For a while now, I've felt like my work has been lacking something. This is a normal cycle for me, and seems to happen every one to two years. I chalk it up to being a creative and riding the roller coaster of being said creative who one minute is satisfied with their work and the next minute wanting to throw it in the trash. Who is with me so far?
I realized a while back that I was thinking my images were too perfect. Not perfect in the sense that there was no way to improve it (because God knows I can always do more of that), but that I was following too many 'rules'. I was trying to do everything you are 'supposed' to do. Everyone was in focus, no limbs were chopped, great depth of field, no distractions, etc. And while it all looked good, it was just too much. These thoughts were all going through my mind as I was seeing some amazing double exposures by some extremely talented photographers. They were eye candy! They were so unexpected and fun! They immediately drew me in. So I got started by reading up on Wendy Laurel's tutorial about double exposures and loaded my camera.
This photo here is of the first scan I got back. This was 4-6 exposures on one frame - called an oops! It was supposed to be my friend Mary waving her hair around as a silhouette with a beautiful lake and trees filling her in. Can you see it? If I squint really hard from far away I can.....
I didn't realize I had to move the little multiple exposure lever back on my Pentax 645n when I wanted it to start advancing again. Once I figured that out (with the same roll) I got this triple exposure:
Talk about getting an imperfect photo. But it was so alluring to me. I loved the imperfections of it, and it hooked me creatively.
So I set about taking double exposures with each roll of film, looking at the relationship of highlights to shadows with each exposure. To achieve a silhouette effect with fill, you need a lot of white to surround your subject's profile. This will expose the film so not much pattern, or fill, will be exposed in those areas. Conversely, the fill will show up well in the areas that were dark (subject's profile) because the film in that area of the negative didn't get much exposure with the first frame. Here are two examples of this:
This family photo was taken on an overcast day, but to maximize more of a silhouette effect, I angled my camera up to get the brightest white. I wanted to see their pops of color so I metered the first image (the family) at 0 exposure. I then moved and took the second photo of the beach and water also at 0 exposure, noting where the family had been in the frame.
In the photo below, I had Ella stand next to our white blinds (it was hard to get any kind of silhouette outdoors on a rainy Seattle day). I underexposed the first frame by 1. Next time I would set it at 0 exposure to get rid of the grass surrounding her profile. The fill was our neighbors yard where I had spotted a lone flower among the grass.
Another type of double exposure I've been playing with is two similar images offset from each other by changing composition of the same scene through movement or zoom. Notice how the darkest areas are those that had full exposure both times, vs one exposure as a highlight and one as a shadow? This is what makes it fun. Look at your composition and your light and dark areas and also think about what you MAY want your double exposure to look like. I say MAY because, well, it's a double exposure on film. :)
If you want to try double exposures on film, read your camera's manual so you know how to do it. My Canon EOS-3 uses a little button in the custom function area and you can adjust how many exposures you want on one frame. On the Pentax, I rotate a lever and then rotate it back when I don't want any more multiples. I usually underexpose each exposure by one stop to get correct overall exposure on that particular frame. OR, think about what you are hoping it'll look like and expose for that, because it's all a fun experiment, right?!
I want to see what you come up with so please post your multiples to #littlebellows!