The World's Longest Exposures

Ransom Riggs

My digital camera thinks a long exposure is a few seconds. Sometimes I get out my tripod and fool around with night photography -- it's amazing what a 30-second exposure can read in the dark that your eyes can't! But 30 seconds -- even 30 minutes -- is nothing. British photographer Justin Quinnell is making waves with an amazing six month exposure he made in Bristol, England of the sun rising and falling over the city's famous suspension bridge:

He made the photo not with a fancy digital camera but with an extremely rude, homemade device -- a pinhole camera made from an empty soda can with a .25mm hole punched in it and one sheet of photo paper inside. He strapped it to a telephone pole and left it there for six months, from December 19, 2007 to June 21, 2008. If those dates sound familiar (or astronomically significant), they are -- they're the winter and summer solstices, respectively.

The lowest arc in the photo is the sun's trail on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. The highest arc is the summer solstice. The lines which are punctuated by dots represent overcast days when the sun penetrated the clouds only intermittently.

From the UK's Telegraph, my favorite detail:

Mr Quinnell, a world-renowned pin-hole camera artist, of Falmouth, Cornwall, said the photograph took on a personal resonance after his father passed away on April 13 - halfway through the exposure. He says the picture allows him to pinpoint the exact location of the sun in the sky at the moment his father passed away.

A longer exposure is currently in the works, courtesy a San Francisco artist named Jonathan Keats: a 100-year exposure of a hotel room. (More about that here.)