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Fun With Beer Cans & Photography

In honor of today being “Beer Can Day,” the anniversary of the first beer can’s introduction by the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Co. of Newark, New Jersey on January 24, 1935, here’s an amazing use of a beer can. Now this is recycling, or perhaps more correctly repurposing.

For many years, people having been making what are called “pinhole cameras” out of a variety of materials, really anything that keeps out light can be used. Essentially, they’re a very simple, homemade camera. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition. “A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box.” But they’ve become very popular again in the last ten or so years, a kind of backlash as a result of the rise of digital photography. There’s as simple and low-tech as possible, yet still create interesting images.

At least two photographers have been in the news lately, making time-lapse photographs with pinhole cameras made from beer cans. The first, a student at the University of Hertfordshire — Regina Valkenborgh — put her beer can camera “next to the university’s radio telescope at its Bayfordbury Observatory.” According to the Daily Mail, the pinhole camera recorded the sun’s movements over a six-month period of time, “[f]rom solstice to solstice, this six month long exposure compresses time from the 21st of June till the 21st of December, 2011, into a single point of view.” How cool is that?

The second, photographer Justin Quinnell, was featured on the Discovery Channel’s website. He’s captured a variety of time-lapse pinhole images using “emptied beer cans and about 50 cents worth of other supplies, such as duct tape and regular photography paper. While the cameras only took about five minutes to build, they had to withstand six months of ‘wind, rain, hail, and being thrown in the trash.'”

When asked which beer cans he preferred, Quinnell responded. “My choice would be lager or Guinness although often, when I teach larger groups, I have to rely on what is left in my neighbors recycling boxes.”

This photo is of Saint Mary Redcliffe Church, in Bristol, England, from December, 19 2007 to June 21, 2008.

This one is of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, also in Bristol, from December 17, 2007 through June 21, 2008.

And this last one was taken by the gravestones of Blance, Grace and Dorcus, over three months in the spring 2008 in the Eastville Cemetery, Bristol, England.

You can many more of Justin Quinnell’s work at his website,, including a galley of more from the Slow Light Collection, which is where the above photos came from.

Now that’s a pretty cool use of beer cans. Happy Beer Can Day!

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