The Cámara Galletita Lumen is always a bit difficult for me to explain, but it’s antecedents are, I think, a bit more straightforward.
I first heard of the Cámara Galletita in this excellent article on Casual Photophile by Sroyon Mukherjee. In essence, the Cámara Galletita is a pinhole camera with a cracker for a “lens”, a cracker camera. I was immediately intrigued with the idea of a cracker camera and the images of the very funky homemade cracker cameras presented in the article. I definitely wanted to make one, but I had other things at the time that needed attention. Still, I filed it in the back of my mind.
I participate in Maureen Bond’s fun Flickr group called In the Frame. When Maureen posted a notice about the upcoming Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, I thought of it as the perfect opportunity to make a camara galletita!
Upon reading about how people were using their camera galletitas, I realized that some employed relatively short exposures. This got me thinking, with all those holes in the cracker, would it let in enough light to function as a Lumen Camera? I had to find out!
The Lumenbox is the creation of Jorge Otero, it’s 2.25″ square, beautifully crafted cardboard box that houses a simple single element meniscus lens. It relies on the principle of the Lumen Print to operate, that is, long exposures on dampened black and white photo paper result in the creation of a self developing image on the paper. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the action of the photons on the dampened paper cause silver particles of different sizes to float up through the emulsion resulting in the chromatic images of the Lumenbox. The images are transient though and need to be scanned and inverted to be preserved. I’ve not yet tried to fix one.
I had recently built a very funky 5×7 pinhole camera that I thought would be the perfect camera to turn into a cámara galletita lumen. Luckily, my wonderful wife Rebecca, agreed to help me find just the right cracker to use. She brought home a few cracker candidates, it seemed like the Wasa Sourdough crackers were perfect. They were almost the width of my camera and had a somewhat random distribution of holes that appealed to me.
The conversion was easy, although it resulted in what I call “the world’s ugliest camera”. Unfortunately my first results were quite disappointing. A normal Lumenbox photograph uses a 5 minute or longer exposure with an f/4 lens on photo paper. I was using paper a full stop slower (Arista Ultra EDU grade 3) and guessed that an exposure of 2 hours in bright sunlight might be enough. It wasn’t, but there was something there. I hoped a much longer exposure might work, so I tried an 8 hour exposure on a partly cloudy day, and this time it worked! There was an image there, but it was much different than Cámara Galletita photos I had seen before. There was a strange atmospheric quality to the image and a sort of early Cubist look to it; and the colors! The movement of the sun formed yellow to orange streaks across the image. I thought I was on to something so I continued with my experiments.
There were some other fits and starts with trying other crackers including a graham cracker, but none were very pleasing to my eye.
I then had the idea of trying a Photon Sieve which is similar to a Zone Plate or even a Fresnel Lens. The results were unimpressive, but because I didn’t want to waste the work that I’d put into the pseudo-photon sieve, I decided to cover up some of the pinholes in the aluminum foil photon sieve to randomize the pattern a bit and create a pseudo cracker. Because it seemed like this version admitted less light than the others, I increased my exposure to 10 hours. So far, these are my favorite results. The images seem just a tad clearer and the colors just a bit stronger, enough so that I quite enjoy these images.
And that’s were things are at, at this point. I have several other experiments in mind with my Cámara Galletita Lumen and will post them here if they turn out well.
I do have a little blog dedicated to this sort of thing, The Daily Lumenbox where the photos shown here were originally posted.
Thanks for reading!