A British observatory shared the longest exposure image ever taken, lasting more than eight years.
However, the picture, which was taken at the University of Hertfordshire’s Bayfordbury Observatory, was not taken with high-tech photographic equipment.
Regina Valkenborgh, an art student in college at the time, just used a simple pinhole camera from an empty beer can and some photo paper.
It shows 2,953 arcuate paths as the sun rose and set for 97 months between August 2012 and September 2020.
The dome of Bayfordbury’s oldest telescope can be seen on the left in the photo, while on the right is an atmospheric portal, a structure erected in the middle of the exposure process.
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Regina Valkenborgh’s pinhole camera stayed untouched for eight years and a month at the Bayfordbury Observatory at the University of Hertfordshire. Each of the 2,953 traces on her photo represents the solar arc as it rises and sets
Valkenborgh had experimented with pinhole camera techniques when she received her Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Hertfordshire.
A pinhole camera is essentially just a light-tight box with a tiny hole on one side that lets in sunlight.
Due to a natural phenomenon known as the camera obscura effect, light from the outside passes through the tiny “pinhole” and projects an inverted image of what is outside on the opposite side of the box.
The effect has been known for more than 1,000 years and was described by the Arab physicist Ibn al-Haytham in the 10th century.
Due to the “camera obscura” effect, light that falls through a tiny “pinhole” in a light-tight box projects an inverted image of what is outside on the opposite side of the box
Telescopes at the Bayfordbury Observatory, University of Hertfordshire. The dome of Bayfordbury’s oldest telescope can be seen in Valkenborgh’s photo
When photo paper was developed in the 19th century, images captured with camera obscura could be converted into photographs.
“For me, the most exciting thing is that this rudimentary type of photography still has value in this technology-driven era,” Valkenborgh told Motherboard.
“In all its simplicity, it can take a photo well beyond the slowest shutter speed you can set with a digital camera.”
“The pictures are also absolutely unique. The light photons travel through the actual aperture and touch the paper in the can.”
Back in 2012, Valkenborgh placed a can of beer lined up with photo paper on one of the observatory’s telescopes.
The venture was largely forgotten until September of this year when observatory worker David Campbell rediscovered it.
“It was a stroke of luck that the picture remained untouched and was saved by David after all these years,” said Valkenbourgh, now a photo technician at Barnet and Southgate College.
Most of her attempts at pinhole photography have been ruined by moisture, which causes the photo paper to curl up.
“I hadn’t planned to take an exposure for that length of time, and to my surprise, it survived,” she said. “It could be one of the longest exposures in existence, if not the longest in existence.”
Super long exposure is a kind of art form: in 2011, retired physicist Greg Parker used a pinhole camera from an old tea chest to capture the sky from June 21st, the summer solstice, to December 22nd, the winter solstice.
Valkenborgh did the same to record the sky over the observatory during the same period in 2011.
“Dark gaps in the daily arcs are caused by the cloud cover, while continuous bright trails record glorious rays of the sun,” she explained of the image known as the solar graph. “Of course, the sunpaths start higher in June at the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. The trails sink lower into the sky as the winter solstice approaches in December. ‘
Autumn 2011 was one of the sunniest in UK history, as evidenced by the many bright arches in the lower part of their picture.
In 2011, Valkenborgh used a pinhole camera to record the sky over the observatory for six months from summer to winter solstice. “Dark gaps in the daily arcs are caused by cloud cover, while continuous light trails record glorious rays of the sun,” she said
According to the university, the German artist Michael Wesely is the previous record holder for the picture with the longest exposure. The photo was taken over four years and eight months.
Valkenborgh’s record may not last forever: In 2015, concept artist Jonathon Keats announced plans to take a 1000-year exposure photo to record a millennium of climate change on a Holyoke mountain range in western Massachusetts.
Keats ” Millennium Camera ” is small enough to hold in the palm of your hand. It is made of copper to withstand the ravages of time.
He hopes the project will encourage people to think beyond their own human lifespan about what geologists call “deep time,” the long periods of time when the world changes on a grand scale.
His camera was placed on the Stearns Steeple at Amherst College, and the university has agreed to display the resulting image 3015 at the Mead Art Museum.