Cool After School: Camera Obscura

by Vicky on April 25, 2011

Just now catching up!  Our March 30 Cool After School class featured the camera obscura (Latin; “camera” is a “vaulted chamber/room” + “obscura” means “dark”= “darkened chamber/room”).

As in the eye, light reflected from an object travels through a small opening or lens and is projected on a facing surface.  As in the eye, the image is projected upside down.  (Our brain automatically rights the image; in a camera, a mirror flips the image upright.)

Leonardo da Vinci described this phenomenon in his notebooks, and, inspired by the book, Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself, we constructed small personal pinhole cameras from Pringles containers.

Then we made two larger versions.  One was made from a medium-sized box like the one illustrated above, and the other was made from a large wardrobe box that allowed a person to stand inside.  It was exciting to see the images projected on our screens!

Follow this link to an article from National Geographic on turning a room into a camera obscura!

Watch this Youtube video from the Exploratorium to see the setting and exterior of the giant camera obscura in San Francisco and the interior with the ocean scene projected on a table sized screen. The periscope-like lens can be moved to scan the coastline.

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