Camera Obscura - ScopeX

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ScopeX 2008: The Camera Obscura Story
by lerika cross

It started with including an item in the ScopeX 2008 budget submitted to SAASTA in November 07 for: "Optics related models: ...make Camera Obscura..."

The budget was approved early Dec 07 and January 08 brought the initial enthusiasm, normally associated with the first stage of a project. Optimistic discussions were held with Alec, Chris (Stewart), Francois, Wilhelm (of Kameraz), Johannes (Wilhelm's friend).

Johannes suggested we go and see the Camera Obscura in Museum Africa (the Camera Obscura is not open to the public but we were granted a brief visit). What a treat it was to see the stunningly clear video picture playing on the beautiful pristine white table! The observation that it was thought that the Museum Africa optics cost ~ R200 000 didn't dampen the spirit - ScopeX had to have one!

Conceptual sketches of different designs for the frame were done by Chris and Wilhelm. We needed detailed sketches for quotation purposes - we had to spend the SAASTA funding by end March 2008 or lose it!

In stepped Alec: he offered to do detailed sketches – and before long it was clear that the only workable design would be Chris' octahedron structure.

Chris donated a mirror and Paul Walsh Optometrists donated a 70mm .75 dioptre lens. Alec put together a test turret containing the mirror and lens and the system saw first light in a test room in Alec's house: a clear picture was displayed on a white screen of the white Volksie on the lawn, blue sky with moving white clouds – very impressive! And we haven't spent a cent...

Wilhelm crafted the test turret out of cardboard and Styrofoam holding the lens. Alec produced detailed drawings from which we obtained quotes for the steel required in the structure (from MacSteel via Brian) and the canvas covering (from Henry's Canvas). There was no way that the budget could support the quote of R7 000 to cut/weld/create the steel frame. A light bulb moment led to asking Jeff at the Military History Museum if he would be prepared and allowed to make the frame. Jeff and Major Keane agreed OK! We managed to pay for the bulk of the material and services required in time for submission to SAASTA before March end.

Alec and Chris debated the design of the roof and Chris suggested Alec contact Neville Graham to ask if he could take care of the roof built – Neville agreed. Francois agreed to tackle the table - balancing the table with a pulley system weighted by 12kg of lead bars donated by Jan of Fry Metals.

Painting of the steel was done by a team comprising mostly Alec, Sue, Lerika and Francois – with some help from Rodney, Keith, Chris Curry and Chris (Stewart).

Neville brought the completed roof structure to the Museum workshop and after some minor adjustments the roof was fastened securely onto the frame and there it was!

Alec arranged transport of the structure to Henry's Canvas to make the canvas cover. After several iterations of input and feedback from the team, Danie Cronje of Dansigns produced the logo for the Camera Obscura.

Everything came together on 23 May - the day before ScopeX - for final assembly at the Museum by the team and volunteers Chris Middleton, Keith Lou and others. Francois brought a slightly improved turret and the table stand mechanism - these worked well enough to give a very good picture. Some stray light was entering the system and this was quickly resolved by putting Alec's hat on top of the turret – thus the reason the Camera Obscura donned a ScopeX cap.

Case Rijsdijk commented the day before Scopes that the CO will be a hit the next day at ScopeX and it came true: the CO was a hit at ScopeX. It was all worth the effort.

From inside you could hear cries of:
- Oh how cool!
- Just like the moving pictures in Harry Potter books!
- Look at the birds!

Visitors wrote their suggestions for a name for the CO on a board hanging outside the CO, the offers were:
- The Magic Eye
- Occulus the Sky Eye
- Temporary Photo
- Victorian Obscura
- Optic Illusion (Motlagale Nthite)
- An eye for an eye (Kgavgelo Mogale)
- A Vision of an Image of Light (Thabisile Kwinana)
- Distance Scope
- Collective Lens
- Public Reflector
- Looking Glass Mirror
- All seen eye...
- Through a glass looking
- Alice

We must still decide on a name and also where the CO will reside. At the moment the structure is stored at the Museum and the movables are with Lerika.

There are many improvements that can be made. We also received a number of different lenses from Andrie van der Linde to try out in due course – so yes, the Camera Obscura is still a work-in-progress.

During the course of this story Alec and Sue assembled and disassembled the structure 4 times! I think they said their record was around 40 mins. A very special thanks goes to Alec Jamieson for his enthusiasm, skill and dedication to getting the CO done. And thank you to Sue for all the help she gave Alec.

Many thanks to Jeff and his team at the Military History Museum for their very valuable contribution of cutting and welding the frame - and for storing until the next event.

And last, but not least: thank you SAASTA for contributing the bulk of the funds allowing us to tackle it in the first place.

29 May 2008

Camera Optics by Alec Jamieson  - July 2012

What is a Camera Obscura by Monica Loubser - July 2012

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