Long Exposure Photography
In this post I want to talk about my fine art series: Painterly Photographs.
In this collection I have used many motion blur techniques: Camera motion blur and subject motion blur. Everything paired with very long exposures.
Long exposure photography. Long exposure photos.
First let's talk about an effect, a technique called Ghosting.
Ghosting in Photography has nothing to go with the departed and other supernatural creatures. It has nothing to do with Halloween!
Here's the definition of ghosting. When you are photographing an object in motion, your subject stays in one spot only for an instant, a moment. This moment might not be long enough to create a proper exposure. When the subject moves out of a specific spot, the camera continues to allow light to trickle into the frame. So, when you're dealing with movement around the frame, the camera will capture details of backdrops and surrounding details within the area that was once occupied by the subject. Out of this process, we get the “transparent, translucent” look that’s unique to objects photographed with slow shutter speeds.
While ghosting is a technical byproduct of long exposures, for the photographer it is nothing but an artistic tool. You are suddenly able to paint with light! The streaking, the smears of blur become like the brush strokes of a painter.
Long exposures give the photographer a set of brushes and an unconventional palette.
Here long exposure and camera movement give us a portrait of a wave on Half Moon Bay beach in California that is almost transparent, otherworldly.
Ghosting is a technique that will allow your creativity to blend photography and looks that usually belong to watercolors and other painting styles defined by soft edges.
Long exposure photography at night. Slow shutter speed photography.
The combination of long exposures and camera movement can unleash a completely new set of artistic results. Camera movement should be avoided in traditional photography but in fine art it is an opportunity for getting creative!
Now I'm aware that these techniques are a bit extreme and maybe you will never use them in your day to day professional photography workflow but bear with me. This is just to show you how conventions are not set in stone and photography is not necessarily about freezing a moment in time. Photography is about capturing movement too. Photography is about pushing our technical tools in any direction our creativity sees fit.
In this image I combined a long exposure with my movement, the camera movement, toward a bicycle in Central Park. The result is a flow of reflections, almost an echo of this object, a musical tempo recorded in the frame.
Long exposure camera. Slow shutter speed photos.
In this shot I flipped the camera vertically, 180 degrees, while using a very long exposure, thus creating the illusion of a city and a bridge floating in the sky. This is not a composite. This is not done in Photoshop. This is one single exposure. The effect is achieved by combining long exposure and camera movement.
Another image I want to show you, out of this collection, is one of a tropical flower I shot in Costa Rica. Again, slow shutter speed and camera blur (I walked toward the flower while exposing) allowed me to take advantage of the gorgeous red color of the flower and to smear it. To Paint with it. Play with it.
The ghosting effect here lets me achieve the soft edges feel that usually is not associated with traditional photography, where sharpness is king.
Guide to long exposure photography. Tutorial.
The last type of blur I want to talk about in this lesson is not related to motion but I still want to include it in this chapter so you have a quick comparison between all the different kinds of blur.
I am referring to Focus Blur.
Focus blur is, as the name suggests, a type of blur that is caused by an image being way out of focus. It’s an optical blur. It has nothing to do with camera, subject or background movement.
Now, in traditional photography the rule is: the subject must be in focus and that makes sense but there are situations when a slightly out of focus or a completely out of focus setting give beautiful results.
A slightly out of focus setting is sometimes used in photojournalism to give a softer, moodier look to images.
A completely out of focus image, which might not work for a commercial client, still has beautiful fine art qualities. Focus blur enhances the colors and takes the attention away from the hard edges.
In this image I took in Central Park during the Fall Season I wanted to emphasize and celebrate the warm, red color of the falling leaves so I tweaked the hue of the grass lawn, turning the green it into a deep red and I shot this image totally out of focus, on purpose.
The attention of the viewer is absorbed by the colors instead of by the shapes. You can still recognize the flat lawn, the woods and the Manhattan skyline in the background but red, the deep red is the protagonist in this image.
Long exposure photographers. Long exposure night photography.
Last image I want to show you is this fantasy of lights in Times Square. This is pure childish playing with the optical qualities of the lens, on my part. The image is completely out of focus and the scene becomes almost an abstract painting made of circles and brush strokes of color.
Well I hope you enjoyed this very experimental blog post. Maybe you will never use motion or focus blur in your career as a photographer. However, it's important to remember that technical tools are at our service and not the other way around. Using the technical limitations of our gear and keeping an open mind can pave the way to new techniques and make your personal style blossom.
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