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Thread: Solargraphy Question

  1. #1

    Solargraphy Question

    I showed a colleague lumen prints and she fell in love with the process. Then I showed her solargraphy but instead of shooting the sun she's been trying to make images of objects in her backyard. She asked me this question today.

    "None of the images I did with the expired paper in the pinhole cameras worked out. I'd like to try some extended pinhole exposures using non expired b/w photo paper. Can you point me to a resource that would give a pinhole size that would allow me to make an approx 7 day long exposure using photo paper?"

    Considering that this is with a non-developing solargraphy pinhole process is there some way to meter or to gauge the size pinhole needed to make this work for her. What is the ISO of the paper in this instance since the normal ISO only relates to developed paper?
    Check out my pinhole sets at Flickr
    and my cameras at

  2. #2
    500+ Posts Ned.Lewis's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    Sonoma County, California
    Hi Chris,

    Yes, it is a printing out process, or "retina print". I do not think the "iso" speed of the paper is too important, although it is true that every paper I have tried so far gives different results. Some are darker than others and the colors and contrast differ.

    The pinhole size should be just the same as for a pinhole camera. My "solargraphy cans" are all about 3 or 4 inches in diameter and I try to keep the pinhole between about .2 and .3mm, but I do not worry very much about it. Certainly some of the cans make "sharper" images than others.

    In normal bright sunlight, you can make a picture with good details typically in about 6 hours. This would then be scanned and inverted with software, and the levels adjusted. If you use a camera with a lens instead of a pinhole camera, the time can be reduced to 20 minutes or so. I've read that pre-flashing can help this process, like it does with normal paper negatives, but I have not tried that myself. More exposure will make darker image. Your friend should realize that the image on a retina print will look light brown or pinkish ruddy brown and it will be quite a light image... sometimes it is not so easy to see that all the details are there until you invert it.

    I have a series of pictures made this way, all are very boring. They are pictures of the Macbeth color checker made with different papers. All were exposed 6 hours in midday sun. It is interesting to see what the colors "invert to". Greens and blues can come out green and blue, so it's quite possible to make a photo of green trees with a blue sky and have it come out somewhat natural looking. Yellows and browns and of course reds are changed.

    It's funny you posted this today. I was just over at Ipernity and an acquaintance there posted a 1 week solargraph. I was looking at it and thinking that I don't do enough short ones or non-solargraph "retina prints". They can be very nice. I just today decided I want to do more of them soon.

    I have had some success fixing the images, but that is a longer topic and it is not so easy and there are a lot of variables. I'll write an article about it eventually. Meanwhile, they need to be stored in the dark.

    The best advice probably is be patient and have fun!

    Here is one that was a 6 hour exposure that I was really happy with:


    It was made during the annular eclipse last year at Whiskeytown lake in Northern California. You can see a narrowing of the trace during the eclipse. But I was very surprised to be able to see the lake and trees and distant hills... this is the one when I discovered that you can see details with less than weeks and weeks of exposure. ( I mean "discovered" myself.. others have been doing this since the dawn of photography, but I didn't know that! )


    Edit: and here's a shameless can see my lastest solargraph, from just a couple days ago, and some recent pinhole photographs at my new page at Ipernity:
    Last edited by Ned.Lewis; 06-24-2013 at 11:22 PM.
    Some photos: Ipernity
    ( pinholes and solargraphs mixed in among the rest)

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