Motion Blur

small beetle_edited-2

Motion Blur can add interest to an image. Our eyes really don’t see the blur, so a shot like this one is not “realistic” in terms of how our eyes work.  But our mind perceives blur if something is going by really fast. To some degree, our mind cannot keep up with our eyes. More below about how fast this car was actually moving.

There are two main ways to do motion blur. The first is represented above. I used a tripod, so everything except the car is in sharp focus. We have the contrast of the blurry car in a sharp setting.  The other way involves panning. Imagine shooting a race car on a track, while sitting in the stands. If you set up with a slow shutter speed, and “pan” or follow the car while the shutter is open, so the car stays fixed in the frame during the exposure, the car will be sharp (if you’re lucky) but the background will be a blur of horizontal lines. With panning, our frame of reference is the car, and we have a sense of how the scenery would blur as we rode along in a very fast car.

A little bit about the image above. I used a very wide angle lens, to bring in more of the buildings on both sides of the street. (This is my hometown – Darien, Connecticut.)  I was actually very close to the car – maybe 8 feet or so, but the wide angle lens makes everything look further away. The exposure was only 1/5th of a second – not very long.  And the car was moving very slowly. But the wide angle lens distorts our frame of reference. Some people have commented to me the the car appears to be going very fast, about to crash in an unseen building.  A few were actually disturbed by the image and the implication of an impending wreck. In fact, the car was turning slowly – perhaps 3 or 4 miles an hour – into a Dunkin Donuts parking lot.

For a video critique of this image, including an interesting discussion of how the colors work in the picture, please click here. Then scroll down to the last video and hit the play button.  This critique was done by Craig Tanner, a nationally known photographer and a mentor on mine, with whom I’ve taken several workshops. Craig has a terrific website, The Mindful Eye.

I’d encourage you to try motion blur. There’s a bit of trial and error to it, but I’m sure your efforts will be rewarded.


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