Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

— Richard P. Feynman

There are things you learn only when you’re willing to try something you haven’t done before, when you do things differently from the ways you’ve always done them, and when you are willing to impose limitations in the process. The images shared in this blog are the result of all three. What began as a brief experiment in response to my own question of “what if?”, as well as some inspiration of other photographers I’ve crossed paths with over the last several months, became something more. I am learning different ways to “weave” images with unpredictable but interesting results.

Frame 1 – Autumn reflections in the lake horizontal

Frame 2 – Autumn reflections in the lake vertical

Result of two frames above combined in-camera

MULTIPLE EXPOSURES IN CAMERA (THEN & NOW)

This technique is not new for me. In fact, I’ve been creating in-camera multiple exposures for almost twenty years, beginning with my first digital camera, Nikon D2x. Way back then, I could create multiple exposures using between 2 and 10 frames, all combined into one image file in camera.  It was rare that I used only two frames and much more common that I created designs using from seven to mostly 10 frames. (With one exception, which I corrected quickly, I’ve always had cameras with this option.) What was not available then was the “overlay” mode that appears in many mirrorless cameras that lets you see where you’re placing each subsequent frame during your multiple series. (This is different from the overlay mode mentioned below.)

These days I’m shooting with a Nikon Z6ii mirrorless camera for color and a Z6 for infrared, both of which allow me to shoot up to ten frames in camera with several different options for how the images combine (Overlay Mode – Add, Average, Light & Dark). Typically, I use “average” for the overlay mode, which averages the frames to produce one “good” exposure (meaning the exposure that I choose for the final image). “Average” overlay mode has been my standard. To be honest, I never really did a whole lot of exploring the other modes as what I was doing has worked for me –Until recently … when more than a few photographers shared images – multiples – using mostly the ”Dark” overlay mode.

Image made with two exposures combined in camera with motion and dark mode

A CHANGE OF HEART

After writing about my summer drought (Navigating the Drought) with regard to photography, creativity and motivation (or limits in all three), I’m more open to new approaches that get me thinking and doing differently. The “dark” mode was just the thing. At first, the experiments were random and limited to a few shots here and there. Then, I started thinking. First, I thought about how certain photographers are not able to create in-camera multiples with as much freedom as I can. At least one manufacturer doesn’t even have it as an option, and a few others allow only two or three frames before requiring overlay acrobatics to get the job done. It is possible to create an effective multiple exposure in Photoshop, but the visualization and execution in the field needs to be done with intention. This creates a less fluid process for a photographer looking to “stretch” creatively with gear that simply says, “no.”

Frame 1 of autumn colors in West Virginia horizontal

Frame 2 of autumn colors of West Virginia vertical

Result of two above images combined in camera (no motion)

Result of two frames of same trees with motion and multiple in camera

IMPOSING LIMITATIONS

With this in mind, I decided to cordon off my options and set limits to my in-camera multiples. I set the limit at two and kept to that limit for several series of this experiment. In addition, I set my overlay mode to “Dark,” which means that when the two frames are blended in camera, the dark pixels are given priority. (If you want a more scientific explanation for this, ask Nikon or Canon or your personal IT geek.)

In this experiment, I’ve used nature as one of my subjects – flowers, plants, colors, trees and reflections. I’ve also used fences, buildings and industrial elements. The results are all different, and I’m still trying to discern when this technique works most effectively. So far, it seems to work best when there are either lines, textures or areas of contrast that create patterns when combined. You will learn with each set of images what the starting point was and where this technique led me.

Random meters on side of building