Almost twenty years ago, in the prehistoric era of philm photography, I was confronted with some conditions that wouldn’t allow me to photograph this crabapple tree. Even a very small aperture (f/32!!) wouldn’t get the trunk and buds all in focus, and with the film rated at ISO 50, a really long exposure would be needed. But it was a bit breezy, and the branches wouldn’t stay still for such a long exposure. The necessity was to photograph the tree; the mother of invention was to take a multiple exposure. Sixteen, in fact…on a single frame of film. Shooting wide open (f/4), the 135mm equivalent telephoto lens would have a very narrow depth of field. So the lens was focused on various parts of the tree for each of the sixteen exposures that would add up to be properly exposed if it were only a single exposure. Focusing on the nearest branch threw the background into a blur, while focusing on the background made the near branches blur. This was the very first image made that altered reality, other than the usual bad under or over exposures.
About ten years ago, I acquired my first digital camera of the point & shoot variety. Its purpose was simple: portability and ease of use to take snapshots of family events. But I took it out a few times and did some experimentation with flowers, trying to blur them. By setting the camera to “fireworks”, the shutter remained open just long enough to blur the subject just a bit, but there was almost no control over much of anything. It was trial and error until the subject was properly placed within the frame. And there were many, many trials. The images above and below were from those first experimentations.
When I finally got a real DSLR, things changed dramatically for these “motion blurs” as I called them.
Being able to control the shutter speed and being able to look through a viewfinder, really helps to get the desired image, but still only a single image was used like the one above. More recently, I have begun to take several blurred images with the intent to combine them later in Photoshop using layers and masks. And the blurs can involve much more camera movement than before. A bit more complicated, but an entire landscape can be constructed rather than just a simple scene.
And using actual elements of a landscape is not necessary to create one either. For the image above, two blurred images of the edge of a sculpture at the North Carolina Museum of Art were blended together and colors adjusted. A few elements can be added if necessary for the intention, and tweaked until satisfied.
It’s also possible to create a landscape without a specific intent. Parts of the combined images can be flipped or “reshaped” according to how things fall within the combined image frame. For the image above, the thin edge of “land” at the bottom was flipped and reached the right edge, but was reshaped to fall short of it. The top “land” was reshaped to be straighter across rather than curving down toward the left edge. Some clouds were reshaped as well, and a sun was added with the accompanying reflection. It can be fun to let your imagination run wild and see what you can come up with. Not every attempt works out (see below), but just making the attempt, creating something from nothing, can be rewarding.
After all these years of calling this method blurred, or motion blur, I recently found that it has an actual name: Intentional Camera Movement, or ICM. I’ve learned something new, which is what moving forward in photography is all about.