The static light and the moving camera.
When an artist applies paint with a brush, he does so in order to control the colours reflected from the canvas, but he rarely tries to achieve realism, not every image has to be crisp and well defined, often it’s the very imperfections, the added texture, the implied movement that convey the most meaning, which is why whole art movements revolve around the abstract, where impression and expression are far more important than the perfect reproduction of a situation and/or scene.
And just because the camera is quite capable of producing an almost hyper-realism, that doesn’t mean that it always has to, with the right technique, effects are possible from which the traditional artist can only dream.
In essence the camera is nothing but a device for capturing light, and the lens, shutter speed, aperture and ISO are just the methods by which we control how the light is captured and dealt with.
Imagine that the sensor in the camera is the canvas and instead of painting on it with a brush in the traditional sense, it’s as though the canvas were held instead within a stream of light, the “brush”, the slight movement of the camera ensuring that the colour is then smeared across the sensor, the “canvas”.
Obviously this technique requires a lot of practice, the success rate is very low, but it can be very rewarding, and if nothing else, it’s a very practical exercise in learning how to use and understand how the camera and all its settings work in unison.
It’s a technique that is a lot easier to practice in the winter due to the low light levels which enable slower shutter speeds and the lack of foliage on the trees reveals many more geometric shapes that can be utilised for their many horizontal and vertical lines and surfaces.
Some examples illustrating the technique
Tips for when on location
- This technique requires a lot of experimentation, and the success rate can be very low, maybe only 1:50, so be patient.
- Set a slow shutter speed, anything from 1/4 sec. to 2-4 sec. depending on technique, use an ND-filter if necessary.
- At first try simple panning techniques, horizontal and vertical movements, varying them depending on success.
- Remember, there’s no “correct” way of doing this, it’s highly personal, everyone eventually just finds something that works for them.
© Andrew James Kirkwood – 2017