View Towers Montage

2014-HF-2-27

My latest roll of film from the Olympus Pen half frame camera could be considered a disaster but I prefer a wonderful accident. Such as the shot above, which is an in-camera montage of View Towers seen from Fort Street, from within a passage way that leads to Meares Street, and a shot or two within the passage without View Towers at all. Both portrait and landscape formats are involved, and a fliptych or two in landscape mode as well. Below is one of the diptychs I was shooting (with a sliver of the above image on one side as well).

I had meant to try a shot of this side of the building for some time – you will see from the link in the previous paragraph that I have stuck with the ends of this building, or closeup views. I have been a bit daunted by how much of a slab, a cliff face, this building is from the north and south, and it is hard to fit in the frame of all but the wider angle lenses, so I have never got a good shot from this side. You can see what it looks like from the north in this link, a local photography blog which I only just discovered and which is well worth a good look through.

Seeing Gary’s shot inspired me to try something from Fort Street where I used to stand for the bus most days staring at this edifice. I thought I would do it in a half-frame multitych format. However, I think the above shot is better than what I might have accomplished in that style. I think the jumbled overlays represents this large block of flats and the lives lived within quite well, and in a way that I would never have thought of. Which makes it food for thought, and a seed for experimentation. I like it that the view from across the street is embedded, and the relatively affluent existence of the lawyers offices, pricey restaurants and yoga studios stand out around the edges of this low rent and locally rather notorious accommodation.

While on the subject of windows, this morning I was reading an interesting post by one of my followers and occasional commenter on these pages Angelina Hue. Her post, Facing Windows: Voyeurism or Artdelves into the sometimes extremely fine line between voyeurism and art when photographing buildings and what people are doing as seen through the building windows. She provides some thought-provoking links on the subject and it is worthwhile spending some time browsing her listed sources. Those thoughts go well with this post, or at least with the photos I intended to take and post. One of the interesting things to do while waiting for a bus at this spot, at the end of the day, is to watch the lights come on as people arrive home from work. To see the things they do at their windows or on their balconies and how that changes when, for instance, there is a glorious sunrise to look at. From the vantage point of the bus stop it does not seem like voyeurism, but it does feel a bit nosy. Seeing this monolith come alive as people come home is interesting, and in many ways it is just a vertical part of the street scene with people going about their lives. Is it nosy or voyeuristic to stand at a bus stop and watch people walking or interacting on the sidewalk?

So, how did this image come about? Midway through the roll the Pen stopped advancing properly – just a partial advance with each cock of the shutter, unnoticed by me until the counter well exceed the expected 72 frames. I suspect this was linked to something I did when loading the film; I thought I would experiment to see if I could take double exposures – testing the mechanics of the camera to see if it was even possible. It seemed doable, but I did find it difficult to get the film advancing properly again and thought I would set that idea aside for a while. The first half of the film was fine so I must have got things properly reset, though perhaps not firmly seated because something happened and I got a lot of multiple exposures happening about 1/3 into the roll. 

You might ask where I as the photographer come into making this accidental image, and claiming it as my own. And it is a good question. These are my excuses for calling it my own:

  • recognising / seeing something of interest in the negatives instead of just throwing away that part of the film;
  • choosing what to scan as a single image (you could say I framed the scan like looking through a camera) since this part of the negative strip has few clear separations between one image and the next – you can see this in the overlap between these two shots which is a segment of the film I have framed into both the images.
  • that I was doing something a bit unusual with my camera (flipping it 180 degrees between some images) and otherwise shooting carefully framed diptychs that pay particular attention to alignments also contributed to how this ended up looking, even if not exactly as planned.

2014-HF-2-26

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Naturally I am a bit apprehensive about running another roll of film through the camera. Fortunately I have some expired colour film I got in a thrift store for 36 cents a roll and it needs testing – it is quite fast, but I recently bought a 2 stop ND filter so I can use that film now. Besides, I am not unhappy with some of the multiple exposures I got, and you will see more of them. The top one is the best of the bunch, but others are interesting too.

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Olympus Pen, Half Frame, 28mm lens, Ilford Pan-F Plus 50, ISO50, Epson V700 Scanner

15 thoughts on “View Towers Montage

  1. It’s wonderful when this kind of accidents happen. The second one is more subtle and intriguing (for me at least), it takes a bit longer to understand how it all goes together. Great images, both of them!

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  5. Happy accident for sure, but it does dent the confidence a little . I suspect the film didn’t engage the sprockets tightly enough. On my old film cameras (FT3 Nikkormats) if I am remembering right, you could see evidence of the film winding on out of the canister. I like that second shot in particular. The first one is very busy but I wonder what could be harvested from it by selecting a small area and ratcheting up the contrast considerably.
    I followed the links to Angelina’s blog and beyond – a fascinating topic. I shoot reflections in office buildings quite often in London. Buildings these days are often cloaked in glass but their transparency is often affected by the light gradient across the glass. If you live/work in a glass house you need to be aware you might be ‘visible’ and take appropriate action. However, some of the images in ‘The Neighbors’ are I feel intrusive but I don’t think they are voyeuristic. Voyeurism to me implies a sexual content and there is none of that visible.

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    • Hi Andy. I think what happened was when I was messing around with the button that one presses to disengage the sprockets that it did not reseat properly and eventually disengage again. After that the takeup spool was pulling the film across, but only until it reached a certain tension when it would slip, as it is designed to do when rewinding. Which is good news because it means that the camera is not broken, and that I might be able to control this effect so that I can not only get double exposures (which is what I had been trying to find out) but also deliberate multiple exposures with partial film advances between shots. I have a couple of accidental ones that are interesting and which I will show around here pretty soon.

      For the busy first shot (btw I like the busy-ness of it, that chaotic aspect I think goes well with the subject, and creates blocks of texture that happen to be in a composition that I like too) I did have a look at it much more closely. The problem is that the central area is really quite over exposed with 6 or 8 exposures overlapping in that area, so I had already done a lot to get some of the detail visible. I am not sure there is a great deal to work with here, though at the margins there are some interesting things going on.

      Your comments on voyeurism are in line with mine thoughts too. I notice that a lot of people commenting on the different links and other websites about the court case use the word ‘creepy’ which I think is code for voyeurism, rather than merely intrusive. People’s responses to these photos are very interesting (though comments on news articles are certainly not representative of societal norms) and strongly felt. To me this is a sign that the artist has really struck a chord and that the art is working, perhaps even working as intended 🙂

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  6. Hello, thanks for the mention! I like happy accidents – the first picture turned out to be an interesting collage that captures different views of the buildings. My boyfriend’s place in Paris looks out to a residential building that is directly facing his. I always like to gaze at the windows in the building, lit up in the evenings/nights, and gradually come to life as people return home and move around their apartments. Especially in the winter months, when it’s cold outside and it gets darker earlier in the day.

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    • ‘Coming to life’ is a good way to put it, and I think is a large part of the interest for me. It makes the building much more than a pile of concrete and rebar. It becomes in fact a collage of dozens of lives being lived at the same time, on the same facade but independently of each other.

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  7. I would have been dead pleased to get the final image in this (excellent) posting. It’s really something and perhaps one of your very best. It accomplishes a pretty neat trick — there’s lots going on, and yet the composition has great order and structure so that the detail doesn’t just degenerate into clutter. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the substance of the blog posting too — also excellent.

    By the way, I’ve found it very handy to keep a roll of “dead” film handy for checking the operation of various cameras. When you’re dealing with equipment that’s 50+ years old, it’s worth loading in the dead roll once in a while and having a look at how the camera is winding with the back off.

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    • Hi Gary – thanks for coming by and commenting. I hope a few of my readers have gone over and checked your all-film blog, with some very well written camera reviews which is how I found it.

      Thanks for the enthusiastic thumbs up on the second shot. I like it too, though I would prefer it without the double exposure, I think. I will reshoot it when the light is good, as a diptych as I was doing here. I shot several and all the rest are in the View Towers montage, or another one that is not really useable.

      That dead film idea is excellent. I will have to do something about that. I think I have a very old roll of tungsten? slide film that probably can’t be processed anymore, so it would be a good candidate. Besides which it only cost 36 cents.

      As far as I can tell there is nothing wrong with the Pen, other than operating error – but that is testing it without film.

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  8. I’ve always found interest in multiple exposures. I had an old 35mm camera that would not advance the film if a button on the top of the camera was not pressed. It was a little clunky but it made for easy multiple exposures. I had a technique where I would shoot a photo in focus and out of focus of the the same subject. It gave a dreamy halo effect that looked very nice with flowers and other nature shot. I like these and hope you will continue experimenting with the technique.

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    • Hi Ken. Thanks for the comment. I think I will continue experimenting with double exposures, or multiple exposures. I have to work on technique with the Pen to get it do it only when I want! And that is assuming that it does advance film properly, and it was just my messing about that caused this to happen. If not, then I have got pretty addicted to this little camera, and likely will take it in for servicing – I can get the shutter fixed too so that I have 4 speeds to work with instead of just 2. I saw an OM1 today in a thrift store in what seems like perfect condition. The light meter was giving wrong readings, but it could just be a poor battery. I see it has a button that allows relatively easy double exposures. A bit of GAS set in, but I did walk away from it.

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