ICM - Intentional Camera Movement
All of my life I’ve been chasing what I see out of the corner of my eye; those elusive visions, slightly blurred and a bit magical. But when I turn and focus on them, they disappear into ordinary. I wanted to learn how to capture that state of blur. It’s what caught my eye in the first place – I think it’s worth chasing.
If you stop and think about it, most of what is in our field of vision is out of focus. Our eyes are only able to focus on a very small area. Our true focus has no depth of field. I think that’s why many of us are fascinated by photographs without clarity – or how our eye finds clarity within blur.
I’ve actually trained my eye not to focus so it can explore scenes looking for what catches my eye. Only then do I focus in and see what I have found. Then comes the challenge of capturing it in all it’s blurry beauty.
A few years ago, I got an app for my iPhone that easily allowed me to capture those images in their magical and unfocused state. I could leave the phone shutter open one second or two and I could watch an image build and morph on the screen. I was transfixed. The phone became an obsession as I studied what was happening and learned what was possible.
The next step was to take that knowledge and transfer it to my digital camera. I had to figure out how to get the right settings and the correct motions to fix those moments in time onto my sensor. It was incredibly challenging because unlike the phone, where I could watch a photograph emerge, I had to work blind within my camera.
That turned out to be a bonus because through trial and error – lots of error – I made new discoveries and learned. My limited expectations began to expand and they continue to expand to this day.
This journey into capturing my peripheral vision is still a work in progress. I hope it always will be. But I’m far enough along now to share what I have discovered – what I have learned. Here are a couple of tips and hints.
When shooting blur, it is important to follow some kind of line that will maintain clarity. Our eye needs a place to rest and it doesn’t rest in a state of blur.
Subjects for blur can be anything we see – or don’t see clearly. The first step is to start paying attention to what catches your eye. We never find a subject to shoot in clarity that hasn’t entered our consciousness in a state of blur. In your next ‘aha’ moment, back up and think … what caused me to look at this? What caught my eye? Be mindful.
The next step is to identify if you want to try and capture that moment before clarity. If the answer is yes, then your journey has begun.
Blur photography happens with a longer shutter speed. My favorites are 1/10 – 1/13th for most subjects but I also have other subjects that do well with one or two seconds. I started with the shorter exposures and worked hard on camera control. I personally do not use a tripod – I sort of dance with my camera. Without a tripod, steady hands are important.
Here are two examples of camera settings. One short and one a bit longer. These are Lightroom screen shots.
Think Before You Shoot - Bring Home Photos You Love!
Travel photography always creates a sense of urgency in me. When I arrive at a new place I can easily be overwhelmed with awe. Sights, sounds, smells and fatigue all conspire to overpower my brain. My urge is to try and capture it all, and it takes conscious effort to slow down and organize my thoughts.
The places I’ve been privileged to see are wildly amazing and it’s a challenge to bring home images that match my experience. Itʼs also a challenge to bring home images someone else hasnʼt already taken – to find something original at places like the Taj Mahal.
I know my equipment and use it often – not just my cameras, but lenses, filters, flashes, etc. When I buy something, I learn how to use it. My camera must be an extension of me so that my reactions can be instinctively right. There’s a lot to consider when shooting; learning how to use equipment can’t be on my mind.
Before I leave, I sort through everything and decide what Iʼm going to take with me. Next, I start using it. I make time to go out and take photographs. I run through different scenarios that I might encounter and make sure that using my photography tools is second nature to me. I refresh my mind on how things work if I havenʼt been using them for a while. Good examples might be my flash attachment or specialized filters.
Digital gives us many great gifts in photography but the ease of feedback has to be near the top. Live view and software programs give me the ability to analyze and make changes. Trying different settings and approaches broadens choices and helps capture distinctive views that tell my story. I study other people’s images, the ones that inspire me, and figure out how they move into things. I don’t try to copy what they do. I try and learn how they see things and it helps me expand my own vision.
When I happen into a scene that I want to shoot, my mind runs through a series of questions, “What’s the story here? Who or what is the star? Are there leading lines, shapes or patterns I can use? Is there a ‘moment’ about to happen? Where do I need to be?” What is the light doing? I think before I shoot. I may never pass this way again. I certainly will never be back under the exact same circumstances so I want to make what I shoot really counts.
Every photograph I take is the expression of my inner voice bursting to get out. Photography is visual language. When I want to say something with words, I formulate them to get my point across. When things are blurted without thought, often the point of what I want to say is lost. The same is true with visual language. If it is to succeed, thought must go into our photography procedure.
There are many things to consider as we start this decision-making process. The camera flattens what the eye sees in our three-dimensional world and compresses it into two dimensions. Light is one of our most powerful tools to add back part what the camera takes away. Don’t ignore perspective. Most photographs are shot from eye level. When I gain a different perspective, I see the world change.
Travel brings all kinds of restrictions. I think about what I have to work with, not what I wish I had. Embrace constraints – interesting photography happens because of them. I can battle the weather, the light or the wrong lens and go home empty-handed. Or I can embrace the limitations and work with them, finding an image I might never have suspected was there.
I always look behind me. It’s surprising how often the best shots are at my back. Look around and be aware. Look around and see what’s coming. Then move into position.
Good photographs elicit emotions. When I consider the lines, light, placement, framing and all the other choices I have, my images will more likely express not only what I saw, but also how I felt. Photographs speak to viewers because they tell a story. It’s important to choose the correct elements to make that story intentional and evocative.
The choices of how to capture a subject are almost limitless. When traveling in Cambodia, I came across a lady carrying water from a lake. It was sunset. It didnʼt take much thought to frame and shoot the photograph below.
Itʼs a lovely shot. But there were a lot of people with cameras and phones stopping to take the same photograph. Was there another choice to capture the magic of this moment – the swish of the water – a bit of her dance? For me, the answer was yes.
The gifts of being a traveler with a camera are enormous. We see so much more than other travelers. We note details, light and people; we look deeply. Even without our photographs we bring home richer experiences. We don’t just pass through. We become part of the environment.
A photograph is magic. We can capture a moment in time and subsequently savor it for as long as we want. When it’s done well, others are delighted that we share our work and let them journey with us.
As we think about packing our gear, remember the most valuable tool in our tool box is ourselves. Keep your head, think before you click the shutter, bring home photographs you love; and happy shooting!
Please visit www.roxanneoverton.com — where you will find more photography and information on my instructional and travel series photography books.
Don’t Waste Social Media – it’s a powerful tool!
By: Roxanne Bouché Overton
Social Media – loved by some and hated by others – and not used often enough in the right way to benefit your photographic growth.
Seven years ago, I was issued a challenge by one of the most gifted photographers I know. I was whining about how I couldn’t identify a genre to focus on – how I felt my work was stagnant – like I said – whining.
He issued me a challenge that utterly changed my photographic path – accelerated my learning curve – and set me free to explore my own potential. I won’t issue that challenge to you but you may decide after reading this article to issue it to yourself.
He had been ‘working’ this challenge himself for several months and was very impressed with his results. He was hoping I would take it on to see if it worked for me as well.
His challenge was for a one-year period. Every single day.
I also expanded the challenge to include other lessons I had learned that I felt contributed to my own growth in photography in surprising ways.
The challenge was to post ONE photograph a day, every day on a social media platform. It had to be a photograph that I was extremely proud of and I had to understand why I liked it and write a short summary. It had to be the quality of photograph that I was proud to share with the world.
Note – ONE photograph a day. Not a series of snapshots but a quality piece of work. Don’t dilute it with numbers. Give it the importance it deserves.
Here’s an example.
Conversation: I love the strong backlight – how it creates a glow on the walkers. The shot is well anchored with a series of vertical lines that repeat in reality and by implication in the people walking. Burnished colors compliment the scene. Strong feel of energy – people in motion.
It’s been interesting over the years how people who follow my work and read the descriptions assume the words are for them. I’m happy to share them but the words are an important part of this growth path and are written for me. In analyzing why I like the photograph I am posting, I am reinforcing within my mind what is important to me.
As I did this, over time, I found I had specific things I looked for regardless of what subject I was shooting. I learned from my own work and my own preferences what to look for when I was out shooting.
Conversation: I love the curiosity this shot creates. The frame is weighted nicely on the bottom with a soft pattern that helps throw emphasis on the bright area at the top that frame the subject. Sharp focus also draws my eye. Nice lines and shapes strengthen the frame.
I found giving verbal voice to my visual image was a terrific learning tool. I found a way to expand on it. Instead of giving my voice to just my own work, I decided to have personal conversations with myself when looking at the work of people I admired. What was it they were consistently doing that made me pause and gaze in wonder at their captures?
These conversations taught me more about what it was that drew my eye. And the best part is that they inspired me to weave new ideas (not copy) based on these preferences into my own work. I started clarifying and distilling to the heart of what I loved seeing in a photograph.
Here’s an important aside. When studying other people’s work, it’s vital to study only work that inspires you. This can be found on social media but it’s a very small sliver of the photography that is posted.
Be careful with scrolling on the internet. It’s far too easy to feed your brain junk food by looking at photo after photo of inferior quality. This may sound snobby, but it’s not.
What we shoot every time we raise the viewfinder or screen to frame a shot, is a compilation of everything we have felt and seen in our entire lives. It’s what makes photography unique. None of us has walked the same footsteps and we all see differently based on our own collective personal experiences.
If you scroll through endless junk, you are making that part of your experience.
Other places to find inspiring work are specific webpages belonging to stellar photographers and photography art books. The libraries are full of them. Spend time with masters and have those verbal conversations. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
Conversation: I like how the receding columns on the left pull my eye back and into the image. The blues and yellows make a nice contrast and add energy. The big X is a strong pull and anchors the shot which is really about motion. I like the slight blur of the people - the wisps left over from a passing car. Another thing I like about this shot are the patterns - they are everywhere and enhance the strength of the shot.
Words are important. In sales, it has been proven that words and visuals combined add up to much more than 1+1=2. The combination accelerates the power of each. When I first started looking at the work of others, I actually wrote down bullet points about their work to see how often each of their images ticked off a point. I found the most inspiring work to carry a lot of commonality across the multiple genres they shot. It opened my eyes to possibilities.
I did this for three years. It was hard but I learned so much. I still do it although I cut myself some slack. I skip vacations and occasionally post without a comment.
But I find I miss the exercise. My subconscious knows it’s incredibly valuable and I’m not ready to stop growing. I hunger to explore and improve. So, I post and converse – out loud for emphasize. I look at the work of others and converse – out loud for emphasis. And I stay away from junk – do not evaluated negative things – all of my emphasis is on the positive.
This isn’t my challenge to you. It’s your challenge to yourself should you choose to accept it.
Conversation: I like how vibrant and natural the colors look. I like the contrast they provide coming from opposite sides of the color wheel. I like the horizontal bands that move my eye across the image from side to side - it has an endless feel. I like the interruption of shape in the foreground where the water meets the sand - a lazy curve line that lets my eye explore.
Fun with Multiple Exposures
By: Roxanne Bouché Overton
Cameras can capture all kinds of fun and my firm belief is that when we color outside the lines – play and not take things too seriously – we learn.
I’ve been hand blending photographs for years. I love taking pictures of a subject from a lot of different angles. This method usually requires that I keep the subject in the middle of the frame and shoot anywhere from three to 20 shots. I load them as layers into Photoshop and then turn everything off visibly except the bottom layer. I then start blending from the bottom up until I get the image I imagined.
One day I was playing around in Photoshop and found that there were other options where I could auto-blend layers. I could give up control and let Photoshop make the decisions. The intriguing thing here was that I didn’t know what Photoshop would envision. I soon learned that the program took my images to places I would have never imagined. I could take multiple images of the bridge moving the camera just a little bit between shots – up and down, tipping this way and that – and then askPhotoshop to do an auto-blend. So imagine 14 individual shots like this but with each one taken from a slightly different vantage point.
Then I put them in auto blend to see what Photoshop does.
A rather bland hallway seemed interesting and I specifically shot 10 images for auto blend. They were all variations on shots like this:
I did a mix of still shots and those using ICM, intentional camera movement. The result is kind of elegant:
Playing with this is really fun and it’s surprisingly simple to accomplish in terms of using Photoshop. After you’ve played with it a bit, you’ll find yourself looking for good subject and that can get challenging – planning for what you hope. And you will sometimes get it – and other times Photoshop will show you something you would have never dreamed possible.
Load your photographs as layers in Photoshop. You can do this by selecting them in Lightroom and going to edit > add as layers.
Once in Photoshop, select all the layers > Shift A. Then go to the menu at the top and choose Edit>Auto-Blend Layers
The window looks like the following and these are my settings:
It’s just that simple – so go have some fun!