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The Camera Obscura

Welcome back to another post on Gabe's blog. Today we will be talking about the very first camera that was invented: The Camera Obscura.

In my Core II class last week, we were assigned to make a small handheld camera obscura as a way to explore seeing the world differently. It was an interesting exercise and I recommend it to any photographer/artist that likes making small crafts and is looking for something interesting to do (if you haven't made one yet that is.)

What is a Camera Obscura?

Before what we know as cameras were invented, drawing and painting were the only ways of reproducing visual images. Artists would draw or paint what they saw, however painting is no easy feat. Thus, the Camera Obscura mechanism was proposed. Meaning "Dark Room" in Latin, the camera obscura was a completely dark room with a tiny pinhole in one of the walls to let light in. Through the pinhole letting in light, the image of whatever was directly outside the room would be projected on the opposite wall upside-down, offering the artist an exact picture of what needed to be captured. The artist could then trace and draw/paint the subject in question more accurately. It is comparable to our modern-day projectors.

How Do You Make a Handheld Camera Obscura?

There are several methods of doing so, but my choice was to use recycled rolls of paper towel and some foil, tape and parchment paper. cut the roll in half (or use two recycled toilet paper rolls too, it works great) and cover the first roll on one end with parchment paper, the other half will be pasted together with the first and one of the opposite uncovered sides is covered with foil. After assembling this odd telescope-like cardboard structure and making sure everything is light-safe and held together firmly, poke a tiny hole in the tinfoil. This acts as the light receiver, projecting shadow images onto the parchment paper in the middle to be seen from the side you look through. Nothing will be exactly projected as well as a modern camera, or even a film camera, but this is just a small peek into how Photography started out by projecting images with light. Here's my Camera Obscura! It's super clunky and not pretty at all, but it's a fun little arts and crafts project.

It is important to note that this version of the Camera Obscura still retains the property of projecting images upside-down, and mostly only works in direct sunlight or very bright, harsh lighting.

This is what mine looked like during the afternoon when I took it outside and looked through it.

Would you try your hand at a Camera Obscura?

See ya next Sunday!


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