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Seattle Times photographers offer a glimpse into what inspires their best visual reporting.

January 3, 2014 at 9:41 PM

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Behind the Lens: 'Global City' triple exposures


Seattle has grown from a pioneer settlement to the largest metropolitan area in the Pacific Northwest in just a few generations. As the city named after Chief Sealth looks forward to its place on the world stage of technology and trade, it also looks to its past, considering which parts of its identity it is willing to sacrifice -- if any -- in order to become a truly global city.


MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"JET CITY"

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"GROWING PAINS"

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"INFORMATION AGE"

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"THE CHARM"

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"CHIEF SEALTH"

I was not convinced that straight-forward documentary reporting could convey the complexity of this essay. After much deliberation, I decided that the best approach to illustrate so many contextual layers of information was to use the photographic technique of multiple exposures.

Having moved to Seattle a few months ago, it was easy to approach the project as a complete outsider. No preconceptions, no knowledge of the neighborhoods or dominant culture and little perspective on local history. Through many hours of reading, researching and brainstorming concepts, something became apparent when I started to connect my ideas: three themes started to form for each photograph that I wanted to make. Therefore, I decided on three exposures.

In each exposure, I found elements that help contextualize my thought process: 1: a global-city requirement, 2: a Seattle hook, and 3: a metaphor to connect the first two elements.



MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

FIELD NOTES

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

FIELD NOTES

The images are made using the multiple-exposure function on a Canon 5D Mark III camera that allows me to combine three exposures in-camera to produce one final image. Each exposure of a desired scene, object, moment or symbolism allows me to extract context, meaning, metaphor or mood to help convey the complex narrative of the final exposure.

The process is simple. Make a base image, load this base image into the camera for a double exposure. Make a double exposure. Then, load the double exposed image for a triple exposure. Make the final exposure. Voila. There was no photoshopping, no afterthought in composition or in combination. It all had to be done right in the field, in the camera.

The rules of multiple exposure are the same as if you were shooting film. Parts of the frame you don't leave exposed will be prime real estate in the picture for a second or third exposure. What you have overexposed in the first frame will be detail you cannot expose over. For example, if you shoot a silhouette in an extremely bright condition, the overexposed parts of the frame cannot retain any more information in further multiple exposures and will remain a blown out highlight.

The technical part of process proved somewhat tricky. The exposures for each image were decrements partly because of the additive nature of multiple exposures. The first image had to be just slightly under exposed. The second, almost half a stop under exposed. The third, almost a full stop under exposed.

In order to complete some of these images, I went on a citywide search. I learned how light falls in Seattle, became the ultimate tourist and used all the history books I'd devoured as my guide. Sometimes I was looking for a metaphor, sometimes a precise moment. Other times, it was just a simple object that carried symbolism. I spent close to 400 hours working on this project. Ultimately, three things were necessary: a lot of patience, a pair of comfortable shoes and a light meter.


MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"UNIQUENESS"

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"DISPARITY"

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"CACOPHONY"

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"TRADING IDEAS"

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"OVER THE HORIZON"

This project is a crossroad between a unique photographic technique combined with the right kind of story that needed contextualizing. Would it work for any other story? Probably not. But it did provide a rare opportunity to try something new outside the realm of documentary-reporting work and I loved every second of it.

Questions, thoughts, comments? I'll be happy to hear from you. Contact me at myam@seattletimes.com

Read the story by Jon Talton, here.

Most Popular Comments
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Amazing idea... and enjoyed seeing the field notes! I love the fact that these were... MORE
Nice. Suggestion: compose a shot that superimposes a group of real estate developers... MORE
"I spent close to 400 hours working on this project." Whoa, what? That's... MORE

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