Create Intentional Blurs


Freezing a dramatic moment in time results in a photo with impact. Many award winning sports images come to mind. There’s a very famous B&W shot of Muhammad Ali swinging his gloved fist across his body fiercely looking down on his fallen opponent. This frozen moment lasted but a fraction of a second and was expertly recorded. High ISO’s, lots of light, lenses with wide apertures, are just some of the necessary ingredients you’ll need. But in today’s world of instant and fast everything, I encourage you to take a step back in time, mellow out, and slow down the pace – let the motion be more poetic and fluid.

As with freezing a moment in time, intentional blurs require necessary photographic ingredients. Low ISO settings are a good start. If your lowest ISO doesn’t allow a slow enough shutter speed, add neutral density filters. A polarizer also helps reduce the amount of light. Depending on the effect you wish to create, a zoom lens may be a necessity to create radial lines that appear when zooming the lens during the exposure. It’s better if ambient light levels are low to shoot with slower shutter speeds.

Intentional blur photographs display more of a painterly effect. Many photographers go out of their way to create the sharpest possible image. This is not the goal for these types of photos. Shutter speeds in the realm of one fifteenth second and longer are the norm. A tripod may be used for some techniques, but it’s not essential. Vibration reduction can be turned off – in other words, go out and play. There is no ‘wrong’ way to create intentional blurs.

In the images of the bicyclist, there’s a significant difference in the depicted motion. The one that shows the frozen moment in time looks as if he could be standing still balancing the bicycle in place. There’s no dynamic to it. It was made at 1/500th of a second as he rode past me. The fast shutter speed froze every aspect of motion. On the other hand, the panned shot portrays greater action and movement. It was made at 1/4 of a second while I panned the camera with the rider. Motion is shown in the tires, his feet, legs and background. I did use a tripod with the panning knob very loose for both shots. I didn’t want to introduce potential up and down movement as a result of hand holding the camera.

The image of the tree trunks is a straight forward zoom shot of lodgepole pines in Yellowstone. I zoomed my 18-200mm lens during a two and a half second exposure. My lens was stopped down to f25 and my ISO was set to 200. I also had a polarizer on the lens to cut down the amount of light striking the sensor. The radial effect is a result of me slowly zooming the lens during the entire time the shutter was open. The camera was on a tripod so the radial lines wouldn’t be ziz zaggy.


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