Camera Obscura

by Katie Cook

Tucked behind the Cliff House stands a piece of technology dating back to the 15th Century. The Giant Camera, known as Camera Obscura, was built in 1946 as an attraction at Playland by the Sea. Walking into the small building is a bit like walking into a fun house. I had no idea what was on the other side of the heavy wood swinging doors. What I found was a dark room with wood plank walls decorated with small hologram images. A large white disc surrounded by a  metal railing sits in the middle of the room. After a brief explanation of the camera parts and operations, the operator turned off the lights and the disc filled with a video image of Seal Rock. Watching the images on the disc twirl by was reminiscent of watching an old home movie.

The camera captures a 360-degree view of the Seal Rock area. A rotating mirror is housed at the point on the top of the building. As the mirror rotates, the images on the mirror are cast down onto the white disc. From the foamy water of Ocean Beach to an extreme close-up of the backside of the Cliff House the camera takes in every aspect of the area.

Open daily from 11am to 5pm. Admission is only $3 per person. The Giant Camera is located at 1096 Point Lobos Avenue.

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