Long Exposure Abstracts

Long Exposure Abstract of birch trees.

As photographers we usually strive to create the sharpest images we can. But do we always need our images to be sharp? Sometimes we can make an image more compelling by removing the clarity and detail. If an image is blurred we can place more emphasis on the color and shapes within the image. You’ll need to use long exposures to create blur in your images. Wider lenses will require longer shutter speeds to create a pleasing blur, while longer lenses will blur images easier at shorter shutter speeds. Using Shutter priority at speeds in-between 1/10 of a second and 1 second will usually create nice blurs. It can be difficult to get long enough shutter speeds to create these blurs during midday so filters may need to be added. Neutral Density filters are dark pieces of glass which screw onto the end of your lens to provide longer exposures. Circular Polarizers can also help cut light. I try to avoid using very narrow apertures when doing abstracts because it makes dust spots more evident. I also always keep my camera at its lowest ISO – which is 100 – for my abstract blurs. Turn off any type of lens stabilization. Make sure that you image is noticeably blurry and not just a little blurry. If it’s only a little blurry viewers may assume the shot was supposed to be in focus but was an error on the photographer’s part.

Different subjects work better for different blurs. During last fall’s peak colors I knew another sharp image of this group of birch trees would be nice but conventional shot. Instead I switched my camera to a very long exposure and moved the camera downward during the exposure. This caused the entire scene to blur in the direction of the trees. The orange contrasting against the white birch trees made this into an interesting shot.

Budding Tree Abstract created with a zoom blur

Moving the camera up or down during the exposure won’t always result in a good abstract image. For example I shot this above image of a budding tree a few weeks ago using a zoom blur. I used a long enough exposure to zoom my lens from its tele end to its wider end to obtain this almost exploding like effect. This helps bring you viewer’s eye into the center of the image. When doing zoom blurs I prefer to use a manual exposure mode. This makes it so my exposure doesn’t vary while zooming so I can still obtain details within the lights and darks.

An abstract image of a sunset creating by doing a zoom blur while turning the camera

Lastly my favorite blurred abstracts can be obtained from spinning the camera while zooming the lens during a long exposure. To obtain this next image I pointed my Nikon D200 and Tokina 12-24mm f/4 wide angle lens at the setting sun which was peering through a mass of trees before it hide its face under the horizon. I extended my arms until my elbows were locked with my right had grasping the camera and my left hand grabbing the lens. The camera was held vertically. I turned the camera so it would be in the horizontal position while simultaneously zooming the lens. This creates a circular mildly vortex like blur. All you need to do is turn the camera while changing focal lengths. This makes the lines in the image draw the viewer’s eye back into the shot. I also used this effect a week ago when photographing trees in a local park. This created an almost Van Gogh like post-impressionistic look to the image which I especially like in this final image.

An abstract of a tree created using a zoom blur and turning the camera.

 – Ryan Watkins

NBPS Flickr Contest (Rajesh Satankar)

CSC_0590, originally uploaded by rajesh satankar.

This is a lovely shot Rajesh.
I love to see that not everyone is shooting nature in color. Your composition is nice and your subject is quite interesting.
A few technical tips though to make this piece sensational, would be to dodge the lower left-hand corner out, its really distracting that its the only corner of the image where it darkens. You can also see how light the petals are where the light is coming through if you shot this image as a RAW file, you can go in with camera raw (if you have photoshop), and burn it in, so it doesn’t look so blown out.
The buds on the stem are a bit distracting too, but that might just be me.
What could have been really awesome is to be completely behind the flower and have the light coming through it so all you could see is the textures of the petals (maybe). Try it out let me see how it goes.
GREAT job, and keep shooting & sharing on Flickr.

-Emma Canfield.

NBPS Flickr Contest (Lindsey Buchmann)

Happy Thanksgiving!, originally uploaded by ♥Birdgirl0123♥.

Hey guys sorry I’ve been MIA for a bit. It’s been a pretty crazy end of the semester for me, and I will now be updating some new Flickr contestants over the next couple of weeks (and possibly days to make up for the lost time, so bring on the new posts), I’ll also be announcing some of the new photographers of the month so keep tuned in. – Hope you all had a good new years too.

Back to the point of this post though.
Lindsey! nice shot!
I love how the plant looks so perfectly encased in the ice, like its waiting for the warm wether to return. Your usage of depth of field is great too, having your eye drawn to what you want the viewer to look at. Something that could take this picture to the next level though is to try shooting from a different angle, you’re obviously looking down on the plant, and it could be interesting to get on the same level as the plant, or even look up at it. Also don’t be afraid to try something crazy with lighting, since you’re shooting ice in this image anyways sunlight could reflect though it in some really spectacular ways, and intensify the colors.
Nicely done though, keep them coming!
-Emma Canfield

NBPS Flickr Contest (Image by Timothy Brooks)


Frog, originally uploaded by timilini.

Nice Shot!
I love the colors and the details in the eyes!
The shallow depth of field in this shot works really well here too.
What would make this shot super awesome would be to try and move the grass somehow before you shoot the image, the slight blurry green in the foreground is somewhat distracting.

On this topic though since you’ve already made the image and it would be quite difficult to be able to go back and re-shoot it, if you have photoshop I suggest selecting the blurry blade of grass with the lasso tool then select curves. Where it says RGB on the scroll bar, go down to green and move the upper right part of the curve down until it blends better. If you then go up to filter>blur>Gaussian Blur and move it up to about a radius of 35 pixles, it will just bring down the green a touch to make it not so distracting. Hope this helps (try it out and if you have any questions I’d be happy to help).
Other than that this is a great shot!
keep shooting
-Emma Canfield


edited file; looks good!

NBPS Flickr Contest (Image by Ben Fisher)


IMG_7246, originally uploaded by BenLFisher.

Nice capture Ben!
love the close up of this bird. the sharp focus in the eye is great, and the depth of field is used really well here too, the viewer just focuses on the face of the bird.
The only pointer I would try and give you is to try and more yourself enough so we don’t see the background at all; so its just the in focus face and the our of focus body (no background). That would have made this picture perfect!

Keep up the great work Ben! & keep posting everyone!

-Emma Canfield

NBPS Flickr Contest (Image by Nathan Sottung)


Colorful Scales, originally uploaded by nks12345.

This is a pretty solid image Nathan! Great job!
You do need to work on the focus for this image though the blur on the bottom of the wing is bothering me. You probably need to close down your f-stop, instead of say this is shot at f 4.0, try f8 or 11. But other than that for a beginner at Macro this is very nice!
You also have a blue-orange composition here, great use of color!

Keep up the great work!
-Emma Canfield

NBPS Flickr Contest (Image by Evan Pagano)


Shake It Off, originally uploaded by Evan 49.

yet again Evan, great job!
I love this moment you captured here. and that you got a couple water droplets in mid-air. The slightly disheveled look the bird has is fabulous, sometimes we see too many shots of the bird in flight, or looking clean and neat. This does the opposite and made for a great capture. The colors and depth of field work well in this image too, by having the image blurred in the background the viewers eye focuses more on the subject; and the natural subtle colors of the bird are very pleasing to the eye.

thanks Evan, keep shooting!

-Emma Canfield

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