Forgotten beer can camera in Hertfordshire captures world-beating eight year image

A camera made from a beer can has captured the world's longest known exposure image after being left on the side of a telescope at the University of Hertfordshire for eight years.Former student, Regina Valkenborgh, put up the pinhole camera at Bayfordbury Observatory in 2012 because she was exploring ways to take photographs without the use of modern technology as part of her master's degree in Fine Art.

The camera had been forgotten about until September this year when it was finally removed by the Observatory’s Principal Technical officer, David Campbell. The photograph captured by the camera shows 2,953 arced trails of the sun, as it rose and set through eight years of changing seasons.

The exposure covers eight years and shows the sun tracking 2,953 times Credit: University of Hertfordshire

The dome of Bayfordbury’s oldest telescope can be seen to the left of the photograph and the atmospheric gantry, built halfway through the exposure, can be seen from the centre to the right. 

“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.” 

Regina Valkenborgh

.A pinhole camera is a light-proof box or container (in this case a beer can) with a small pinhole on one side. In order to take a photograph, light must pass through the pinhole to project an inverted image to the opposite side of the box and onto a piece of film or photographic paper.

Long exposure photography is a technique used to show the passage of time in a scene, achieved when a camera’s shutter is left open for a long period. The technique is common across different types of photography, including urban and landscape. 

The can was left attached to a telescope at the University for eight years Credit: University of Hertfordshire

The record for the longest exposure image is thought to have been previously held by German artist Michael Wesely, with an image tracking four years and eight months, according to the University of Hertfordshire.