Creative Effects in the Camera

I guess by now I am notorious for using Photoshop as part of my digital photography. After all, I’ve described my work as “painting using digital photographs as my medium.”

When giving a  workshop, when asked whether an image has been “Photoshopped,” I reply, “Yes. Whichever image of mine you pick, the answer will always be, ‘Yes’!”.

So there is something that some people will find a bit unusual for me when I show a special-effect image that was  created in the camera such as the Dance of the Tulips. Of course, good (and creative) camera technique is always important—whether Photoshop is involved or not!

Dance of the Tulips by Harold Davis

Dance of the Tulips © Harold Davis

Here’s how I made this image: First, I started with some beautiful Tulips from Thomas Farms, bought at the North Berkeley Farmer’s Market. I placed the tulips on a black background.

I’ve written previously about using my 18-200mm zoom lens with a 36mm extension tube to create a kind of poor person’s macro lens. This kind of setup can get you very close, and it has a neat soft focus feeling and cool bokeh. Of course, I wouldn’t use it if I wanted end-to-end precision macro sharpness. The odd thing is that optically what works best is to set the lens manually on infinity, find your distance, and then “focus” using the zoom ring.

My next step was to add approximately 8 f-stops of neutral density to the front of the lens so I could make quite long exposures, in the 5 seconds to 30 seconds range with the lens stopped down.

Finally, I timed each exposure so that the lens was fixed and “in focus” for about half the exposure, and then a carefully and smoothly rotated the zoom dial to get an out-of-focus effect for the remainder of the exposure.

In other words, the effect combines the hardness and definition of a fully stopped-down in-focus lens with the soft focus of a motion blur and an image thrown intentionally out-of-focus.

Exposure data: 18-200mm zoom lens, starting at about 135mm, 36mm extension tube, 15 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Read about Bokeh and the Zen of Blur on my blog.

This entry was posted in Photography.

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