I took a long walk around the campus of my alma mater, The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington earlier this month. Of course I didn't go empty-handed, I brought along my trusty Pentax K1000 and a box camera that I had modified with a pinhole-sized aperture.
The Evergreen State College is a big deal for me when it comes to photography. I used to wander endlessly through this campus as a student, K1000 slung around my neck, taking pictures of whatever crossed my view. When I think of anything related to a darkroom, the room I picture is the Evergreen darkroom.
So when I agreed to take my daughter and her friends up to Olympia for the annual anime convention, I was really agreeing to reunite my old camera with the beautiful wooded campus that I used to call home.
In addition to the Pentax, I also brought my Sears Tower One-Twenty box camera that I had modified the night before with a pinhole aperture made out of a piece of aluminum foil pierced with a sewing needle of an unknown size. I used a plastic ruler to estimate that the hole was about half a millimeter, allowing me to make guesses about exposure times based on a look-up I found online. I couldn’t figure out how to safely remove the lens, so I didn’t have a true pinhole camera with me, but I was bound and determined to give it a try anyway. To complicate things further, I loaded the camera with Fuji Astia 100, which I planned to have cross-processed in C41.
Since I have had problems with overexposing Astia for cross-processing, I decided I’d shoot at ASO 200, which had the added advantage of reducing my exposure times, by several minutes in some cases.
I started out shooting in the central plaza, nicknamed “Red Square.” No photo shoot at Evergreen would be complete without some views of the iconic clock tower. These were quick shots with the pinhole, taking only 4-8 seconds.
Of course, I always notice what’s changed from when I went there. One of the biggest differences is that they’ve added some new buildings, including a building inspired by a NW Tribal Longhouse and a new set of office buildings that reminded me of an Escher sketch.
From there, I headed into the woods, traversing a trail out to the school-run organic farm. It was still winter, so the surroundings weren’t at their full glory, but I loved the pale light filtering through the mossy trees. Shooting pinhole shots under the cover of the trees got a lot more challenging, with exposures ranging from 1-5 minutes. No big deal if you have a tripod setting on your camera, but I had to hold the shutter open and keep the camera rock steady on a stable surface the whole time. Four minutes has never seemed so long.
After reaching the farm and taking a few pictures, I headed back to campus and wandered around some of the places I used to hang out in.
I looked at the clock and found that I’d been walking for three hours straight! It was time to round up the kids and head home. I did manage to take just a few more pictures of the Otakus at the anime convention before we left.
After all these years, Evergreen is still an awesome place to take pictures. I could have spent another three hours there easily. If you ever find yourself in Olympia, it’s worth the drive to check it out.