Do you have the sun in a can?
June 22, 2013 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes you don't need expensive professional cameras to make spectacular photos. Instead sometimes all you need is a beer can and a sheet of photographic paper. That's how the Philippus Lansbergen Observatory in Middelburg captured the movement of the Sun over a six month period, through a socalled solargraph.

Middelburg amateur astronomer Jan Koeman was the first to attempt to record a solargraph this way, back in 2010-11, with the observatory distributed some 100 of these simple cameras around the city last year. However, in this day and age, even in the Netherlands, when somebody spots a foreign object taped to a road sign, their first idea is not harmless science experiment, but rather "terrorist object", so last year the bomb squad had to be called for one of these pinhole cameras.

If this doesn't stop you from attempting this yourself, here's to how to make your own solargraph.

The science and history buffs amongst y'all will of course have recognised Middelburg as the birthplace of the microscope and telescope.
posted by MartinWisse (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome pictures, for sure, but I had myself a good solid Fry Squint when it offered to show me the EXIF data.
posted by mhoye at 10:20 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Middelburg amateur astronomer Jan Koeman was the first to attempt to record a solargraph this way, back in 2010-11

In the UK, Justin Quinnnell is the go-to person for all things beer can photography including solargraphs and distributed 450 beer can cameras around Bristol, also in 2010. (Scroll down for some excellent images.)

He's got another excellent how to do it page.
posted by dowcrag at 10:50 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Justin was also featured on the blue previously.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:08 AM on June 22, 2013

I notice a theme here... a lot of these webpages are focused on camera design and getting exposures, but forget to discuss the photographic paper or what to even do with it. The fifth link says to get some "RC neutral toned paper", then that's the last we hear of it in the article. I have some photography & darkroom background myself but I don't even know what RC paper is.
posted by crapmatic at 11:22 AM on June 22, 2013

Great pictures!

I am just happy that we have marked the furthest extent of the hated domination of the Sun and get get back toward longer nights. Whew.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:26 AM on June 22, 2013

Crapmatic, on his 6-month exposure page Justin Quinnell specifies "5 x 7" Semi Matt Black and White Photographic paper ".

RC = "resin coated". I don't think it matters whether it's graded or variable contrast. Semi-Matt is often described as 'pearl'.

Here's some.
posted by dowcrag at 11:34 AM on June 22, 2013

I've done a Quinnell beer can photography workshop, it's an awesome way to teach photographic skills to apathetic teenagers.

(The trick is in making the pinhole as perfectly round as you possibly can)
posted by brilliantmistake at 11:51 AM on June 22, 2013

That wasn't the bomb squad, that was the canned beer squad.
posted by miyabo at 12:20 PM on June 22, 2013

I ended up spending more time working on the details of the pinhole production process than taking pictures, though that would be hard with this length of exposure. I found that art soft copper sheet worked best, and making a few at a time meant you nearly always got one the right size/shape. Desktop scanners make great pinhole measurers, btw.

The field of view and coverage of these things is insane. I made a camera out of a 11" x 8" x 2" mailing box. Not merely did it fully expose an 8×10" sheet of paper 50mm from the pinhole, it even resolved the edge of the hole I'd cut in the box to mount the pinhole. Sadly, digital pinhole is far less fun, as the sensors are small and you get ALL THE DUST on the sensor.

I only get interested below ƒ/2 or above ƒ/100…
posted by scruss at 6:44 AM on June 23, 2013

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