Bathrooms are not a great setting for photographs. First, they tend to be small/cramped. Second, they generally have crummy lighting.
This was a lesson I learned the hard way back when I was a film student. Every single project I attempted involved a scene in a bathroom. Without a bathroom with a window–which for those who don’t live in Brooklyn is a truly mythical creature.
But–for once–I have a bathroom with a window. It’s small but it’s south facing and my tub is actually photogenic.
During my last session with Kyotocat, I wanted to try to do something with it, esp. given that I only have this apartment for three more months.
By the time we got to it, the light was all but gone. My instinct was to just ditch the idea and cut things short. I figured that since I had no idea when I’d have someone else to work with, I might as well try.
I metered things and it was super sketchy. The rule of thumb is you can operate an SLR handheld down to roughly 1/30s shutter speed. Anything lower and you’re going to have camera shake. Interestingly, this has to do less with drinking too much caffeine and being jittery. An SLR has a mirror which flips up and out of the way before the shutter opens. The up and down motion of the shutter actually causes more of the shake than your movements.
I’ve all but sworn off SLRs–excepting the Pentax 67ii, I have trouble with fine focusing. By contrast, although rangefingers can be more challenging to find gross focus, fine focusing with them is a breeze for me. But I digress….
With a 35mm range finder I can get down to 1/8 of a second before I start seeing noticeable camera shake. When I first measured the light it was 1/4s (100 ASA, aperture wide open–f4).
It was 1/2s by the time I was ready to expose the first frame. In other words, there’s no way doing this handheld is going to work out.
Again, I thought about scrapping it. Instead I locked my xpan down to my tripod, put the camera strap around my neck, straddled the tub, braced two of the legs against the wall behind me and then treated the camera as if it was my tango partner.
To give you even more context: I’m wearing a long dress and Kyotocat is scootched with her legs halfway up the wall behind me. (She probably looked not unlike the model in this magnificent image by Joanna Szproch.)
I tried to line everything up symmetrically–which sounds much easier than it actually is when you find yourself in such a position.
When I got the slides back I was thrilled with the color. However, the slight angle of the composition bothered me. It wasn’t what I had envisioned compositionally–so I didn’t want to accept it.
I kept circling back to it for some reason. I still can’t decide whether the tilt harms or contributes; I have decided that the symmetrical intention is clear enough as it is and that the angle perhaps doesn’t harm or contribute and instead complicates.
Stepping back from questions of composition: the mood I was chasing is absolutely conveyed in spades. So I’m sending this photo out into the wild as a reminder to others just as much as myself that that adage about crisis being another word for opportunity is correct. This isn’t what I had in mind but I’m pretty sure it’s better than what I originally intended. I’m just not sure how to articulately defend that thesis because it’s more a nascent feeling than any sort of intellectual certainty.