When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. ― Ansel Adams
Not every Sunday morning is quiet, though, and not every bad shot is a waste. I remember, early in my career, getting a phone call at some ungodly hour of a Sunday morning telling me that yet another tornado had ripped through yet another small town in Oklahoma. I pulled on clothes in the dark (the advantage of a monochrome wardrobe), grabbed my camera and a half-dozen packs of film and headed out. One of the dangers of early-morning shooting, especially when the matter’s urgent, is that one tends to not check their camera bag as thoroughly as they should, and I didn’t. I knew I had film and my lenses with a selection of filters for effect. I didn’t bother checking for backup batteries for the film advance.
It seems almost silly now, and is one of those problems that new shooters will never experience, having to manually advance film. The batteries that powered that function were often specialized, expensive, and impossible to find outside a camera store. Finding one on a Sunday would be impossible. So, I kept a couple of spares. On a shelf. And they were still sitting there when I drove off bleary-eyed into the night rain. This was one of those moments when I was second-guessing my profession and spent most the drive thinking about going back to college and working on my masters degree. Being a photographer just seemed like a ridiculous way to try and learning a living. No one ever asked a symphony conductor to be up before dawn.
I did the best I could,trying to remember to manually advance the film after every shot, but I knew I had missed a few and warned the lab that there would be a few double exposure shots out of the batch. I apologized for the wasted film. Monday morning, the lab called to let me know that there were a couple of those “wasted” shots might be worth keeping. Specifically, the double exposure had placed the rising sun coming up right behind the destroyed church building. The effect was rather striking and totally unique, one of those things one can never reproduce.
Double exposure doesn’t naturally occur with digital cameras, but we can re-create the effect with some careful layer work. There are several different ways of achieving the effect, layering one image over the other, then adjusting the layer blend mode and opacity, then tweaking the levels and curves. One can easily get bogged down in the details, but double exposure really has to do with emotion. If the image doesn’t create an emotional response then it’s a waste of time. So, this week we’re going to look at some specially created double exposure images that we’ve produced along a number of themes for the end of summer. This is different from what we normally share. I hope you’re ready to feel something.