23 Jul 2008

Camera obscura

I'm sorry not to have been posting as regularly as normal, but I did mention some weeks ago that my summer sailing activities would make my posts a bit less frequent.

I sailed into Douglas on the Isle of Man recently and it was very pleasant to have fine weather for a change it didn't take long to deteriorate again, though. I took the opportunity of that lovely evening light to explore Douglas Head a high promontory above the harbour taking my Canon G9, of course. There are spectacular views down into the harbour and over the town, but something else caught my eye almost immediately. It was the recently renovated Great Union Camera Obscura building, which sits high on a cliff side above the sea looking out across Douglas Bay.

I just loved the way the light was catching the angles of the roof. In fact this roof was the first thing I photographed; cropping in really quite tightly and leaving just a little of the distant town in shot in order to put the picture in context.

Only when I'd got this picture in the bag did I step back a little and look at the overall scene. This time I placed the building squarely in the middle of the composition but included a foreground of the side lit grass in order to add some depth to the picture.

Camera obscuras were very popular during Victorian times, although the optical principle had been understood for centuries. Usually, a single lens and mirror was placed in a revolving turret above a darkened room. This set-up projected a live image of the surroundings. The lens was often revolved by an operator to amaze the audience with the most interesting view. The Douglas camera is different in that it has 11 fixed lenses originally there were 12 projecting the panoramic view onto a series of angled white boards in the darkened circular room below.

It was built in 1892 by a Mr Fielding, a Rochdale man, purely as a commercial enterprise. Eventually it fell into disrepair until the Manx government had it restored. It is now run by keen volunteers and is well worth a visit especially if you have an interest in photography.

Photo facts…
The G9 was set at ISO 80. Auto White Balance was used, and the exposure was set to f7.1 with Aperture Priority.

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