swapping film for double exposures

I’m not sure what it is about double exposures that makes me love them so much, but I do. They’re like magic. They’re even more like magic when you have no idea what both of the pictures are so the result is a total surprise. There are two ways I can think of to do this: the first is to take one picture and then wait a long time until you’ve forgotten what you took a picture of, and then take another one on the same frame. I’m way too impatient for this method. The other way is to do a film swap–shoot the whole roll and send it along to someone who’ll shoot it again. My friend Cara and I have tried this twice now (you can see some of her favourites from our last attempt here, and visit her blog here!). Here are some of my favourite results from our latest roll:

If you want to do a film swap, here are some handy things we’ve learned so far or are still working on:

1. Since each frame will be exposed twice, you have to shoot images one stop underexposed. We used 400-speed film, and I set my camera’s ASA rating to 800. If you can’t set this value on your camera, you could also just take your meter reading and set your camera one stop differently (e.g., if it says to shoot at 1/125, shoot at 1/250)

2. We’re still working on getting the frames lined up. This time, Cara marked the film with a marker where it lined up with the sprocket holes before she closed the camera, and I used her marker to line up mine. We were still a bit off, any advice here is welcome!

3. Leave the tab hanging out when you rewind the film, so the next person can load it. If you happen to rewind it all the way, you can pull it out again with this handy DIY from Lomography, or buy a tool that’s made for exactly this purpose.

4. It seems to work best if you shoot in uneven lighting. I think this is because the darkest parts of an image will allow for the most detail to show through from the next frame–the brighter the first image, the less detail can come through since the second exposure might overexpose and wash out the bright areas. So, if both people shoot images that have some light and some dark areas in them, the chance the images will complement each other and both show through is a bit higher. We’re still experimenting with this, and fun accidents always happen so I don’t want to overthink things too much.

If you’ve tried it before or end up trying it in the future, I’d love to see the results!

darkroom printing, #2

In my earlier post I described a bit about what I’ve learned so far about darkroom printing, namely that it’s much more involved than I ever realized and that almost everything you can do in Photoshop can be done to paper prints. Here’s an image that required the most significant “post-processing” I’ve done so far by hand, in the darkroom:

The above is an un-processed digital scan of a frame from a roll of film that met with a bit of a darkroom accident–when I processed the film, I read the directions for mixing the developer incorrectly, and ended up processing the film in a seven-times too concentrated developer. I’m pretty lucky my negatives were salvageable at all! The negative was, to say the least, very dark, even looking at it on a light table through a magnifier (i.e., it’s not just a bad scan). But I’d had some luck saving the image in Photoshop at home, and it was one I really liked, so I thought there was no harm in seeing what I could get on paper.

Step 1: I made a test print (um, actually quite a few test prints, this is the one closest to what I wanted to see). As you can tell, it ended up being possible to print a proper image, even from the super dark negative. (Yay!)

Step 2: The lighting across the picture was really uneven and because of the over-concentrated developer, the shadowy parts were disproportionately shadowy, so it was impossible to get a good exposure across the whole paper. I needed the leaves in the foreground to be brighter than it was possible for them to be without some intervention. My instructor recommended “dodging” the image, which just means covering the part of the image you want to be lighter with something, so that that part of the paper is exposed for a shorter time (making it lighter). Because I just wanted the leaves to be brighter, I made a stencil outlining their shape for dodging.

Step 3: The first attempt at dodging was a bit much, and the resulting image was way too bright. (Although generally speaking, it seems to be much easier to go overboard in the first few steps, and kind of scale back whatever you’re trying until it’s just right. If you never go past the right spot, it takes way longer to find what the right spot is!) So I tried on a few more pieces of paper to get the leaves to look how I wanted them.

The final print:

And here’s the before and after for comparison:

You can see the amount of detail I was able to bring out of the blackest parts of the image, especially in the lower left and right corners. So, there’s quite a lot of leeway in printing to save a bad negative and end up with a pretty picture, and I ended up liking the darkroom print much more than the version I post-processed in Photoshop. (It only took about 9 hours!)