Tales of Experimental Photography

Effects of Light Plane Photography

By Jiri Kudrna, May 2014
"Second Face", 2012

“Second Face”, 2012

In light plane photography, reality is recorded in a different way than we are used to perceive it. Different points in time can be scattered all over the image. There is no fixed direction of time.

Light plane photographs are a peephole into the complex physical relation between space and time. LPP plays with the space-time relation in a way that creates comprehensible images.

Light plane photographs are sometimes visually pleasing, sometimes they look like our nightmares have become alive, frightening and fascinating at the same time. But always they are real, or at least as real as any conventional photograph is. LPP just uses a different technique to record reality.

Light plane photographs are often weird, unusual and have a unique visual style.

Subjects can look distorted, sometimes models look horrifying or demoniac, sometimes ridiculous or funny, sometimes the effect is very subtle. Depending on its overall strength, the distortion-effect can be anything between a barely perceivable strangeness and a completely abstract-looking reproduction of the subject.

Subjects, or parts of subjects, can be “smeared” over the picture. For example body parts of a model can be extended or shortened. Subjects can appear at multiple locations.

Objects are recorded with parallel projection, this is unfamiliar to us, we are used to see photographs with perspective projection. And although it is not always obvious, it adds to the overall weirdness of the images.

A series of portraits showing different aspects of apparent deformation effects

A series of portraits showing different aspects of apparent deformation effects

There are often many imperfections in LPP images. These are problems with double exposures, stray lights, ghost images, underexposed regions, colored shadows, off-color regions and so on. To a certain degree these imperfection add to the overall effect of the images, make the images more interesting.

Some of the imperfections could be addressed by building more sophisticated light sources and provide better light insulation while recording. Others, like double exposures, can be addressed by improving the choreography which leads to the resulting image. Some apparent imperfections can be wanted as part of the photographers artistic expression.

A light plane created by a laser has a certain depth, it is not a perfect two-dimensional plane. The depth is even increased when the light is reflected by an object’s surface. This helps to smoothly project the movements onto the film plane / sensor. If the light plane would be near-perfect and if there would be no reflections, the images would look technical.

A certain degree of color reconstruction is necessary in LPP images recorded using RGB laser sources. These color reconstructions are done in the computer during post-processing. This problem could be avoided, or at least reduced, by constructing more sophisticated laser modules.

Certain effects in LPP appear similar to effects which result from slit-scan photography. LPP and slit scanning are related because both techniques add the time-dimension to the picture. In slit scanning the time has a fixed direction on the image, in LPP the time is projected arbitrarily. The effects only appear similar if the choreography of a LPP recording has a fixed direction.

"Bodytime", 2014

“Bodytime”, 2014

It might be possible to create a similar effect using a depth scanner like the Microsoft Kinect: A video stream is recorded together with the depth stream. A software algorithm removes all parts on each frame which are not at a specific depth. The frames are added to one final picture. But most likely these images would have much less detail and resolution than a typical LPP image recorded with a DSLR camera or digital back. As of Mai 2014, there’s no such software known to the author.

Next >>: The Story Behind LPP

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