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How to create 6 month exposures 
Video here - PDF here

Much of pinhole photography relates to using time to be creative with the light from the sun, similar wonders to that found in astronomy.

A 6-month exposure will enable you to image the arc of the sun as it rises or sinks throughout 6 months of the year. As well as this you will get some foreground detail and a camera to look at with awe as a small hole etches its 6-month exposure from your window ledge, garden shed, lamp post, tree etc.

Being able to capture a period of time far beyond our own vision is incredible enough, but even more amazing is how simple it is to do.

The final camera gives an extreme wide angle of view of 160 degrees.


What you will need:

  • Two an aluminium beer cans (or a black 35mm Film 'pot')

  • A Pin

  • Black Gaffer Tape

  • Cable ties

  • Some 5x7 Semi Matt Black and White Photographic paper (available here

  • 6 months. 

Optional:   Reflective jacket, Builders Hard hat, Stepladder


Drink Can camera

Remove the top off an ALUMINIUM can with a good can opener. (See video here)  (Avoid steel as it leaves a dangerous sharp edge). Tall beer cans are best, as not only do they take untrimmed 5x7 paper, but they also contain beer!

Cut a lid from the base of the other can around 4cm high. This is the weather proof removable lid
Push in and remove a pin half way up the side of the can and move it around to make the hole about 2 mm in diameter (don't worry too much!)
Cover the hole with an insulation tape 'shutter', then place on the light-tight cap.

Metal lid.jpg

Film Pot Camera

35mm black film pots are getting a bit tricky to find but have the advantage of being far smaller and less conspicuous than the can cameras.
To keep maximum quality however, you will need to make a smaller hole of around half a mm. The disadvantage is they don't hold beer!

Using a craft knife cut a small 1cm square from the side of the plastic pot.
Make a pinhole in a 2cm square piece of aluminium from a drink can and push the end of a pin into the aluminium to make a ½ mm sized pinhole (but don't worry too much!).
Use black insulation tape to tape the pinhole onto the outside of the pot then cover the hole with an insulation tape 'shutter'.

Filmnpot camera.jpg

Loading photographic paper

As the paper isn't going to be developed the camera doesn't need to be loaded in a red safe light. It should be ok in a room with the curtains drawn (but doesn't allow sunlight to reach the paper)

Insert a 5x7 sheet of semi matt photographic paper curled round the inside of the can emulsion inwards, (use a 70mm x 45mm piece for the film pot). Glossy paper can be used but I find it results in more internal reflections. 
Make sure the paper doesn't cover the hole (there should be a 1 cm gap) then replace the lid.
Gaffer tape the lid on (to keep out the rain, snow, sleet, lightening, mice etc)

Installing your camera and taking the 'snap'

Find a position pointing towards the Sun. South in the Northern Hemisphere and North in the Southern Hemisphere (I presume!). Google Earth will show you South.
Make sure it is well out of reach of enthusiastic street cleaners! It's going to be exposing for some time, day and night. As a rule the camera should be installed 'higher than a drunk person can reach while sitting on another drunk persons shoulders'

Chose a date to start the exposure. Sept 20th - Dec 20th, or Dec 20th till March 20th is good but there's no rules. 
Fix the camera sturdily in position. It needs to cope with all that 6 months of natures elements can throw at it. I find a healthy mix of gaffer tape and cable ties works quite well. Gluing a pencil onto the side will help to keep the camera steady if fixed to a circular object such as a lamp post. Gluing one horizontally on the back will tilt the camera upwards slightly enabling the capture the height of the Summer sun.

Peel the shutter (sticker) off, go inside and write on your calendar when you will stop the exposure.
Have a look at it from time to time thinking things like, "I wonder what is going on in there".

After 6 months place the tape shutter onto the hole and bring the camera back home after its long ordeal. (OK, its not exactly the Shackleton expedition I know but by now it probably needs a rest!)

Crows nest.jpg
Can installation Nordylis.jpg
solar camera.jpg

Harvesting the image

  1. Switch off the light in your computer room.

  2. Set the scanner on a highish resolution (500dpi is good for 5x7, 900 ish for the film pot)

  3. Take the photo paper out of the can camera and ,,,,,,without developing it (Told you it was clever!), place it onto the scanner with a book on top to hold it flat and press scan.

  4. Save the negative image on your computer.

  5. After scanning, place the undeveloped print into a box entitled 'scanned paper negs'.

  6. Open up Photoshop or PaintNet. 

  7. Image > Inverse > Flip horizontal and play around with the contrast and brightness.

  8. Show off to your mate in the pub after he has shown you his photos of Tenerife.

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