Photographing motion blurs

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I’ve written here before that I am trying to find a new zen with my endless focusing struggles.  I’ve been exploring creating abstracts by moving the camera for some time now.  Its not as easy as many think, I will often create 50+ images in the same place trying to get the framing and the speed of the movement just right to capture what I am after.

I remember first reading about them in Outdoor Photographer and thinking how hard can this be, just move the camera up and down right?  After a few frustrating attempts, I found an ebook by Denise Ippolito which describes different techniques.  The book called, A Guide to Creative Blurs, broke the technique down and opened up a whole new avenue of creativity for me.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Look for a subject with strong lines or sections of color.
  • Move the camera in the same direction as the lines.  If you are photographing trees, move the camera up and down.  If you are photographing rolling hills in the Palouse, try side-to-side.
  • Focus on your subject.  Yes, I know…it sounds counter-intuitive.  Focus an image just to blur it?  The answer is yes, if you don’t you will have a muddy mess.
  • Set your two second timer.  This will give you a chance to start the motion before your shutter opens, so its a nice smooth flow.
  • Try little movement first.  If you move to much, too fast, its a wash of color and hard to delineate the subject.
  • Clean your sensor.  All those little spots become more pronounced because they don’t move when your are blurring your subject.  And they are harder to clean up in post.

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You don’t need a DSLR or other fancy camera to make these types of images.  Some of the images below I created with my iphone and the Slow Shutter app.  Can you tell the iphone photos from the Fuji images?

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2 thoughts on “Photographing motion blurs

    • Hi Saun – focus is hard. I think part of the trick is finding the focusing mechanism that works best for you (or mel in this case ;)). Fuji has a focus peaking setting which turns the edges of things a different color – white, red, or blue – so you can see what will be in focus when you make the image. I’ve found this really helpful. Happy photo-creating!

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