DIY Space Scans

This week we had the pleasure of working with Navid Baraty, a local photographer who has developed a special project called Wander Space Probe. The Museum of Pop Culture hosted a homeschool event with Navid to explore the use of everyday kitchen spices and other foods to create ethereal space images.

Read on to find out how to create your own space photo!

First, you begin with a clear piece of plexiglass (a large picture frame glass would work at home if the edges are protected with clear tape). Fine white dry materials are laid down first, such as flour or cornstarch, by using a brush to lightly scatter particles onto the glass. The brush can also be used to gently blot the flour to to create a cloudy look. Larger white particles, such as salt or sugar, are used to fill in a background layer of texture. Finally, colored spices, such as cumin, cinnamon, or turmeric, can be used to add a layer of color depth to the whole image.

If you'd like to include a planet or other cosmic object, the next step is experimenting with wet materials. You'll need a clear glass, preferably with a flat bottom instead of the usual curved edge. Start with a couple of inches of water, and then using a pipette, add drops of milk, cream, or half-and-half to create clouds of white. Then apple juice, cooking oil, or soy sauce can be added for color effects. Navid suggests being creative and trying pancakes, cookies, or potatoes for planetary effects.

Your beautiful creation is then laid out on a flatbed scanner with the lid off or open. This is important because the removed lid (and a completely dark room during the scan) will create the black background of your scanned image. Otherwise, you'll have a white or greyish background, and a very messy scanner!

It takes a bit of trial and error to find the right balance for your images, but the rounds of practice are part of the fun. Our scanner at the event was giving blurry images, but we'll definitely be giving this another try at home.

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