normal pattern of the circle of knowledge the more you discover and know the more new areas you can think of that justifies more experimenting or research.

The experience that you gain from experimenting makes the difference between a person who has to constantly ask for assistance and the person who can give it.

Image from Photographing Snails - Project

Some useful contacts for experimenters parts

In order to connect an old lens of a different make, or an enlarger lens or some other item to your camera it is helpful to have adaptors. You can find information on some, plus a service to make what you need, at www.srb-griturn.com, they also have a range of other items for those of us who experiment, so take a look or ask for their free catalogue.

To find the more usual items, such as stepping rings to switch between filters, tripod heads, clamps and the like I would suggest you start by looking at www.speedgraphic.co.uk, they also have most other photographic and lighting accessories and a free catalogue available.

If you want pinholes or even wooden pinhole cameras, or anything similar take a look at this website www.pinholesolutions.co.uk, see also some information we have on what is available, prices etc on Pinhole cameras - further information.  

See Also:

Pinhole Photography Section

A pinhole for your DSLR

Pringle tube pinhole camera 

Pinhole Kit MK3

Pinhole Adaptor

Pinholes from the Pinhole Factory

Pinhole Cameras - Further Information  

Stanton Drew Stone Circle - Pinhole Gallery


By: Keith Park Section: Photography Key:
Page Ref: experimental_photography Topic: Photography Last Updated: 03/2011

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