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Setting aside the question of whether or not this is a good photo – meh, maybe? – I'm wondering if using a non-pinhole camera would have made it a better photo.

The key attributes of a pinhole are depth (of field), defocus (of details), and duration (of exposure). The 3-D's.

The length of the exposure isn't critical here, but it's visible in the blurring grass and clouds. If I'd been using a different camera I probably wouldn't have dragged the shutter, but if the long exposure setup was already set up, I'd stay with it. The key elements aren't moving.

Defocus is the next question. In this case I think it's a win for the pinhole – having fine detail in the ground and grass around the sign wouldn't have added anything. It might have even taken focus away attention from the sign, where the parts that matter are still legible. And inviting viewers to linger in the grass and trees, or having the photo in colour, would weaken the joke by letting in a bit of nature.

Depth of field is another win for the pinhole. The punchline to the joke is that there's a car visible in the distance – not only is this dirt path not a 'nature trail', it's a direct shortcut that's not even very long. (The car is much more visible at non-web sizes, sorry.) Basically people started tramping through the grass to get to their van-sized station wagons and some bright spark put up a sign to officialize it.

Having an ultra-wide field of view – here it's almost 120 degrees – is common to pinholes, but not inherent. It's the fourth "D", distance, because proximity really matters. Here again I think it's an advantage for this photo, giving context that the narrower lenses I have for other cameras would lack. My widest lenses give a horizontal field of view of around 80 degrees for digital (Fuji XF14mm) or 74 for film (Sigma 24-35 on the F6). Nothing outside of a fisheye comes close to the 11mm-equivalent of my pinholes.

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Here's a time when the pinhole added extra difficulty for the photo. 

This concrete block wasn't very large, so the ultra-wide perspective distortion helps, but getting close enough meant that the tripod and I both had to be in the water. Even with the tripod legs buried in the pebbles there's probably some camera movement, and the Pan F might have been happier with a shorter exposure that would have been easier if I didn't need a spare hand to keep everything stable in the waves. Stable-ish. 

Again setting aside whether or not this photo was worth taking, it would have been better if I had committed more completely. For convenience I was carrying a cheap small tripod that weights under two pounds, but needed extra care. If I had carried another of my collection that's about the same bulk, but weighs twice as much, I could have thrown it in the lake with impunity. This would have created a more stable platform, and I could have gotten the camera closer to the water as well. In that case I also would have used the plastic RSS instead of the wooden Ondu, which also would have created a different image. Maybe a better one? Maybe not.    

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For the sake of completeness, here's the third and final photo that I like (a bit) that I used the Manfrotto Light tripod for. You can see the tripod, and the setup for this shot, in my Pinhole Day gear post. Tidying up loose ends is its only real reason for being here; without that I'd probably never show it. It's not a particularly clever or skilled tag, it doesn't say much about the place, and it's not part of a larger series.

From a pinhole perspective, evaluating it against the three (or four) D's, I'm also ambivalent. Perhaps in this case sharper detail would have added some helpful interest to the photo. There's no value in having a long duration exposure here, and I had to tweak the composition to avoid too many trees in the background that the depth of field would have brought into conflict with the rebar. And the characteristic pinhole vignette – call it 'darkening' for a fifth D – plays badly with the graffiti.

So I'd say that this one would have been a better photo if it was taken with a wide-angle lens instead. I'm still avoiding the question of whether making it better would have actually made it good… meh, maybe?


But the extraordinarily long time that I has taken me to write this unexpectedly involved post has left me with an unanticipated question that I still haven't answered to my satisfaction.

The goofy Manfrotto tripod that I used to take these photos was okay, but not great. And it was the least-useful, but biggest and heaviest, of the four different supports I was carrying. Leaving it out on my next trip seems like an obvious decision.

…but did I barely use it because it was the wrong one? 

I could have used my RRS Inspired Sunwayfoto low-level tripod, which is tall enough for pinholes at about 18" high. It's about as bulky as the toy Manfrotto, a kilogram heavier, which isn't great. But has features like multi-angle leg locks, a choice of rubber or spiked feet, and general indestructibility that make it far more suitable for the rubble of the Leslie Street Spit. I could have based my day around the biggest and heaviest thing I carried, and simplified some other things in the process.

Instead of going light by not carrying a tripod, or bringing a heavier one that would have been worth the hassle of carrying, I think I compromised with the worst of both options.

So the underlying question remains: next time I go back here, what do I bring?