Solargraphs 1&2 | Long Exposure Images

Photography lets us capture a scene or see how others view their world. Several bloggers I follow include beautiful and creative images in their posts. Blogger Mike Bizeau publishes daily photos in Nature Has No Boss. Have a look. Once in a while, he posts what is called a solargraph. An internet search yields many sites about them. This one is good.

The technique uses a pinhole camera, light sensitive photopaper, and very long exposure to capture a scene. Many of the solargraphs last for weeks or months and capture tracks of the sun across the sky during many of the days. Here is a nice example from

My First Two Tries

Intrigued by the images, I decided to try it myself. I set up my pinhole camera for a two day exposure and got this result. It has been flipped horizontally and vertically from what came out of the camera. It was faint and unimpressive, but, an image was on the photopaper.

Photoshop Elements inverted darks to lights and lights to darks for this result.

Software enhancements brought out details of this scene from our living room window. I was encouraged by the result. But, it needed longer exposure.

I set up for a four day exposure but this time in the bedroom window. The lighting was brighter and yielded an image with more contrast.

Elements again inverted the darks and lights and enhanced the details. This was better exposure with more contrast than my first attempt. The setting sun trails were visible on at least two of the days of exposure.

Lastly, I converted the image to a greyscale. I’m eager to try other scenes.

Equipment and Techniques

Many instructions on the internet say to use pop cans or beer cans. I found this metal container at a local thrift store. The tape around the lid keeps out stray light during the long exposures. The flap of tape on the front covers the pinhole and serves as the shutter. It is removed to begin exposure and replaced at the end.

A very sharp push-pin and small hammer were used to make a hole about 1 mm in diameter. Other holes with larger diameter are also covered by a short piece of tape. They are available if I want to use them. A smaller diameter pinhole gives a sharper focus to the image. But, it takes longer to expose an image if the pinhole is smaller. This will take some trial and error to get it right.

The photopaper is 5×7 inches made by Ilford. The online order included 25 sheets. The next image shows the exposed photopaper partially in the can. It fits down all the way in this 6 inch can. Small pieces of tape hold it firmly to the inside wall so it doesn’t move during the long exposure.

The image on the photopaper was digitized with a flatbed scanner. I first put a 5×7 sheet of paper on the scanner bed for a pre-scan. Then, I replaced that paper with the exposed photopaper from the can for the actual scan. The pre-scan tends to over-expose the paper and decreases the quality of the scanned image.

I will post further results as I get them. Remember, it will be a slow process. Some images take months to secure.

22 thoughts on “Solargraphs 1&2 | Long Exposure Images

  1. Awesome post. The results you obtained from your pinhole camera is very good. I remember we had a very good teacher in grade 7 and the whole class made pinhole cameras. Even now while taking photos I refer back to some of those pinhole camera lessons. For instance, you mentioned the smaller the hole the sharper the image, but the more time it will take to expose the paper, that is f-stop and shutter speed.

    • The high tech things we play with today really boils down to simple concepts like f-stop, shutter speed, and sensitivity to light. You know how to balance those to make nice pictures. I turned the calendar to March and there is one of your photos as proof.

    • I showed them to a friend of mine. He said they were rather artsy. I agree with him and your description of spooky. The lighting and lack of shadows, etc, make for uncommon effects.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. This is interesting. Similar to camera obscura? I remember having sensitive paper as a kid, and leaving it out in the sun, with leaves arranged on it.

    • That paper was blue, right? Melanie and I are going to try some of that one day. You can buy kits of cloth that will be fun to use.

      • Cloth, too? That would be neat. The paper was alright but frankly I just wanted to paint. 🙂

        • We will show results when we get some. Other things are taking our time now.

          I’m glad you wanted to paint. We enjoy ours you did.

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