August 5, 2020

Applied Practice | Dream Theory Project | Making a strings image for later composites

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My goal with this step was to produce an image that I could layer into my other images. The subject was to be a lattice of strings, the frames contained in the network of lines would serve my analogy of fragmentation, interconnectivity and help communicate the idea of a psychological substrate intrinsic to reality.

Chromakey research and testing

My research identified blue to be the best colour to use for still photography. I have two rooms that are painted blue in my house just out of luck, and I conducted some tests to see how well the chromakey technique would work. I successfully used Photoshop to remove the background from raffia, hessian webbing and string.


I couldn't be sure how to make this rig or even if it might work just by trying to imagine it, so I built a miniature version, a maquette, to test the idea against and help in planning the full-scale version.

Mini version made with thread and lollypop sticks

Experiments to determine if I could get any Z-axis depth

Would I need to somehow angle my full size rig?


Based on what I learned with the maquette I sketched out some ideas ahead of time as to how I might make a frame for the strings. I wanted the strings to start far from the lens and be arranged so as to come closer to the lens. I wanted an effect of depth to the structure.

Planning sketches for my strings rig

Focus tests

One last thing remained to test—I wasn't sure if I could capture the image of the strings with all the strings in focus. I set up some tests with a piece of wire to see what it would look like.

Testing depth of field with a length of wire


Now that I had an informed idea of what I needed to build, I could source the hardware. I identified a type of steel 'L' section with holes in that I thought would just be strong enough to tension strings across it if I made the frame roughly 1--12 feet wide and 4-5 feet tall. I also collected two kinds of string and some yellow raffia.

This was enough to start building it. I wanted it to be as large as possible (about 12 feet across if possible) and I decided to shoot it as two images that I would merge together later. This would give me the highest resolution I could achieve given the limitations of space.

Building the rig

Even with plenty of planning the task of building the rig was exploratory. I started rigging it up with string but soon realised I wasn't sold on the material. I dismantled it and tried again using raffia. I felt that the raffia would give a more organic look and seem less contrived somehow.

Steel frame complete, against blue wall to Chromakey later

First attempt with string, soon replaced with raffia

I decided to angle the frame forward from the top to add perspective

Bringing some strings forward into the room

A test shot

Camera settings

Approximate view from the camera position

One of the final shots

Chromakeyed successfully, some additional retouching required

Focus stacking

I used focus stacking to achieve deeper focus should I need it on the final image, as well as merging two images to gain a higher resolution—required because I would like to print my final pieces at approximately 1metre wide.

Sample from my contact sheet


Given that COVID-19 prevented this shoot from taking place in the studio at Morley, I think it went pretty well. In hindsight I would have liked to devise a way of achieving even higher resolution for these images, but all things considered I did successfully create the strings images I needed for my composites.

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