Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spring Colours Impressionism

A bed of flowers is a good subject for impressionist photography techniques. I love to hold the camera by the lens’s zoom ring and rotate my DSLR during a quarter of a second exposure. It produces a nice twirl effect. I call it the Bryan Peterson twirl, since I learned this technique from world class photographer and instructor Bryan Peterson. It takes a bit of trial and error, and you can see two of my favourites (out of about 20 attempts) below.

Colour twirl obtained by rating the camera while holding the zoom ring.

I spotted this white flower and tried to keep it at the centre of the twirl.

Colour twirl obtained by rating the camera while holding the zoom ring.

The challenge with this technique is holding the camera steady enough during the zooming, to get as regular a twirl as possible.

Another technique for creating colour abstract is to simply pan the camera over the subject during a long exposure. The movement need not be in a straight line. It’s fun to experiment with that. Note you’ll also have to experiment with how long an exposure you need, as it typically depends on the subject, the speed of your camera motion and the focal length of the lens you have. In my experience, a quarter of a second is a good start, but you may want a longer or shorter shutter speed. Try a few and see what works best for you. In the digital age, it’s easy enough.

Colour abstract obtained by panning the camera over a bed of spring flowers

In this photo, I used a panning motion from left to right while moving the camera up.

Colour abstract obtained by panning the camera over a bed of spring flowers

In this case I moved the camera from left to right over all. The upward motion only lasted for about half of the exposure.

Last but not least, the third technique I use for creating impressionist photographs is multiple exposures. I typically use the maximum number of exposures my camera allows (nine in the present case) and move the camera a little bit between exposures. How much should one move the camera and what kind of motion should one use is something that requires a little experimentation. Below are two of my favourite pics from the day.

Colour abstract obtained with multiple exposures of a bed of spring flowers

In this photo I moved the camera a little bit to the right and down between exposures.

Colour abstract obtained with multiple exposures of a bed of spring flowers

For this photograph the camera movement between exposures was a little more random.

Vision training: breaking the rules

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun” — Katharine Hepburn

It is taken for granted that you should keep the camera from moving when you take a photograph. You definitely won’t get hired again if all your photos from a business portrait session are blurry because of camera shake. General rules are very useful, but sometimes there is an ‘exception to the rule’ that produces interesting results.

This is true in fields other than photography. My physics PhD thesis was on the spin fluctuation theory for high temperature superconductivity. Initially, it was not well received because the experts in the field had arrived at the conclusion that such a mechanism for superconductivity would only yield low temperature superconductors. But it turns out that this rule was only correct in a general sense, i.e for the majority of cases. In the years following the initial proposal, we showed that the class of new superconductors that was discovered in 1986 by Bednorz and Mueller was the exception to this general rule. Our findings were published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. (Nature 450, 1177-1183 (20 December 2007)).

My experience with the ‘exception to the rule’ in science really stuck with me. So now when I’m taking pictures it is always at the back of my mind. And when it comes to keeping the camera still when taking a photograph, the following exceptions are worth noting. Breaking the ‘keep the camera from moving’ rule can produce an interesting result when your subject is moving. By following your subject while pressing the shutter, you can keep it relatively sharp and only blur the background. This gives your image a sense of motion, as in the picture below.

Moving the camera along with the subject produces a blurred background while leaving the subject relatively sharp.

Moving the camera along with the subject produces a blurred background while leaving the subject relatively sharp.

Another potentially interesting way to break the rule consists of slightly moving the camera while taking a picture of a stationary object, like a forest. In this case, while no area of the photograph remains sharp, the subject is still recognizable. The camera movement gives the image an impressionist look, as in the following photograph.

Moving the camera up and down during the exposure gives an impressionist look to this forest scene.

Moving the camera up and down during the exposure gives an impressionist look to this forest scene.

Finally, one can totally break the rule and move the camera so much that the subject becomes unrecognizable, like some flowers in Princes Street gardens, Edinburgh, in the photograph below. One is left with an abstract image of color only.

Really moving the camera during a long exposure totally blurs the subject and leaves one with an abstract picture of color.

Really moving the camera during a long exposure totally blurs the subject and leaves one with an abstract picture of color.