World’s longest long-exposure shot spanned 8 years using pinhole camera with just a beer can and photographic paper

World's Longest Long Exposure Shot
2,953 arced trails of the sun in one photo. Pic credit: Regina Valkenborgh/University of Hertfordshire

Doubling the previously set record for the longest long-exposure shot, a university student managed to capture 2,953 arced trails of the sun. The image shows the multiple and majestic arches of the sun’s trails. Interestingly, the simplest of cameras ever devised, managed to capture the image.

A university student has accidentally captured, what could be officially awarded as the longest exposure photograph ever taken. The seemingly mundane but stunning image of nearly 3000 arced trails of the sun was captured by a rudimentary pinhole camera fabricated from a used beer can and photographic paper.

How was the longest long-exposure shot captured?

Regina Valkenborgh is the artist or photographer responsible for capturing the longest long-exposure shot. She was studying for her MA in Fine Art at the United Kingdom’s University of Hertfordshire back then.

Regina created a pinhole camera using a beer can in 2012 at the institution’s Bayfordbury Observatory. Her intention behind the camera and the image was simple. She wanted to record images without employing modern technology.

Hence, she conjured up one of the most rudimentary cameras by lining a beer can with photographic paper to make it suitable for pinhole photography. Essentially, the light would enter the beer can through a pinhole.

The object, in this case, the sun, would cast its image on the photographic paper which would be permanently marked with the sun’s multiple trajectories across the sky. Regina placed the crude but working camera, with no moving parts, on one of the Observatory telescopes.

Needless to mention, Regina forgot about her experiment and the camera remained at the top of the telescope, quietly but effectively recording the sun’s path across the sky for more than 8 years.

Eight-year-long exposure shot of sun’s arced trails may not set a new world record:

After eight years and a month, technical officer David Campbell noticed the camera and took it down. During its time atop its forgotten post, the pinhole camera captured 2,953 arced trails of the sun.

There’s also the building of an atmospheric gantry. The building appears hazy and is visible from the center to the right of the photograph. Incidentally, the building photobombs the sun’s arches because its construction began halfway through the exposure. Hawk-eyed photographers will also notice the dome of Bayfordbury’s oldest telescope on the left of the photo.

Speaking about the photo, Regina said, “It was a stroke of luck that the picture was left untouched, to be saved by David after all these years. I had tried this technique a couple of times at the Observatory before, but the photographs were often ruined by moisture and the photographic paper curled up. I hadn’t intended to capture an exposure for this length of time and to my surprise, it had survived. It could be one of, if not the, longest exposures in existence.

German artist, Michael Wesely, currently holds the record for the longest long-exposure shot. He captured a long-exposure shot that spanned four years and eight months.

Incidentally, the pinhole camera does not have any official date for its deployment. In other words, neither the student nor the university has any recorded and validated dates to prove the total duration for the long exposure photo.

This means any official records keeper would find it difficult to acknowledge Regina’s photo as the world’s longest long-exposure record. However, experts suggest she could present the recorded 2,953 arced trails of the sun as evidence of the duration even if actual dates do not exist.

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