Photographer Brendan Barry has turned some huge objects into cameras. He started with a $200 camper, then used a shipping container, and finally turned an entire floor of a skyscraper into a working camera obscura with a darkroom. Considering that most of us are closed in our homes these days, how does it sound turning your bedroom (or any room) into a camera obscura? Or better yet, a camera obscura you can take photos with? Well, you can do it with stuff you already have at home.
For his latest project, Brendan has turned his daughter’s bedroom into a camera obscura and his bathroom into a darkroom. He guides you through the process in the video below, so you can build your own “room-camera,” too.
There are many great things about this project, but one of them is certainly that you don’t have to leave home to get the parts. Most of the stuff for the camera obscura you already have at home. If you want to take analog photos with it, you can order everything you need online. After all, some of you perhaps even have the chemicals and paper at home, too. Even if not, you can also take photos with a digital camera, and Brendan guides you through that process as well.
Building the camera obscura
1:20 – Darkening the room: First, you’ll need something to blackout both rooms – the one that will act like a camera and the one that will be your darkroom. You can use cardboard, tinfoil, or anything that doesn’t let the light through. In the video, Brendan uses cardboard for the camera obscura and tinfoil for the darkroom just so you can see how both work.
2:16 – Adding a lens: Brendan shows you a variety of lenses that you can use and that you probably have lying around the house. It can be a magnifying glass, a camera lens, even a lens from your old glasses or 3D glasses will do. In the video, you can see how each of them performs. Of course, you’ll have to make a hole in the cardboard/tinfoil and add the lens to it.
4:15 – Projecting the picture: Brendan now shows you how each of the lenses performs, but you’ll need this step for taking photos too. You can use anything white: tracing paper, a diffuser from your 5-in-1 reflector, the regular paper of foam core. Place it in front of the lens and you’ll see the image of the outside world projecting onto it. It’s cool even now and we didn’t even get to the photo-taking part yet. :)
8:19 – Taking digital photos and setting up a darkroom: As I mentioned, you can take both analog and digital photos of the scene. If you have a translucent white surface to work with, just place it in front of the lens to get the scene projected and visible on the other side. Set up your digital camera, take photos, and then crop them and edit them as you please.
However, if you have extra time and you want to try Brendan’s usual technique, you can take a step (or rather a few steps) further. You can build a darkroom from your bathroom and take photos on photographic paper.
16:24 – Taking analog photos: For all of you film enthusiasts out there, this is a particularly interesting part. Brendan guides you through the process of taking photos directly onto photographic paper. You will need something to hold the paper in place, and you’ll project the image onto it. You can use a piece of cardboard to make a “lens cap” so you don’t expose the paper before it’s in place and before the image is in focus.
21:33 – Processing analog photos: Finally, Brendan guides you through processing the photos. I found the whole video fun, but it was super-exciting to see the process of developing the image. And the end result is really beautiful, even more considering that it was all done with stuff lying around the house.
I don’t know about you, but I plan to do this perhaps as soon as this weekend. Workdays in isolation are bearable (I work from home anyway), but the weekends are pretty depressing. So, I hope I’ll manage to do something like this and take some digital photos. And if you experiment with it as well, I’d love to see the results!