Wednesday, July 20, 2011

#197: Camera Obscura

If James Bond were to retire in L.A., you'd find him at Santa Monica's Senior Recreation Center. Located in this unassuming building is the Camera Obscura, a neat contraption that brings the game Eye Spy to a whole new level.

The Camera Obscura is indeed obscure; not many people know about this place. Even with its prime location on Ocean Avenue just a couple blocks from the Promenade, the Camera goes virtually unnoticed by all of the people walking past it. Little do they know that they're being watched!

Sitting high atop the building above is a 360 degree rotating turret. The turret has an opening in its side which observes the scenery outside. Inside the turret is a mirror which reflects the scenery down through a convex lens. The image is projected on a circular table screen below.

Aristotle first conceived of the idea of the Camera Obscura. Since the 1600's it has been used by artists and drafts people to sketch landscapes. In the 1800's, the technology of the Camera Obscura was used to produce the first photograph.

Brad and I checked out this place during lunch time. We got the key to the room at the Rec Center's front desk (to the right when you enter) and proceeded up the stairs to the viewing room. We rotated the viewing turret by turning a pirate ship wheel, and got to see everything from buses driving by on Ocean Avenue to people hanging out on the beach.

The Camera Obscura is located at 1450 Ocean Avenue and is open on Monday-Friday from 9 am to 2 pm and Saturdays from 11 am to 4 pm. It is free, but note that you must leave your ID at the office in exchange for the key. When you return the key, they give you back your ID.

Have you been to the Camera Obscura? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment below!


  1. What an awesome find, I've never heard of this place. I've only been to a camera obscura at the Griffith Observatory. That retro Camera Obscura sign in the first photo is so cute! :)

  2. Yeah, you'll love it! The fact that it's in a senior center makes it even more retro and cute. :)