Did you ever wonder how cameras work? With the marvel of digital equipment, it seems almost like magic. You push a button and the image appears instantly. Photo archivists with the Penobscot Marine Museum Kevin Johnson and Matt Wheeler came up with the idea of having a very large camera obscura built, allowing people to walk inside to experience first hand how the image is created and the basic concept of how cameras work.
The first written record about viewing an image like that dates back roughly 2,400 years in China. Later, Aristotle wrote about the use of the principal of the camera obscura , while observing a partial solar eclipse. In the 13th century Leonardo da Vinci gave a detailed description, and using a pinhole camera, in the mid-1820’s Joseph Niepce, a French inventor, captured the first known photograph on bitumen-coated metal plate.
You might be surprised that the principal of the camera remains the same today. With the advancement of technology, pinholes were replaced by lenses made of very high quality glass, to project a tack-sharp image. The recording of that image also went through several changes and now a computer captures the image with the aid of sensors, that replaced the light sensitive materials.
To see first hand the inner workings of the camera obscura and images inside it, visit the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. The Exploring the Magic of Photography: Painting with Light exhibit from the museum’s huge photography collection will open on May 23rd. For more information about the upcoming exhibits visit: http://penobscotmarinemuseum.org/
To illustrate the image I improvised a crude pinhole camera. The images are blurry, but this was done in a few minutes, from a modern digital camera using a dust-cap and a piece of tape.