The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Long Exposures

It is kind of interesting that when people first come to a photography class they are interested in getting super sharp photos.  They will ask, "what can I do to have the photo sharp all over?"  And yes -- that is a good thing for some photos.  But just as having your subject in the middle of every frame -- having a super sharp photo, throughout, can get pretty boring.  

I think this is why I love the Lensbaby -- I can get blur (usually where I want it) without having to use a long exposure and hunt down some movement.  Like in a recent blog -- the blur from that one tree, in the bare trees photo, makes me feel there is movement and the tree is moving away.  It isn't -- but to me, the first thing I think of when I see blur like that in a photo is movement.

My favorite photos are the ones with some blur in them.  It does show movement, an event, a happening.  I have an old family photo of my great grandparents standing in front of their home.  It was taken in the early 1900's.  In the photo, from the elbows down, my great grandfather's arms are quite the blur.  Photography at that time needed time to create the image.  The subjects needed to be still for a certain number of seconds in order to create the image.  Obviously in this image, my great grandfather moved his arms -- either swinging them down to his side or up from his side during the time the photo was being made.  I like this little bit of movement.  For me -- it shows life.

Again this year I took some photos of a play that my daughter's school group recently performed.  I was allowed to go up above the crowd to the location of the 'light guy.'  This is a great spot to photograph the action.  Since I had to have my daughter there early.  I did not have a lot to do -- but I went up to find my spot.  Here I could look down onto the audience and the stage.  What a great time to play around with some long exposures!

I selected shutter priority and played with a couple different shutter speeds; about two seconds was giving me the look I really wanted.  Here I had movement -- and some people were moving so quickly that they barely appeared!  The chairs -- of course, being completely still -- help set the movement off with their stillness -- sharpness.  

I believe in any good "movement" photo you need some nonmovement to really have a balance.  You see many photos with water as a blur -- showing the movement of the water.  What really sets it apart is that in the same photo you will have rocks or trees in sharp focus.  I have seen some very beautiful photos of a beach scene with the water/waves in complete blur and the shore/rocks are very sharp.  

Just think -- years and years and years ago (long time ago) it was considered a major accomplishment to have people show up in a street scene.  When the exposures had to be so long -- people walking on the streets would not show up.  It was a huge development when the exposure time was short enough to show someone actually walking in a street scene.   When you have the opportunity to play with the shutter speed and see how a long exposure will not capture all of the movement -- you can see how needing that length of time would effect what you could photograph.

When we are making photos we are playing with light and playing with time.  


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