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

Capturing the Changing Skies: A Journey Through Time with Solargraph Cameras

Solargraph cameras are simple yet captivating devices that use black and white photographic paper sealed inside a cylinder with a tiny pin hole to capture the passage of time. These cameras can remain undisturbed for days, weeks, or even months, allowing photographers to capture unique images that showcase the changing sky conditions above their location.

The ideal duration for which a solargraph camera should record is from solstice to solstice, according to experts. However, photographers have the freedom to choose any period of time they desire, ranging from one day to an entire season. For three solargraph cameras installed on the roof of The Weather Network in Oakville, ON between June 21 and December 21, 2023, the cameras were painted black inside and out to minimize reflections. Positioned facing south, these cameras were set up to track the Sun’s movement across the sky.

When sunlight passes through the pin hole, it creates a bright line of exposure on the photographic paper each time the Sun shines. The Earth’s motion along its orbit causes the Sun’s path to shift by approximately 1 degree each day, resulting in a unique line of exposure being traced across the image for each day recorded by the camera. Clouds obstructing the sky will interrupt this line of exposure, with overcast days showing no trace while partly cloudy days showing a fragmented line.

As the photographic paper documents the Sun’s daily passage and changing angles due to Earth’s axis tilt, it also captures basic sky conditions present above the camera’s location each day. Each solargraph is a blend of art and science that features a mix of colors resulting from extreme overexposure of photo paper, weather conditions, and environmental influences like dirt or insects. Solargraphy is described as a fusion of art, science, and chaos by expert Culp.

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