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  • Writer's picturePeter Renn

The Not Liss Monster

Sometimes 'just for fun' is the best reason to do something. I'd been reading "A Monstrous Commotion: The Mysteries of Loch Ness" by Gareth Williams which tells the story of the various monster sightings, theories and hoaxes and I particularly enjoyed the ingenuity behind some of the staged pictures, including the (In)famous "Surgeon's Photograph" from 1934:

(it's in the "Daily Mail" so it must be true! ;-)

Now almost universally discredited, the photograph was apparently the result of some creative model-making (involving parts of a Woolworths toy submarine) and some equally creative photography. It treads a fine line between being too detailed and too fuzzy. It's just poor enough to seem authentic. - Now that's a challenge!

As it happens I already had some plastic dinosaurs (don't ask) so I had a go at photographing one in the same style. As Liss (Hampshire) is a bit lacking in lochs I used the next best thing: a large bucket. The dinosaur was sprayed matt black and anchored at the right depth and angle with wire and a fishing weight:

The ripples around her ( I think Nessie is traditionally female?) were harder to achieve. My solution was a wet sponge, dripping from above.

The full setup was (as usual) surprisingly complicated and a total lash-up. I needed the surface of the water to be at a decent height so it would just reflect the sky. The water drips had to be the right size (drop volume and height) and the camera angle needed to be low enough to look convincing.

To those who might be wondering why I didn't just Photoshop it - you don't know me very well! The challenge was to make it with real objects. Wrangling pixels just isn't as much fun.

I did use a digital camera (though I now wish I'd used 35mm) but didn't manipulate the image other than to make it monochrome and set a high ISO to make it look more grainy. I also defocussed slightly to help the blur.

So here she is, the Not Liss Monster:

I'm sure now you know how it's made it's not convincing for a second, but I enjoyed the process, especially making it technically poorer to make it look better. I wish now I'd used the Leica and some nice grainy 35mm film. - I have acquired a bigger and better plastic dinosaur so I may well have another play at some point..

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