On Thursday night I went to the latest Google ‘I Spy Edinburgh’ event, which was held at the Edinburgh Camera Obscura.

Despite having lived in or near Edinburgh my whole life it’s a place I had never visited before, not even on a primary school trip. I had thought it would just be views of Edinburgh, which I’ve seen many times before.

It’s actually a very interactive, fun place to spend a few hours. There are half a dozen floors with different exhibits, activities and objects which have a bit of an ‘optical illusion’ theme.

We went around a tiny but complex mirror maze a few times, posed like nerds in a ‘perspective’ room, spent ages in a dreamy ‘infinity corridor of light’, looked at old stereoscopic photos of Edinburgh, got a bit freaked out by holograms (like clowns aren’t scary enough), spied on folk in town, aged ourselves on camera, and tried to walk in a straight line over a seasickness inducing Vortex Tunnel. The Google event also included some booze, tasty snacks, poetry and live music, as well as a photobooth.

So much fun!

camera-obscura 15

The Camera Obscura

The Camera Obscura Edinburgh has been around in one form or another for a long time.

The story starts with the first observatory on Calton Hill, which was founded by Thomas Short in 1776. After his death his family members warred over his astronomical equipment for a long while, until a daughter, Maria Short, turned up. She inherited his great telescope and promptly set up her own public observatory on Calton Hill in 1835. The Lord Provost shut this down in 1851 (boo), but entrepreneurial Maria was not to be thwarted from her goal of bringing science to the public. She purchased a building on Castle Terrace, set up a telescope and museum (including a camera obscura) there with her husband, and from 1853 to 1892 this was open to the public as Short’s Observatory, Museum of Science and Art.

Local worthy Patrick Geddes bought the building, rejuvenated it and renamed it ‘Outlook Tower’. He also wanted to educate and engage the locals, and change the way they viewed the city. It’s been with the current owners for over 30 years now, and known as the Camera Obscura since.

The only downside to an evening event here was that we didn’t get to use the camera obscura itself, but that’s just a good reason to go at a later date.

Here’s a few photos from the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh (mostly iphone – if I go again I would definitely take my DSLR):

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