Tag Archives: Cans

Turn Empty Beer Cans Into Sun-Tracking Cameras

Dan Bracaglia

In a world of digital cameras and instant gratification, photographer Justin Quinnell embraces pinhole photography, a technique hundreds of years old. He uses beer cans and photographic paper to record the gradual shift in the sun’s path over the course of several months. Quinnell originally designed his simple beer-can solargraph camera for students at Falmouth University in England, but early experimentation quickly blossomed into a personal obsession. “The indestructibility of a pinhole camera opens up some fun possibilities,” he says. “The only viewfinder you need is your imagination.” Build and deploy your own by following these steps.

∙ Empty 20- or 24-oz. aluminum can
∙ 6-cm. disc (cut from black card stock)
∙ 25-by-7–cm. strip (cut from black card stock, with 1-cm. notches on one long side)
∙ Roll of black gaffer tape
∙ 8-by-5–in. sheet of semimatte photo paper (i.e., half of an 8-by-10–in. sheet)
∙ Plastic cable ties

Can opener, pin, scissors, red light, blow-dryer, computer, flatbed scanner

1) Remove the can’s top with a can opener, and poke the middle of its side with a pin. Next, cut out the disc and notched strip from the black card stock.

2) Wrap the strip around the can’s base, and bend the notches inward at a 90-degree angle. Tape the disc on top of the notches to form a removable black lid.

3) Move everything into a darkened room. Turn on the red light to see, and insert 1⁄2 sheet of photo paper into the can facing the pinhole. Put tape over the pinhole.

4) Tape the lid over the can’s open end, and secure it with gaffer tape. (Use plenty of tape to ensure the camera is light-tight and waterproof.)

5) Take the project outside, aim the pinhole toward the southern sky, and vertically fasten the can to a signpost with cable ties. Uncover the pinhole.

6) Wait a month to a year (the longer the exposure, the more solar tracks appear). After the wait is over, cover the pinhole and take the camera indoors.

7) Remove the lid, and blow-dry the photo. Place it on a flatbed scanner, and make one-—and only one—high-resolution scan. (Don’t do a preview scan!)

8) Open the image, enhance its contrast (e.g., via “auto-equalize” or “auto-levels” commands), and invert the colors. Save the image to your computer.

Approximate time to build this project: 15 minutes
Cost: Less than $1 per photo
Difficulty: 1/5

Result After 6 Months
Justin Quinnell/PinholePhotography.org

April 27, 2014: Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (for details visit pinholeday.org)
Email your solar graph scans to manual@popsci.com

WARNING: Wear protective gloves when cutting beer cans. Also mind the law; strapping up empty cans in public may be viewed as littering—or worse.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Popular Science.

Public Trash Cans That Report When They're Full

“Hi, this is garbage can number 4601970. I am full of garbage.”

Garbage can use varies. In Finland, where the Enevo One smart garbage can sensor was invented, the garbage cans near the sea are filled as quickly as they can be emptied during the summertime. Summertime in Finland is lovely, I bet! People hang out by the sea, fishermen and sailors do their fishing and sailing, and Finlanders of all sorts do things that result in garbage.

But in the wintertime, I’m guessing, that nice little coastal area is now covered in approximately one to three vertical miles of ice (note: may not be entirely accurate). So there are fewer tourists touristing, fewer hangers hanging, fewer fishermen fishing, and fewer sailors sailing. Which means there’s less garbage as well. But the garbage trucks have to come by with the same frequency, whether the can is overflowing or whether it’s empty.

This is actually a problem! Unnecessary pickups waste time, labor, and energy: garbage trucks use lots of fuel and emit lots of things we don’t like very much, and you can drastically reduce the amount of waste by cutting down on the amount of time you spend on the road. So the Enevo One system provides a solution: a very small puck-shaped sensor that mounts to the underside of the garbage can lid. It can sense how full the can is, and communicate that information to the collection company.

Even better, the Enevo has some “smart” qualities, meaning it can do a little bit of light thinking for itself. It collects and analyzes the garbage data and draws conclusions from it, so it can figure out when each can is likely to be full, how long it takes, and when the fullness ebbs and flows (if it does). There’s no reason it needs to be restricted to Finland; this kind of tech would work well just about anywhere, though it might need a slight adjustment for international cans (here in New York City, for example, the cans have no lids). Also, it looks cool, and as always, we love all garbage tech.

[via FastCoExist]