David R Munson

Saitama City, Japan

Experimenting with Handheld Multiple Exposures

David R Munson
An experimental image, handheld multiple-exposure.

Today, looking at an experiment done with multiple exposures back in Chicago.

Archives are curious things, especially if you have the sort of relationship with them I do. I never stop making photographs, but finishing them is another story. A lot of images get lost to the passage of time, or are forgotten in the fog of a depressive period. And so, I periodically go digging on various hard drives to see what I can find.

I made this image back in Chicago in 2012 or 2013. It’s of a statue somewhere on the waterfront. As an experiment, I made several variations of this photograph with the goal of seeing what I could do with handheld multiple exposures.

Normally, multiple exposures are done on a tripod or other stable support to ensure that camera position remains exactly the same. I wanted to see what happened if I intentionally introduced some amount of movement. Not by swinging the camera around (though that could be cool), but by simply handholding the camera and letting the natural, small movements of my body from breathing, etc dictate how the camera position changed.

I think this image was about 20 exposures. It was made using a Mamiya 645 Pro, Pentax 105mm f/2.4, and Kodak Tri-X. That camera has a motor drive on it, making this a workable thing to try. Cocking the shutter manually between exposures would have thrown things off too much to be usable (I suspect). Setting the camera to multi, I could fire off the shutter as many times as I wanted without advancing the film.

Exposure was a little tricky, as this was on film, and film doesn’t always respond in the expected way.

The original exposure indicated by my meter was 1/60 at f/2.4 (I used filters to bring the exposure down to that range). By decreasing the exposure by four stops and exposing at 1/1000, each exposure was giving 1/16 of the total, as follows:

1/60 is full exposure (1/1)
1/125 is one stop under (1/2 of the total exposure needed)
1/250 is two stops under (1/4 of the total exposure needed)
1/500 is three stops under (1/8 of the total exposure needed)
1/1000 is four stops under (1/16 of the total exposure needed)

You would expect that firing the shutter sixteen times would give you a full exposure, but it doesn’t. Giving sixteen exposures yields a thin, underexposed negative, due to the weird cousin of the more familiar reciprocity failure, which is experienced when doing long exposures on film.

So I gave a number of exposures per frame, ranging from 16 to 30, to see what would happen. 30 was getting a bit dense, 24 looked the best overall in terms of exposure, and 20 (this frame) had the best look to it in terms of the effects of the motion.

The film was finally developed a couple years later (again, things get lost and forgotten about), scanned, and the raw scan sat on a hard drive until today, which I stumbled upon it and gave it some love.

I like the effect of this and will definitely play with it more in the future. I’ll likely be shooting some portraits of real people using this method before the end of the year.


David R Munson

David is a photographer, essayist, and educator based in Saitama City, Japan.

See also: About | Now | Prints | More Prints | Medium | Patreon | Linkedin

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