Multiple Exposure

When I heard the Mark III had included an in camera multiple exposure functionality it filled my creative spirit with eager anticipation. I used to love that about the film days when photoshop was way too in it’s infancy to be facilitating the ghostly creative possibilities that came from exposing multiple images on a single frame. The unpredictable nature of the exercise coupled with the anticipation of waiting for the film to be processed only further heightened the excitement at a potential montage of flowing shapes and design, all from straight out of camera. Today, many months after that first squeal of joy at opening my birthday wrapped Mark III, I was determined to experiment with multiple exposures. I wondered around the house trying to find interesting subject matter. Discouraged at the bland prospect of creating a montage of fruit and furniture (unfortunately I was home alone ) I thought to use the tv as my subject matter.

Straight away I flicked to the music channel (a very common source of inspiration for much of my work) and went to work. I mounted a 50mm lens and set the aperture to f/2.8 with an ISO of 200, working in aperture priority. I try and work as close to my native ISO where possible to retain the best possible image quality. I knew my entire frame was going to be very well lit by the tv and coupled with an f/2.8 aperture, I was reliably in hand holding shutter speed territory.  I fiddled with the multiple exposure settings in the menu system and set the exposure frames to 3. The MarkIII can handle up to 9 frames!.

What followed was an hour of the best layering fun you can have without going near your computer or photoshop. The very cool thing about the MarkIII is that you can use Live Preview to actually see the cumulative result as you capture each frame. That blew me away. It really gives you a good level of creative control over the entire process when you can actually see how the image is coming along, a layer at a time. Now the tv wasn’t exactly easy subject matter, particularly the music channel. Things happen so quickly on the screen and I didn’t know what was going to come up next on screen. It was like one big composition fortune cookie. I stopped to think of the possibilities of this technique when you're shooting in a controlled environment, very cool.

Despite the images on the screen flicking through in split second duration,  I started to plan where my next image would appear on the frame, it’s angle, it’s exposure. This made the process more deliberate and controlled. Before I knew it, some very interesting images started appearing.

From here I used exposure compensation and flicked between manual and auto focus, to quickly adjust each image.  I didn’t want each frame exposed correctly nor completely sharp and so I experimented and got better and better at predicting how each image would look depending on it’s luminosity and respective exposure compensation. I had a feel for the type of image I wanted to create, in this instance something very graphic and bold in shape and shadow. With this in mind I channel surfed looking and waiting for the right subject matter. I didn't want busy with heavy lighting effects. These were distracting and blowing out my exposure despite a significant exposure compensation factor.

The image above is my favourite from that evening's multiple exposure adventure. I did bring the image into photoshop to remove broadcasting information in the corners of the frame and then fired up Niks Silver Effects to remove all colour and apply a blueish tint.

At the risk of sounding like a corrupt MP4 file, the possibilities of this technique are truly endless, oh and did I say a lot of fun :-) Adding another creative dimension, the earlier images from the evening were taken with the lens baby composer. Now that was producing some really interesting stuff although given the lens baby is a manual lens, you really need to make sure you're using static and deliberate subject matter. The music channel didn't really facilitate this approach.

For someone who enjoys the challenge of producing in camera images this is a technique that can take your work to a whole new playing field. My personal love of the photographic medium was always founded in the awe of creating visual imagery through the click of a button on this time slicing contraption called a camera. It’s a challenge I find myself enjoying more and more in an age of digital processing and mastery.

I remain a passionate fan and supporter of all forms of image capture and manipulation. I particularly love those images that challenge you to consider where reality stops and the make believe starts. However, the more time I spend with a camera in hand, the more nourished and fulfilled I find my creative soul to be.