Friday 1 June 2012

How to Make a Camera Obscura

We've finally got around to starting a 'project' on Leonardo da Vinci.

[I put 'project' in inverted commas so I don't jinx it. Projects without inverted commas get scared and run away or take over and become dicatatorial. No this is just an ordinary, everyday, insignificant, modest little 'project'.]

We are reading Leonardo's Shadow by Christopher Grey, which is surprisingly funny. Yes. I think this is one I am going to enjoy reading out loud. And it is shorter than The Kin, our last read aloud.

We have also been looking in Amazing Leonardo Da Vinci Inventions You Can Make Yourself by Maxine Anderson and came across instructions for making a Camera Obscura. A camera obscura is basically a dark box or a dark room with a very small hole in one side that lets in light.  An upside-down image of the outside is projected on the opposite side to the hole. It's a good demonstration of how an eye works (There is further info about camera obsuras here )

For those of you who don't have the book, and can't understand our instructions, there are perfectly adequate instructions here . This activity requires the consumption of a tin of Pringles, which for me is always a good way to start something practical.

You will need:
Pringle tin
tape (parcel or duct tape is good, but most will do)
aluminium foil
a sharp knife for cutting cardboard (we used a serrated kitchen knife).
A ruler and a pen for marking where you need to cut

Below are some photos and (very brief) instructions.

 Get an empty Pringle tin (with lid). Cut the tin apart 2inches from the metal base.

Fit the lid on the short stumpy bit of the tin. We found it best to tape a piece of greaseproof paper over the see through lid to improve the image (not shown here):

 (You'll probably need to tape round it to get it to stay fixed) (see below):

 Tape the longer piece of tube on top of the stumpy bit. The lid will be sandwiched in between the two tubes.

Roll the whole tube in several layers of foil (not shown) to make sure it is completely dark inside. (obviously don't cover up the pin hole). Tuck any ends into the open end of the tube.

Look through the open end (not the bit with the tiny hole in - as we found out that doesn't work). You should see an upside down image of whatever you are pointing at on the lid 'screen'.

It's best on a bright sunny day, or in good strong light. Cup your hands over the end nearest your eye or put a towel over your head, if it's difficult to see.
This is the best photo we could get down the tube. (It doesn't really do it justice).


Charwood Farm Blog said...

Ahh, Mamma Frog, how I admire your ability to follow through. Our 'projects' tend to begin and end with the Pringles. Laurence Anholt's book on Leonardo is very sweet and beautifully illustrated, but may be a little young for your lot. When are you going to attempt the hang-glider - or deep-sea diver's outfit? I am sure it can be donw with several Pringle cartons ...

Big mamma frog said...

Actually, we thought about making a duct tape hoodie...

But I'm out of duct tape.

Big mamma frog said...

(if Leonardo da Vinci had spent less time fiddling around with machines and paintings, I'm sure he'd have invented the hoodie)

Lisa Gwinnell said...

Fantastic! I can't wait to start doing all more projects again! I'm itching to get on so badly! Thank you for the encouragement and I love this project, definitely one we've got to try! x

Ross Mountney said...

It's so exciting when the kids achieve things like this isn't it! My youngest made a camera obscura out of a whole room - our little cloakroom - once and projected the image onto the wall opposite the window. It took her idiot mother ages to make out the upside down image! But I was ecstatic when I finally got it!! Enjoy!

Lily said...

Great make! Thanks for sharing how it's done.