Catalyst Pin Camera

As a student in Edge Hill back in 2014, I saw a news article on the Edge Hill website about an amazingly ghostly photograph taken with a pinhole camera, over the course of 312 days, documenting the construction of Creative Edge. The simple camera made from a box with a tiny hole in lieu of a lens, loaded with photographic paper, was left in place on a fence post; enduring all weathers and the construction going on around it to capture the image.

Shortly after the Catalyst Roof garden was opened on the new Library and Learning Services, Student Services and Careers building, giving stunning views across campus and across into Snowdonia, I thought it might be a good idea to try and repeat the process with a pinhole camera on the Catalyst roof.

I contacted Neill Cockwill, Media and Performing Arts Technology Development Manager, who had made the original image to see if it would be possible. Neill was really enthusiastic and supportive of the project and he gave me a crash course on pinhole photography!

Neill Cockwill
Neill Cockwill, Media and Performing Arts Technology Development Manager

The camera could be made from almost any kind of sealed container, so for convenience I recycled three coffee cans and drilled a tiny hole, calculated to allow a clear image to be captured on photographic paper inside the can. These were then situated on the rails on the roof garden, to gather images of the garden over a period of several months, from the start of semester in September 2019 to its end in 2020.

Pinhole Camera in situ
Pinhole Camera in situ

After four months, as the Christmas holidays approached, I decided to take one of the cameras down, to see how successful the project had been so far. On Wednesday 18th December 2019, I carefully removed one of the cans from the rail and dashed over to Neill’s office in Creative Edge. On opening the can we found that water had leaked in, carrying a little rust onto the paper. But to my surprise and delight, the photographic paper had recorded an image of the view from the roof across to Scarth Hill. Neill quickly dried the paper and popped it onto the scanner and reversed and adjusted the image to a positive.

Actual image from pinhole camera
Actual image from pinhole camera

Although the water had damaged the image slightly, the ethereal image of the lake and the corner of Creative Edge appeared, but most importantly, the solography effect caught the passage of the sun across the sky, in beautiful streaks and even caught its reflection in the lake below!

Final processed image
Final processed image – comparison shots below

The two other cameras, capturing views across the roof garden itself will remain in place until the end of the academic year in May 2020. We look forward to sharing more images with you in the new year!


Written by Bill Bulloch
Catalyst Helpdesk Advisor