Solargraphs capture the sun’s movements with cheap beer-can cameras

7 Jul 2015

A selection of solargraphs captured over a six-month exposure. Image via Jan Koeman/Public Observatory Philippus Lansbergen

Visitors to a Dutch observatory have been using long-exposure photography to capture the movement of the sun across the sky in stunning imagery.

These solargraphs are created using inexpensive homemade pinhole cameras that, in this case, were made from beer cans.

While traditional cameras use a lens to focus light, a pinhole camera uses a single small aperture – the pinhole – to concentrate light onto a photosensitive medium.

Making one at home with a few household materials is simple enough , but visitors to the Public Observatory Philippus Lansbergen in Middelburg, the Netherlands, can pick one up readymade at the museum as part of its ongoing solargraphy project.

The museum regularly invites patrons to take home a pinhole camera and position them outdoors for a lengthy exposure of six months.

These amateur solargraphers then return to the museum with their unopened can-camera so that the image inside can be processed.

Six-month solargraphs

Last month, the observatory received around 50 solargraphs that had been exposed between 21 December 2014 and 21 June 2015 – the shortest and longest days in that six-month period.

Jan Koeman from the Public Observatory Philippus Lansbergen compiled the best 16 images from these submissions, some that clearly show the movements of the sun as well as some faint images from the location.

Over the six-month exposure, inclement weather can test the endurance of the beer-can cameras and, sometimes, damp and mold patches can result in expressive patterns.

Solargraphs from Public Observatory Philippus Lansbergen

A compilation of solargraphs submitted to Public Observatory Philippus Lansbergen, via Jan Koeman. Click to view full size

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