The Experimental Notebook Doubles Project: Part 1

2013-07-21 6

Using two SLRs, a paint pen, and some ingenuity, can you control your double exposures, but still stay spontaneous? Find out after the jump!

Ever since I started with Lomography over a year ago, I’ve been fascinated with doubles, film swaps, masks, and splitzers. The element of randomness and unpredictability introduced by this process motivated me to try new things, take risks, and experiment.

I’ve done some film swaps), and shot lots of doubles with myself, and turned the lens cap of nearly every camera I own into a splitzer) , but something was still missing.

Suddenly it hit me, like a bolt out of the blue. When you shoot a photo, some areas are left black, to correspond to the black or shadowed areas in the picture. When a double is shot, the area where it’s shown the most is on the black in the previous shot. What if I could shape or control that black?

I grabbed a sheet of printer paper, my black Posca paint marker and ran out into the living room with my Diana Mini & flash. I scribbled a deep black circle in the middle of the paper, then snapped a picture, with flash. Then I turned to my wife (who had been watching the whole escapade with a bemused expression) & snapped a (not terribly flattering) photo of her.

This is her “What are you doing?” face.

I probably should have waited for the paint to dry, as I got some serious shine from the puddles of still-liquid paint. But the theory was sound!

Now to plan. I wanted to do things scientifically (that is, to a scientific method) but still retain the unpredictability that makes doubles (and Lomography) so much fun. And with film, experiments always involve trial and error. I’m happy to do the trials, to help YOU avoid the error!

I decided right away that my first layer of photos should be shot with my Canon EOS 3000N: it has ISO control, autofocus, and a built-in flash, which are all essential for indoors, close-up, in-focus shots of notebooks and paint. The primary reason, though, was how it loads film.

Image via Buktus

When you load a roll into the camera, and close the back door, there’s a rapid whir, as the entire roll is unspooled. Then each time you take a photo, the exposed film is pulled into the cartridge backwards, so your first shot is 36, then 35, 34, etc.

There are two upsides to this odd system. 1) If you accidently open the back of the camera, your already-taken shots are safe, and 2) you can wait until there is one shot left, open the back of the camera, and reshoot the roll, while only sacrificing one frame.

I’ve since invested in some two-sided tape, a film puller, and cameras liek the LC-A+ who make it easy to stop just before winding all the way back, but at the time, this was my only way to reshoot a roll.

I loaded a roll of 400 ISO film into the Canon, set the ISO to 800, and got set.

My first thought was that I could use high-contrast black-and-white images from the internet displayed on my monitor as my backdrops, but that very quickly felt like cheating. I needed to be making my own backdrops.

I grabbed my Posca pen, a fat notepad, and started scribbling. I stuck with basic shaped, occasionally words, and did some with flash and some without. I even tried to use some strips of film on my monitor, some of my drawings, a record, close-ups of some of my cameras, and a theatre mask I had on my shelf.

I got to the end, opened the back to sacrifice my last frame, wound back the film & hid the roll among my others, marking it only with a small X that I wouldn’t notice. I ended up shooting it down around Circular Quay, and up into the city with my Olympus OM-1.

The results came in, and here’s how they stacked up:

The computer-screen shots came out fine, but no one could mistake the black-and-white backdrops for mine:

Credits: lokified

The shots of my cameras and other objects came out interesting, but really were not the results I was looking for, I presume due to the lack of contrast on the initial layer:

Credits: lokified

It was the same story for the strips-of-film shots. My monitor and notebook-without-flash weren’t bright enough to give that stark black-and-white canvas for the second shot to work with:

Credits: lokified

The two shots of my drawing show the big difference a flash makes:

Credits: lokified

Speaking of the flash, it ended up being the biggest variable when it came to whether a shot worked or didn’t. Without a flash, or if the flash didn’t strike directly, the pages looked yellow, and the picture began to bleed through:

Credits: lokified

In some cases, despite the yellowing and the bleed, the image still nearly worked:

Credits: lokified

And on just a few, I got the flash right, resulting in white paper & black-as-black inking (albiet with some framing issues), leading to photos like these:

Credits: lokified

And finally, on just one, I got the framing right, the flash right, and the second layer image didn’t overpower:


So, to sum up, a few more misses than hits when it came to the overarching concept, but still a pile of interesting photos!

Clearly further study was needed, hence this being Part 1! Part 2 will be coming soon…

Note: the Canon EOS image was sourced from

written by lokified on 2013-07-21 #gear #tutorials #diy #slr #camera #tutorial #tipster #doubles #doubleexposure


  1. metobi
    metobi ·

    love the idea and the photos! I hope more will follow. :)

  2. hollyelizabeth_
    hollyelizabeth_ ·

    amazing idea! can't wait to see more

  3. retro-girl
    retro-girl ·

    Great idea

  4. holgardo
    holgardo ·

    I love doubles too. And I love the ramdomness of the method, just like you, but I need some kind of control over it. I don´t anna know exactly what images are going to be double exposed, but I want a nice exposure. Indeed the flash in the first layer it´s really useful. I use always a black background and clear bright objets for the first layer. Here are some of my examples:………………

  5. aguillem
    aguillem ·

    Cool idea!
    Since a while, I want to try it with paint splash, so your experiences are useful...

    I think something important is to avoid shooting the sky in the second layer, to don't "break" the silhouette of the 1st. For instance compare the upper part of these pictures:……

    To increase the contrast of your drawings, it could be a good idea to draw on tracing paper and use a backlight (screen of computer for instance)
    For instance for these shots, I shot my laptop screen at maximum luminosity, 1/30" and f/2 (if I remember well) with a redscale form lomo CN 800 (that I consider as 200ISO)……

  6. bendawes
    bendawes ·

    This is amazing!! can't wait to try it

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