While driving down Lake Flower Avenue toward downtown SaranacLake you might have noticed a little pale green house close to the road. You might know this house as the “peace on earth” house with all the lights and picture of the world out on the front lawn this time of year. That little house is too small to be an apartment or a cabin and in too strange of a place to be simply a storage shed.
That little green house is the Adirondack Camera Obscura Studio. The building was designed and constructed by local photographer Mark Ellis. He has always had a love for photography, and as grew up he developed a strong interest in ‘pinhole photography’. Pinhole photography allows you to capture an image onto film through a simple pinhole of light. Mark started constructing cameras from old shoe boxes. They had no lenses. The ‘lens’ was the pinhole that would allow light to enter the dark box to project an image onto the opposite wall of the box with a strip of film on it. The pinhole is able to receive light from every direction on the outside of the box to pass through the hole to film on the other side, reflecting the image on the outside.
This is also referred to as ‘Camera Obscura’ (which is Latin for dark chamber). Camera Obscura has been around for centuries. Artists in the Renaissance era would use a camera obscura building to gain perspective in their art work. In his writings, Leonardo Da Vinci gives clear descriptions of the projection of an image through a pinhole (specifically in his Codex Atlanticus). Using Camera Obscura made it easier to replicate paintings and other works of art.
The building that Mark has constructed is a full sized Camera Obscura, large enough to walk into. It is like you are walking inside of a giant camera. The little box on top of the building (the lens) can be turned by pulling at two ropes. By turning the lens you can turn the opening so that you can capture different angles of the outside landscape. He uses mirrors to reflect the image down onto the table. You may move the table up and down (with the help of others) to help create a clearer image as you turn the lens.
This building is open to the public to explore (almost all of the time). Mark has made this a learning experience where you can teach yourself as you go. There is a history outside that you can read and examples inside to look at. Once you close the door and follow the directions you will be absolutely amazed! It is such a unique experience you will not regret taking the time to do. If you have a couple minutes, stop in and see it for yourself.