All too often I see new photographers get hung up on taking the perfect image. Making sure it’s 100% sharp, perfectly exposed, technically – perfect. But what sometimes suffers is the creative aspect of photography. This month’s challenge is to push you outside that technical realm into the creative one and do something different.
New photography challenge – create an abstract image using intentional blur
There are a few ways you can create an abstract image using intentional blur including:
Do a long exposure on a busy street
You may need a Neutral Density filter to cut the light if you try this in the daytime – setup on a tripod and use a low ISO like 100 or 200. Set your shutter speed to be fairly slow (try between 1/8th – 2 seconds). You may find if you go too long all the people and cars disappear completely. Try different shutter speed times to experiment.
Zoom your lens during a long exposure
See Three Special Effects for Night Photography (scroll to the bottom) to see how to do this one. Basically, setup on a tripod again and set your shutter speed to at least one second or longer. Your aperture will likely have to be small like f/22 and your ISO low, like 100 or 200. Zoom in and focus on your subject (neon lights and light up signs at night work great for this technique) then turn off autofocus. Press your shutter button (or remote if you have one) and using your fingers gently zoom your lens out. It may take some practice to get it smooth and how fast you zoom, how long you pause at the beginning versus the end, and the timing will all give you very different results. Try it!
Swivel your camera or tripod during the exposure
This is the same concept as zooming, but instead you just move your camera or tripod during a long exposure (move it up and down, side to side, or even rotate). Use the appropriate movement for your subject. For example, as in the image of the poplar trees below, it is a tall vertical subject – so moving the camera the same direction will make the trees look elongated like so:
Move the camera around randomly during a long exposure
This one is purely about having fun and experimenting. Hand hold your camera, set a long exposure, press the button and just start moving it around. You can do this during the day but make sure you set your ISO low and set it on Shutter Priority or you may end up with a blank white image if you make the exposure too long. If it comes out white try again with a slower one, or add a polarizer or neutral density filter to cut down on the light entering the lens.
Shoot car light trails
See: Guide to Photographing Light Trails at Night for an in-depth tutorial on how to shoot car light trails. Same concept as most of the others. Use a long exposure to capture the car lights.
This technique also works on anything moving that has lights, like this merry-go-round we found in Seattle.
You can also combine a long exposure for light trails AND zooming for even more fun! Look how the lights seems to jump out at you and appear to be coming towards you. Almost reminds me of a music staff (lines musicians write the notes on) – can you hear the carnival music now?
Shoot completely out of focus – on purpose
Now I’m just talking crazy right?
But why not try give this a try?
Abstract art is about color, shapes, light and dark. Turn your lens way out of focus and see how the world looks. Want bokeh? Use a large aperture (f/1.8 on your nifty 50 if you have one) and focus as close as the lens will go.
Winner of the last challenge
Selected randomly from everyone who completed the last challenge – Street Corner Exercise, as well as shared your images and what you learned – the winner is:
Crystal Bloom: who watched fisherman on a pier for over two hours and learned, “If I would have not stopped to watch for over 2 hours and just took photos like I always do, I would have missed this moment.”
Congratulations Crystal you’ve won a set of our Lightroom Presets. We’ll be in touch by email to get those to you.
Tips for this challenge
- Don’t over think it
- Try one of the techniques above
- Try them all
- Have fun!
This Month’s Challenge, Contest and Prize:
So you can’t do this challenge wrong. All you have to do is actually do it. Try something you haven’t done before and see what you can come up with. Find some other ways to do abstract blurs I haven’t mentioned here – show me something new!
This time of year you may find lots of cool things that will work as a great subject: Christmas tree lights, decorations, lights out on the street, etc.
Here are the requirements to be eligible for the prize:
- Take a photo with intentional blur to make an abstract photo.
- Upload your photo in the comments section below.
- Please tell us how you created it (technique used) and the exposure info (ISO, shutter speed and aperture).
Deadline for entry is: January 13, 2016, 10pm MST (-6 UTC) that gives you six weeks.
Contest is now closed and a winner has been chosen. See the next photography challenge for details.
This month’s winner (selected randomly from all eligible entries) will receive our 4 Weeks to Better Photography course (retail value: $49 USD).