You might have seen, once or twice, recently and not so recently too, some strange can-like objects, attached in all sorts of places, angled towards the sun. Like little metallic devotees of an ancient sun-cult, you’ll see them on drainpipes, fenceposts, car dashboards, windowsills, trees, trellises, anything they can see the sun from and stay out of reach from curious hands.
The Solarcan, and now the Solarcan Puck! is a sun-worshipping camera, a metal box with a precision pin-hole to let the light in and work magic on the sheet of photographic paper inside. Disguised as a spacey silver drinks can in its first incarnation, this invention made solargraphy simple for the curious sun-watcher.
Launched on Kickstarter in 2017, the original Solarcan produced big rectangular photographs tracking, if you put it facing the right way, the path of the sun over a period of time. Here’s one I made on a residency in Morocco over the space of a month. I tied mine to a brick so it wouldn’t blow away in the sand storms.
The most recent innovation from the company, based in Hawick (did I mention it’s from Hawick?!) is the Puck!
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a beta version of the smaller, circular camera, and ordered my sexy matte black one through another Kickstarter campaign as soon as it launched. They’re now available to buy, I’ll stick a link to the bottom of the post.
The Puck doesn’t need to spend quite as long exposed to the sun to make an image. From one sunny day, the results I’ve seen online are impressive. The Puck’s puckishness, as well as its shape, is in the fact there’s no need to wait for weeks or months to make a strong image.
In accordance with my current obsessions, I’ve been tying my Puck with a re-useable cable tie to trees in the woods near where I live. I’m still in the experimental stage of the project, part of another project I’ve been working on with video and drawing, about (but not exclusively about) trees felled in Storm Arwen, casualties of erratic weather patterns caused by climate change.
Here are some recent ones. I line them up so they’re facing south-ish, as close as I can while attaching it to unruly branches.
My first woodland test, a week on a branch. This was a beta-model exposure, which is why it has a pale ring around it. You can see the sun curving upwards at the top of the circle. Swipe for the original scan and photo of the Puck! in action.
I’ve just realised in inverting these I’ve not flipped them! Swipe for a photo of the Sitka and Beech trees I’ve been following since January in this shot, but the other way around. I’ve also ben drawing these trees, check out the drawing tab at the top of the page!
This was in a darker part of the woods, but with a tweak in Affinity photo, I could pull out the detail of the forest floor. Swipe for a terrible selfie taken for planning purposes, as well as the inverted image before I played with the levels.
(apologies if the captions have gone weird, WordPress doesn’t seem to offer a way to edit them once I’ve added another picture…)
In the woods, there’s not as much sunlight as out of the trees, so I’ve been leaving these out for at least a week, but the darker exposures are generally the ones that are further into the woods, with no big areas of sky to look at, too many leaves getting in the way.
Right now, my Puck! is out taking a photo at the edge of the woods, from one of my favourite beech trees; winding branches shaped by its exposed position, clothed in green soft moss.
The solarcan takes a picture directly onto photographic paper, so when it’s finished, to get the final image to look like the light is light, it needs to be scanned digitally, then inverted. I’m a big fan of having little swatches, contact sheets, flash cards, to work with with for planning, editing visualising, so I’m hoping, with a recipe and the right ingredients, I’ll be able to fix my puck photos, and move them about to my heart’s content. More on this once I’ve had a go at it!
There’s going to be a part three of this series, but in the meantime, if you’ve enjoyed reading today, please consider supporting my work by ‘buying me a coffee’ (sending me £3) via kofi at the links at the top and bottom of the page 😘