What is Solarcan Day?

By Paul McKay


You may have noticed a buzz in some corners of the Internet about an impending ‘Solarcan Day’ accompanied with pretty pictures of the clouds, the Sun and unusual looking photographs. So we asked Sam, the man behind the can, to explain what it's all about.

So, Sam - What is Solarcan Day?

To be precise, it is the day in which our star, the Sun is at its highest or lowest point in the daytime sky. Otherwise known as the solstice or mid-summer/winter’s day it marks the beginning of a new season and occurs twice a year, exactly six months apart: June 21st and December the 21st. The Solarcan community celebrate this day by gifting, receiving, making, installing and processing their Solarcan images.

Remind us: what is a Solarcan?

A Solarcan is an extreme time exposure camera capable of capturing the sun over days, weeks, months or years in the form of a Solargraph. To capture the full range of the movements of the Sun they are traditionally installed on Solarcan day to begin their six-month exposure and harvested on the next Solarcan day. Resulting in an image like:

What is Solarcan Day | Analogue Wonderland

Every line represents a day of sunshine. During the winter months the Sun, depending on your location will be close to the horizon. As the months progress the Earth’s tilt in relation to the Sun changes and the Sun appears to rise in the sky, resulting the parabola shape. Every Solarcan comes provided with a handy instruction manual which provides some extra detail. This is especially useful if received as a gift by someone unfamiliar with the concept.

Solarcan camera booklet image

How does a Solarcan work?

A Solarcan comes ready to use and no further technical knowledge is needed. That said, knowing the ‘technology’ behind it is part of the experience. Inside the Solarcan is a sheel of unexposed 5x7” photographic darkroom paper. A pinhole on the side allows bright sunlight to pass through and burn a line along the paper inside causaing a discolouration. As no other light is bright enough (street lamps, the Moon, stars, aurora, flashlights) only the Sun’s light will have an effect. When you remove the paper - which can be done in subdued light - all you’ll need to do is photograph or scan it to invert digitally and you’ll be done.

Images from the Solarcan community get posted almost daily on their Instagram, it’s well worth looking at them for inspiration and how different results can be. The very best get included in the centrefold of the Solarcan booklet:

Solarcan images from the community

What if I want a Solarcan but I've missed Solarcan day!

The most important thing in this situation is NOT to panic :-)

Firstly - there's plenty of time still to purchase your Solarcan!

Secondly - As explained in episode 137 of the Sunny 16 Podcast, the Sun’s movement before and after Solarcan day is very limited and you’ll still have up to three weeks before any significant elevation change will happen. Even so, there’s no right or wrong time to install a Solarcan and most will experiment with different dates and durations.

This will also be a huge relief to anyone worrying that the current weather will ruin their efforts!

Sold out

Where can I buy my Solarcan?

Analogue Wonderland have retail packaged, ready to install singles and 5-packs in stock and in time for a Solarcan Day installation. If you’re planning to order some film anyway, why not add a Solarcan to the package!

Otherwise you can head to our Solarcan site to learn more about the process, the product, and even book a Solarcan workshop with myself as the instructor.

Thanks to everyone, and Happy Solarcan Day!


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