Thursday, 15 November 2012

Do The Streak!

Nikon D700  F/18  1/4s  ISO-400  PrSH  EV +1.7  102mm
OK, OK, it's over the top, but hey, who's judging? And if you prefer there's always the calmer version a couple of photos below, just after the original, right?

He he, it's amazing what you can do with the saturations set to 100, isn't it. If you look at the original you really wonder where all those colours came from...

But the less extreme version is the one which illustrates the effect I was going for.

The problem was, the scene, cute as pie as it is, was a bit dull when it came down to it. If you look at my 'standard' shot at the bottom you'll see what I mean.

The sun was intermittently peeking out from behind the clouds and conditions were generally mediocre for this sort of shot. What was needed was a bit of oomph!

The original photo
I don't know if you can guess what I did, but I'm going to have to, because I can't for the life of me remember exactly. I believe I moved the camera as I was pressing the shutter button down on a quarter of a second exposure (that much I do know). The result was to give those lovely streaks which almost imitate rays of sunlight, err, don't they?

A less over-the-top version
Unfortunately, it's not enough to just slam the camera across the scene as you take the shot. If you do that you end up with a result like the second-last one below; one big, glorious almighty blur, which isn't much good for anything.

No, what you have to do is leave the scene alone for most of the exposure (i.e. don't move the camera) so that you get a fairly sharp image for the most part. Then, right at the end of the exposure, you slam the camera up to the left (in this case), or was it down to the right, and there you go.

Major, but useful fail
The result should be some intriguing lines or streaks which you can then exaggerate afterwards as I've done here.

Getting a useable image is really a question of trial and error, and playing with the shutter speed (and exposure) and the way you jerk the camera away at the end of the shot. Sometimes I have to spend a good few minutes trying to get an interesting image, or even just waiting for the sun to peep out as I think I just managed here by the looks of it.

A standard shot
Introducing intentional camera movement is almost unheard of in your average tourist snapshot. Funnily enough, what used to be the curse of the amateur image - annoying camera shake - has all but been eliminated. Unfortunately, crystal clear shots with absolutely everything in focus can make for some very dull and unartistic snaps indeed.

I always like to remind people, though, that your blur, if you decide to use it, has to look intentional. The danger is that people will say, oh, it's nice but a shame you couldn't hold the camera steady. Not the reaction you should be looking for!

You get the best effects if there are some highlights in the image which will cause the famous streaks. Without a few brighter areas a duller shot will just turn into a murky mess using this effect, a bit like major but useful fail I've included above. There's very little to rescue there but it told me what I was doing wrong and the more successful and useable shot at the top followed.

The moral of the story is: experiment and stick at it. You should be pleasantly surprised by some of the results in the end.


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

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