This morning, I was looking through my old photos, curious as to what I might have been looking at, taking photos of, on this day in past years. As it turns out I hadn’t been very active on January Thirteenths, but I did find some from 2012. In fact, I quite liked what I was doing that year – it was a bit of a treasure chest of abstract images!
I took a number of those photos, tweaked and cropped them to come up with these final images (which I like and hope you will too):
This is another series of abstracted photographs. As I have shared previously, the technique I use is to employ a neutral density filter that allow me to use shutter speed in the 2 to 4 second range. During this long exposure I will move the camera – normally in a direction parallel to the lines I wan to emphasize. In the previous and next image I would have followed the line of the vertical trunk. Generally I don’t want too great a range of movement and might go back and forth over a short displacement during the exposure.
“Morning Light” was the result of a bit of a happy accident. I neglected to stop down my neutral density filter sufficiently to get a “proper” exposure. The image was over-exposed but still one I could work with in post-processing. I liked the over blown background exposure that resulted.
The yellow at the base of the tree (that you may be able to make out in the previous image was from the lichen that I typically find on the trees around the Edmonton region. Especially in the winter this color seems intense. However, straight out of the camera, these long exposure images typically do not have much color, so I usually will bump up the color saturation significantly to get an image that feels to me like what I was actually seeing/feeling.
I frequently have been achieving “painterly”, abstract effects on my photos through the use of intentional camera motion. By using a neutral density filter I am able to shoot at a 2 to 4 second shutter speed which allows me plenty of time to move the camera about, effectively painting with the available light upon my camera sensor. In general the effect is to soften edges and blur the image but depending on the type of motion, different results can be achieved.
Here was the basic scene (i.e regular shutter speed, no motion) that I used for the following demonstration:
In this next image of the same scene I used a 4-second exposure and moved the camera vertically – more like tipping it forward and back using my wrists. This type of motion tends to preserve the vertical elements of the picture, such as tree trunks.
In this second image (again a 4 second exposure) I moved the camera rapidly in a horizontal fashion throughout the exposure. The effect is to soften, to blur those vertical edges. If there were a strong horizontal element it would of course have been reinforced. I like this motion for a landscape with a definite horizon line.
In this final variation I incorporated both vertical and horizontal motion – rapidly moving the camera back and forth horizontally for a couple of seconds, then moving it up and down for the last two seconds. The edges are soft and I like the grid like texture that results
Another of my standard “tricks”/requirements with these long exposures with camera motion is to increase the contrast and color saturation during post processing. Here, for example is tha last image straight out of the camera:
Today (2011 November 12) Edmonton had its first (and unusually late) snow of the season. While there are many thing about the snow I am not a fan of, I have been looking forward to applying the camera-motion abstraction technique that I’ve been playing with in recent months, to the snowy landscape. Here are some of my first results:
As with my previous photos in this style, the original intent was to give me reference images for paintings. However, so far I have not been able to create a painting that I like as much as or better than the photo (which is okay – for now).
My basic technique in this style is to use a neutral density filter to allow me to get a 2 second exposure. During the exposure I move/shake/vibrate the camera around vigorously. Post processing usually is required to increase contrast and color saturation.
As the days of autumn get shorter and more of my waking time is spent in dim light my photography has changed. Perhaps not surprisingly but it s also getting darker – not just physically but also subject wise. I’m finding my favorite images have a mysterious, dreamlike to them quality. One is not sure what one is looking at and that can lead to a feeling of cautiousness, apprehension.
So how have I created the dark, ominous feeling in these photos? By keeping the edges soft the viewer is not able to focus in what is seeing and that gets the mind racing, bringing the viewers imagination into play. I frequently achieve those soft edges by using a long exposure (like 2 seconds) and I deliberately move the camera around. I will walk into the scene during the exposure and frequently also be shaking the camera as I do so. I also let the darks dominate in the image, sometimes with strategic highlights and increased contrasts and sometimes with an overall low contrast. Finally I find that black and white can really add to the mystery but as you can see I have also let a dark but saturated blue dominate in this last image, but still managed to convey that mystery that I was looking for.
What to you think makes these images work (in mysterious ways). Do you have any techniques or approaches for achieving similar moods?
The title of this post is “A Couple of Seconds”, as in two-second exposures. For all of the images that follow, I kept the shutter open for a full two seconds. I had recently been experimenting with “long” exposure of 1/4 to 1/2 of a second, during which I panned the camera. I was growing bored with that technique and once I acquired a variable neutral density filter for my wide angle lens I was able to slow down the exposure considerably more!
I was obviously not after nice, sharp images so these photos are also all handheld. Not only was I not worried about keeping the camera steady, I in fact moved the camera in a variety of ways during the exposure! One technique that I discovered worked quite well was to walk during the exposure. I believe that is what I did for this photo:
No digital filter were used on that last and the next image. All I did was increase the contrast, exposure and color saturation a bit.
On this next one, I incorporate a twist of the zoom lens during the exposure:
This next one was a horizontal pan of the camera. With a 2-second exposure one must be careful not to move the camera to fast!
This next one was produced by a rotational movement during the exposure
Next a skyline sunset with a diagonal camera movement (still with the 2-second exposure)
A final experiment, where I took the long exposure photo and applied a color infrared film filter from Color Efex 2.0, to further abstract the image.
Something a little different today. I have continued with my experiment from yesterday – of using a very slow (1 second) shutter speed and “painting” with light.
What I found on my camera tonight were a number of images that I find a little bit disturbing – unsettling is perhaps a better word. Some are colorful, playful and interesting but somehow they seem like something out of a bad dream – Welcome to my nightmare…
How do these images make you feel? What quality (or lack thereof) do you think accounts for the feeling?