in the boneyard


I was on a mission to shoot a couple of other subjects in Provincetown, but because it was a gray, windy, foggy, cool, somewhat drizzly morning, I thought it would be an opportune time to spend an hour in the cemetery.

It also proved convenient that a friend was visiting a resident of the assisted living facility in town. The assisted living facility is located across the street (Alden) and beside the graveyards. (Yes, you read that correctly.) One car, two keys, and I had shelter from any sudden downpours.

I decided to play around with using a Canon digital SLR with an available pinhole body cap (actually for an old Pentax) held over the body in place of the lens. There were the inevitable goof ups and light links, possibly a stray finger, and movement aplenty, but the point was to just shoot down and dirty and quick and get a soft look with some ghosting effects. I decided not to worry about the many dust critters that were also revealed as I felt they added a little "je ne sais pas quoi".

This was definitely easier than carting around the homemade pinhole "one shot" cameras I made while taking a class at the FAWC (Fine Arts Work Center) some years back. I could more easily adjust the exposure time and determine if I had captured what I had meant to by checking out the LCD display on the back after I took the shot.

I shot them in color. For this blog, I decided to make only the following adjustments in Photoshop: a black and white adjustment layer for all three, and I brought back the color in the beads around Mabel's headstone. Other than that, I decided to just keep the pics "as shot" - no extra processing.

headstones in a line
cemetery path

chasing the crow

This morning I saw a small bird soaring right behind a large black crow. It seemed like the small bird was chasing the crow who was about five times the size of the small bird.

As I watched them, I thought about art and creativity, and how all the creative things that artists do are sort of like the small bird chasing the crow. You have a goal in mind that you’re in pursuit of, a vision of something greater than yourself, and you’re trying to catch it.

Later, as I tooled along downtown, I heard an old song by Donovan with a line that ran something like this, “First there is the mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.” The song also mentions a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Sixties songs and Donovan’s influences aside, I thought of those words in relationship to the bird and the crow and to the process of art as well. A vision of something larger than yourself. Either a feeling of missing the mountain or scaling it step by step and losing sight of the mountain. And then, there it is back again, and hopefully you’re not still at the foot of it.

While I’ve been busy writing and doing design work, I have also been busy trying to get a new online photo service for my work, go through some of my photos and pop them into my gallery, and this has re-ignited my desire to pursue pinhole photographs again.

In addition to experimenting with color pinhole and using my digital differently to get similar effects, I also worked on scanning some of my original black and white pinholes. Although that presented a few obstacles, I had fun doing it. The pinholes are so different than everything else I have shot, but as Marian Roth, my pinhole teacher, told me: these are a part of who I am too. “You think it’s the camera,” she said, “but it’s not. It’s you.”

Since I’ve been thinking about blogging, and haven’t done so for a month, I thought I’d share a few pinholes today. They are a lot darker than my other photography, and the color ones have presented some pretty eerie effects, but I love them just as much, if not more than getting crystal clear, light- and color-filled shots.

Fountain of Ghosts
The fountain in the yard at Snug Cottage in Provincetown. Taken with what I referred to as my “fish-cam.”

wharf 1
Lancy’s Wharf, Provincetown
Also taken with the “fish-cam.”

The “fish cam” was a can decorated with colorful fish. I used the fish to orient the paper inside either vertically or horizontally. The paper was curved inside which provides the warped look.

wharf 2
Lancy’s Wharf II, Provincetown
Taken with the “eye-cam.”

The “eye cam” was a smaller Body Shop can. I drilled the hole for the pinhole through the eye on the cover of the can. I didn’t shave the hole clean, and this added a little something to the process.

This broken up pier just keeps disintegrating with each passing year. I’ll be sorry to see it go.

pinhole photography

provincetown theatre
Unnerved by the aspect of taking a poetry writing course at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, I scrolled down the list of available classes and saw "Pinhole Photography."

Build your own camera, trial and error...there was something appealing about the method. Or you could say I chickened out of taking the poetry class.


Nothing could compare to the feeling of capturing not only an image, but a feeling, on paper. This primitive and natural way of taking photographs helped me to give up control.
light through trees
You never feel fully in control when you are out there allowing the light to do its thing, to find its way through a pinhole into a tin or box to create a picture of the world that is upside down and backwards. The image you see, or contrive to capture, is surpassed by what the light and circumstances reveal.

No control. And yet, you learn to control the things you can and to accept the outcome.

I took this amazing class and thought, I will never write again. I became obsessed with my "cameras" and with the dark room, working until well after midnight and back at it with the sunrise.

Happily, I did take up my pen again and did take a poetry class. But working with pinhole photography helped rekindle my love of photography and to inform my writing in sometimes small, sometimes major ways.

pictured top left: Provincetown Theatre, top right: A Light from Above