What is Inspiration?

What type of people, places or things inspire us to act on our thoughts and do something? It could be all sorts if things… possibly something we saw or heard. Whatever it is, it has caught our attention and has given us the will power to do something we may have never done before. And I think that for artists, inspiration is the life blood that keeps the art flowing. Motivating us to get off our lazy butts and get out there and do something. Not being afraid that something could go wrong in the process… and understanding it’s OK.

Being that digital imaging has become so easy and convenient to use, most people would wonder why even bother with pinhole photography. Why not use a pinhole body cap on your DSLR and do it that way. Sure, you can do that but I still think that the analog processes of pinhole photography (film, paper, etc.) create a more compelling image in the end. I’m sure technological advancements will take care of this in the near future but until then I’ll continue uses film and photographic paper for my pinholes photos.

Any of you that have done analog processes like pinhole photography before, know that a bit of patience, motivation and inspiration definitely helps. The idea that we could create something new and exciting… a creation that we can look back on and say, “I’m glad I did that”. There’s something mysterious and exciting about not knowing exactly what is being created in the camera when you make the exposure. I think it’s these random mysteries that keep us coming back for me. That anything could happen along the way to alter the outcome of the photograph. That nothing is set in stone until the final image appears in the darkroom.

So why all the talk about inspiration? I mean who cares? If I want to go out and take a pinhole photograph, I will. But will that photograph turn out to be something inspirational? A photo that when you look at it, it makes you and others want to create something like it or similar themselves. Or will it be a photo that inspires people to do random acts of kindness… or worse acts of hatred? This is why I feel as image makers we need to think about the types of art we create. Will my creation be something positive that benefits the people who look at it or will it be something that harms and causes psychological damage? A good friend once told me, “Chris, images, words and sounds are like seeds, be careful what of you look at, read and listen to… if you’re not careful those seeds will grow into something larger.” I think he may be right, if someone is constantly bombarded with violent images, could they be conditioned into being a violent person? Or better yet, if someone where conditioned only to seek out and study images with a positive message, would that person turn around and pay those thoughts forward in a positive actions? Food for thought.

I think as artists we have to understand that a positive cannot exist without a negative. It is within this Yin and Yang of art that we realize that too much of one thing is always bad. That everything in life needs balance.

So what inspires me?

PinHolga pinhole photograph of a crystal glass with sunlight shining through itMorning Light. I use to be a night person and would stay up late doing all sorts of things. I liked the night and would get some of my best work done during the evening hours. After I got married I realized that my wife wasn’t a “night person” and so slowly I became a “morning person” so I could spend more time with her. In the process of doing that, I realized that the morning is a beautiful time of the day and worth getting out of bed for. The light is soft, warm and signifies the coming of a brand new day. Sometimes when I get up before the sunrise and I’m out in about in nature, there’s nothing more majestic than watching the world, which was just cloaked in darkness, slowly illuminated with light. Don’t get me wrong, I love afternoon light too, that kinda of light doesn’t require you to get yourself out of bed early in the morning.

sedona pinhole photography light flareTraveling. I don’t know what it is, but when I’m on a trip, either for business or a personal vacation, I always get inspired by the things I see. I have to remind myself not to go “looking” for shots but instead have them “find” me. This way I know it’s not going to be some set-up and contrived shot. I also think that when you’re traveling you need to be ready to open and close the shutter when the moment presents itself. How many times have you seen something that catches your eye and then gone grabbing for your camera (buried deep in a camera bag or backpack) only to see it come and go before you have your camera out.

experimental pinhole photography chris keeney

Other Artists. I remember my art teacher telling me that “Chris, everything has been done before.” I thought, gee thanks, that really makes me want to go out and try and create art knowing that everything has been done before. Thanks. But really, he was kinda right. After you look at art created in the past, you slowing come to understand that art copies life… and other artists copy each other. Maybe it’s not so much that we “copy” each other, instead we are “inspired” by others to give a certain technique or process a shot. And in the process maybe we discover something that we weren’t planning on which leads us down a whole different path that we end up loving. In the past I ran a series of pinhole photographers on my website, but after a few years of doing that I had to stop due to other obligations. I found that by keeping this series alive it inspired me to keep up with my own pinhole photography work. I’ve always thought that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop… so whatever you can do to keep your mind engaged in something positive the better. Music is a big part of my life. Sadly I never learned to play a musical instrument but I enjoy listening to all types of music from all around the world. I listen to music while I work, play and exercise. It motivates me to keep going and inspires me to think different and try new things.

family pinhole photography inspiration1Family, Friends and Pets. I don’t know about you, but I get a lot of inspiration from the people I spend my time with. A good friend of mine a while back got me into crossfit workouts as well as inspiring me to try new exercises and keeping a constant fitness routine going. Family is also another source for inspiration for me. I know my children say and do things that make me stop, think and laugh. I remember reading this quote that said, “there is much to be learned from watching a child at play”. Young children don’t have inhibitions like adults do.

childrens drawing of a tree and guy surfing at beach by dottie1Children are able to see things as they are without being influenced by years of criticisms and judgements made by their peers. If they want to draw a picture of a tree, they do it… they don’t sit there and second guess themselves on the right or wrong way to draw a tree… they just draw a tree and allow the picture to be as it is. Fortunately it’s not until later in life when their peers start telling them that something isn’t not drawn correctly. Sadly that’s when children start to second guess themselves. It’s our friends and family that encourage us to keep creating and not to lose faith in ourselves that we can “do it”.

pet pinhole photography fred the dogAnd of course lets not forget our animal friends we call our pets. We all know how much we love our pet family members and know they lift our spirits when we’re down.

ultra running pinhole photography chris keeneyExercise and Eating Right. We all know that age old saying, “a healthy mind, a healthy body”. Taking care of yourself by eating healthy foods and exercising definitely keeps your mind going strong. I like to mix my workouts with cardiovascular exercises (running, rowing, Stairmaster, bicycle) mixed with lifting weights. I time it for 20 minutes and see how many reps I can do. Each workout I try to reach mast last goal, which in turn motivates/inspires me to beat it. I do find that setting goals in whatever you’re trying to do keeps you focused and on task. It’s easy to wander and get distracted when you don’t have a defined goal that’s important to you. I have learned that keeping your routines mixed up and fun keeps you wanting to come back for more. I have to remind myself this often or else I find myself doing the same things over and over. Be spontaneous and push yourself to keep going when you want to stop. Challenge yourself to do extra reps and feel good about it after you do it. So what does exercise have to do with pinhole photography? I truly feel that when your mind and body is healthy your art improves too. Makes sense right?

one tree hill pinhole photography1Meditation. Having a quiet mind that is able to listen and look without judgment. I find that sometimes my best creative ideas come when the world around me is quiet. Being in quiet open spaces in nature where the sounds of man and machine are churning away. Listening to the birds chirp and the gentle wind blowing through the trees.  I think we can get so focused on certain something that we no longer can see what’s around the thing we are focused on. That the creative path is as equally important to what you’re trying to create. This is why I think it’s important for us to “step outside of the circle” every once and a while and see what it is so important about what’s inside the circle.

I have a page on my website that has some inspirational words, quotes and proverbs

The Path of Light

Sometimes choosing the right path to go down in life can be difficult, but for light it’s bit easier, it always travels in a straight line. Sure it can be absorbed and reflective but its path getting wherever it needs to go, is always going to be a straight one. I feel this basic principle of light  is important to know if you want to understand how pinhole photography works. The diagram below shows how a  pinhole camera light is reflected of something (such as a person) and flipped up-side down in the camera. The diagram on the left just shows two rays of light as a simple example of how works. But in reality it’s billions of tiny pin sized rays of light that make up the image in the camera.

Light Travels In Straight Line Diagram

Artists have know about this principle of and have made darkens rooms with a small hole in one side, “camera obscura” to help them draw and paint landscapes and portraits.

People sometimes ask me, “what if I make my pin hole the wrong size, will I still get an image?” Sure, but it might not be as sharp and “in focus” as it could be. The diagram below illustrates the light phenomenon called “Circles of Confusion“.  I’m not going to go into explaining the details here, but I thought that it was another helpful diagram to illustrate what’s happening when you open and close the shutter of your pinhole camera.

Circles of Confusion

The next diagram will show the intensity of light and how it effects the strength and definition of shadows. Notice how the shadow on the sunny side is sharp, clear and defined, where as the the shadow on the cloudy day is blur, soft and undefined. This why it would explain why is best to create pinhole photos when the sun is bright but create long defined shadows…either in the morning or afternoon. So when people ask me, “Chris, when is the best time to make pinhole exposures?” I always answer, in bright morning sunshine. I’ve read that photographic papers are most sensitive to this wavelength of light. Film is a little more forgiving than photographic paper and is fine to use any time of the day. So

The Intesity of Light and Shadow Definition

Light is a wonderful phenomenon that most photographers like myself are in enamored with. And since photography is the study of light and the absence of it, this study is ongoing. The featured photo is a picture I took with my iPhone of light being casted on the window of my house. This image reminded me of something I read about early studies of light, where artist/philosophers observed how the sun when it shined through the leaves and branches of tree it created those shapes in shadows on the ground. This is how they knew that light must travel in a straight line.

Traveling in a straight line is fine for light, but for me, I don’t mind traveling a little more spontaneously. It is in those travels where I discover all sorts of people and things I never could have imagined before.

Happy St. Patricks Day! (What can I say, I’m Irish)

Inspired by the Gods and Goddesses

Awaking each morning we have no idea what is going to inspire us to do great things that day. As I was thinking about what I was going to name this new blog, my mind kept coming back to the word “muse”. What does that word even mean? The Wiki definition talks of nine Greek Goddesses who were the source of knowledge for the living. Giving inspiration to people practicing literature, science and the arts. The idea of a god, goddess or spirit giving someone inspiration to do something was fascinating to me. Imagine lying in bed and all of a sudden an idea ‘pops’ into your head. If you’re like me, I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I had written that idea down somehow. Good or bad, at the time you thought it was a good idea to jot it down on a piece of paper or write to the cloud on your tablet. Could it be that ideas are like seeds and if you never ‘plant them’, you’ll never know what they might grow up to be? Choosing the write ideas to nurture and grown end up being equally as important. Knowing what to give your time to and what not to. I guess in the end you have to follow your heart and trust yourself that you’re making all the right choices.

I knew that the success of any new blog or website would be in the constant flow of information and creative content. Frequently posting news and information about pinhole arts that was interesting to look at and fun to read about. Stuff that you could see yourself doing as well. We all know that when you learn how to do something new and exciting, the fruit of our labor is always beneficial.

I was hoping to come up with a one or two word title for this new site and thought this title Pinhole Muses, was short, sweet and the point. Plus I’ve always felt that there was something mythical and magical about pinhole photography. Greek Mythology and pinhole photography just seemed to go well together for some reason.

Photographic paper negative test photograph made with antiqued tin
A few days before I figured out how to get WordPress running on my server, I posted the image above  to my Facebook page. It’s a self portrait which was made during the testing of a new camera I was making for my 2013 contest. I alway like to test my cameras first at home before I let them go out into the world. One of the beauties of paper negative pinhole photography is the long exposures. I was able to change my position in front of the camera multiple times before the shutter on the camera was closed. In essence the camera is recording a period of time rather than only for one instance.” At the time I created that image I didn’t give it much thought after I processed the negative. I was more interested in seeing if the pinhole would create a sharp image and to see if any vignetting was being created. It wasn’t until later when I came back to it when I started to think about the possibilities for this creative process. More on all that as I develop out the site…

pinhole camera test image 3b

Just like anything in life that is worthwhile you have to work hard to achieve whatever it is you’re setting out to accomplish. I knew that taking on a new photo blog would take a lot of time and work on my part. But like I said above, I knew that the success of this site will be in how frequently I can update information to this blog. And for those of you that blog or have blogged in the past, you know that’s a lot of work. Generating the content and then putting into a form that’s interesting to read and to look at. I’m a lucky man though… I have lots of people that give me love and support. Actual people, not muses that give you inspiration to do your best at whatever it is you’ve set out to achieve. I want to thank you all for your continued support. May you be inspired by the very muses that have inspired me. Cheers! -Chris

Gustave Moreau, Hesiod and the Muse (1891)—Musée d'Orsay, ParisGustave Moreau, Hesiod and the Muse (1891)—Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Chris Keeney Announces New Pinhole (Lensless) Photography website and blog

Hello all you pinhole photography enthusiasts!
Just a quick note to let everyone know that I have created a new blog where I will be showcasing all my new pinhole photography efforts. Keep in mind that this a fledging site and it still needs lots of tender loving care. Stay tuned!

2013 Pinhole Cameras a Do-it-Yourself-Guide Photo Contest and Gallery

Hello all of you lensless photography lovers. I decided to do a photo contest and online gallery In an effort to spread the love of the art of pinhole photography, The contest and gallery was for photo entries inspired from my book Pinhole Cameras: A Do-It-Yourself Guide. The contest was free to all and didn’t cost anything to enter. First & second  place winners won a working pinhole camera made by me. Many thanks to all of you who entered and I’m proud to showcase your photo in this online gallery.

After you click on one of the thumbnails below you can return to the main gallery by clicking on the bold “Pinhole Muses” copy at the top of the screen.

Contest Winners!
I want to congratulate Laura Fiorio and Manuel Costantini (Pinhocchio) for winning the CK 2013 DIY Pinhole Photography Contest. I also want to thank all the talented people that submitted photos to the contest. I was difficult for me to choose just one person. I understand more than anyone that beauty is in the eye of the beholder… but I know that when I look at a certain images they often inspire me to create something myself. The image stirs up memories and thoughts about friends and the places that we have enjoyed. I also appreciate it when people collaborate to create art like Laura and Manuel are doing. It’s a beautiful thing to work together as a team to create something… especially when that something is art. And not just any kind of art but photography. We all know how long and hard we can talk about photography. A topic which I think is as infinite as space itself. And when you throw in DIY pinhole photography into the mix, well I think you just take it another step further into the “cool”. Anyhow, congrats to you two and thanks again for everyone who submitted your photos to the contest. They all were great in their own way and as I said, It was hard for me to choose.