Apart from sharing with us some interesting details about his Puerto Rican escape, Hayden Williams also told us about the insights and motivations behind his dreamy snaps for this Wanderlust installment. Like one of our previously featured analogue travelers, double exposures make up a considerable portion of his travel photos, making his muse blend tastefully against beautiful backdrops for surreal and unique tokens of his trip.
“It’s always been a conscious choice, and it hasn’t been the first time,” he answered when asked whether he did these doubles firstly and solely during this trip. More than mere experiments, Hayden’s sentiments on double exposures instead say a lot about what the technique does and means for many of us who shoot film. “I shoot double exposures for a variety of reasons: because I obviously have fun doing it, but more important, to me, is that each double exposure is something that is entirely unique to me.”
There’s nothing like hearing about an adventure straight from the source, so read through our interesting chat below to find out what Hayden has to say about his idyllic beach time!
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? How long have you been shooting with film? Anything keeping you busy or inspired aside from film photography?
I’m 21 years old and currently in my last year of university studying biochemistry. I’ve been shooting film for about a year and a half now. Usually what keeps me busy is my coursework, but after that I generally just hang out with friends. For me, photography is a way to create art out of my friendship and adventures. It’s a way to capture a memory, but also convert it into something more beautiful through the double exposure.
We’d like to know the basics of your trip to Puerto Rico. When was your visit and for how long did you travel around? Do you still remember the first sight that welcomed you, or the first thoughts you had in mind?
The visit took place during our last week of winter break, and was originally supposed to be 6 days. We traveled around for 4 days and spent the last two days in Old San Juan. However, a massive snowstorm cancelled all flights on the day we were flying back, so we stayed another 3 days in San Juan. The first sight that welcomed us was the car rental joint at 6 in the morning. We got the car and immediately drove full speed (inadvertently) over a speed bump, so my first thought was probably intense fear that our island circumnavigation was going to end literally seconds after it began.
You briefly told us about Crashboat Beach, where you took most of your double exposures and was home to a man who kept 25 trained pelicans. Can you tell us more about the place, and this interesting person? Any favorite memory/ies of him you can share with us?
It’s a pretty wonderful beach; it’s that stereotypical beach escape: filled with palm trees, white sand, and water as blue as the sky. As soon as we got to the beach, another tourist told us about this man who comes by apparently pretty often and does tricks with pelicans. I honestly didn’t believe her, especially because I can’t really imagine what a Pelican trick would even be. One hour later, an older gentleman walks onto the beach with a small store-bought bag of some small fish, and 25 pelicans immediately drop from the sky, forming an orderly circle around the man. The tricks were basically the pelicans dancing around in circles, and just standing on tourists’ arms posing for pictures. As hilarious as the sight was, the pelicans were not very nice once the fish was gone, and pecked my legs repeatedly. Pelican pecks really hurt.
We’re curious: was this the first time you documented your travels through double exposures? Has it always been a conscious choice to do so, or was it something you discovered along the way that “works?”
It’s always been a conscious choice, and it hasn’t been the first time. I shoot double exposures for a variety of reasons: because I obviously have fun doing it, but more important, to me, is that each double exposure is something that is entirely unique to me. I don’t find any thrill in shooting merely what I see. It’s not fun knowing you’re taking the exact same picture that 10,000 other tourists have taken. These days, everyone is a ‘photographer’, and that’s what everyone is shooting. A double exposure is so much more than ‘what’s there.’ With double exposures you aren’t limited by what you see, you’re limited by what you can imagine. Each shot is so special because it really is yours; there’s no other shot quite like it. And when I look back on my photos, I’ll remember each moment so well, because each shot is such a reflection of your thoughts. So that’s why I do it.
Double exposures are tricky, and many photographers might find it too risky to try for documenting their travels, especially when they’re vising a place they may not return to in a long time. In this regard, how do you ensure that you’ll like the results, or at least get something close to what you have in mind?
It is unfortunate that, because double exposures are so unpredictable, they may frustrate you. Like all things, practice really does make perfect. I have shot A LOT of double exposures, and frankly, my first few rolls totally sucked. But you eventually start to grasp how light blends together on the film, and how to expose each image to ensure you get what you imagine. This unpredictability is also the most exiting part about double exposures. Some shots will disappoint you, but others will turn out better than you ever could’ve expected.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your trip? Any places of interest or landmarks to recommend to anyone thinking of visiting Puerto Rico for the first time?
The whole trip kind of blurs together, as it was a sort of bouncing around from one spot to the next. The memories that stand out the most would have to be the nights spent at the hostels/ AirBnB. My favorite by far was the AirBnB in San German; it was an adorable studio apartment with a rooftop garden right in the middle of town. In between wandering around the city, we would lounge on the rooftop garden, getting to know our host’s story and life in Puerto Rico. So I can’t really recommend one specific place, but I would recommend renting a car and staying in hostels around the island. It’s the best, and cheapest way to truly see the island’s peoples and sights.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself, especially for those who are yet to try documenting their trips through quirky double exposures?
Photographers new to doubles expect to just shoot two random things and have a stunning result. It’s really important to consider the composition of both images when you have a double in mind, and ensure that the two images go together. Sometimes, I’ll go days, occasionally weeks looking for the perfect second exposure to complement the first. So I would recommend bringing multiple cameras, that way, while you’re thinking about the execution of a double, you’re still free to shoot whatever you’d like on your other cameras.
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
My dream destination would definitely be Japan, due to the fact that it’s such a wild blend of urban and nature, perfect for some crazy double exposures. I’d have to bring my trusty Canon AE-1 filled with some Kodak Aerochrome because I’ve never gotten the chance to shoot it. I love combining images of buildings and nature, shrines and cities, and people and plants. I’d definitely take some shots of the skyline combined with nature; I can only dream how Aerochome would make that look.
To see more of Hayden’s work, please head to the links below: