Photo: The Sun-Kissed Rose

The Sun-Kissed Rose — a pink rose under the noon sun

A bright pink rose under the noon-day sun. This is normally the worst time to take pictures; the sun was directly overhead. But it didn’t turn out half-bad here; all the light is on the flower, so the background is dark, and the petals are nicely highlighted. It does reveal the defects in the rose, but that gives an air of honesty and truthfulness… right? :grin:

There was a lot of dirt on this rose; small specks, but annoying still. I spent a lot of time with the spot healing brush in Photoshop to take them out. Next was to add contrast and blacken the background, and then I got the finished photo you see here.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 50mm 1:1.4, 1/640, F3.5, 50mm, ISO100, 2008-04-23T12:37:07-04, 20080423-163707rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

How to Use Zooming for Explosive Photos

This is an interesting technique that I used in my latest photo, The Explosion. Simply, you zoom the lens as you take the photo, and you get some cool motion blur, no Photoshop required.

The Explosion — the world pops using zooming

Now, there are some concerns that you wouldn’t face with your normal photo, where the focal length stays constant through the exposure. Namely, these are:

• You can’t do it on most compacts, because the zoom is locked while taking the photo, as it’s controlled electronically. Using the method on a DSLR, where you turn the barrel yourself to zoom the lens, is usually the only option.
• You can’t do it with a prime lens (non-zooming), such as my favorite, the Canon EF 1:1.4. There’s just no zooming to be had.
• You need a slow shutter speed. It has to be fairly dark out, or in daytime, you have to close down the aperture as far as it goes, and maybe use a filter to keep more light out.
• With a slow shutter speed, you need a tripod. Camera shake does not look good, even in a zooming photo.
• Don’t try this with film, unless you want to waste a whole lot of film. Getting the process just right will take dozens of shots, and you’ll need to see what progress you’re making immediately to have any idea how to improve. This is really a place where digital shines.

To cut down the light, I screwed on a polarizing filter for the photo above, on the Canon Rebel XTi with the kit lens. It will work just fine; any 58mm circular polarizer will do for the lens. It cuts down about 1.5 stops of light (like F5.6 to F9.5), and makes the sky dark blue, depending on how you spin the ring. You can also cut down on light with a neutral density filter, though I haven’t tried one.

I opened up to F14 for The Explosion. Granted, I could’ve gone up to F22, but there wasn’t a need to. A 1/8 second exposure was plenty slow. I turned the timer on, held the camera down firmly with my left hand, and began zooming with my right just before the shutter tripped. That’s one thing you have to watch out for—it’s easy to jostle the camera while zooming, and it usually doesn’t look good because you won’t get a sharp center. So hold it down firmly.

Try over and over to get something cool-looking. Zoom slowly and just a little through exposure, quickly and over a wide range of focal lengths, zoom in steps rather than smoothly, and try different subjects. A simple subject works best. I zoomed at a moderate speed and evenly for the trees photo, and though it’s a complex subject, it draws the eye nonetheless. Try doing this on flowers, still life such as marbles or a baseball (I should’ve tried it with those), or even a highway (that’s motion blur, but zooming could’ve worked too).

Try starting zoomed out all the way, then zoom in. Then try zoomed half way to full telephoto, or wide-angle to medium. Next, go from telephoto to wide-angle (zoom out) as you expose; the world will look like it’s imploding rather than exploding.

An example of stepped zooming

The above is an example of stepped zooming. This was with a long exposure of 2.5 seconds; since it was dark and indoors, exposing for that long wasn’t a problem. The picture is of a door at the end of a hallway, with the light from outside flooding in from around the door. There’s a brightly lit door on the left also. Instead of zooming smoothly, I zoomed from 18mm to 55mm using the in nine steps over the period of the exposure. This gives the light a cool staggered effect. I did 30 similar shots and this was the best; it’s important for the line around the center of the door to be sharp for my purposes, meaning no motion blur. I put the camera on a milk crate and held it down myself, since I don’t own a tripod. You can improvise in the same way.

If you don’t have a zoom lens, you have a digital compact, or you just want to try something different, you can hold the camera steady while walking and get a similar effect; perhaps even better. It’s going to take a lot of tries and good luck, or a tripod on wheels or tracks to avoid other types of motion blur. I can see some cool results coming about if you try this in a hallway; maybe one at school or a hospital (and you’ll get quizzical looks from passersby).

This is a good technique to add to your arsenal, and I don’t see many people doing it. I’m sure you could work something similar in Photoshop, but getting it straight from the camera is much more fun.

Photo: The Explosion

The Explosion — the world pops using zooming

This is a cool effect called zooming. While the photo is exposing and the shutter is tripped, you zoom the lens while keeping the camera steady. That way, the middle of the frame is sharp but the edges have cool motion blur. I used it here on some trees in my yard, and at the bottom you can see our clothes line (we avoid the dryer to save energy). It looks like the world is exploding!

Read more about the technique in How to Use Zooming for Explosive Photos.

Since the zoom effect is in-camera, there wasn’t much to edit here. I just added contrast and toned the colors a bit.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/8, F14, 18mm, ISO100, 2008-04-20T18:30:51-04, 20080420-223051rxt

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: The Sibling Flowers

The Sibling Flowers — A red flower and a white flower together

A pair of flowers; one white, one deep red. I shot this at the garden section at Wal-Mart; the flowers were already close together, but I moved them closer. It’s a good combination. I got as close as my lens would focus to cut out the background.

I under-exposed compared to my camera’s meter on purpose, as it was blowing out the whites in the auto-exposure mode. In Photoshop, I desaturated everything, but left color in the red flower and a bit of green in the leaves. I didn’t go all the way to black and white, as I feel the green adds to the mood. Then, it was just a matter of darkening everything and adding in some contrast. I also cloned out distracting highlights at the top and burned the corners slightly.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 50mm 1:1.4, 1/125, F3.5, 50mm, ISO400, 2008-05-04T18:54:55-04, 20080504-225455rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Save What You Write

Whenever you write something, save it. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth keeping.

I’d been thinking of this as of late, so I created a page called My Comments. What do I put there? My comments, whenever I comment on a blog outside Why? Because I can’t trust I’ll ever see them again.

Don’t count on other people to preserve your work. This is all about independence. You may think you’ve just responded to some article with the greatest comment ever, but if the blog owner disagrees or just loves censorship, it’s one click of the delete button and your contribution is gone. Don’t you want to have what you write to refer to later? Then you can’t trust other people to hold the keys.

If you think this’ll never happen to you, or that it’s so rare that it doesn’t matter, then read The Profit Police and How They Kill Everyone. Even big and seemingly fair-minded communities will pull this on you, if you’ve violated one of their “policies.” It doesn’t matter if you’re adding a lot to the discussion. Good luck retrieving what you wrote (I was lucky my mini-articles were in Google’s cache).

I can promise that at I don’t do this, but the same goes for any blogging community (, LiveJournal, whatever). Or social network, or email service, or anything you don’t control. Even my web host (Netfirms) says they can remove your site if it has “adult or illegal content.” But at least by being on my own domain, I can wrest control back from them, rather than building pagerank for deviantART, and then having to start all over when I feel limited by their services or am banned on a whim. I do backup my SQL database often, just in case.

If you trust the Google empire to your email, at least download Thunderbird and synchronize a copy on your hard drive through IMAP. I know I do. Gmail has lost email before. Who knows what could happen to yours?

This is just one step to claiming ownership of your life. When you give up your power, you give up your freedom, even if it’s in the name of convenience or safety. If you’re stuck renting an apartment, save up for a down payment on a house, even if you have to give up cable TV or air-conditioning or phone service. Don’t let the cycle continue. Be independent, take back your power.