Watch The Weather Network's Out Of This World special feature I collaborated on with meteorologist and science writer Scott Sutherland.

Solargraphy


Solargraphy sun trails appear during sunny periods—their height in the sky is based on latitude and time of year. The colours are a byproduct of the extremely long exposures, the chemical breakdown of the paper, and environmental factors.

Part Art – Part Science – Part Chaos


Solargraphy is an alternative photography process that uses homemade pinhole cameras and light-sensitive black and white photo paper. It captures very long exposures of the sun's movement across the sky, transforming the passage of time into abstract visual records. Over days, weeks, and months, a single image is constructed, revealing a view of space, time, and weather patterns that we cannot normally see. The trails show the gradual day-to-day change of the sun's path due to the Earth's slightly elliptical orbit and 23.4° axial tilt. The missing or broken trails result from periods when clouds have obscured the sun.

The colours are not a straight depiction of the scene but a consequence of the paper's chemical reactions to extreme overexposure, the influence of uncontrollable factors such as moisture, dirt, or fungus that may have invaded the camera, and extreme temperature fluctuations. Additionally, each brand of photography paper has a different chemical makeup, which results in a different colour scheme.

Due to the long exposure, the paper should not be developed, as it would turn completely black. Using fixer will remove much of the colour. Instead, a high-quality flatbed scan is made of the "negative," even though the paper is still light sensitive. This means that the light from the scanner will destroy the image as it works its way across the paper. The scan is then inverted, flipped, and colour and tonally processed in Photoshop.