Camera Obscura

The Photography students took part in an experiment to demonstrate exactly how a pinhole camera works. The best way to do this was to literally place themselves inside one, and the most practical way was to convert a room.

‘Camera Obscura’ is Latin for dark room. Documentation of the camera obscura goes back centuries, including detailed ones by Leonardo Da Vinci. However the physics behind how light travels in straight lines through an aperture to project images dates back many centuries before that.

For the experiment students found a suitable room, one which had a good view onto a sunlit part of Rochester. All windows and any gaps in the doorframe through which outside light could ‘leak’ was covered with blackout fabric and black bin-liners. The only light allowed to enter was through a small hole the size of a 5p piece cut in the fabric covering one of the windows. After a few seconds, the eyes of those standing in the room would adjust, and as if by magic the scene of the outside world would appear on the walls of the room. An added bonus was the fact that there was a road directly outside, which meant that any moving cars would be projected into the room and move across the ceiling. (The camera obscura projects the image upside-down).

If you would like to try this at home, all you need is a room with a view, and plenty of blackout material (bin bags and cardboard will also work). No expensive technology is required.

One students asked if it would be possible to take their camera obscura one step further and actually take a photo by attaching photographic paper to the walls of the room. Well, there’s only one way to find out…




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