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Solargraphy

Solargraphy is the technique of photographing the sun and the path of the sun through the sky with an extended pinhole exposure. Say what? Yeah, that was a mouthful! To put it more simply, you can photograph the sun as it tracks across the sky. The exposure can last days, weeks, or even months.

Companion Book Chapters
So this article highlights some of the content from my book, but for the full text check out the Creative Opportunities section of Chapter 4 (Loading & Exposing). If you are new to camera building, you'll want to start with the basics of camera design and construction which can be found in the Beginner Tracks of Chapter 1 and 2. Likewise, if you are working with a paper negative check out Chapter 3 (Light Sensitive Material), Chapter 5 (Developing & Evaluating), and Chapter 10 (Setting Up a Black and White Darkroom) for additional related instructions.


Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel

Solargraphy experiment. 2008
This was my first attempt with the technique. This is a two day exposure. The orange streak is the path of the sun through the sky.

The Camera & Film
This article focuses on the technique of creating a solargraphic image and less on the actual building of a camera. The reason for this is that any pinhole camera will work just fine. In general, your pinhole exposure will be completed outdoors so the most important feature of your camera is durability. Paper or cardboard cameras defintely will breakdown quicker so my suggestion is to employ a tin, plastic, or wooden camera. If you choose a cylindrical camera, the captured image will have distorted sun paths which are rendered in wild arcs.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel

Hershey's kisses pinhole camera
I used this camera for the above image. I fastened the camera to a nook in my maple tree, pointed it upwards, and removed the shutter. A piece of black and white photographic paper served as the light-sensitive material.

The Exposure
The interesting thing about solargraphy is that you can expose your negative for days, weeks, or months. Load your camera with black and white photographic paper and place it outside in a secure location— a place where the camera will not get disturbed. Point the camera towards the East or West and be certain that the sun with actually be in your image. Remove your shutter and leave the camera for an extended exposure. There is a strategy and best practice to capturing the sun as it crawls across the sky. Check out the book for a complete explanation of planning your exposure around a solstice or equinox.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel

35 mm film canister pinhole camera
When planning long exposures, especially in public spaces, your camera should be inconspicuous. These little 35 mm film canisters work perfectly for this purpose. They are light-tight and very weather resistant. Simply cut a piece of black and white photographic paper to serve as your negative and place it within your camera.

The Processing
A solargraph negative is extremely overexposed and you cannot process the black and white paper in traditional chemicals as it would turn completely black. When your exposure is complete, remove your negative from the camera in dim lighting. You will notice that an image is already visible. Scan this negative with a flatbed scanner, creating a digital image. Once your negative is converted to a digital image you can modify it by adjusting the color or inverting the image.

Copyright © 2009 Brian J. Krummel

SOLARGRAPH NEGATIVE
Negative image straight from camera. The black line is the sun. The exposure was 11 days long.

Conclusion
This is one aspect of pinholing that is enjoyable and easy to learn. There are plenty of internet resources available for those who wish to learn more and see additional examples. An excellent resource for solargraphy is solargraphy.com which is a personal project of Tarja Trygg.

Two notable Flickr groups are Solargraphy and Solargraphy 6x6 Project with the latter being a worldwide group experiment. Join the Solargraphy 6x6 Project and begin a series of long-term exposures starting on December 22st, 2009 and ending on June 23rd, 2010. Check their Facebook page for on-going updates throughout the six month project.

There is plenty of extended content, tips, and tricks in the book. Check it out for more inspiration and how-to guidelines.
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