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Up for Discussion – Combining Film and Digital Images

When I put the call out for people to guest blog I received an email from R.C. Fountain from the blog, THE WORLD IN TWILIGHT  , saying “I’d like to write a post about some sample methods of marrying film with digital techniques, e.g. compositing a digital image with a film image.” I thought it sounded like an interesting idea, we often don’t think of combining both, so I have been looking forward to hearing what he does. 

The Frankenphoto: Fusing Analog and Digital

When I was a boy, I looked at the world through squinted eyes. I closed those eyes to mere slits so that only a faint line of light and moving shadow remained to show the world. It was a filter that lended itself to dreams and one that I still occasionally find myself applying in order to recall those fantasies of my youth. And I sometimes use it to create new ones.

My fellow photographers, I have a revelation: it’s a mysterious universe no matter your age. Powers exist that we shall never fully know: truths that would overwhelm us because they are too grand and wonderful. There are enigmas right around the corner that we will never solve, fancies that will remain larger in our minds than the actual facts. And the artist whose vision is shaped by the unknown has a task that compels her creative faculties to rise to the task of making a story in pictures.

 

House Side View

 

The target of that creative impulse can rapidly and unexpectedly present itself. Not far from where I now live is an old boarded-up house. Its inhabitants are long dead and the current owner, for the present, has left it for time to try its teeth on. I was naturally drawn to the rotting bulk; for, laying aside the fact that I’m an armchair history buff and lover of all things old, the structure seemed to stare at me. And technical application rapidly followed imagination.

As photographers we’re often pushing ourselves to improve our craft in the name of our own vision. This means not only making each image a bit better than the one before, but learning techniques that might be wholly new to us. But if this sounds too much like slogging toil, take heart! There’s no reason it can’t be a lot of fun.

Half-and-half

One day a little web surfing led me to discover the world of cheap plastic cameras. Their unpredictable results contrasted so sharply with the precision of the digital world, I knew I had to try them out. But I still love the fine control the modern DSLR gives. So I wondered what might be produced if the two were somehow married to one another.

Old House Digital

The first step I took was to capture the house digitally, precisely. It was during magic hour and I brought out my trusty Canon 7D. Because I’m often a stickler for the moist noiseless digital images I can get, I chose ISO 100. The light was so abundant that even with an aperture of f/16 I was able to handhold the camera with a shutter speed of 1/200. A few Photoshop effects later and stage 1 was complete.

A few months later, winter had set in and I found myself driving by that selfsame house. I decided I wanted to take the shot again, but in a more candid, unplanned manner. I had a Diana F+ with me, known for its unpredictable results. I snapped another shot and produced a modern day Polaroid with an “instant back” attachment filled with ISO 400 Fuji Instax film with exposure settings of f/22 for aperture and shutter speed of 1/60.

Old House Diana

Remember when I mentioned I often looked at the world through slitted eyes? After looking at both photos, the analog and the digital side by side, I began to remember all those stories I ever read about hyper-reality, dream worlds, and the unknowable universe from the pen of every writer of the fantastic and inspirational from Lewis to Lovecraft. I interlaced my fingers and decided to form a composite where the house itself stood out amid a soft and hazy backdrop.

What followed was a fairly simply operation. After scanning the polaroid and bringing both shots into Photoshop, I used the polaroid image as my starting point and created a new layer. In this layer I placed the digital representation and used a soft eraser tool to remove all but the house itself. By the way, It’s important to note that both the shots needed to be taken at roughly the same angle or this composite would not have worked.

Once the digital house was rotated and dragged over its analog counterpart, I flattened the image and added a few minor effects, such as non-destructive vignetting, to put a bow on the project. I was rather pleased with the final result.

House Hybrid Photo

Does anybody remember that old Jonny Quest cartoon from the sixties? When I was little, I caught that show in syndication and saw the episode where a scientist on a desert island accidentally gave birth to a monster with his experiments. Lying in the ruins of his lab he cried out, “What have I created?”

In a way, I suppose that the resulting “frankenphoto” is a little risky. It’s not what most would call tack-sharp, and it’s not purist to either digital or analog camps. But I tend to laugh at the elitists of both factions; to paraphrase Jared Polin, don’t let anyone tell you what is and what isn’t a “proper” photograph.

Occasionally I find my eyes wandering back to this picture, and I let my mind take its own trip along imagination’s paths. And the deep voice of the dramatic reader Wayne June growls in my ears, speaking of a place that Poe passed by, not noticing what was in the corner of his own vision…

“And yet that house, to the two persons in possession of certain information, equals or outranks in horror the wildest phantasy of the genius who so often passed it unknowingly, and stands starkly leering as a symbol of all that is unutterably hideous.” (H.P. Lovecraft, “The Shunned House”)

There’s probably no vampiric entity in this house’s basement. But I have a few friends who understand how my mind works and who give me that knowing smile when they see my eyes settling on a crumbling building. I think they’d be disappointed if I didn’t start to imagine a weird and hidden history for a nameless house.

But then again, it is a mysterious universe after all. Who knows? Squint your eyes with me. Maybe it’s not in your imagination…

Thank you RC and if any of you would like to find him and more of his work, here are the links:

Website: THE TWILIT LENS

Blog: THE WORLD IN TWILIGHT

I am going to put the above images and a couple of extras in a gallery for you now.

 

42 Comments
  1. Interesting result, looks nice!

    October 3, 2014
    • Thanks, John. Old places like this can’t help but set my imagination alight. I’m glad it pleases the eye. 🙂

      October 3, 2014
  2. Amazing “frankenphotos” and what a great idea for combining two different photo worlds.

    October 3, 2014
    • Thanks very much, BT! This project was a lot of fun. I hope it’s inspired someone to try something similar.

      October 3, 2014
  3. Very nice. Interesting marriage between analog and digital. Thanks for sharing

    October 3, 2014
    • You’re very welcome, L. 🙂 Who knows? Maybe we’ll see more of this sort of thing from other folks as well. Keeping my fingers crossed.

      October 3, 2014
  4. That was a really enjoyable and interesting read. I like the resulting photograph too. I know a photographer who is scanning in his negatives from the 1960s onwards and then digitally manipulating them to create interesting results.

    October 3, 2014
    • That’s a great idea. There’s something about resurrecting very old photos and bringing them into the modern world that makes them relevant and vibrant.

      October 3, 2014
  5. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

    The photos are great and I love the word: Frankenphoto! 🙂

    October 3, 2014
    • Thanks for the kudos, Jackie. You and my fiance both loved that word. lol

      October 3, 2014
      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez #

        Your fiance sounds brilliant and beautiful; great minds think alike! 😀 ❤

        October 3, 2014
  6. Amy #

    I also think that the combination of the film and digital images takes to new heights. Thank you for introducing it with us.

    October 3, 2014
    • My pleasure, Amy. The fact that we’re all able, as photographers, to refine photos taken with relatively simple and inexpensive cameras breaks a lot of boundaries and stereotypes. To paraphrase Jared Polin, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a “real” photographer because you don’t take photos a “certain way.”

      October 3, 2014
  7. cool

    October 3, 2014
  8. Your images are so interesting Leanne – love the colouring.

    October 3, 2014
    • These aren’t my images Colline, they were taken by RC.

      October 3, 2014
    • Glad you enjoyed them, Colline. 🙂 The coloring was part nature, part nurture you might say. Taking an already beautiful thing and making it even more vibrant.

      October 3, 2014
  9. Interesting use of two very different mediums to create a single image – a nice introduction to your unique vision. I agree with you in that there is no right or wrong way to do things only your end result is what should matter – and if the end result pleases you the artist – then all is right with your world.

    October 3, 2014
    • Thanks for the comment, Infra. You’re so right: if you yourself are not pleased with your work, it’s already off-base.

      October 3, 2014
  10. Very interesting post. I hadn’t thought of that at all as a possibility. But I’m nowhere near technically apt enough to consider trying it myself at this time. Thanks for sharing.

    October 3, 2014
    • You’re welcome, GG. One very beautiful aspect of modern photography is that it opens up all sorts of opportunities for innovation and self-expression. I hope this has inspired you to think more and more outside the box. 🙂

      October 3, 2014
  11. Thanks for sharing this. His images are quite unique! I don’t have any film shots so I can just admire this from afar. 🙂

    October 3, 2014
    • You’re welcome, Laura. Well, the good news is that film cameras can be gotten relatively inexpensively these days. I hope you’ll try this out yourself soon. Best wishes. 🙂

      October 3, 2014
      • Glad you responded to me because I forgot to click on your follow link! I love viewing creative artists. Thank you.

        October 4, 2014
  12. Very interesting images.

    A little bit of a side track, but I am taking classes at the San Francisco Art Institute and I find it interesting that probably 3/4 of the young students capture all their images on film. Is this an example of the saying “once a technology become obsolete, it is free to become art”?

    Of course, once they get their negative they scan it,manipulate it in Photoshop and print it on an ink jet printer.

    I find this particularly ironic since through the 1980s and 1990s I was part of a substantial effort at Eastman Kodak to make it easy for people to capture images on film and recieve a digital file as well. PhotoCD was one of the products developed by the group. But inexpensive, high quality digital capture all but killed those efforts.

    October 3, 2014
    • Very nice to hear about this, Doug! It would appear both of us were destined to get into this business. 🙂 One of my great aunts was deeply involved in developing the kodachrome emulsion, so I can identify with your passion. And the lomography movement would seem to agree with your idea about technology and art. Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

      October 3, 2014
  13. I like his idea of the Franken photo…interesting read!

    October 3, 2014
    • Thanks, Sue! Glad you enjoyed reading it. And who knows: Maybe the word will become a meme? lol

      October 3, 2014
      • 🙂

        October 3, 2014
  14. Even I love your effects and the effects that the plastic camera produces combined with dslr camera.

    October 3, 2014
    • Thanks very much, Tienny! It’s a fascinating combination, putting “toy” cameras together with high-powered models. A meeting of eras and thoughts.

      October 3, 2014
  15. Beautiful images xxx

    October 3, 2014
    • Thanks, Carrie-Ann! Glad you enjoyed them. 🙂

      October 3, 2014
  16. Reblogged this on The World in Twilight and commented:
    Hi everyone! I’m very pleased to announce my guest blog post over at Leanne Cole Photography! Enjoy, and do feel free to leave a comment and check out the rest of her wonderful site. She’s got some truly inspiring images and thoughts to share.

    October 3, 2014
  17. Interesting idea and nice results :).

    October 3, 2014
    • Thanks for the compliment. 🙂 This project was indeed a lot of fun.

      October 4, 2014
  18. wow, I’m impressed by the images though I doubt I’ll ever attempt it!!

    October 5, 2014
    • Thanks for the compliment, Cybele. The technique is not at all difficult. In the end, it’s really just an exercise in creative erasing. And since your own images look so amazing, I’m sure you’d do fine.

      October 5, 2014
  19. Interesting technique that seems to create some fascinating results. There is definitely a dream-like quality to these images that conjures up something that would not be out of place in the universes of Poe or Lovecraft.

    October 8, 2014

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