Post by Andrew Darlow
As you may have guessed from my recent post here on Photofocus on the topic of motion photography , I love taking pictures that show some type of motion blur. A similar technique that I like to use involves combining the look of a sharp image with the look of motion blur, all in one exposure. Below are three “Still Plus Motion” shooting techniques designed to help you explore this approach. “Still Plus Motion” is not an official term-it’s just a phrase that I use to help describe this technique. I’ve also used the term “Still Plus Zoom,” because that describes one specific way to employ this technique.
1. Overview and the “Still Plus Zoom” Approach
The best way I’ve found to approach any “Still Plus Motion” technique is to first get a good overall exposure without zooming in or out, and without moving the camera. I particularly like to use this technique at night when shooting objects like buildings or cars (or a combination of the two). Although there are no hard and fast rules, I highly recommended using a tripod, and I would aim for about a one second to five second exposure to start. Aperture selection (f-stop) should be based on the look you want as well as the exposure, and lower ISO’s are generally better (for example, ISO100-640), especially at night when there are a lot of dark tones in the image. Once you have the main exposure locked in, full manual exposure and manual focus are generally the best choices, but not required. Manual exposure and manual focus will allow you to concentrate on creating successful images using this technique.
To create the “Still Plus Zoom” look that combines sharpness plus some very “even” light trails (similar to the look of car headlights in traditional motion photography), you will need a zoom lens, and the camera should be on a tripod. Lenses that can be manually zoomed are best for this technique. First expose the image for a short time while your camera is in a still position, and about halfway through the exposure, zoom your lens in or out. Depending upon whether you zoom in or out, you will create different looks. Also experiment with shorter or longer zoom times and zoom amounts relative to the still exposure. For example, zooming from 24-50mm will look very different compared with zooming from 24-200mm.
2. “Take and Shake” Technique
Another variation is to combine the still portion of the shot with a little shake of the camera at the end of the exposure. This approach is especially interesting because of the variation in looks that you can achieve, from subtle ghosting, to very wild, almost psychedelic looking images. I photographed the image above of the Eiffel Tower in Paris using this technique. The exposure was two seconds at f/8. With my camera on a tripod, I waited until just before the exposure was complete, and then gave the camera and tripod a little nudge (and for some other images, a big nudge!). It may take a while to get a look that you really like, so I recommend shooting a lot.
3. Hand-Held Approaches
In case you find yourself in a location without a tripod (or if tripods/monopods are not permitted), have no fear. Just shorten the exposure times to about one-half second to about two seconds and toward the end of each exposure, move your camera slowly for a “Take and Shake” approach, quickly forward or back for a “Still Plus Zoom” look, or even in a circle or pattern to create completely different looks.