For the most part, I consider myself a landscape photographer. Inspiration usually comes from being out in those landscapes, which usually revolves around trips to distant destinations throughout the US or, under certain circumstances or weather events, closer to home. For the few folks who actually follow this blog, you’ll realize that some other things have fallen in front of the camera of late. Recently, I was inspired by a friend’s photo of a small sculpture at a nearby museum for which, he moved the camera while the photograph was taken to blur the image. (Normally, I would put a link here to his website, but unfortunately, he has yet to create one so that many of us can see and enjoy his wonderful work. I’m sure he will soon).
I’ve created photographic blurs for a long time beginning over ten years ago when I got my first point and shoot digital camera. It was difficult then, because there was basically no control over shutter speeds. The best I could do was to set the camera to “fireworks” to get a little longer shutter speed. I blurred some azaleas at a nearby park, and then played with the hue sliders in Photoshop afterward to create several variations that you see at the top. Back in 2014 on my first major trip out west with my recently acquired digital DSLR, I spent quite a bit of time blurring the autumn aspens (above) in Colorado and Arizona. (See the aspen blurs here)
So the inspiration for movement sent me to the North Carolina Museum of Art with my son, where I showed him how to make these blurry photos, let him explore the possibilities and have some fun with the freedom this technique brings. And I did the same. I had taken photos of this sculpture before, but this time I wanted to try something different. I ended up trying some multiple exposures (4 for the image above) of the sculpture to create a bit of a design to what was in the frame, and moved on to using the same technique with other sculptures (2 for the image below) and finally, used some actual paintings.
One painting I used was a simple one of solid lines that diverged at either end of the vertical canvas, so I used the vertical and diverging lines in a triple exposure to form some triangular shapes in the horizontal photo below.
I tried double, triple and even quadruple exposures in the experiments. Some times I went for simple designs, and other times I went for an abstract that mimicked a landscape. Creating some of the images required holding the camera upside down using my left thumb, instead of my right index finger, to trip the shutter release. So it was a little strange to coordinate my movements to get things in the correct position within the frame. I also experimented with different white balances to shift the color of the multiple exposures, so there was almost no limit to what combinations you might try. It was loads of fun, and time flew by in much the same way I can get lost in time when photographing a landscape.
Another of the paintings at the museum I used was by Thomas Moran who, along with Frederick Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt, are among my favorite landscape painters from the Hudson River School of the 1800’s. If you ever get a chance to view the paintings of the American west by Thomas Moran, it is well worth your time. In the photo above, I used the colors of two separate areas of his painting in a blurred double exposure, one of which included the reflection of an overhead light on the sheen of the painting, to create the “sun” in a “desert sunset”.
The final experiment was interesting. At the North Carolina Museum of Art, they have a continuous display of a tree projected onto a wall that appears to move in the wind while going through the four seasons. Spring had some pale pink buds on the branches and I chose that season to take a long exposure of about 1.5 seconds, during which, I moved the camera a bit while the trees were moving. It turned out that the camera, even though only one photo was taken, recorded the tree branches as though a multi-exposure was taken. I suppose the “movement” of the tree was produced by many different images projected in rapid succession that only appeared like movement, the same way film motion pictures did. To lessen the appearance of these separate images, in Photoshop, I used a separate layer with a black layer mask using Gaussian Blur and, with a white brush, “drew” in the blur in areas where the separate images were most noticeable. It really allowed the freedom to “create” a painting of the trees with something akin to brushstrokes. I had as much fun taking the photos as I did working with them in Photoshop and Lightroom giving them a more painterly look, each a little different in their interpretation.
So many thanks to my friend who inspired me to get outside my comfort zone and try some things I’ve done outside…inside.