Photo 1 due 9/2 – Camera Obscura


These are some basics of the camera obscura on wiki…..
Camera Obscura

Turn your room into a camera obscura!

A camera obscura is a step away from a pinhole camera….just add film. Here’s another diagram and some more directions on the pinhole camera…..extra credit for trying this one as a camera obscura…..


This article has some exceptional state-of-the-experimental-art of pinhole photos.


And here is the largest!


Click on the URL 2005 and then in the box at left type in image #439….it’s by someone you know……


In your comments, explain what you find interesting about the camera obscura. What is the most exciting example to you of the pinhole photos and why?

You will be making your own pinhole camera, following the instructions in the study guide. Or for extra credit or possibly as an alternative, make another kind.

Look at the image Frodude got when making his room into a pinhole camera!

Frodude's room as a pinhole camera


20 responses »

  1. I think the most interesting thing about the camera obsura is the way it works. Its really weird and cool that by using just a dark box with a little pinprick you can project an image. I read on Wikipedia ( that some people think that some great Renaissance artists used camera obscura to get an image, than traced that image to get a start with their paintings. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but it’s cool to think about how photography could be so much older than we think. I think the most ecxiting example of pinhole photos are those giant ones they made with the airplane hanger. There just so gigantic that you can’t help but be impressed.

    • David Hockey was the first to publish the extensive use of the camera obscura by Renaissance and Baroque artists. Before his investigation, it was not as widely accepted. It certainly puts Vermeer in a different light when you think about the use of a lens device to aid his observation. I hope this year we can all participate in Worldwide Pinhole Day in the spring!

    • I think the most interesting thing about the camera obscura is that the image is inverted without the use of any mirror or reflective surface, just an opaque material and a small hole. I’ve read that Aristotle and several other noted ancient scholars understood the basic functions and properties of light ( I think its also interesting that within about 1000 years the camera obscura has mentions from several noted historical mathematicians and scholars throughout the near east but there is almost no mention in North/ Western Europe until almost the Renaissance.

  2. I think that pinhole cameras are interesting because of how basic they are. They do not have fancy shutters or lenses and yet they can take beautiful pictures. I also like how much care it takes to make a photograph. With modern cameras we can just snap a photo in less than a second and it’s easy to take for granted. I think the most exciting of the pinhole photos are the ones taken with cameras made out of unexpected materials, like the one taken inside of a bell pepper or the one taken with the man’s mouth. I think these pictures are the most exciting because of how creative the photographer has to be, and how much the camera affects the photograph.

    • The creativity of the pinhole photographers is definitely inspiring. For each of the fantastic images they get, they had a lot of mistaken images paving the way since there is so much guesswork involvd. But I imagine that after doing it a number of times, they may develop a kind of intuition that helps.

  3. I like how it somehow projects the image upside down. It makes it extra cool. My favorite pinhole is definitely the Eiffel Tower, because its super distorted and close-up. I think if it had been shot from farther away it wouldn’t have looked as cool. The distortion gives it a more intimidating, imposing feeling that i wouldn’t normally associate with it.

  4. I like the camera obscura because of how the light is projected. It makes sense to me that it is like a camera, but not reflected right side up by the viewfinder. I also like how depending on what materials (box, can, car, etc), you can create different distorted photos or simple images. The most exciting example of a pinhole photo is probably the Eiffel Tower (not to be unoriginal or anything), it is an amazing example of how light can be played with. Also, I LOVE YOUR BEACH PHOTO! Amazing job! Yay!

  5. I like what the article said about fuzziness having its own appeal and how, yes, we’ve developed lenses that have intense focusing abilities and are able to capture an intense amount of detail, but that effect is something you lose on a high tech camera like that. The image of the farmhouse is evocative because it has the fuzziness and is sort of distorted around the edges. Plus the lighting’s spooky and awesome. No matter how many fancy lenses you’ve got, you can’t get that without a pinhole camera.

    • I wish I could say that you can only get this effect with a pinhole but….there are some pretty cool apps for creating a similar effect. But to do it from real life and pinhole cameras, the photographer deserves a lot more admiration since the artistry comes from more than a keystroke!

  6. I enjoy the camera obscura because its so creative and it looks very cool in “My room as a camera”. It’s like a giant homemade projector.
    I love the whole idea of pinhole cameras because they are so simple and yet they can catch wonderful images. I like that with a pinhole camera you really want to think about what you are going capture. You can catch that one photo and no more, unlike how people are used to these days with iphones and what not where you can take tons of pictures and then maybe choose one of those later. This can make the image more beautiful in that there is so much more thought put into it. I’m really exited for making one myself.

  7. I think the most interesting thing about the camera obscura, to me, is how simple and basic it is, but you can still take beautiful pictures. I also like that the article points out that we have a fascination with not only sharp, clear images, but also out-of-focus and distorted images. I really like the image of the 101-year-old schoolhouse in Arkansas because the panoramic-type view of the setting really enhances the idea of this being such a vast and empty setting. I also think that the way the trees near the edges of the image are distorted makes the picture a little more eerie.

  8. I love the distortion of camera obscura because it gives a demented, almost psychotic sense to the picture. The way the hole creates almost a fish-eye effect is fascinating. Does anyone on here know the scientific reason for how this works and why it turned out like this? It reminds me of a security camera watching from above or below, watching your every move. It has the whole “Big Brother is Watching” feel to it, especially when it was placed in regards to ordinary settings filled with ordinary people.

    Veneta Zaharieva’s “Ghosty B” was my favorite, mainly for the way that the reflection of the old building hits the water and the way that the grounds seems to grow closer as the building is pushed further away. It feels lonely, almost as if the place hasn’t seen anyone for decades and the ground is desperately trying to chase you.

    • Yes – I agree! That distortion makes the photo so emotional. The fisheye effect is created usually by a round camera like a carton or cannister, so the image projected wraps around and stretches.

  9. The most interesting thing about the camera obscura, is the fact that… it actually works. I never really thought about how a camera worked until we learned about the camera obscura, and so learning that you could capture an image so simply was really surprising. My favorite image was the blank room with the upside down image of Manhattan because it looked like you could just sit down in the picture-like you could be a part of it. I just thought it was really interesting.

  10. What I find EXTREMELY extremely interesting is the science behind the pinhole camera. It just makes me think about what goes on behind the scenes with the human eye.

    Light is always bouncing off of things, but I guess that in such great intensity that to project this, the aperture needs to be very small (about the size of a pinhole) and that doesn’t even guarantee focus, only a projected image.

    Then it’s left to the camera or human eye to flip and properly focus the image (changing aperture size or dilating pupils).

    It’s textbook science in action and it’s amazing to me.

    I really enjoyed #171 and also a piece by a Bulgarian (i think, that i can find), both of which are multiple exposure negative prints. I think the slow film, with focus to the mercy of the pinhole, presented in negative is just very stunning.

    • I bet you will enjoy making double exposures and sandwich negatives in the future. It can be tricky but with careful observations about your experiments, you can make it work. And you invite some interesting comparisons of the pinhole with the aperture of the human eye.

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