Photographic Hocus-Pocus (Nov, 1941)

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Photographic Hocus-Pocus

EVERY now and then, the best of us get the itch to break away from straight, serious photography and amuse ourselves and our “public” with photo-magic and tomfoolery. Sometimes our dabbling leads us into the production of interesting pictorial effects; at other times, our results turn out surrealistic or plain crazy, but amusing nevertheless.

Next time you get the urge to wander from the straight-and-narrow, why not try manipulating cheap dime store lenses or those from discarded old spectacles? Despite the chorus of frowns you’ll get from the owners of expensive “precision” lenses, your picture quality can be as good as theirs if you work carefully; and your subjects can be much more interesting.

We know, to begin with, that when a magnifying lens is held at the proper distance from any object, the latter will appear enlarged when viewed through the lens. Now, why can’t we take a picture of this effect as it appears to the eye? You’ll get a result something like Figure 1. Here the magnifying lens was placed at the precise distance that would produce a sharp enlarged image of the eye.

When you attempt this for yourself be sure to cut your lens opening down to the limit in order to bring everything into sharp focus. That means a long time exposure, which may be hard for the model to hold; so, to play safe, make the exposure by open flash. There are many other poses employing a magnifying glass in this way which will make good picture material.

You can work the reverse effect by using a reducing glass instead of a magnifier. Reducing lenses may be procured at art stores or removed from old spectacles. In this case, instead of getting a magnified image showing through the lens, you’ll get the image in smaller scale as in Figures 2 and 4.

The lighting for this type of picture should be directed at the subject matter. None should be allowed to strike the lens and reflect into the camera. Therefore, the lamps should be placed between the subject and the lens.

If you own a camera that takes an interchangeable lens board, you can also perform some multiple lens tricks. Just make a duplicate lens board out of stiff cardboard and mount three or four spectacle lenses of identical focal length on it. With this in the camera, in place of the regular lens board, you will get the peculiar effect of four identical reproductions of your subject matter on a single film. You can also get a variety of design effects by tilting your camera or mounting the lenses in different patterns of three or four.

However, to get good sharp pictures with these cheap lenses, you’ll have to fit them with small diaphragms so that only their center portions will be used. You can make the diaphragms by simply punching 1/4-inch holes through black paper and pasting these over the lenses. The approximate f/ values of these apertures can be figured out by dividing their diameters into the focal lengths of the lenses.

In shooting portraits with this multiple lens board, best results will be obtained if the subject is posed against a black background. Where light backgrounds are used or bright outdoor scenes are photographed, the light transmitted by each lens tends to cast a slight fog over the entire film, causing flat results in the finished print. However, you can overcome this, by slightly underexposing the picture and overdeveloping the negative in a contrasty formula such as D-11. A hard grade of paper used for the print will also pep up the contrast.

With a multiple lens board having two lenses mounted side by side, you can produce a set of identical twins who will “act” in perfect unison. Other interesting effects will result from mounting lenses of different focal length on a single lens board. In this case, your subject will be reproduced in a variety of sizes.

To prepare this type of lens board, mount the shortest focal length lens directly on the board, and those of longer focal length, alongside, on focusing tubes made of rolled cardboard. This will permit the focusing of each individual lens after the shortest one has been brought into focus. However, the apertures of the longer focal length lenses will have to be made slightly larger so that each will transmit the same amount of light to the negative. This can be determined accurately enough by studying the brilliance of each image on the ground glass, and enlarging or reducing the aperture for each lens until all images are of equal brilliance.

These few examples of lens trickery just scratch the surface. You will find that you can spend month after month exploring related possibilities suggested by these several illustrated cases.

1 comment
  1. WayneJ says: April 30, 20113:15 pm

    Hmm… I don’t think the guy in the first picture is really using that magnifying glass for its distortion effect.

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