During my photography tours and workshops I take my participants to various beautiful locations. Invariably, we begin our time together focussing on traditional landscapes. We relax and get to know each other as I answer each persons primary questions. We critique composition, discuss how to read the histogram, learn how to double check the image for sharpness, walk through good technical process, observe direction and quality of light, etc. As the participants become more comfortable asking me questions, the learning curve skyrockets.
The excitement builds as each individual becomes more confident through our mutual sharing. After several hours of focussed instruction and learning, I have found that it is beneficial to introduce a fun diversion with something a bit less structured and technically demanding. Motion blur techniques are just what the doctor ordered.
The image above, somewhat of a celebration of spring, was taken early in an impressionistic session. Given that there was quite a bit of light, I set my ISO to 100 (as slow as my camera allows), set the aperture at F22, added a polarizing filter (slowing my shutter speed 2 more stops), and slightly under exposed the scene ( providing yet another 1/3 stop exposure time, and keeping the color rich). My exposure times were just under 1/4 second. Now that I took care of the shutter speed I prefer, I’ll share the technique that seams to work for me (experiment and see what works for you).
Just as with any composition, visual balance is important, and perhaps more important in impressionistic images as it is in traditional shots. Color and balance is all you have. Strength in simplicity. After selecting a balanced composition, I slightly de-focussed the image (making it softer) and made my first exposure. I like to move the camera from low to high, adding a lot of color from the foreground, and creating a nice blending with the strong lines of the aspen trees. This image was enhanced by having water in the spring grasses that add a subtle reflection. After each exposure I check the shot on the LCD. I don’t always move in the linear way I prefer, so I often take 3-4 shots to capture what I envision. If the balance works and the exposure looks good, I’m off to the next shot. Often times, motion blurs don’t have the same impact on the computer as on the LCD, so I take a few more exposures than I normally do. In all honesty, sometimes a “mistake” can be a surprising success. Hey, that’s part of the fun. Experiment, play with different techniques and enjoy.
To finalize my image, I am very open to playing with saturation on selective colors in this type of impressionistic work. Let your creative side go. There are no rules!
The image below was inspired by one of my workshop participants! As snow began to fall (unexpectedly) on our Spring photo outing, Beth had the vision to pursue some creativity with the motion blur concept we had practiced earlier. This is my rendition of what she was experimenting with. We were looking up, through this tree, toward the sun in a cloudy sky. The contrast was interesting, but became extremely artistic when we experimented with Beth’s idea of zooming out from approximately 200mm to 80mm. The camera should be solidly attached to the tripod to reduce vibration. The foggy effect was a pleasant surprise. The appearance of “God Rays” was truly amazing. Lesson learned while just having fun and experimenting!
Remember, motion blurs are all about fun and experimentation. Enjoy it, make mistakes, learn from them, and see if you can create your own techniques that enable you to create impressionistic images that you find beautiful.