Solargraphy: Ultra Long Exposure Photography

Solargraphy is a technique in which a fixed pinhole camera is used to expose photographic paper for an absurdly long amount of time (sometimes half a year). Practitioner Ollipekka Kangas says,

Basically solarigraphic camera is a pinhole camera, very slow one. These pinhole photographs taken with a lensless pinhole camera with a extra long exposure. I use black&white paper which is 5-10 ASA. Exposure time can be very long, in some photos up to six months. Usually average camera is hidden in city for one to two months. The picture will appear without developing photographic paper with any kind of chemicals. Exposured paper is scanned in darkness and developed in Photoshop. All the cameras are very low tech, cheap boxes, canisters or film cans. This method in is antidope for digital photographic madness. I can take only like 5 pictures in month.

Sun draws many interesting traces in photos, you can really see the time passing by. Some times camera is tilted by passerby or tape just goes loose. Double exposures or traces of humidity can be seen in photos.

Here are the basic steps for doing this yourself:

  1. Make a simple pinhole camera. (a lightproof container with a small hole in one side)
  2. Put in some photo paper (the kind you make prints with using an enlarger)
  3. Secure the pinhole camera to some fixed location
  4. Retrieve it after a few months and scan the resulting image

Be sure to secure your pinhole camera firmly to something that doesn’t move:

What’s cool is that, with a long enough exposure, you can see the different paths the sun takes across the sky as months pass by. Here’s a solargraph that was exposed for more than five months from July 15, 2009 to December 21, 2009:

If you have some photo paper lying around, why not give solargraphy a shot? Just be sure to come back half a year later and link us to your results!

(via Lifehacker)

Image credits: programmazione by …cave, CIMG6776 by gumpz, and [Untitled] by …cave

  • Miles

    Michael Wesely does some amazing ultra long exposure work, his series covering the construction at the MOMA in New York brings consists of exposures up to 3 years (!) long.

    Check them out here:

  • TC

    why would you scan the photo in darkness??? the scanner blasts the paper with a bright light anyway so having the room lights off doesn't make any, rational, sense.

  • afeff

    I was thinking about how to try this the other day, i remember reading about a photographer who had shot one for an year from their balcony & the paths of the sun where incredible.
    I realy want to try it.

  • afeff

    yeh im wondering the same thing?

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