How to photograph the supernatural
It’s not everyday you get to photograph a medium.
On arrival, I half expected to meet a mysterious woman cloaked in silk, smoke and mirrors, surrounded by all sorts of spiritual gadgets.
Instead, I ended up in a typical lounge/dining room, with okay window light, a couple of small crystal balls and a down-to-earth person called Val.
It felt exactly like a thousand other photo shoots, with a thousand other people — except this time, she could talk to dead people.
Expecting a fascinating answer, I asked Val what she saw when she gazed into the crystal balls.
“Nothing,” she responded.
“Your boss asked if I had one because it would look good in the photo, but I don’t actually use one when I’m working.”
She went on to say, that there were mediums who used tools, and there were mediums who didn’t — just like there were photographers who used a lot of gear, and others who only brought along the bare essentials.
As I was standing there with only a camera and a 16-33mm lens around my neck and one flash in my pocket, I could see what she was getting at.
So, while Val got to work polishing a crystal ball, I scouted for a location.
Outside? I saw it on the way in … nothing jumped out at me.
Inside? It was a house with bedrooms … nothing that screamed “supernatural”.
But there was a nice window, which was something.
Val hopped in front, and I underexposed the scene until the window looked nice.
Then, holding my flash in my left hand, I moved it high on camera left and got Val to tell me when the face of the flash (the bit where the light comes out) was pointed at her. The flash was in manual mode, set on a mild output. If it lit Val’s face too brightly, I could shrink my aperture (by choosing a larger f number) to tone it down. If that in turn made the background too dark, I could slow my shutter speed to let more ambient light in.
Remember: Your aperture dial is like a volume knob for your flash, and your shutter dial controls the ambient (non-flash) light in the photo.
It took a bit of wiggling with the camera to keep the white hot-spots off Val’s eyes in the picture, but once we found the right spot through trial and error, it wasn’t long before we arrived at a photo we liked.
Like it? Dislike it? Let me know in the comments, please, and don’t be afraid to ask me anything!
Shot for The Border Mail.