Flora - Nature - Photo Expert (Part 5) - Creative blur

6/4/2012 5:44:07 PM

Creative blur

Who said you have to capture images of flowers sharply or realistically? Creativity is often what leads to original, stand-out nature images. Subject or camera blur can transform an otherwise ordinary shot into a Monet-like masterpiece. If flowers or foliage are being wind-blown, emphasise that movement rather than trying to freeze it. Select a slow shutter speed in the region of V2sec and intentionally blur your subject. This works well with bright, colourful flowers like poppies or tulips. You need to achieve just the right level of motion blur: too much and the subject won't be recognisable; too little and the level of movement won't look deliberate. The length of shutter you require will vary depending on the wind speed and the effect you desire. Trial and error is needed - simply experiment with different shutter speeds. If necessary, attach a solid Neutral Density (ND) filter to artificially lengthen exposure time. A polarising filter will also lengthen shutter time by up to two stops.

Description: Creative blur

Creative blur: This is a fantastic technique if you get the level of motion blur spot on. It's a great way to add a feeling of movement and life in your nature photography.

Another fun and effective technique is to move or 'pan' the camera during exposure. This can work in close-up or when shooting a larger expanse of flowers - bluebells, for example. Simply move the camera during exposure to create beautiful, artistic streaks of colour and texture. Try moving the camera from top to bottom, or side to side.

Description: shooting a larger expanse of flowers

If you are using a lens with a tripod collar, you could even try rotating the camera in a circular motion. Finally, if you are using a zoom, try a zoom burst. This is another simple technique, but results can look surreal and striking. Select a shutter speed long enough to allow you time to adjust the zoom from one extreme to the other during exposure, and zoom the lens smoothly for the best results. Again, this is a hit-and-miss technique and results won't be to everyone's taste. However, digital capture promotes this type of creative experimentation. It doesn't cost anything but time to try these things - and you might be surprised at how good the results appear.

Double exposures

Description: Double exposures

By combining one sharp image with a second out-of-focus frame, it is possible to add a beautiful, dreamlike quality to your flower images. The effect is similar to using a soft focus filter, producing ethereal-looking results that particularly suit images of backlit flowers. The technique relies on the use of a tripod, as both images need to be identically composed. Many DSLRs allow you to create a double exposure in-camera - with the camera combining the two images and producing one file. Select the camera's multiple exposure setting in the camera's menu, select a total of two frames and then take two images: one sharply focused and the other blurry. The amount you defocus the lens will affect the strength and look of the final result. It can take several attempts to get the right effect. However, not all cameras have a multiple exposure facility and you have limited control over the look of the final result when combining images in-camera. An alternative is to blend the images during processing, combining the images in layers. Doing so allows you greater control, as you can vary the strength of each frame. It is even possible to create a soft focus effect using just one, sharply focused image: simply create a copy of the photograph and add a degree of Gaussian blur to this layer before combining it with the original, sharp frame.

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