Time Starts on the Solstice

How can you record the essence of time? Start with a beer can and duct tape.

Photograph the sun's path between the solstices to create a long-duration image of time. You can build a pinhole camera with an aluminum can, black and white photographic paper, a pin, and some duct tape. Secure it outside for six months, then recover your image.

For the Indiana Bicentennial Celebration 2016 , time started with the launch of the Anniversary Solargraph on Monday, June 20. If you missed starting a solargraph near the solstice, just pick it up late and do a shorter version. Experiment.

Building 84

Will Folsom and I placed two pinhole cameras atop the south side of the former Studebaker Building 84. One horizontal can and one vertical can are now capturing the path of the sun on black and white photographic paper.

Union Station

Will and I then met up with Ted Gangloff in the Grand Hall at Union Station South Bend with its rounded barrel arch roof. It's the face of Global Access Point's Union Station Technology Center in South Bend, IN. Ted led us through mechanical spaces and to the rooftop where there is a railing that looks south toward Building 84. We then secured one horizontal can and one vertical can, and Ted pulled off the tape "shutter" on each can. The midday sun pored through the pinhole on the June solstice, etching its maximum elevation into the emulsion.

To be clear, I'm not an expert in making solargraphs, and I hope I'm steering participants correctly in making the devices. This is an experiment for all of us, in which experiment failure is not personal failure. Each solargraph has risk of failure and disappointment, especially after you've waited six months.

Perhaps the Union Station solargraph image will record solar arcs sweeping through the windows of Building 84. Let's try it.

Thanks to Shawn Peterson and the supportive team at Union Station for facilitating solargraphs in the Renaissance District of South Bend, IN. Global Access Point writes, "Union Station Technology Center has been Global Access Point’s flagship data center and carrier hotel since May 2016, when it turned over operation of the facilities and most former USTC staff. Union Station Technology Center still exists, mostly specializing in leasing office space."

June Solstice Weather

Just outside Four Winds Field--next candidate/target/prospect for some Anniversary Solargraphs--the season opened with volatile weather. Digital red and yellow on my Great Lakes weather preferences tracked well with approaching grays. Pete at Four Winds Field and I opted to postpone; then it started raining hard and I dashed for my car.

I was dry while hunkering down in the South Bend Tribune customer service office, looking out the window to marvel at sheets of water tumbling rapidly in the wind. I went to the newspaper office to exhort them to do a timely advertising insert that included solar shades in support of the 2017 solar eclipse. I'm waiting to hear back from SBT, wondering if they recognize the opportunity.

Meanwhile, in their first hour of being in place, the Building 84 cans and the Union Station cans were already exposed to the biggest rainstorm I've seen in years. Yes, water can affect the film and the outcome of the image. To prove the weather, in my backyard I've got some fresh oak available to a good home. You just have to cut it, haul it, clean up after it, and then use it.

Cans Readied in Advance

Prior to the June solstice (sol-stice means the sun stands still), a couple other groups had already prepared some Anniversary Solargraphs, including attendees at a St. Pius X Creation Care Team meeting and at a Michiana Astronomical Society Inc. meeting. Hopefully, they all started their exposures by removing the tape "shutter" that covered the pinhole.

Thanks go to Ball Corporation of Monticello, IN, which donated dozens of aluminum cans with clean, safe edges.

Doing Time

Finally, consider the essence of time in the image below. How do we see time for the rusty nuts and bolts atop a resurgent Renaissance District icon; for the persons in the St. Joseph County Jail in the near background; for emerging Ignition Park in the far background? Hopefully our south-facing Anniversary Solargraph, taped against the vertical pipe, comes to fruition. We'll know in six months.

Time Stamp for Monday, June 20, 2016.

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