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  1. #1

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    Solargraphy without a scanner?

    I would like to try http://www.solargraphy.com as a project with my elementary school-aged kids. Sounds like a lot of fun -- build a bunch of one-off pinhole cameras, distribute throughout random places, and expose for weeks or months.

    However, the technique relies on scanning the exposed photographic paper to get an image. Is there a way to get super-slow (month long) exposures with a pinhole camera using wet chemistry and a darkroom? I assume that paper negatives (or positives?) would be part of the process. I'd love to show the kids the magic of the image appearing in the trays. I supposed one could make some home-spun ND filtering material, but bracketing exposures could take a long, long time, and I'm not willing to sacrifice a real ND filter to a camera that's left outside for a long time.

  2. #2
    Rick A's Avatar
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    Howzabout making lumens with the kids instead. They can be accomplished in the span of one class period, and large enough for the kids to be excited about.
    Rick A
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  3. #3
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    I haven't experimented with processes like blueprint paper or diazo film, but they are easy to develop and slow.

  4. #4

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    You'd need about 0,00001ASA material for a 2 month exposure with a regular pinhole camera... that just doesn't exist, unless you plan on using whatever Mr. Nièpce used for his first photo around 1820. With a very big pinhole camera with regular photographic paper (that would need exposure times of a few minutes in full daylight) and a x1000 ND-filter, you'd still only have about 1 day of exposure...
    I used homemade ND-filters from exposed and developed negative film before. Just take out-of-focus photos of a white wall with perfect exposure, then +1, +2, +3, +4 and +5. 35mm film will do for this, but it should be very fine-grained... develop as usual and then test how dense it is by holding it in front of a light meter. That way you can see, how much light your "filters" absorb and find the right density. 10 stops is the minimum you'd need... I can do the math for you, if you're interested. These DIY-filters are not good for sharpness, though. A single piece might be ok, but stacking several for better effect, will make the picture way to blurry.


    You also could take a photo of the solargraphic negatives on slide film (preferably with a large format camera) and enlarge that onto regular photographic paper. Or use positive paper for the solargraphs, photograph with negative film and enlarge (or contact print) that. It's a bit complex, but it should work. I don't know, if all that stuff with inter-positives (or negatives) might be to complicated for such a project with kids. I haven't tried it myself, so you'd need to experiment yourself before the official project.
    I'd just do regular pinhole photography with positive paper. Negative paper works too, but seeing the "proper" image right away is probably better for understanding.
    If you want to interest these kids in analog photography and darkroom work, anything too complicated will probably lead to "ehm, ok, I could've taken a better picture with my cellphone in a few seconds... this stuff is old and boring." Says me, who was a kid about a decade ago.

    Another very fun thing (well, I loved it), I'd recommend, is making photograms. Just let them put some random stuff onto a piece of photographic paper, expose it with an enlarger and develop that. It's not what they'd imagine as photography, but it shows how stuff in the darkroom works and has that magic of seeing the image appear in the developement tray... also lets them do everything themself.
    Last edited by moki; 05-17-2011 at 05:03 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #5

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    hey GG

    i was going to do something similar -
    first i was going to do solargraphs,
    then lumen print/photograms with my 5th grade daughter's art class
    then i settled upon cyanotypes ... it doesn't take long to make them
    and unlike lumen prints or solargraphs, the kids can take something home with them in the end !
    in camera lumenprits with a regular camera and lens on "B" takes about 30-45mins at least and then you are left with an ephemeral image ...

    cyanotypes just need water ... and they will last forever ...
    our first try didn't work last week ( too gloomy not enough UV ) next week will be sunny
    and perfect !
    ( if you don't have cyanotype chems to coat your paper yourself, you can get a "sunprint kit" from an art supply house
    or freestyle )

    have fun !
    john
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by moki View Post
    You'd need about 0,00001ASA material for a 2 month exposure with a regular pinhole camera...
    Are you sure that's right? I was hoping that reciprocity failure would (for once) be a big help in this kind of project.

    I like all the ideas here. Cyanotypes might be fun, but require a real camera -- one nice thing about pinholes is that it's easy to give one to each kid, and have them run around outside trying to find the best place to put it. I also like the idea of sending home one image per student.

    It's also too bad that the month long exposures are a problem, as I had hoped to tie in lessons about the seasons.

    The good news: time to experiment!

  7. #7
    pinhole_dreamer's Avatar
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    I want to hear more about this. That's pretty interesting.

    Quote Originally Posted by jnanian View Post
    hey GG

    i settled upon cyanotypes ... it doesn't take long to make them
    and unlike lumen prints or solargraphs, the kids can take something home with them in the end !
    in camera lumenprits with a regular camera and lens on "B" takes about 30-45mins at least and then you are left with an ephemeral image ...

    cyanotypes just need water ... and they will last forever ...
    our first try didn't work last week ( too gloomy not enough UV ) next week will be sunny
    and perfect !
    ( if you don't have cyanotype chems to coat your paper yourself, you can get a "sunprint kit" from an art supply house
    or freestyle )

    have fun !
    john
    I love the smell of fixer in the morning...It smells like...PHOTOGRAPHY!

    The photo blog has moved...
    I Love Film : by Susan McNutt, the mad photographer

  8. #8

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    I don't think that you can do cyanotypes in pinholes, can you?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by GGardner View Post
    Are you sure that's right? I was hoping that reciprocity failure would (for once) be a big help in this kind of project.
    Ok, I just crunched some theoretical numbers without considerung reciprocity, because it is very much neglectible for paper... Something around 0,001ASA (still around 12-13 steps below regular paper) might be good enough but it's still very unrealistic, considering modern papers have around 5-15ASA. It's also almost impossible to calculate the exposure reliably without massive testing. Reciprocity is documented for up to a few hours, but after that it becomes guesswork. More work than it's worth, in my opinion.

    Cyanotypes might be an idea, though, with their relatively low sensitivity and easy processing. I haven't done them myself, so others will know a lot more.

  10. #10

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    Something to do with kids and a pinhole camera and the sun...

    Let the kids make a regular paper negative pinhole image, maybe using a simple tin cylinder camera. Have them make the exposure with the camera pointing away from the sun. With a paper negative in a 3 - 4 inch diameter tin, this would take 15 - 20 seconds depending on the paper (use Foma Variant 312, it is top notch for this purpose). They can develop the photo just like normal. Then have the kids make the same image, but for the last second or two, point the camera at the sun and move it slightly, maybe waving the camera back and forth or in a circle. The sun will quickly burn a trail on the negative that will be like using a magic marker on the scene. They might like it. This experiment would show the power of the sun's rays, that's for sure. (I've done this a few times as a mistake; but as a lesson? Might work great.)

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