Back out after a yearlong break: A Photographic journey and Closing Reflections

Returning to the world of pinhole photography after a year-long break was both an exciting and challenging endeavor. It was Saturday, the 18th of November, when I finally coaxed myself back into the realm of creativity with my trusty pinhole camera. Destination: Hastings  – a locale teeming with character, home to the largest beach-launched fishing fleet in England.

Hastings Old town beach is adorned with new boats launching into the waves daily, old weathered fishing boats that bare the scars of countless journeys, old diggers that nudged vessels into the sea and tall, black net shops standing as stoic guardians of fishing gear.

Yet, my return to this captivating world was not without its challenges. As I grappled to find my rhythm, the once-familiar tools of my trade seemed distant and unfamiliar. Reciprocity failure and pinhole conversions danced in my memory, and I fumbled to recall apps I hadn't used in ages. A light meter app, my reliable companion, became a puzzle as my recent phone change left it untested. The first meter readings revealed its inaccuracy, a hiccup I hadn't anticipated, and a stark reminder of the importance of calibration.

In a stroke of luck, a forgotten hot shoe light meter tucked away in my bag emerged as a savior with just enough charge to guide me through the shadows of uncertainty. Upon returning home and putting the app through its paces, I discovered it had been a prudent decision—2 1/2 stops underexposed, a narrow escape.

As I unpacked my experiences, both triumphant and challenging, it became evident that the essence of pinhole photography lies not just in capturing light but in embracing the unpredictability of the process. In this rekindling of my creative flame, I found solace in the imperfections and inspiration in the unexpected. The journey, it seemed, was as important as the destination, and with each exposure, I rediscovered the joy that had drawn me to pinhole photography in the first place.

The weather on that day embraced the classic British combination of wet and windy. Surprisingly, though, it was the best it had been in a long time. Yet, despite the elements being somewhat cooperative, I found myself grappling with a different challenge—composition. As I aimed to frame each shot, I realized I was teetering on the edge of taking the easy route, not fully leveraging the unique pinhole aesthetic and characteristics.

The struggle to conjure creative compositions lingered, tempting me to opt for the familiar rather than embracing the distinctive allure of pinhole photography. Perhaps the hiatus had left a temporary fog in my creative vision. However, amidst the internal tug-of-war, I couldn't deny the sense of accomplishment in merely reaching this point.

As the morning unfolded, the weather, true to its unpredictable nature, took a turn for the worse. The wind gained strength, and rain came down hard. Faced with the elements, I pushed forward, determined to squeeze out the last couple of photos. The urgency heightened, and the challenge intensified—each exposure became a race against the elements, a swift attempt to capture whatever scenes unfolded before me.

In the midst of this chaotic dance between man and nature, a certain beauty emerged. The adverse conditions became a catalyst for spontaneity, urging me to abandon meticulous planning and instead seize the raw, unfiltered moments. The last few shots, hurried and unscripted, encapsulated the essence of the day—a blend of struggle, resilience, and the sheer joy of capturing fleeting glimpses of a world transformed by the weather's capricious hand.

As I wrapped up my pinhole escapade amidst the worsening weather, I couldn't help but reflect on the unexpected beauty that arises when creativity meets adversity. Each raindrop and gust of wind etched its mark on the images, creating a visual narrative that spoke not only of the scenes captured but of the journey undertaken to immortalize them. In the end, the day might have been a battle against the elements, but it was a triumph in embracing the chaos and finding beauty in the midst of it all.

During this shoot, I opted for my Mia 4x5 pinhole camera, accompanied by film holders pre-loaded with Fomapan 100 for well over a year. To navigate the challenges posed by the day's conditions, I made the deliberate choice to meter each shot at ISO 400. This adjustment significantly reduced exposure times, rendering them more manageable given the specific atmospheric conditions.

In the development phase, I decided to stand develop using Ilford DDX, a decision not made lightly. The developer had been open for well beyond its typical six-month shelf life. Despite the uncertainties surrounding its viability, a small test on a piece of film provided a reassuring signal, prompting me to proceed with cautious optimism. Without a direct point of comparison, I took a leap of faith, hoping for the best.

The stand development process is simple
Ilford DDX mixed to its usal 1+4 ratio mixture, an initial one-minute agitation, followed by a patient 45-minute period of standing development. 
Subsequent steps involved stopping and fixing the film in the normal way.

Upon inspecting the results, the photos emerged with a satisfying quality, I do feel they don't have the same quality as I have had before, they are certainly much more contrasty this may be down to the film not being stored correctly over the past year, the out of date developer, stand developing process (even though I've had great success with this in the past) or just the bad light on the day. However, in preparation for future trips, I've taken the initiative to order a fresh batch of Fomapan 100 film and a new supply of developer. 

The Photos

RX16 Our Lady

I have photographed this before, from the same angle but with the much wider Zero Image 4x5 pinhole camera. View the other version of this on my PinholeLife Site


Dead Sharks

We have had a few storms for the past few weeks and I can only presume that these sharks have been washed up as a result of the storms, or they could've just been dumped by the fisherman? there were loads of them on the beach most of which were being enjoyed by the seagulls as a snack.
I believe they are Lesser Spotted Dogfish.

I do feel I could've improved the composition on this shot by getting much closer to the dogfish and making the most of that infinite depth of field you get for a Pinhole camera.



This boat is usually on the section of the beach, I'm not sure if it used anymore or just parked up permanently, but I have photographed this before and the original photo is one that has been a firm favourite of mine since. I'm not sure this is the best angle for this image, but it was worth a try, I feel the boat and hills on the left bit are a bit of a distraction so maybe a lower angle would've worked better to isolate the boat more.


Hoping for better

I did have my Holga WPC with me, but because the weather got so bad I didn't end up using it, I do however feel that it would've worked much better for this image. 
I love the movement in the flags on the left, part the reason I opted for this shot, maybe a slightly better thought out composition would have been better.


The old Boat nudgers

These have certainly seen better days with a lifetime on the beach, like most this has come out much more contrasty than I was hoping leaving very little detail on the lower half, on a better day some much closer more creative images of these boat nudgers would be great to experiment with.


The Last Hope

The final image, the rain was coming down hard, I was soaked, my camera was soaked, the fluffy mic wind muff on my GoPro was now a sponge it was not good, the thought process that went into this image was none, just put the camera down and take the photo and get out of there.
However, I don't mind this one too much.



While my expectations for this outing may not have soared to lofty heights, the simple act of getting back behind the camera after a break proved to be a revitalizing experience. The day wasn't about capturing perfection; it was about reigniting the creative spark that fuels my passion for photography. The mere opportunity to immerse myself in the process, braving the elements with my trusty Mia 4x5 pinhole camera, infused a renewed sense of purpose.

As I reflect on this rekindling, I find myself eager to continue this momentum, propelled by the desire to explore and create anew. The prospect of returning to the same location beckons, and I'm already envisioning the unique perspectives that my Holga WPC and Mamiya RB67 could bring to the familiar scenes. The journey doesn't always guarantee flawless results, but it's the act of capturing moments, refining techniques, and embracing the unpredictable beauty of the photographic process that makes the pursuit endlessly rewarding. Here's to the journey, wherever it may lead next.

See some more images from Hastings over at
This code ANVHXN gets you a discount until the end of 2023

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