Solar photography

Every year Utata runs a summer project with themed categories. One of the subjects for the summer Utatamon Go project is “go nuts”, and I’m rising to the challenge with some alternative techniques. Here’s my first attempt at a solargraph.

Though I’m one of the Utata staff it’s a complete coincidence (I swear) that some of the themes have my name on them. I could take the easy route and shoot landscapes and pubs, where would be the challenge in that? And while I’m not going to build my own camera from a Brillo pad and a pinhole, it’s the perfect excuse for trying out some new techniques, building on the pinholes that I’ve already built or been given as gifts.

A little research left me disappointed that I hadn’t started earlier – but I’d need 6 months or more to get the beautiful arcs of light in many of the best examples of solargraphs.

Browsing through the solargraphs online I found this beauty.
Rising star
Now, if only I had a box camera lying around somewhere… (thank you again Andreina).
View camera

So before I made dinner I decided to make a quick test.

I loaded up the film holder with some old paper that I acquired as part of a darkroom equipment purchase a few years back. I set the camera on the windowsill pointing at the sun, and noodled about for a while with a cloth over my head trying to focus it.

The camera really needs to be put on a tripod to stop it moving about, but I had to make do with holding it in place as best I could while I wrestled with the dark slide that really didn’t want to come out. After an hour or so the light was beginning to fade so I shoved the dark slide back in and took the film holder to be scanned.

Everyone recommends scanning in a dark room to limit the exposure to light, which would ruin the image.  But everyone also recommends that you take a look at the paper negative before you scan it. So I took both sets of advice. I set the scanner up in advance, using a piece of card roughly the same size as the negative to set the scanning area.

Then I opened the film holder for my first look at the negative.

solargraph 001 neg

That dark streak is the sun disappearing behind the conservatory roof.

I’m pretty pleased that anything came out at all. The sun went in soon after I set it up so I wasn’t sure what I’d get.

And here is the inverted positive. All I’ve done here is boosted the contrast a little. I can see a lot of potential for adjusting the curves to bring out different tones, but this one is more or less straight out of the (view) camera.
solargraph 001

The camera, by the way, was a gift from Andreina, who does some very cool photography-related things, including developing her own colour negatives.

I’m already planning spots to set up pinhole cams and the view cam to get the shots I want. Watch this space – soon it  will be filled with solargraphs and maybe the odd solargram.


One comment

  1. What a cool project! It turned out really well. I’m very pleased to see that the camera has found its purpose and is back in action again instead of lying around in my attic.

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