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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Paint It Red

Why paint it black when autumn is here and you can paint it red?

I was recently in West Virginia’s Blackwater Falls State Park when I saw a small grove of trees whose leaves had turned a fiery red and felt that an abstract generated by intentional camera movement (so-called ICM) would transmit the feeling of the changing season better than a ‘straight shot’. Of the twenty or so images that I took this was by far my favorite.

 
Paint It Red © Howard Grill

Paint It Red © Howard Grill

 

Intentional camera movement can be very ‘hit or miss’, meaning that it is difficult to predict what the results will look like because there are so many variables involved, from shutter speed to the speed and angle at which you move your camera. It can also be hard to tell if the result is what you’re after just from looking at the small LCD. For these reasons, when trying the technique, is it always wise to take a series of photos to choose from.

Interestingly, it was at this location that a young woman came up to me asking for some photographic advice. But that will be the subject of the next post.

Atomic Levels

I know it’s a little unusual, but one thing that I really enjoy reading are layman’s books (by which I simply mean that the math isn’t delved into deeply) that explain and discuss some of the findings and unusual paradoxes that are generated by quantum mechanics. And so for some time I have been particularly drawn to abstract images that seem to illustrate principles of physics, and quantum mechanics in particular. When I saw these shadows on my bathroom wall (made by wooden window-shade slats on a sunny day) I couldn’t help but think of electrons jumping from one energy level to the next…..so the camera came out to capture them.

Atomic Levels I © Howard Grill

Atomic Levels I © Howard Grill

Atomic Levels II © Howard Grill

Atomic Levels II © Howard Grill

Intentional Camera Movement

‘Intentional Camera Movement’ (which until a few years ago was simply known as ‘hey, look at this cool photo I made by shaking my camera’ - but I guess ‘ICM’ is a bit easier to say than ‘HLATCPIMBSMC’), is a process by which one can make abstract images in-camera. While usually one wants the camera to be perfectly stable when the shutter is open in order to make sharp images, the technique of intentional camera movement seeks just the opposite. Here the idea is to intentionally move the camera while the shutter is open in order to make abstractly blurred photographs.

I have seen many ‘guides’ that suggest different techniques, but my feeling is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to this……experimentation is the key. It is difficult to state a ‘proper’ shutter speed because it depends on how fast one is moving the camera and if the subject is itself moving or not. Once you get a composition that looks promising, the key is to try multiple different variations in shutter speed and speed of camera motion until you get something the is pleasing and ‘just seems right’. It really pays to experiment, as sometimes even when it looks good on the camera LCD the image isn’t quite as compelling on the larger computer screen. It pays to change it up and decide if you have a ‘keeper’ later, once you get home.

That said, here are a few tips I can offer:

  • Your shutter speed can be slowed down by choosing a smaller aperture; the image isn’t going to be ‘sharp’ anyway, so don’t worry about diffraction effects at very small apertures

  • If a small aperture doesn’t get you a slow enough shutter speed for the effect you are looking for, add a polarizer or a neutral density (not a graduated neutral density) filter….or both

  • Even though you will be moving the camera, I still like shooting these types of images on a tripod….it makes it easier to keep the camera moving in just one direction, if that is the effect you are looking for. Of course the tripod is not at all necessary, I just personally find it useful

  • I find that I most often get pleasing results if I move the camera in the same direction as the dominant lines in the composition (ie up and down for trees and side to side for a shoreline). But try other directions as well

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

In this particular image of trees, I moved the camera along the vertical axis while the shutter was open. In specific, this was made at ISO 100 at f11 with the shutter open for 2 seconds. I actually liked the appearance of the left side of the photo better than the right, so I selected it in Photoshop, used CTL-J to duplicate it onto its own layer, CTL-T to go to transform in order to flip it horizontally, and then the move tool to shift it over so that the left side of the image was mirrored on the right.

Another Mural Abstract

I have mentioned in prior posts that when I see a wall mural I enjoy taking photos of small sections of it that look like separate pieces of artwork, at least to me. It seems too bland and documentary to just take a photo of the entire thing. But playing around making little pieces of art out of it……now, that’s fun. Maybe a little weird, but I do like doing it!

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

Flowing Petals

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

Flowing Petals    © Howard Grill

Flowing Petals    © Howard Grill

With my next post, I will be introducing a very special project that I have been working on. It is one that has been extremely meaningful to me. So I do hope you will 'tune back in' to see my first project post, I think you will find it interesting and worthwhile.