While in Scotland in June I both wanted and needed to visit Dumfries. I wanted to go there in order to visit the Camera Obscura I had so often heard about throughout my life. My father had seen it when a boy living in Dumfries and I thought it was about time I did too.
Dumfries is an attractive town on a sunny day and one of its enjoyable features is the River Nith – but more about that in my next post. The camera obscura is a fascinating contraption housed in what used to be a windmill. It is this fact that influenced the design and use of the leaning pillar that supports the spiral staircase taking you up to the camera – the slant of the pillar means it is parallel with the tapering walls and allowed the designer to keep the steps the same width all the way up (which is valuable from the users point of view).
The means of focus for the camera was also interesting. The image from above is projected onto a round table by use of mirrors and, with pulleys, the table can be raised or lowered allowing the operator to keep the image in focus whichever direction the camera is facing. The result is excellent quality live video on the white surface below you – it seems like magic, as so much practical science does . . . or perhaps I am still just a young boy at heart, but there’s no harm in that I hope.