Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

By Geoff Chaplin

Many of my images or photo series are concept based, a photographic interpretation of an idea. This series – meant to be viewed in the order shown – was inspired by the way I sometimes fall asleep. I see images, at first clear and meaningful but becoming increasingly abstract up to the point of being indecipherable, then I’m gone into dreams. Do you dream in colour or in black and white? Do you dream visually or in emotions? Some of these images are in colour, some in black and white, all conjure up an emotion in me.

From ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll

“…the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid… she was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole… The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel … she found herself falling down a very deep well…she tried to imagine what the flame of a candle is like after the candle is blown out…”

Images taken with a Leica MP and Avenon ‘air-lens’.

Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole)
Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole)
7
Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice, Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole) Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole)
Venice. Leica MP and Avenon Air-lens (pinhole)
The Rabbit Hole

Footnote: The Avenon “air-lens” and pinholes

Pinholes and the Avenon Air-Lens
Pinholes and the Avenon Air-Lens on a Leica MP

The image above shows a laser drilled pinhole, such a pinhole attached to a lens cap (a typical home-made pinhole), and the Avenon air-lens (no longer in production). The air-lens is essentially just a standard pinhole professionally attached to a filter mount and in this case with a UV filter attached. The filter mount can be especially beneficial shooting B&W – allowing easy secure change of filters rather than having to tape sections of polystyrene filters on front.

Various factors affect pinhole image characteristics (and I use this word rather than ‘quality’). If the substrate for the pinhole is thick, imaging taking a landscape scene looking through a tunnel – you get vignetting. There is an optimal distance (depending on wavelength)  between the pinhole and the image plane for maximum sharpness. If the pinhole is not round and clean then the diffraction pattern produced from bright lights will be uneven. It’s possible to make your own pinhole using aluminium foil and the point of a fine needle trimming, is possible, and stray pieces of metal protruding around the hole.

Although digitally removed or reduced on the final version, in all of the original negatives a central spot is visible (the “rabbit hole”). This is not normal for pinhole images. After having the films developed I checked the pinhole under a microscope – it was perfectly round and clean. I have not been able to reproduce the effect with the Avenon, with or without filter, or any other pinhole on the same or other cameras. I’m still trying.

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About The Author

By Geoff Chaplin
Primarily a user of Leica film cameras and 8x10 for the past 30 years, recently a mix of film and digital. Interests are concept and series based art work. Professionally trained in astronomical photography, a scientist and mathematician.
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Comments

Anthony Bailey on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 25/04/2023

A contemporary composer known as the caretaker has, on YouTube, a composition which represents musically the stages of alzheimers. Your photographs, considering how the images get progressively softer and least distinct, would make an excellent accompaniment to at least parts of his music. I have never thought of it before, and may be totally wrong, but it strikes me that the descent into Dementia surely has parallels in the muddying of conscious thought as one falls asleep. Your project is both fascinating and thought provoking.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 25/04/2023

Many thanks for your comments and knowledge. Indeed it's meant to be thought provoking - about dreaming and consciousness. But I definitely prefer my interpretation!

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Gary on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 16/04/2023

Beautiful.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 16/04/2023

Thanks!

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Brian Nicholls on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 15/04/2023

Nice one Geoff. Images 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 certainly reminiscent of William Henry Fox Talbot so, I've saved them. Thanks for sharing.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 15/04/2023

Thanks for the comment.

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James_T on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 14/04/2023

About the "rabbit hole": do I read you right in thinking that you have used the same pinhole both before and since without the effect? If so my best guess would be a fragment of dust or grit (or a paint flake) that became dislodged when you removed the "lens" to examine it.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 14/04/2023

Yes, my best guess too, dust stuck and aided by the filter blocking subsequent airflow between the camera body and the outside.

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Richard on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 14/04/2023

Geoff, I tried this and as you say the image was heavily vignetted. The material with the hole in needs to be extremely thin in order to get the necessary angle of view. A lens cap is too thick. Lovely images you've got there. Richard
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 14/04/2023

Thanks. Attractive vignetting can be obtained using a piece of tin rather than something ultra thin (zero vignetting) or thick. Cut a large (1cm) hole in the lens cap and tape the prepared pinhole to the inside of the cap.

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Calum Davey on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 14/04/2023

I spent around 5 weeks in Venice last year, over three trips, with a Leica (and Leica lenses) no less, and didn’t manage to capture the atmosphere like you have here. These are fantastic, thanks so much for sharing, very inspired to get into the pinhole game now!
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 14/04/2023

Many thanks for the comment, much appreciated given the obvious effort you went to! I suspect you are under-estimating the power of your own images. Beware of pinhole though. The easiest thing to use but the most difficult thing to do well. It took me years of trying before I got to this series.

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Geoff Chaplin on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 14/04/2023

Many thanks for the comment!
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Castelli Daniel on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Pleasant images, nice to look at. I’m partial to the black & white images. Here’s a thought: I’m sure a metal body cap can be obtained for any camera via Amazon or eBay. Find a local machine shop and have the cap mounted in a lathe, and center drill a tiny hole. Polish the opening. You have a pinhole ‘lens’.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Thanks for the comment. Push a pin through aluminium foil, voila! The "professional" pinholes are laser drilled (perfectly round) in thin metal (to avoid heavy vignetting). But drill a hole in a thick piece of metal and yes, you'll have a pinhole, The image may be heavily vignetted and distorted from uneven shape or metal shavings around the edge but would be interesting.

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Richard replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Geoff, I tried this and as you say the image was heavily vignetted. The material with the hole in needs to be extremely thin in order to get the necessary angle of view. A lens cap is too thick. Lovely images you've got there. Richard

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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Thanks. Attractive vignetting can be obtained using a piece of tin rather than something ultra thin (zero vignetting) or thick. Cut a large (1cm) hole in the lens cap and tape the prepared pinhole to the inside of the cap.

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mani on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

I really liked these images: dreamy and timeless. They could have been taken yesterday - or a hundred years ago. Well done for experimenting, and doing more with photography than simple snapshots.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Many thanks, and I agree, why do the same as everybody else?

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Ibraar Hussain on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Really like the creative use of the pinhole and motion. Nice enjoyable variation of the theme
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Thanks Ibraar. But its a difficult act to follow I find, copying the style with other boats, vehicles and people, I can't get the same impact or strength of story. So far at least!

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Dave Faulkner on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Love the dreamy look of the gondola shot. I've never seen the rabbit hole effect with any of my pinhole experiments. If you could control it...
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Thanks for the comment. The 'rabbit hole' or focused diffraction effect is indeed something I have investigated to no avail. I cannot produce the effect with the same or other pinholes on this or any other camera. My best guess is a tiny piece of dirt got stuck in the pinhole and caused the pinhole image in the center of the film. I removed some digitally when they did not add to the story but left most.

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terry long on Venice into Dreams – a Pinhole Photo Essay

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

I'm surprised the Leica didn't die of shame at being expected to record these.
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Hamish Gill replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

I rarely delete comments, but this tempted me. What value do you think making a comment like this has? Nothing, it’s just rude. Comment like this again, and it won’t get through moderation.

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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

George Bernard Shaw (platinum printer, Leica photographer, and writer) is believed to have said "there's only one camera better than a Leica, a pinhole camera!". I'm sure my Leica was proud!

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Stefan Wilde replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Hi Hamish, thank you for asking action! I love this site for its great articles, the knowledge, the creativity and last but not least the civility and kindness of most of the comments. This is why I dare to post here. And it is rare in internet land, where rudeness is so ubiquitous. Thanks to you and the team for building and protecting this site and thanks to the vast majority of commentators for being kind, encouraging and thoughtful!

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Marco C replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

I laughed loudly when I saw the comment above, maybe it was ironic? :) I'm guilty to have taken pinhole images with a leica too... maybe I should go to Wetzlar in pilgrimage to atone my sins?!?

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Hamish Gill replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

My pleasure! I can’t abide needless rudeness, it just makes no sense to behave that way in my opinion. I’m pleased to read you appreciate the efforts to keep things civil here. Thanks for the message!

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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

I agree its an excellent site allowing everybody with a photography interest to express their own personal means of expression. A much more creative approach to photography and learning photography than copying the 'masters'. Thanks for the comment, though I'm not sure the original comment was any more than 'tongue-in-cheek'.

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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Ha, ha! I think at Wetzlar they already understand a camera is just a tool! Use, abuse, whatever, to achieve the end you desire.

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Hamish Gill replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Tongue in cheek, maybe, but if it was it was a little too ambiguous for me.

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terry long replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Thanks for your generous reaction, Geoff. I was having a bad day so I was too blunt. My apologies. By the way, GBS wasn't always as sagacious as he liked to pretend.

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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 13/04/2023

Ah, yes, clients, deadlines, mistakes, bad days, I remember those. Every day is Sunday now so much better. Thanks for the apology but not necessary.

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