Night Pinhole Shoot

The Melbourne Silver Mine has been commissioned by the folks at White Night Melbourne to help document this year’s event via a series of long exposure photographs.

The idea behind the MSM’s Exposure project is to use long exposure and pinhole photography to produce a unique photographic record of the event.

I’m very much looking forward to being a part of this project. in a rare moment of artistic pre-planning and forethought Lea and I took our light meters, stop watches and handy dandy notebooks into the city on Saturday night to test gear and assess practicalities.

Flinders Street Station from St Paul’s – 120 Second exposure

I plan to be shooting primarily with my Holga Wide Pinhole camera, which captures 6×12 photographs on medium format film. I’ve had this camera for several years but have only used it occasionally so I thought it wise to apply some science to it and get my head better around the way this camera sees the world.

If you aren’t familiar with White Night Melbourne, it’s a dusk to dawn celebration of light, art, design, culture and all else that helps make this city. in 2013 over 300,000 people visited the Melbourne CBD to take in the White Night sights. This year the idea has grown and expectations are quite huge.

The challenges of photographing this event on film and particularly via long exposure are many. There are the usual pitfalls of shooting analogue; the need to rely on light meters plus the inability to test exposures accurately are of course the ever present challenges. If we add the unusual and unpredictable environmental factors we can expect on the night, this adds up to the possibility for results stretching from amazing to disastrous.

This is of course why it’s going to be a ball!

The light will be the main focus and in many ways the “subject” of the night’s shooting. Long exposures can render scenes void of people as the movement of crowds will eventually form a blurred mass on the negatives. Only the motionless will be identifiable. Scene selection therefore is a major challenge, and as we are unable to visit these scenes before the event is under way we will need to think fast.

We moved around to a few locations within the main White Night precincts on Saturday night. I was shooting with my Holga 120WPC, loaded with Fuji Neopan 400. The films were then stand developed in Rodinal 1+100 for 1 hour 15 minutes, with 1 minute initial agitation, and 3 inversions after 35 minutes.

Flinders Street Station from St Paul’s – 90 Second exposure

In order to test exposures I took 2 shots at each scene. The first shot was usually around 25% longer than my meter told me was sufficient. (The Holga WPC has an F135 aperture). The second exposure was usually another 25% longer.

Exactly how much time to add to the metered results is the knowledge I was trying to gather during this night’s shooting.

In the two Flinders Street shots above we can see the difference between a 90 and 120 second exposure. In both shots most people have been removed due to the long exposure, In the second shot the silhouette of a person seated for the entire exposure in the foreground remains clearly visible, similarly in the first shot 2 people next to a parked taxi were in the shot for the first 20 seconds or so of the exposure. The other differences in the exposure are visible in the station facade with the details of the station being possibly over exposed a little in the longer exposure.

John Mockridge Fountain – 120 Second Exposure
John Mockridge Fountain – 90 Second Exposure

The John Mockridge Fountain in Melbourne’s City Square is a popular spot. It also happens to be very well lit. As a result both exposures were slightly overexposed, As I am in close proximity to a well lit subject there isn’t much need to adjust exposure as reported by my light meter.

In each image people have been blurred together as they move around the structure. A group posing for a photograph taken with a camera on a tripod can also be clearly seen. I like the way the open shutter has captured how people have interacted with the fountain, with some pausing for some time and others slowly moving along.

So did I learn much? Yeah, I think so.

  • I can trust my light meter for well lit subjects with 5 or so meters of the camera, that take up roughly 50% of the scene
  • Add around 50% to the meter’s suggested exposure to scenes that have a well lit subject but don’t take up much of the overall scene.
  • Bring along a neutral density filter as some of the well lit scenes may need longer exposures to blur the passing crowds.
  • Shoot with some slower film (Fuji Acros 100 is ideal for long exposure work as it has little reciprocity failure)
  • Print off a table of exposures as my meter will only display up to F90
  • Carefully consider when you first open the shutter, as the first light that hits the negative will almost always be visible in the final image.
  • Bring along something to temporarily cover the camera with during exposures if necessary (bright light at camera, somebody stands in front of camera to say “hey what’s that camera??”)
  • Don’t be afraid of street lights.
  • Get up close, the Holga is Wiiiiiide.
  • Take notes!
  • Develop super power that enables you to control the wind.

I’ll get back to you all with the results, wish me luck – have a great White Night 2014.



  1. Looking good zizzle. I was hoping to get into the city to take some morning shots of Flinders St station a few weeks back. Have only shot C41 but would like to try a few rolls of b&w.

    1. Cheers Dave, I assume you mean with the Holga WPC? Loved the pics you uploaded the other day. I’ll probably have some colour film with me, if there are any scenes bright enough to deal with the exposure times I may shoot a roll.

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