Saturday, April 05, 2014

Photographic trickery

click photo to enlarge
Trickery has been a part of photography ever since the invention of the medium, and certainly entertained the Victorians. In twentieth century England the Cottingley Fairies became a celebrated example of the art. In fact, the five photographs that cousins Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took in 1917 were so good that they convinced many that the "the little people" were real and not a product of the story teller's art. The author of "Sherlock Holmes", Arthur Conan Doyle, a confirmed spiritualist, saw them as a genuine example of a psychic phenomenon. Not until the 1983 did the cousins admit that they had faked the photographs.

Today the "selfie" is all conquering, but there was a time when people experimented making illusionistic photographs. A person in the foreground positioned and standing so that they appeared to be holding up a bridge or the moon, people adopting the "Harry Worth" position at the corner of a shop window, and car hub caps tossed in air to be passed off as flying saucers, were all popular subjects.

On a recent walk on the Lincolnshire Wolds I saw a sight that I just had to photograph for the illusion that it suggested. Looking across some fields and trees I saw what appeared to be a rocket shortly after blast-off, rising out of a massive cloud of smoke of its own making. What I was seeing in reality was the top of the Belmont TV transmission mast, a slender structure 1,154 feet (351 metres) tall, firmly braced by cables, from which the signal to my TV (and the TVs of many others!) is broadcast. It was sticking up out of one of the banks of mist and cloud that periodically blanked then revealed the sun as we set off on our walk. Looking at the "rocket" I recalled that the date was 1st April.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 52mm (78mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On