Soak up the sun – make a sunprint at home!


This summer, we had a really fun camp for 10-12 year olds called Freeze Frame. Campers learned about a variety of photography processes and how the technology has progressed over the years. One of the things they learned about was Cyanotypes or the blueprint process.

Generally, people will associate the word “blueprint” with architectural plans or layouts, but the term came from the fact that a process similar to cyanotyping was used to make inexpensive copies of plans without a huge investment in technology. 

The Freeze Frame class created cyanotypes by treating both cotton t-shirts and cotton rag paper with cyanotype chemicals, and then using either photographic negatives or opaque objects to block the sun and expose the treated surface to the sunlight.

In this video, Xplorations Summer Camp Educator Andrea Gilbert
walks us through the Freeze Frame camp!

Today, you can easily buy pre-treated paperto create a sunprint of your own, you can find it at your local arts and crafts store (here in Houston you can find it at Texas Art Supply).

By following the simple instructions included with the paper – and being careful to keep your paper in the dark until you’re ready to expose the photosensitive surface with your design on top – you can create all sorts of fun images! For my first example, I used a die-cut paper elephant and some random bits of hardware to create an image. My second example uses tracing paper (this is more like creating a blueprint from a technical drawing on vellum). Any flat, opaque objects will do but these are just what I happened to have lying around!


After only a minute or so, I could see that the paper that started out blue indoors was quickly fading to white… after about 2 full minutes I flipped all of the hardware off and carried the sheets back indoors. 


To fix the image, I soaked the exposed paper in water for just a minute, the colors reversed to white images on a blue background, the sunprints lay out flat to dry and voila!   


Now, head outside and make a sunprint of your own! What natural objects can you find to use for design elements — sticks, leaves, shells? What other flat items can you think of that will block out the sun?

If you like sunprinting, don’t forget to sign up early for Xplorations Summer camp next year and check out Freeze Frame for more adventures in photography!

Treasure the Summers of Your Life: Summer Camps at HMNS!

Summer is a time for exploring and growing, and there is no better place for learning and fun than at HMNS Xplorations Summer Camps!

As a child, my very best teachers taught English and American History, so I grew to love these subjects.  Either my science teachers were not my strongest teachers or I fell into the trap that existed at the time—science was for boys.  Because of my background (or lack of background) in science, it is very important to me that my granddaughters love the excitement and wonder around them.  Summer camp at HMNS is the perfect place for this love to be planted and nurtured. 


In addition to camps at HMNS, camps are held during selected weeks in The Woodlands and in Sugar Land.

Camp topics are age-appropriate.  For example, my oldest granddaughter, Abbie, has taken Amazing Animals, Booms and Blast-Offs, Build it Big, Art Smart, DinoMite, Bug-a-Boo and Waterworks.  Last summer during Waterworks, the students made bubbles.  In the photo to the left, Abbie is concentrating hard on a bubble made from soap, water, glycerin and straws.

In the same class, the students were fascinated when a Hula Hoop and wading pool plus the bubble ingredients created a bubble that surrounded each of them.  Magic!

This amazed camper pictured below is totally surrounded.  What child would not be fascinated by experiences like this?


For summer, 2009, the Youth Education Programs Staff headed by Nicole and Kat have added three new camps:  Wild, Wild West, It’s Easy Being Green and Freeze Frame.

campWild, Wild West will be held at the Museum and at both The Woodlands and Sugar Land locations.  This camp will help cowboys and cowgirls discover the science and symbols of the Wild West as they try lassoing, churning butter, branding and participate in a cowpoke cookout.

It’s Easy Being Green will be held at the Museum and in The Woodlands.  As campers discover that it is easy being green they will experiment with water, wind and alternative energy powered model cars and design a miniature green city.

Freeze Frame will be held only at HMNS.  This camp teaches about old fashioned photography as campers discover the inner workings of a camera by dissecting an eyeball, constructing a pinhole camera, using the sun to make prints, and much, much more.

Its not to late to join in the fun, we still have spots available for the summer! You can register for Xplorations Summer Camps online. If you have a question about camp, please call the camp registrar at 713 639 4625.

I usually write about books, so I’ll close with a quote from Stuart Littleby E. B. White.  Stuart reminds us to “Treasure the summers of your life.”  A great way to give your children a summer to remember is to enroll them in Xplorations Summer Camps and watch their sense of wonder grow!