Boost your Creativity with Double Exposures

Have you tried making in-camera double exposures? It’s worth the effort.

garden gate and flowers create a double exposure

A garden’s gate is combined with the flowers inside to create a new image.

I get to visit groups of photographers often and when I ask them if they’ve ever tried making a double exposure in their cameras, most have not. Many don’t even know if their camera has this feature. 

A double exposure simply refers to two images combined in one frame on your camera. The bonus is that you’ll often get a joyful surprise because the result may not be quite what you expected.

First, take a look through your camera’s shooting menu (or manual) and look for multiple exposures. Set it to two. If you have the choice of turning on Auto Gain, do it. This automatically adjusts the exposure of each image so that the final result is correctly exposed.

Then, plan which two images to combine. This can be the hardest part.  Here are three different ways to think about how to choose.

1. Combine related subjects.

In the image above, I was impressed with a beautifully made garden gate. I photographed the gate first and then some of the flowers inside.  Thinking of two related subjects simplifies the job of choosing what to combine. 

Here’s another example of two related subjects combined into one image. While visiting a seaside community on the Isle of Skye, I used the gull watching the scene from a roof top and the reflection of the village in the water.

 2. Add a texture layer.

Another way I like to make a double exposure is by adding a texture layer. Exploring the wonderful city of Edinburgh, I was drawn to the building with all its intricate features. But, with a plain blue sky, I felt it needed something more. So, the texture layer was simply the sidewalk at my feet. Suddenly, the addition of the texture changes the image completely.

a double exposure of a building with a texture layer added.

In the image below, the headstone and flowers in an old cemetery received a layer of texture from a weathered stone nearby. 

3. Add an out of focus layer.

Here’s one more idea. Add a second layer that is out of focus. 

calla lilies with a soft glow

These beautiful Calla lilies were growing near a stone wall in Ireland. My first image was sharp and the second one, with the aperture wide open and the camera in the same position, was out of focus, creating the soft glow around the subject. This is based on the work of Michael Orton and his well known Orton Effect. This works best in soft light and can be used with many subjects.


double exposure with window and fish nets

This image was made at the Tallheo Guest Cannery. The first step was to create an ICM. The subject here is a pile of old fishnets, which have different colours for different seasons. The second layer is simply a nearby window frame.

Creating double exposures is one of the many valuable tools you can use to express yourself more effectively through photography. And of course, doing that is what our workshops are all about. Have a look at the Gallery page and see how many examples of double exposures you can find.

~ Dennis

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Artistic Photography


rain forestWhenever I go for a walk, as I did in the above rainforest, I see the world around me as it is. The world as it is, however, is not necessarily based on realism, it is also based on imagination. That’s the reason for enjoying the arts and being an artist; to stimulate our senses and imagination.

As a photographic artist, as I visually absorb landscapes, I begin to imagine them differently. They become ‘mindscapes’. I see what is visual, then imagine what is invisible.

On this particular forest walk, I began to visualize the rainforest in ways that took me beyond realism. Below are some examples.

artistic photography

Artistic Interpretation I

I feel there is less and less call for images that depict the world as it is. We know what the Eiffel Tower looks like; do we need yet another look-alike photograph? Let’s try and go deeper, and try to express how we see the Eiffel Tower as no one has ever seen it before. We can do this as expressive photographic artists.

Artistic Interpretation II

When we study the history of painting, for example, we read about artists like Monet, Van Gogh, and Kandinsky who were courageous enough to break away from the establishment. They believed in their new work, they valued it, and they brought about tremendous change.  We too can become creative and expressive photographers.

Artistic Interpretation III

In our photographic workshops, we encourage photographers to take a broader perspective about the art form of photography and ourselves as artists. We encourage our participants to practice new ways of expression in order to communicate their visual narratives. We do this through illustrated talks, in the field art projects, and evaluation sessions.

Join us. It’s exciting!

~ Chris

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Seeing Beyond the Literal

sun and water drops on a winter day

The sun shone through the tress and created magical highlights as the snow flakes turned to water droplets.

Normally when snow falls in the Vancouver area, it’s quickly followed by rain. This winter day, however, it was followed by bright, beautiful sunshine. I found myself in a local park, busy with my camera.

I made a few photos that documented the beauty of the fresh snow in the park but really enjoyed working with my lenses wide open, creating soft, out of focus highlights in the background. 

The image above is my favourite. There’s only one thing in focus to give the viewer a clue to what is going on, an ice-encrusted twig. The circular highlights are water drops, falling from the trees as the sun melted the snow. The rich colours of the forest create the backdrop. 

This images illustrates what we try and help people accomplish in our Develop Your Creative Vision workshops. Find something that interests you, photograph it, and then photograph it again, differently, seeing beyond the literal.

If I had been a beginner photographer, I doubt that I would have found this image in the park. But, with experience and knowledge of the photographic tools available to me, as well as time and patience and a willingness to play, I came home with an image I just may want to hang on the wall. It reminds me of the joyful time I had when a Vancouver snowfall was blessed with sunbeams.

~ Dennis

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Why Take a Photographic Workshop?

impressionistic view of a road

Why Take a Photographic Workshop?

Teaching a photographic workshop is a privilege, not because of f-stops, shutter speeds, and secret techniques to produce ‘wow’ images, but because we discuss photography as art. In our workshops the emphasis is on art, and creativity, because this is what provides us with a meaningful and rewarding life.

Whether we compose music, draw etchings, or make photographic images, creativity is based on original thought which originates in our imagination. This means every image we make is highly subjective and original; never to be duplicated by anyone, not even ourselves. That to me is exciting!

In the workshops which Dennis Ducklow and I teach, we assist and encourage everyone on their creative journey of discovery. It’s what we enjoy doing the most.

~ Chris Harris

sunset scene with man on dock

You may create images that are expressively documentary.

impressionistic view of a road

You may create images that are artistic.

abstract image with red and white

Or, you may create images that are purely abstract.

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Creativity needs a push

Make your best shot …

… then push your creativity by photographing it in a different way.

For most of us, our first response to a scene is to photograph it in a representational way. That is, we see something that moves us so we photograph it as we saw it. There’s nothing wrong with this. We’ve grown up seeing this type of photography. But, if we want to go deeper with our creativity in photography, we’re not done yet.

There are many other ways to photograph the scene and we rob ourselves and our viewers of creative expression if we don’t tap into those. So go ahead and make the best image you can but then get in the habit of asking yourself, “What’s another way to photograph this scene?” This will often open the door to increasing creativity with your camera.

For example, last spring I was photographing crocuses in a local park. I made the image at left and then asked myself that question. With simple camera movement, I made several attempts and chose the image at right as my favourite.

creativity with crocuses

The right hand image uses intentional camera movement at 1/8 second.

Here’s another example. Late in December 2017, I was exploring a park in Langley. Across a large pond was a stand of golden trees. The water was covered in slushy ice so there were no reflections. However, by using intentional camera movement, I was able to create an impressionistic image of the scene.

golden trees reflecting in a lake.

This is an unsuccessful vertical pan at 1/4 sec. Because of the camera movement, it looks like the trees were surrounded by water. In fact, the base of the trees was along the midline of the image. Note: I did not make a representational image of this scene. This is included to show you what one would look like.

using the camera with creativity so the trees are dancing

Using intentional camera movement in a modulating vertical motion, with a shutter speed of 1/4 second, I was able to create an effect that looks like a wavy reflection in the water. I later added a texture to the sky to add some interest there. I call this Winter Dancers.

In each pair of images above, the second image expresses the scene in a way that I find much more creative,  interesting and satisfying. After creating a representation shot, my usual approach is to then move to a more expressive image. Sometimes, I can’t think of a way to do it. Other times, I think of many ways. By always asking myself, What is another way to photograph this? I’m constantly pushing myself and my creativity.

This is just one of the many ways we encourage our participants at Develop Your Creative Vision to go deeper with their photography. Spaces remain in our 2018 workshops. Would you like to join us?

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