Introduction: Solargraphy

About: I like making things, and I like showing people how to make things.
Solargraphy is the art of long exposure photography that captures of the image of the sun moving across the sky.  These exposures can last days, months, even years. This Instructable will show you one design for solargraphy pinhole cameras.  Any pinhole camera will work, but this design has a few important advantages:  - Cheap.  Beer and soda cans are only "worth" 5 cents (10 in some states), and are filled with tasty beverages.  - Durable.  These cans are nearly waterproof, and resistant to the weather.  - Easy to make.  It only takes a few minutes to make one, and it can easily be done in an assembly line process. NOTE: This design is not my original idea; I got the idea from here:

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Tools: - Can opener, - Sewing Needle, - Scissors. Materials: - Aluminum cans, - Electrical tape, - Enlargement paper( Notes: I used 16oz. beer cans because they fit a whole 5x7" sheet of enlargement paper without cutting.  You can easily adapt this design for 12oz. cans. Last summer I tested out 25oz. Fosters cans.  If you go with the larger diameter cans, you'll need another large can to make the lid.

Step 2: Build Your Camera

Hold the can opener sideways to cut the lid off your empty can.  This will leave ragged edges; use some scissors to clean up the edge. Thoroughly wash the inside of the can and let it dry.  Once it's dry, take the needle and prick a hole halfway up the flat part of the can.  The pinhole should be about 0.2mm to 0.3mm in diameter.  To make loading the camera easier, place a small piece of electrical tape over the hole on the inside of the can.   Take another can and cut the bottom off, leaving about an inch or so of the flat part.  This will be the lid. You should be able to press the lid onto the body with a little pressure.

Step 3: Load the Film

This next step does not have to be done in a darkroom, but it should be a fairly dark room.  Since the solar image is literally burned into the paper, a little light isn't going to hurt these cameras.  For illustration purposes, the images below are of a normal piece of paper and in a well lit room.   Gently roll up the paper, glossy side in, and insert it into the can.  The piece of electrical tape you placed earlier will help align the paper so that it is not covering up the pinhole.  Use a few pieces of electrical tape to secure the paper to the inside of the can, and move the piece of tape covering the pinhole from inside the can to the outside, again covering the pinhole.   Place the lid you cut earlier over the open end of the can and tape up the seam with a couple wraps of electrical tape. Build as many cameras as you want.

Step 4: Placing the Camera

Once you have your cameras loaded and light-tight, you need to figure out where you are going to place them.  Ideally, you want to have a clear view of the sun as it moves across the sky, but interesting effects can be made when cameras are placed behind other objects. You could point your can generally at the area where the sun sets, turning it slightly in the direction of where the sun just came from. There are a few things to consider before placing your cameras. - In today's world, people are easily alarmed by cylindrical objects taped to buildings, lampposts, etc.   - Beer cans look exactly like nickels to some people. - Writing "Pinhole camera" on it doesn't stop people from removing it. My suggestions would be to keep your cameras as well hidden as possible, or at least out of reach.  I chose to write "Pinholes Camera, Do Not Remove" on mine.  I placed mine in some pretty remote locations, so I didn't bother leaving a name or number to call if the camera needed to be moved.   However you choose to place it, make sure the camera cannot move around relative to what you're attaching it to; less movement means better pictures!  If you live in a particularly wet place, I would suggest installing the camera with the lid pointing down.  This will allow any moisture that enters the pinhole to collect in the bottom and keep the paper dry. Don't forget to remove the tape from the pinhole after you secure your camera!

Step 5: Wait

You can expose your cameras for any period of time.  The most popular seems to be from one solstice to another, which gives the most movement of the sun in the frame.  Exposures have been known to last from one day to a couple years. My cameras were set to be solstice cameras, meaning they spent six months from the summer solstice to winter solstice, watching the sun travel from highest to lowest in the sky.  Set a reminder on your calendar and try to occupy yourself until they're done exposing. I would suggest checking up on your cameras every once in a while.  The camera I placed on the mountain pass was ripped off the post I attached it to by some kind of animal and dropped a few feet away.  If I hadn't have checked, i probably would have lost it.  In addition to that happy accident, I remembered that the pass gets several feet of snow, and the camera would have been buried for an additional 3 months if I hadn't picked it up then.

Step 6: Image Collection and Processing

Go get your camera!  Tape over the pinhole and remove your camera.  After setting up your scanner, go ahead and remove your negative from the can.  This can be done in a lit room, as the image is literally burned into the paper.  DO NOT TRY TO DEVELOP OR FIX YOUR NEGATIVE Developing the image will result in a completely black negative sheet.  Last year we tried to fix the image before scanning, and it resulted in a negative with less contrast.   Scan the image once at good settings, as subsequent scans appear to reduce the contrast of the original image.  Label the negative and file it away somewhere dark. In your image editing program, open up the negative and invert the colors, as well as flip horizontally.  From here you could make the image black and white, apply split-tone, or edit it however you choose!

Step 7: Suggestions and Revisions

Things I learned from last summers project:  - Make more cameras than you expect to expose.  I collected roughly half of the cameras as I placed.    - Previously I made the lids from cardstock and gaffers tape.  This proved to be moldy after 6 months. I hope this was helpful, have fun!