Go Abstract With Camera Dragging (Part 2)

6/16/2012 2:53:55 PM

Abstract wood

 ‘Look for scenes that are akin to a painting. The up-and-down movement of the camera teamed with the shutter speed have created these brush stroke lines.’

Description: Description: Go Abstract With Camera Dragging

Twilight calm

 ‘This image was taken in late February. The sun was setting over an unusually calm river in rural Dumfries and Galloway.’

Beach panorama

Wait for low light for a heightened array of colours. This shot benefits from rich, intense blues against backlit clouds


This image was taken indoors using coloured scarves hanging on the wall. The camera was panned in a vertical position to create the movement.’


 ‘The vertical lines of the trees make an effective subject matter for dragging the camera shutter.’


 ‘This beach scene was created by panning the camera horizontally on a tripod. The tripod helped to keep the horizon and lines in the image straight.’

Zoom burst

A zoom burst is a creative effect made possible by twisting the lens during the camera exposure. To achieve this effect you want to set the shutter speed to around 1/5sec and keep the aperture narrow to balance the light. You can produce the effect without using a tripod, however it does make the job easier and keeps the lines of the burst straighter.

To take the shot, first frame and focus your subject, press the shutter and immediately twist the barrel of the lens. It’s a trial-and-error method so you’ll need to make a few attempts before you get it right.

Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson

Description: Description: Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson



Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming have been working collaboratively for the last six years on portfolios of both abstract and traditional landscape images. This approach, while unusual in the photographic field, adds depth and dynamism to their work. Their exploration of different techniques has helped produce a wonderfully-varied body of work.

Description: Description: wonderful photography of Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming

wonderful photography of Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming

Ted and Morag’s top tips for camera dragging

1.    Be open to potential subject matter. Things that you wouldn’t normally consider photogenic can come alive using abstract techniques.

2.    Make sure your camera doesn’t have image stabilisation switched on. It will try to compensate for any movements you are making.

3.    Experiment with different movements. Start by mimicking the strongest lines in your subject eg horizontal movements for seascapes, vertical movements for trees etc.

Gear guide

Lee Neutral Density 0.9 ProGlass filter

Description: Description: Lee Neutral Density 0.9 ProGlass filter

Expect to pay: $165

What you get: An ND lens filter will stop down the light that reaches the sensor. This is essential in camera dragging, as the shutter will be open for long periods of time.

Essential info: This top-of-the-range Neutral Density filter is made with the professional photographer in mind. This filter enables you to stop down by three stops without affecting the colour balance. Cheaper alternative options can be found online if this product is out of your price range.

Vanguard Elite CP-284 monopod

Description: Description: Vanguard Elite CP-284 monopod

Expect to pay: $175

What you get: A tripod is essential to keep your lines straight while dragging the camera. Use one that is easy to rotate. For extra flexibility, you may want to consider a monopod.

Essential info: This monopod from vanguard enables you a flexible approach while supporting the camera, keeping it level. It’s light to carry and can easily be strapped to any camera bag.


Description: Description: Lens

Expect to pay: $360

What you get: Camera dragging works best with a lens that has a large focal length giving you the option to zoom in on your subject.

Essential info: With some shopping around, this 28-70mm f2.8 lens from Tokina can be purchased for an excellent price. It’s a great all-rounder for any subject matter.

Editing images

Enhance colour saturation to bring out the best in your abstract image

Description: Description: Before

1.    Open the file


Description: Description: Open the file

Open the RAW file and recover the data. If you’re shooting at midday you may have overexposed your image. Move the data slider in the Recovery Option up to bring back as much of the detail as you can.

2.    Crop and Clone

Description: Description: Crop and Clone

As you are moving the camera around your image may pick up small spots. Clone these out with the Clone tool and crop the image to remove any distractions. For beach shots, a panoramic crop can look effective.

3.    Boost Levels

Description: Description: Boost Levels

To increase the contrast, go to the Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers palette and select Levels. Increase the contrast by moving the grey marker right and tweaking the highlights by sliding the white marker left.

4.    Increase Saturation

Description: Description: Increase Saturation

To finish, add another Adjustment Layer but this time select the Hue/Saturation option. Move the slider on the Saturation setting right to increase the vibrancy of the colours. Flatten and save the final image.

Description: Description: After: increase the colour saturation to produce a stronger result
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