Some time ago my friend Hannah ask me to take some photos of her late in her pregnancy. While we did do some standard black and white shots of baby bumps it was these photos which really stood out.
They were planned to some degree in that I had spent ages trying to find the widest roll of tracing paper possible. The internet didn't help too much as "wide tracing paper" on most websites was really only 40cm or so. I wanted at least 150cm but unless someone is selling exactly the size you type in it won't come up in search results. Anyway, cutting a long story short I eventually found something close to what I wanted in a large art supply store in Covent Garden.
I'd never shot with tracing paper before so once home with my new treasure I set to work sorting out how to support it and then how to use it. The trick with support was keeping the paper flat and under a little tension. I wrapped the tracing paper round a wooden dowel curtain rail and secured it with some clips then with the roll on the floor I lifted the dowel and a sheet of tracing paper rose from the floor. A couple of light stands supported the dowel at about 7ft high. The tension was needed because I soon discovered that the silhouette effect rapidly fuzzed out with any distance from the tracing paper. Hannah was going to have to be pretty darn close, even touching, so as not to become too abstract.
The next part of the puzzle was lighting. At the time of the shoot I only had one medium sized softbox which I was planning to use with a battery powered flash. These factors meant the light would need to be fairly close. Too far away and it wouldn't be large enough to make Hannah into a silhouette. Also a small battery flash spread out in a softbox and then softened again by the tracing paper would mean exposure would be restricted if I didn't want to push my ISO too high. Trial and error shooting myself as the filling in the softbox, tracing paper sandwich found a sweet spot. With that, everything was ready for Hannah to arrive.
"Pixel Peeping" is a phrase coined by Michael Reichmann of The Luminous Landscape to describe the habit of digital photographers of checking the screen on the back of the camera after each shot to see if it's ok. While helpful, some argue that it's a distraction from the creative process and the photographers confidence in what they are doing. As I had my camera on a tripod to keep the restricted framing in place I was able to step back and fire the camera with a cable release while watching Hannahs poses through the tracing paper. It also meant I could see the preview shot on the camera screen as they were captured and let's just say they were making me grin. The shapes and colours were coming through fantastically. In this moment I didn't give a damn about the ethics of Pixel Peeping.
Here are my favourite eight. Some colour, some Black & White. All fantastic.
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