Bring Life and Movement to Stationary Objects
by Bryan Peterson
There are a number of ways to bring life and movement to otherwise stationary subjects, yet one of the more often over-looked methods is the simple twist of or push/pull of the zoom lens during a relatively slow exposure. Tripod or no tripod, the choice is yours, personally I prefer to use the tripod for simple zooms as it results in a cleaner image. Just like those spinning, twirling or jerking images where one will find no shortage of subjects, finding subjects to zoom are just as plentiful!
Atop the staircase, in the heart of Times Square, I stood with my tripod mounted camera and 70-300mm lens and with the aid of my 2-8 stop Tiffen ND filter and an ISO of 100, I set my aperture to f/11and adjusted my shutter speed until a 1/4 second indicated a correct exposure. As soon as I pressed the shutter release, I turned the zoom ring of the lens from 70mm towards 300mm and after making about 10 attempts, I felt confident that I had two or three that did in fact did convey the energy and buzz that Times Square is surely noted for! For smooth zoom motion, it helps to start zooming before you press the shutter button.
Late on that same day, I moved down to Brooklyn Bridge Park and composed what is surely one of the more iconic and common images of New York city at dusk. With my camera and 24-85mm lens mounted on tripod, I set the aperture to f/11 since depth of field was not a concern and with my focal length at 60mm, I pointed the camera towards the dusky magenta blue sky above the city and then adjusted my shutter speed when two seconds indicated a correct exposure. I then recomposed the scene and fired off several frames, one of which you see here. Following this, I took several more exposures, again at f/11 for two seconds, but it was during this two-second exposure time that I slowly zoomed my lens from 60mm to 85mm and this resulted in a rather 'explosive' image of the New York City skyline, "the zoom with a boom" effect is what I like to call it!
The zooming technique is often done by zooming from the widest angle of a given lens to the narrowest angle in a fluid smooth non-stop motion. However there is another zoom technique to consider when shooting exposures in the 8-16 second range. Take a look at these two images of the Seattle skyline and Interstate-5.
The first image is of course taken without zooming the camera at all-a nice straight-forward image of the Seattle skyline at dusk. With my camera and 70-300mm lens mounted securely on tripod and with my aperture set to f/16 I pointed the camera to the dusky sky above the skyscrapers and adjusted the shutter speed until 8 seconds indicated a correct exposure. I then depressed my cable release and 8 seconds later this was the result.
In the second photograph, I chose to do something a bit different then a 'normal' non-stop smooth zoom, something that you too can easily do when shooting long exposures such as 8 seconds. I though it would be interesting to see what would happen if I made three separate 'exposures' at three different focal lengths during the 8 second exposure. With my exposure of f/16 for 8 seconds I fired the shutter release and waited for two seconds, then carefully and quickly moved the focal length from 100mm to 135mm and counted two seconds then moved the focal length from 135mm to 200mm and counted two seconds and finally moved t the focal length to 240mm for the remaining two seconds and sure enough, if you look close, you can see FOUR distinct exposures of the Seattle skyline.
You keep shooting!
Bryan F Peterson