An introduction to Partial Solar Eclipse Pinhole (psep) graphics – experiments on 2 July 2019 in Pisco Elqui, Chile

This short article introduces a new kind of art graphics that becomes possible under partial solar eclipses: psep graphics (partial solar eclipse pinhole).

Note: This post is written in English to make it understandable to eclipse chasers who very seldom read Finnish, which is my mother tongue and otherwise the general language in this blog.

ch19b DSC07430 korjatut suunnat(2)

OK, let’s start.

On 29 June 2019, while camping in Pisco Elqui, Chile, I started an experimental eclipse project.

The goal was to produce new kind of art graphics to combine two ideas that I’ve seen or done before:

  1. During previous solar eclipses, I’ve seen how the pinhole projection method allows you to safely observe a partial eclipse (photo Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository).
  2. During previous winters, I’ve done environmental art on snowy lakes of Finland by using snowshoes. That is, I’ve learned how to be confident that small steps will finally compose a meaningful big picture (photo and drone control: Niko Hauta).

    Note: Photos, videos, and an introduction to snow drawings here (in Finnish).

Getting ready

So I started with a sheet of paper, a ballpoint pen, and a saucepan that belongs to my trekking equipment. With the saucepan, I drew a big circle on the sheet. Then with a roll of tape, I drew a smaller circle on the edge of the larger circle.

I took a safety-pin and started to make pinholes.

When the circle was full of holes, I observed how it looks when projected onto another sheet of paper (in Pisco Elqui, every day was sunny).


I discovered that a safe distance between pinholes is 5 mm: individual light spots remain separate. I continued to make holes in the smaller (tape roll) circle to finalize the outline of the crescent moon, and considered this a good start.

I still didn’t know what to put inside the crescent, so I googled ”pointillism moon” to get ideas. The rest of the day I practiced different visual realizations on sketch paper to convince myself that I’m on the right track.

During the following days, I made a decision: it will be a small cottage, a tree, hills in front, stars on sky, and, of course, a total solar eclipse.

I regret one thing. Why a spruce? Should’t it be a palm tree? That would have been more typical to the Elqui valley, where I stayed during the eclipse.

The eclipse day, 2 July 2019

In the morning, I decided to create another pinhole stencil: an artistic total solar eclipse. I used scissors and tape to form a more robust object for the afternoon event.

Now ready.


Both pinhole graphic stencils ready for the eclipse (at this point, I’ve also added an observer person into the crescent moon image).

The eclipse time came closer. The Pisco Elqui village would be in the shadow of mountains during totality, so hundreds of people walked towards nearby hills.

On the previous day I had made friends with two fellow Finnish citizens Tuomo Koskinen and Lauri Mutikainen. We moved on all fours to climb up the hill.

What an excellent view over the Picso Elqui village, grapevine plantations, and mountains.

For the record, here’s a photo by Lauri Mutikainen about me and some equipment on hillside.

The partial phase of the eclipse started at 3:10 pm. Tuomo tested the smaller graphics on his shirt.

We also tested a projection on another sheet of paper.


Yes, it works. Lots of crescents appeared. Together they do the trick and compose an image of an artistic total solar eclipse. Note that near the ”sun” the pinholes are side by side. That way it’s possible to create the effect of a bright inner corona, although you cannot always perceive individual crescents from the combined light.

How about the crescent moon image?


Deformed black-and-white image with fixed directions.


Also works on Tuomo’s shirt.

I can only thank Tuomo and Lauri for help.


In this short article I’ve demonstrated a new type of art graphics that I call psep graphics (partial solar eclipse pinhole). My first two experimental stencils are by no means masterpieces or even elegant. However, they are the first two pioneers that show the way for others.

Why during a partial eclipse? Why not simply solar-pinhole art graphics that would be available during any sunny day? While it’s true that the graphic output is essentially the same, the crescents do make it special and more valuable. You must be in the right place at the right moment to catch the psep effect. (Amateur astronomers will understand what I mean. Experiencing something on your own is worthwhile.)

What else can do with psep? Definitely more sophisticated images that better utilize different shades by placing pinholes at different distances from each other (less distance, more bright output). Larger stencils to enable more complex images in general. More versatile projection canvases such as white walls of buildings to produce an impression of a wall painting.

Example: Create a psep projection on a white wall next to a window, from which a girl is peeking her head towards the psep image. In the psep image there is a telescope and different astronomical objects, such as a bright spiral galaxy, Saturn with rings, moon, stars on sky, and a total solar eclipse. Take a photo of the girl looking into the telescope of the psep image. (Of course, this also works without a partial eclipse.)

Did I have other solar eclipse projects in Chile?


Side project #1 = Eclipse in a mirror

I bought a 40 cm size round mirror (from Santiago de Chile) in order to shoot the total solar eclipse via the mirror. Why? I thought it would be the only option to have snow-covered Andes mountains (in east) and total solar eclipse (in west) in the same photo. Even though it’s winter time in the southern hemisphere and Andes, this proved to be a wrong conclusion…

Before the solar eclipse, I checked snowy mountains around six villages of the Elqui valley and found nothing. The valley has recently had so little rain that snow appears only in limited mountain tops far away.

To do at least something, I hanged the mirror onto a cactus (which made the combination look like a strange Martian hitch-hiker).

During the total phase, it would be possible to shoot the sun and moon like this.

Yes, I did try it.

The result is funny, not stunning. It looks like a sad hedgehog looking for a friend … which seems to be very near, but she has not discovered him yet.

Side project #2 = Total solar eclipse in landscape

Of course, I also tried to shoot the total solar eclipse (4:40 pm) and the magnificent landscape around the Pisco Elqui village. For that I used wide-angle lens and exposure bracketing, that is, automatically taking photos with several exposure times. After the eclipse, I discovered that the following two shots are perfect to make a composition.

You can feel Tuomo and Lauri expressing awe and wonder with their body positions.

I used the Gimp software to do so-called blending. While experimenting with Gimp, I noticed that the mountain line (left to right and little downwards) is almost straight, so that could be the edge where the darker image gradually changes to a brighter one.

Open here the composite image that has also been a bit contrast and color fixed (all rights reserved, contact for permission to publish).

Side project #3 = Surprise corona 4 minutes after totality

Suddenly 4 minutes after totality the partial moon dropped into mountains, giving us a new opportunity to see the fake-half-moon-total phase. Not so bright as the original one, but anyway there it was, the corona appeared again faintly.

All photos in this page © unless otherwise expressed. Contact  for permission to publish.


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