IELTS® Listening Practice 109

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Listening Script Vocabulary
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(Section 3: You will hear a conversation between two students who are discussing their photography presentations. First, you will have some time to look at questions 22 to 24 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 22 to 24.)



J: Hi, Mary. How are you getting on with your photography presentation?

M: Hi Joe. Fine. I've just finished it, actually.

J: Oh, well done. What subject did you decide on in the end?

M: Well, it was so hard to choose a topic but in the end I went with the pinhole camera. I did a course on how to make them a couple of years ago, so I dug out my notes and used them for the presentation.

J: Oh, good plan. That will have saved you some time. 

M: Kind of. I still had to look up lots of information I was missing in the library. It was a very practical course and our tutor wants the presentation to cover the history and theory too, so I had to adapt lots of the information I had. 

J: Right, I see. So, do you want to practise it? I don't mind listening to you if you like.

M: Sure. That would be really helpful. Thanks!

J: No problem. So, what is a pinhole camera exactly?

M: Well, basically a pinhole camera is a simple optical imaging device in the shape of a closed box. On one of its sides is a small hole, which, via the light that enters it, creates an image on the opposite side of the box. 

J: Isn't it also sometimes called a camera obscura?

M: That's right, or a 'dark chamber'. 

J: I see. And why is that? What does a dark room have to do with the pinhole camera?

M: Good question. Well, initially, the camera obscura was, in fact, a room where the image was projected onto one of the walls through an opening in the opposite wall. It was used to observe the solar eclipse. It later became a portable device – a box. 

J: What were the boxes used for?

M: They were often used as drawing aids and they were also the basis for the construction of the modern camera. During the mid-20th century, scientists discovered that pinhole cameras could be used to photograph X-ray radiation and gamma rays. As a result, the pinhole camera then found its way onto spacecraft and into space itself.

(Before you hear the rest of the conversation, you will have some time to look at questions 25 to 33 [20 seconds]. Now, listen and answer questions 25 to 33.)

J: And you said you had to focus on the history. Can you say something about the origins of the pinhole camera?

M: Sure. Images created via a small opening will be found in the natural environment and in everyday life, and people in various parts of the world have been observing them since ancient times. Probably the earliest surviving description of this kind of observation dates from the 5th century BC, written by Chinese philosopher Mo Ti. In the Western hemisphere, Aristotle in 4 BC was asking, without receiving any satisfactory answer, why the image of the solar eclipse passing through the leaves of a tree creates a crescent shape on the ground, and why sunlight passing through square shapes do not create a square image, but a round one instead. In 10 AD the Arabian physicist and mathematician Ibn al-Haitham studied the reverse image formed by a tiny hole and indicated that light only travels in straight lines. There was another scholar during the Middle Ages who was familiar with the principle of the camera obscura, namely the English monk, philosopher and scientist Roger Bacon. But it was not until 1485 that the first detailed description of the pinhole camera was set down by Italian artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, who used it to study perspective for drawing.

J: When was the first photograph taken?

M: The first photograph taken with a pinhole camera was the work of Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster back in 1850. However, the technique did not become more established in photography until the late 19th Century. At this time, it was noted for the soft outlines it produced, as opposed to lenses, which generated perfect, sharp images. The pinhole camera was later abandoned and it wasn't until the end of the 1960s that several artists began using it in their experiments, thus awakening renewed interest in this simple photographic device.

J: You said you'd been on a course about making pinhole cameras. Are they easy to make?

M: Yes, it's really easy to make a simple one. You just make a hole in one side of a closable box made of a material which doesn't let light in. Then, place a thin piece of metal with a tiny hole over the opening. On the outside of the box stick a strip of black tape over the opening, which acts as the release. Then, in a dark room, attach a piece of film or photographic paper onto the opposite side and the camera is ready.

J: Oh, that does sound easy.

M: Yes, and there are all sorts of imaginative ways to make these cameras; the most ordinary of objects can unexpectedly become pinhole cameras. For example, a matchbox, a book, a travel bag, a delivery van, an old fridge or even a hotel room. You can, of course, turn your ordinary camera into a pinhole camera simply by replacing the lens with a small hole. 

J: I see. That's fascinating! Well, thanks for all that information. You've obviously done lots of work. I think you're well prepared for your presentation.

M: Thanks for listening. I really appreciate it. 

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