10% Discount at Maison Bleue for Camera Obscura Customers

Did you know that Camera Obscura visitors get a tasty 10% discount at Maison Bleue?  Located on Victoria Street on the way to the Grassmarket, Maison Bleue is convenient for those Camera Obscura visitors who are looking for a nice lunch or dinner in a cosy restaurant at reasonable prices.  My colleague and I decided to take a wander and sample the menu for ourselves….


Maison Bleue – Waiting Area

You’ll be warmly welcomed into a room full of comfy stools and big cushions where we waited for our table, but I think you can sit there for coffee and a cake. The staff were all friendly and relaxed and are a real asset to the place. There is even a canine host in the form of Rosco the dog!

The restaurant area is made up of two small – but not squashed – levels. The stone staircase on the lowest level curves around one corner of the room, with archways in the middle over wooden floorboards. The design is the perfect balance of the old and the new.


Maison Bleue – Restuarant

The attention to detail is carried through in the menus, which are prettily designed as well as offering a varied choice of food. Most of the chefs are native to France, North Africa or Scotland, and their skills influence the menus. The lunch menu includes starters from mussels to haggis balls and main courses from salmon to steak.

For our starter, we decided to go for the haggis balls, ‘deep-fried in stout batter, with clapshot potatoes and whisky sauce’. Now I have to confess that, despite being a Scot born and bred, this was the first time I had tried haggis. Although I had been put off by the idea of what was in it, it was actually quite good. Guess that’s why it’s popular! The mash was amazing.

As for mains, although portions look reasonably-sized, they are actually mammoth-sized portions on a bigger-than-usual plate.  It’s an illusion worthy of Camera Obscura. I’m aware that in a restaurant review when we talk about the dishes it’s normally to refer to the food, but even the plates themselves are worth a mention here. They look a little bit like UFOs.


Maison Bleue – The Food!

I had tagliatelle with aubergine, cherry tomatoes, tomato pesto, rocket and parmesan and my colleague opted for ‘Daube de joue de boeuf’ with a side of garlic and Gruyère mash. Everything was well presented and tasted great, but unfortunately we had eaten so much that we didn’t have any room for dessert. Looks like we’ll just have to go back!

Written by Lauren Robertson

N.B. larger groups are recommended to book



Pass the Panda for Earth Hour 2014

Following a visit from a lost penguin, we had another unusual guest to Camera Obscura:



Teddy the panda!

This panda is one of sixty special pandas distributed around the UK to raise awareness of WWF’s Earth Hour. They are making their way around the UK, and to help you track their journeys, their recipients are taking ‘selfies’ with them and posting using the #passthepanda hashtag. Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Stephen Fry have already got involved, so Camera Obscura was honoured to have a visit from one of these special bears.

So what did Teddy get up to during his time at Camera Obscura? He took in some of the best views in the city…



…found several look-a-likes in the mirror maze…

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…and even got married…

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But eventually had to move on to Mary King’s Close


Get Looming with Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

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Camera Obscura’s Loom Band Bracelets

Things have been looming crazy here at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions! Looming is the latest craze to have taken the school playground by storm…but as we’ve discovered, it’s not just for kids!  Check out what we’ve been up to…

Starting with the basics….bracelets!  


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Finger Looming at Camera Obscura!


 Devising new ways of looming…with your fingers



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Longest Loom String In Progress!




 Embarking on a mission to create the longest loom string…    




Want to join in? You could WIN 1500 loom bands…

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Camera Obscura’s Loom Bands Competition

Simply share pictures of your looming creations with us.

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest or Google+ and tag us in your pictures/post them on  our page and you’ll be entered into our prize draw. The competition closes on Monday 2nd June and the  winner will be announced Tuesday 3rd of June.


Good luck….and happy looming!


The Vortex Tunnel and Outer Space

Have you ever considered how much time goes into training to be an astronaut or pilot? Not only do you need incredible amounts of knowledge, but when pushing your body to extremes you are not even able to trust your own senses to give you accurate information!


While flying, if a pilot makes a long turn and then levels out, they sometimes feel like they are turning in the opposite direction. This happens because they were turning for so long that their senses have ‘recalibrated’ and now think that the turn is normal, so going straight now feels like a turn in the opposite direction. For novices this may cause them to turn in the wrong direction or even send the craft into a spin – unless they rely on the instruments in the cockpit to tell them the direction they are flying in.

Astronauts, during their first few days in space, sometimes experience space fog – short term problems with memory or attention. It used to be believed that these problems are due to all of the stress the astronaut is under in their first few days in space. However, new researchers suggests it might actually be the changes to zero gravity that causes space fog – the senses needing time to adjust before they can give reliable information.

What do both of these have to do with The Vortex at Camera Obscura?

To fly, experience zero gravity, and to walk through The Vortex Tunnel all affect the vestibular system. This system controls balance and your understanding of where your body is.

By asking participants to do a few laps of The Vortex Tunnel, Meaghan is testing to see if the rotation of the tunnel and the feeling of being off-balance that it produces is affecting their memory. This can tell us more about how visual illusions work, the strength of the vestibular system, and how these interact with memory.

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Camera Obscura’s Vortex Tunnel


The good news is that there are two weeks worth of trials left here at Camera Obscura!  So, please contact Meaghan if you would like to take part: m.mcmanus1@hotmail.com . You must be over 18, and have no sight, hearing or balance difficulties. The trials are taking place after closing hours at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, Castlehill, Edinburgh.

What do the participants think?

Georg – My description of participating in Meaghan’s experiment would be one of wonder and fun. The vortex tunnel is a truly remarkable and gripping illusion and to research its effect on visual working memory a great opportunity at the Camera Obscura. Pity it was only a few minutes long.

Want to do a quick test at home?

  1. Stand up straight, with your arms stretched out wide, and close your eyes.
  2. Now, touch the index finger of your right hand to your nose. Stretch your arms out again.
  3. Repeat with your left hand.
  4. Do this quickly, until each hand has touched your nose 5 times.

You should be pretty accurate, this is your Vestibular System balancing you and your sense of Proporeception telling your hands and nose know how to find each other even with your eyes closed.

To spice up the trial….

Warning: involves spinning- only do this if you feel it is safe to do so!

  1. Make sure you have plenty of space first.
  2. Stand up straight with your arms stretched wide, now spin on the spot, as fast as you can, for about 15 seconds.
  3. Stand straight again and try to repeat the nose touching trial (be careful or you are likely to poke yourself in the eye!).

You should be far less accurate, your senses and Vestibular system have begun to adjust to the spinning, recalibrating so that it feels normal, and making everything else you do seem a little bit off-to-the-side.

Grown-Ups Only:

You can also try repeating this trial (minus the spinning!) before and after consuming alcohol. This is a different effect due to the drug slowing your responses but should achieve the same result – much less accuracy after a drink or two!

“A psychological study by Meaghan, Masters student at the Univerysity of Edinburgh’s Psychology Department”

Alice in Camera Obscura Wonderland!

I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do for work experience in S3. Would I go back and work as a helper in my primary school, or would I help organise files in my Mums office? Fortunately my Mum still knew the manager of the Camera Obscura as she used to work there as a guide. I am quite interested in languages as I am learning German and Mandarin at the moment, so I thought that this would be a good place to use my language skills and build my confidence.

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The Stunning Views

After introductions to the friendly staff, my first job was to walk around and keep watch over all the exhibits. I had been to Camera Obscura before so I found my way about easily, but I had completely forgotten about all the stairs!

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Camera Obscura Exhibits

The shop was next on my list so I headed there to help bring up stock from the basement and place items back on their correct shelves. I also helped watch over a few shows at the camera. After lunch I repeated each job, helping out around the exhibits and making a few colourful bracelets in the shop! Throughout the week I was given lots of tasks to be busy with, including helping with some archiving in the basement, pricing stock in the shop, cleaning the exhibits and more.


Me and the Shop Stock

My highlight of the week would have to be the whole experience of working somewhere for the first time. It’s been very scary and I worried about how I was going to get on but it was a brilliant week.  I would definitely recommend the Camera Obscura if you’re wondering what to do for work experience as you are kept busy and are working around lovely people. It’s also a great place if you’re looking for a fun family day out because of all the fun interactive things for the kids, and the show itself is always interesting and enjoyable.

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Another Stunning View!

So, after a week exploring all the exhibits, what is my favourite one? It would have to be the holographic images on the 4th floor. I always get a fright when I walk past that tarantula!

Tarantula at Camera Obscura

The Camera Obscura Tarantula!


Written by Alice Black

May the 4th Be With You!

Good afternoon, Star Wars fans and everyone else. It may be tenuous, but we’re going to use May the 4th as a link to talk about the different types of forces at work at Camera Obscura!



You can defy gravity (sort of) by appearing upside down in the giant pinhole camera. The lens flips the image upside down. This is how your eyes see the world, but your brain turns the picture the correct way up.



Pinhole Camera



You can see the effects of friction in the thermal camera. If you rub your hands together, the friction between then produces heat, so they will start to change colour as they get warmer.


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Thermal Camera



There are electrical forces all around us, but we can visualise electricity in the Magic Gallery, which houses a plasma dome, lightning tubes and a crackle ball. If you place one hand on the plasma dome and the other on the fluorescent tube alongside, the tube lights up. This demonstrates how electricity moves around the body.


Plasma Ball

Plasma Ball



Applied force can be quite simply the pressing of buttons. Camera Obscura has many interactive exhibits that you control, from pressing a button to see the praxinoscope to watching the singing cats, or moving the view cams around the city.



Singing Cats!


Air resistance

It can get really windy on the rooftop – enough said!



Views from the Rooftop Terrace


Written by Lauren Robertson