Solargraphy involves using a pinhole camera to shoot extremely long exposures of scenes. Photographers who engage in it often leave their cameras fixed to outdoor locations for months or years in order to capture the path of the sun across the sky.
Waiting until the whole exposure is complete before seeing if an image turned out is painful enough, but there’s another major difficulty that can cause practitioners pain: the cameras are sometimes mistaken for bombs.
On January 1st of last year, photographer Michael Chrisman began shooting a solargraph by placing a pinhole camera in the Port Lands of Toronto and aiming it at the city’s skyline. Over the next 365, the rising and setting sun slowly exposed the photo paper inside. The total exposure time? 31,536,000 seconds. Instead of developing the image using traditional darkroom chemicals, he instead used a scanner to capture the extremely overexposed image — destroying the original image in the process — and ended up with the photo you see above. Those yellow lines you see in the sky shows the gradual shifting of the sun’s path over the course of 2011.
(via Toronto Star)
Image credit: Photograph by Michael Chrisman and used with permission
If you’re planning to try your hand at solargraphy, it might be a good idea to label the pinhole camera before placing it out in public — when one was spotted at Central Washington University, it was reported as a bomb and caused part of the campus to be shut down for four hours!
[…] a groundskeeper found a cylinder with duct tape on it. Officers closed a street while an Army explosive ordnance disposal team from the Yakima Training Center traveled to Ellensburg to check it out the unidentified object.
The chief says it contained what appeared to be film and could have been a camera made for some project. [#]
Since solargraph cameras are sometimes exposed for up to half a year, there’s probably a solargraph photographer somewhere out there crying right now.
Suspicious device at CWU was homemade camera [The Seattle Times]
Image credit: Beer Can Cameras by andeecollard
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:
- Make a simple pinhole camera. (a lightproof container with a small hole in one side)
- Put in some photo paper (the kind you make prints with using an enlarger)
- Secure the pinhole camera to some fixed location
- 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!
Image credits: programmazione by …cave, CIMG6776 by gumpz, and [Untitled] by …cave