PJ Reptilehouse

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pj reptilehouse, underexposed, photo technique, photo opportunities

Oakland, California

I began this photo project almost 10 years ago. I built some strobe lights with LEDs at the Exploratorium in San Francisco for completely other purposes, but after I had them, I started trying to emulate some of the classic motion study photos of Harold Edgerton and Etienne-Jules Marey. I liked the patterns that often turned up in their work and it wasn’t long before I decided to concentrate on the patterns as art, rather than as representation of some natural motion. From there I realized that I could augment the patterns by moving the camera, first by hand and then later with a series of machines. Currently, I use a camera mount that is stepper motor controlled and synchronized with the LED strobes.

A typical exposure is about 10 seconds long, in a darkened studio, with the camera moving and strobes flashing the whole time. To answer a frequently asked question, no, they aren’t multiple exposures or assemblages made in Photoshop. At first I used film, as older digital cameras weren’t up to the long exposures, but now I have switched to DSLRs. The LED strobes have gotten brighter over the years as well, and I also discovered I could control the light in more interesting ways using LEDs instead of traditional flash methods. Going forward, I am continuing to experiment with the various factors possible, such as moving the camera in different axes of rotation and adding multiple channels of strobe control.

My images work on two levels: from afar, the geometric patterns stand out, but as you get closer in, the details become more apparent. Sometimes the details reveal that the overall image is actually a sequence over time, and not simply a repetition. Therefore, I like to make decent sized prints as the final product.