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Photography is at its best when showing us that which we cannot see with our eyes alone.
In this respect the analemma makes an ideal photo subject.

The analemma is a graceful figure-8 traced out by the sun seen at the same time of day over an entire year. It appears as it does due to the sun's seasonal north-south drift and also from the cycle of the sun running ahead of and behind regular clock time. The tilt comes from a combination of the observer's latitude and the time of day. When on the horizon, the tilt is equal to the earthly latitude. In contrast, the analemma stands straight up in the south at local noon.

The analemma in this composite photo appears in the eastern sky over the large sundial in Carefree, Arizona. The gnomon of a traditional sundial needs a tilt equal to the site's latitude which is 33.8246° N. The analemma is tilted slightly more due to its altitude.

I started planning in August 1990. The only safe, convenient place to leave a camera set-up for a year was at home. There was no location inside the house so I chose one outside. The picture at left shows the camera mounted under the edge of a sturdy patio cover in my backyard. I used a spare camera body, a Canon FT, with 28mm lens and a 4.0 neutral density filter to cut the sun's intensity.

Searing summer heat is terrible for film, so I used a more stable black & white film instead of color. In the darkroom, I loaded a small chip of Kodak Plus-X Pan film into the camera, making sure the sprockets did not engaged the film advance. This was secured with a small piece of tape on the edge.

With the camera loaded and ready to go, I locked it in place, set the exposure to 1/125 of a second at f8, and recorded the first solar image on September 9, 1990 at 8:00 a.m. MST.

I worked out a shooting schedule based on a 9-day interval between exposures. I modified that slightly to add a day or two to some intervals around the solstices when the sun moved much slower. I thought it would be more aesthetic and clearer to see solar motion if the sun disks didn't touch or overlap. Allowing for these extra days, my plan was to make 39 exposures over the course of the year.

The graphic below shows the analemma with all the exposure dates recorded. The first 3 exposures, those for the month of September, went according to plan. Then on October 6, it was too cloudy to shoot. I had to wait 2 extra days to be able to record the sun. That started my on-the-fly tweaking of the schedule to accommodate weather patterns and try to even out the larger jumps to still get the overall effect I envisioned.

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When the year was up, I had made 37 exposures instead of the planned 39. If I had been able to set the camera up on a reasonably good scene, I could have just made a last exposure of the landscape. I had a different plan in mind. I processed the black & white negative film (very, very carefully) then copied that onto Kodalith film to leave me with a slide of clear suns in an opaque sky. This could be "burned into" the sky of a separate image later to show the analemma.

The first image I made was purely for beauty. I wanted it in a colorful dawn sky to add the warm color we expect from scenes including the sun. I made the image at left in December 1991 when the twilight was intensified by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. Then I made the image at the top of this page because I wanted to relate the analemma with sundials and the equation of time.

All images are copyrighted by Frank Zullo. Please do not use without written permission.