Double Exposure Surf Art; The Most Refreshingly Analog Thing You Will See This Week

Double Exposure Surf Art; The Most Refreshingly Analog Thing You Will See This Week

It's not rocket science, complex editing, ridiculous lighting, or overly complex photographic method. It's basic double exposure; snap a picture, snap another before advancing the film, or rather expose over an already exposed roll of film. Aaron Checkwood, photographer from Oceanside, California does and incredible job taking these film school fundamentals to the ocean. Combining terrestrial imagery with iconic aquatic sites of green Pacific barrels creates a mesmerizing image of a true love affair with the sea. It is certainly true that modern cameras offer the ability to shoot double exposure in much more efficient fashion, but there is something true about the use of simple methods to achieve the same result. The juxtaposition of unlikely images married together offers a unique dynamic for the eye. What could be more contrastable than the earth and the sea forced together through light sensitive paper? 

Checkwood pointedly shared a bit of his process - "You simply shoot an entire roll of a flower, or multiple flowers. After, you rewind the film and have to remember where you set the leader of those photos. If it’s off, the images are all off center. After the film is set back in, you have to remember exactly what you shot and where it would be sitting in the frame. I made notes on the film to remind me because I’m a ding dong. The next thing you need to think about is your exposure. Overexposing may lose the flowers contrast, under exposing would lose the wave contrast. Will the wave fit in the frame? Or will it be too small? There’s a full-on science to it and I’m still learning. In an age of insta-digital results, I like taking pride in the art and the process. Taking chances still makes me feel like an artist."

As a photographer who is continuously fascinated by shooting in, around, and under water I am always humbled by the unforgiving nature of shooting in such an environment. Water spots, focus, framing, sunburn, pruned skin, and physical exhaustion; it adds up. Shooting double exposure on film in such a scenario seems to be asking for trouble, begging the gods of Studium and Punctum to cooperate and produce a strong image that is both properly (doubly) exposed as well as visually commanding is surely pushing the boundaries of overeagerness. However; Checkwood's methods seems infallible, as he produces countless examples pristinely processed ocean inspired imagery. Perhaps a special blend of surf-minded serendipity these images exemplify complex results through simple methods. In a time when the ante seems to constantly raised by newer generations, its great to see the commanding power of fundamentals beautifully exemplified.

I was talking with one of my photography heroes Steve Sherman and he referred to what he called a batting average with photos – the ratio in which you have keeper images, versus images that are just throwaways. I’m using this reference because the process of double exposing on film depends on luck. And a lot of times you may have a good batting average versus a bad one. In this case, I actually had a lot of keepers, but the ones that did the weird shit, with the weird effects and stuff, were actually my favorite – and you can’t control that.  Aaron Checkwood

[via Surfing, Checkrepublic]

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8 Comments

Keith Sheridan's picture

So am I in the minority here, I just don't get the current fascination with double exposures? They really do nothing for me.

michael andrew's picture

Nobody can argue your personal preference but you, that's the beauty of individualism.

Judd Green's picture

They can be pretty cool when done right tho..

David Vaughn's picture

If they create a visual illusion, I really enjoy them. However, the two images have to have the right "synergy" in making a cohesive image. It's really hard to do and I don't have the eye for it. Any double-exposures I take that I like are just happy accidents.

The image with the sunflower works best out of this series, in my opinion, because it's the transition is the least disjointed.

Andy O'Dowd's picture

I quite like some double-exposures. This article is a nice primer on the technique but..surfing and flowers? I don't get the connection or indeed the juxtaposition.

michael andrew's picture

These are not just waves, they are beautiful, in bloom, limited by time and conditions acts of nature.
See any connection now?

Adam Sparkes's picture

I think the play on textures is fun. Works for me.

michael andrew's picture

Stoked to see Checkwood getting attention. He has created something refreshingly different in a world of surf photography that has become incredibly mundane. Every movement in surf photography has been about the biggest this or the craziest wave that with some new angle that anyone with a strong arm and a reckless abandon can achieve. This is unique cerebral idea, not just simple double exposure. Bravo Checky.