Capturing the Sun’s Path: Exploring Solargraphy through Art, Science, and Chaos


Capturing the Sun’s Path: Exploring Solargraphy through Art, Science, and Chaos

A solargraph camera is a simple type of camera that consists of a piece of black and white photographic paper sealed inside a cylinder with a tiny pin hole drilled into the side. The camera is then placed in a secure location where it will remain undisturbed for days, weeks, or even months at a time. The duration of time the camera is left to record is determined by the photographer, with options ranging from capturing a single day to an entire season. According to experts, leaving the camera from solstice to solstice is the optimal timeframe.

These three solargraph cameras were set up on the roof of The Weather Network in Oakville, ON, between June 21 and December 21, 2023. Painted both inside and out in black to reduce reflections, the cameras were positioned facing south to track the Sun’s movement across the sky. It’s important to choose the location of the camera wisely, as its appearance may make it susceptible to being taken or damaged if left in a public space.

While the camera is in place, sunlight passes through the pin hole to create a line of exposure on the photographic paper whenever the Sun is shining. The Earth’s movement along its orbit causes the Sun’s path to shift approximately 1 degree each day, resulting in a distinct line of exposure added to the image daily, except when clouds block the sky. Weather conditions like overcast or partly cloudy days will affect the appearance of the lines of exposure on the paper.

In addition to capturing the Sun’s daily movement, the solargraph also records changes in the angle of the Sun caused by Earth’s axis tilt. The image reflects the sky conditions above the camera location each day, providing a unique blend of art and science influenced by the chemical overexposure of the photo paper, weather factors, and environmental elements present around the camera.

Solargraphy is a combination of art, science, and unpredictability, according to Culp. The resulting images are a fascinating display of color and patterns shaped by the interaction of various factors throughout the recording period.

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