For this escapee from the film negative vault, we go back, oh, about twelve years to a casual photo competition on the rec.photo.equipment.35mm newsgroup (c’mon, don’t make me explain that, it’s not that old.) While I was well into shooting on slide film at the time, I often did the competition shots on negative film and took them to the local drugstore lab for ‘process only,’ scanning the resulting negatives – this saved both money and turnaround time. The challenge, without further explanation, was, “six.” Whatever you wanted, it just had to express six somehow. What you see here came from idle brainstorming (maybe call it brainsprinkling) and the realization that I could potentially make it work, followed by no small amount of “studio” shenanigans.
I’d known for a long time that opposite sides of a regulation die added up to seven, but upon examining one, I realized that adjacent sides added up to six. So, how many times could I show these sides and produce multiple sixes in the image? That was going to require some specific angles, so the dice would have to be propped up on something.
Trickier was a little fact that I kept from the other participants: I only had three dice. Thus, to produce the illusion of six, I needed to reflect them in a mirror, which allowed me to show to opposite sides and how they would add up to six as well. Obviously, some very specific angles were required for this, and I had some playing around to do. I also had to disguise the mirror as much as possible, which meant not just hiding the edges, but eliminating any reflection of myself and the camera. To do this, I propped up a broomstick with a blackout sheet draped over it, and shot with the camera poking out underneath. The mirror angle that showed the back sides of the dice also aimed the mirror away up from the camera, so that worked well. Then I had to ensure that the light angle would adequately illuminate the dice without producing glare from the reflection in the mirror, nor lighting up the blackout cloth too brightly – I had originally tried a flash but ended up working with natural light through a patio door. In short, a lot of playing around for a simple idea, but the experience in setting up such a shot was worthwhile. There was little I could do about the stray reflections which can be seen along the edges of some of the dice, coming from the front surface of the mirror glass rather than the silvered back.
Take a look at the lighting herein, and realize that the three ‘back’ dice, actually the reflections of the ‘front’ dice, should have been in shadow, but the position of the table bounced light from the mirror and illuminated the backs almost exactly like the fronts, a serendipitous thing. While there is a faint color cast to the back dice, coming from the faintly green glass of the mirror, it is barely noticeable and seems like just a facet of the lighting.
But the sneakiest part of this all? The substrate I used to prop up the dice was salt. Which is a cubic, six-sided crystal. Thank you very much.