Projections, Part 1

So, this happened:

This whole shoot was the result of a quirk of light and shutter speeds.

Weeks earlier I was at a friend’s place as she was preparing another canvas to paint. She used her projector to cast an image of an elephant onto the canvas and used masking tape to draw its outline. The idea was to paint over the tape and then pull off the strips to reveal the pattern. 

That day I had my camera set to record raw + jpeg, and the jpegs were set for monochrome. That's how I roll, usually. I find it easier to judge exposure from a B&W image (a simple trick I learned years ago from Dave). So while my friend worked on the canvas, I was shooting and seeing B&W images on my camera LCD. I had no idea the projector would create these psychedelic colors. It wasn't until I got home and popped the memory card to download the raw files that I saw what happened.

But the elephant image and the light from the projector were both neutral colors. The psychedelic colors weren't there, in person, through the lens. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on. 

And then I remembered that the projector isn't a continuous light source. It flickers, like older computer monitors and TVs, and it has three channels: red, green and blue, that it combines to make other colors. And like a computer monitor, the flickering, or refresh rate, is so fast you can't see it with your eyes. But a camera's shutter, if it's set fast enough, can catch the light while it's refreshing. That's why there are horizontal bands through the image; what you're seeing is the light change color while the shutter curtain is traveling across the frame. 

I showed these to my friend and she (predictably) loved them all. She wanted to shoot more using the projector as the only light source. And so we did. 

I don't remember much about this shoot, now that I think about it. It's all kind of a blur. I know the first image is time-stamped 2PM, and the last one is time-stamped 10PM. That's 8 hours of shooting during which I racked up 1900 shutter clicks. That was in part due to the projector. It was totally unpredictable what colors we'd get and where in the frame the different colors would transition, so each time we changed anything: pose, angle, projection, I'd shoot by holding the shutter-release down for 5 to 10 frames to get different colors. Two shots separated by even a fraction of a second could have dramatically different colors and effects. 

It took us a while to get a handle on this and to actually start making some good pictures. But even then it was a lot of trial and (mostly) error. This shoot had more ups and downs than any I've done, ever, probably. Photo-mojo came and went, and came back again. When my shots were going flat and I was tired and getting ready to call it a night, my friend would push us ahead, keep us going. We'd find more poses, more projections, come up with more ideas. We kept going until I'd jammed my memory card full, all 64GB of it. (And yes I should've had more memory on hand, but I never would've guessed that I'd come anywhere near to clicking 1900 shots that day. Lesson learned). 

So I'd call that a fairly productive day. And it was more fun than I've had with a camera in quite a while.

There was a stretch there towards the end where I really found my rhythm. I was in the zone. It felt as though every shot was portfolio-worthy. That doesn't happen often. And this time was even better because I wasn't alone. My friend was in the zone with me. She had never really posed for anything before or been in any "real" photo shoot, and yet here she was, not just posing like a pro, but becoming this whole other character in front of the camera, like it was second nature her.

The girl in these pictures is not the girl I know from work. I'd never met this other girl until this shoot. And that was something to see. As it happened, I had a camera with me, and the results are right here.