When we think about cameras, we usually think about expensive and high-tech DSLR cameras. Or the cameras in our phones. Maybe we also think about vintage film cameras from a few decades ago, or even large format cameras used by masters like Ansel Adams.

What we don't think about are cameras made from materials found right at our feet. But that's exactly what Adam Donnelly and David Janesko are doing. The duo creates landscape photographs using cameras built with materials found in the very landscape they're photographing.

Their project is called Site Specific Cameras. When they arrive at a location they want to photograph, such as a forrest or beach, they unload their pack of film and, well that's it. The rest of the materials needed to make a photograph are collected, piled up into a structure, and the holes that would leak light are filled with anything from wet sand to mud to leaves. They also find an object in the area that has an existing teensy, perfectly round hole, and that becomes the aperture for the camera, the hole through which the light enters and creates an image on the film.

"In this way the physical components of the landscape, feedback into the character of the camera and the final photograph," the duo states. "The cameras are also large enough for one of us to fit into. We act as the mechanical parts of the camera, like the shutter and film advance."

Take a look at some of the cameras they've built and the resulting photographs made with the temporary structures.

Alamere Falls: The camera and the photograph

The camera was made entirely from materials found on the beach, and wet sand was used to fill holes and block out light. The camera was made entirely from materials found on the beach, and wet sand was used to fill holes and block out light. (Photo: Adam Donnelly and David Janesko)


The temporary camera was used to create this image of the falls. The temporary camera was used to create this image of the falls. (Photo: Adam Donnelly and David Janesko)

Gazos Creek: The camera and the photograph

The camera created out of materials found around Gazos Creek. The camera created out of materials found around Gazos Creek. (Photo: Adam Donnelly and David Janesko)

The image created with a camera built on the spot with found materials. The image created with a camera built on the spot with found materials. (Photo: Adam Donnelly and David Janesko)


Pescadero Creek: The camera and the photograph

A camera that anyone passing by would likely never guess is a camera. A camera that anyone passing by would likely never guess is a camera. (Photo: Adam Donnelly and David Janesko)

The image made with a camera that looks basically like a pile of dirt and debris. The image made with a camera that looks basically like a pile of dirt and debris. (Photo: Adam Donnelly and David Janesko)


Sierra Nevada: The camera and the photograph

The camera in the Sierra Nevada was built with rocks, logs, and  debris from the forest floor. The camera in the Sierra Nevada was built with rocks, logs, and debris from the forest floor. A handy index finger acts as the lens cap and shutter. (Photo: Mario Casillas)

The image of a creek's banks made with the found-materials camera.
The image of a creek's banks made with the found-materials camera. (Photo: Adam Donnelly and David Janesko)


The team has already exhibited their work around the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Kala Art Institute, The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Rock Paper Scissors Collective, and Rayko Photo Center. But now they're ready to expand their project into something even bigger.

The photographers want to take their project on the road, building landscape cameras along the Rio Grande Rift to document the landscape that contains unique ecological niches and a long history as a natural highway for both wildlife and humans. The team is currently raising funds through an Indiegogo campaign so they can get on the road and make something truly unique. Those donating to the adventure have an opportunity to receive their very own prints and other rewards for providing support.


Site Specific Cameras: Rio Grande Rift from Matthew Brown on Vimeo.

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.