Longest exposure image ‘ever taken’ celebrated by observatory

Regina Valkenborgh at the Bayfordbury Observatory

Regina Valkenborgh at the Bayfordbury Observatory - Credit: Archant

A photograph thought to be the longest exposure image ever taken has been discovered inside a beer can at the University of Hertfordshire’s Bayfordbury Observatory.

University of Hertfordshire student Regina Valkenborgh's image composed from a six-month exposure of

University of Hertfordshire student Regina Valkenborgh's image composed from a six-month exposure of the sun using a pinhole camera - Credit: Regina Valkenborgh

The image was taken by Regina Valkenborgh, who began capturing it towards the end of her MA Fine Art degree at the University of Hertfordshire in 2012.

Regina was interested in capturing images without the use of modern technology; in this case using a beer can lined with photographic paper as a pinhole camera. She placed a can on one of the Observatory’s telescopes, which had been forgotten about until September this year when it was finally removed by the Observatory’s Principal Technical officer, David Campbell.

Regina said: “It was a stroke of luck that the picture was left untouched, to be saved by David after all these years.

“I had tried this technique a couple of times at the Observatory before, but the photographs were often ruined by moisture and the photographic paper curled up. I hadn’t intended to capture an exposure for this length of time and to my surprise, it had survived. It could be one of, if not the, longest exposures in existence.”

The image was taken by Regina Valkenborgh, who began capturing it towards the end of her MA Fine Art

The image was taken by Regina Valkenborgh, who began capturing it towards the end of her MA Fine Art degree at the University of Hertfordshire in 2012. Picture: UoH - Credit: Archant


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The photo shows 2,953 arced trails of the sun, as it rose and fell between summer and winter over a period of eight years and one month.

The dome of Bayfordbury’s oldest telescope is visible to the left of the photograph and the atmospheric gantry, built halfway through the exposure, can be seen from the centre to the right.

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Long exposure photography is a technique used to show the passage of time in a scene, achieved when a camera’s shutter is left open for a long period.

This technique is common across different types of photography, including urban and landscape.

Regina Valkenborgh at the Bayfordbury Observatory

Regina Valkenborgh at the Bayfordbury Observatory - Credit: Archant

German artist Michael Wesely is thought to hold the current record for the longest exposure image taken, which is four years and eight months.

But if its proved that Regina’s is longer that would maker her record eight years, nearly double that of Mr Wesely.

The Berlin-based artist told the WHT that he was “never interested in the longest exposure time” but in the content of the picture itself.

He said: “The picture, because it was taken with a pinhole camera plus blur through movement, plus lowtech development, shows nothing but the sun, distorted curves.

“I am interested in what is happening on earth, in cities and nature.”

Regina, who is now in her 50s, is working as a photography technician at Barnet and Southgate College in London.

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