rick doble: time-flow photography: experimental imagery with continuous motion & long shutter speeds
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DESCRIPTIONFor the first time in the history of photography, digital photographers can now experiment with photographic effects and immediately review the results. This capability, which is crucial for experimentation, opens up a new world of imagery with slow shutter speeds that 'paint' light in a variety of ways. Yet some people believe that the effects of movement in slow-exposure photography are about the same and accidental. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a quite sophisticated vocabulary, a physics of light and motion, that can be understood and once understood is not accidental. This eBook details the ways these different motions are recorded in photographs and the new artwork that is now possible -- work that has its roots in modern art.
Time-Flow Photography: Experimental Imagery with
Continuous Motion and Long Shutter SpeedsCopyright Rick Doble 2014. All rights reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS (TOC)
Introduction Effects of Long Shutter Speed Exposures How To Experiment Putting These Effects Into Practice
All paintings and Futurist art are from commons.wikimedia.org.
All color photography is by Rick Doble.
Introduction: What Is Time-Flow Photography?
I coined the term 'time-flow photography' to describe photographs of motion that were taken with long
shutter speeds. This type of imagery records continuous movement rather than segmented
motion such as that captured with a flashing strobe light and a long shutter speed. My goal was to
record the full sweep of motion over a number of seconds. As you will read, this idea was first put
forward 100 years ago when photography was quite limited. But today a full range of new imagery may
be possible with the advanced capabilities of digital.
Early ExperimentationThis interactive eBook contains a variety of early
experimental images -- an exploration of what was now possible with the new digital photography
medium. This eBook shows both the effects I was able to achieve and also my development as the
technology itself developed. In the beginning -- because I was often limited by a shutter speed that was too high, a fixed low ISO,
low resolution and small storage space -- time-flow photography was difficult to record, yet with a little
ingenuity it could be accomplished.
After 30 years in film photography, I bought one of the first digital cameras in 1998 -- an extremely limited lo-res Casio, but state of the art for the time.
The optimal picture size was 480X320 with fixed focus, limited settings and tiny storage. Yet, as the first camera with a LCD monitor, I could see a photo instantly after I had shot it. This meant that, for the first time, I could experiment and know what I was recording.
Exploring a wide range of moving imagery -- such as Ferris Wheels, rodeos, traffic, driving, rave concerts, self portraits and musicians as they played -- these early experiments are offered to inspire and point the way to more experimentation with the now much more sophisticated equipment.
My experiments with long shutter speeds and motion blurs or paints the photograph with light.
This work records the world both in space and in time.
Warning: Some people do not like this kind of photography. They think that all photographs should be sharp and that these effects are accidental. While all art is a matter of taste, the effects you see here are deliberate, controlled and sophisticated. If you like Impressionist and Modern art, you might consider these photographs to be a kind of impressionist photography. If you like abstract art, you may like the abstracted quality of these photographs. If you don't like either of these kinds of painting, you probably won't like these photographs.
I coined the phrasetime-flow
to describe the particular imagery in this eBook, because this work does not segment movement into multiple sharp images as with a flashing strobe light, but rather records unbroken motion. For example, this
bouncing basketball photographed with such a strobe, shows the ball as multiple images rather than one long brush stroke.
As you will see, continuous movement
-- when looked at closely -- is quite complex.
Things go in different directions, at different speeds
and in different ways.
One hundred years ago, a modern photographer, Anton Bragaglia embarked on the same quest. He called the imagery he wanted to
record, Photodynamism and specifically rejected strobe-like imagery that divided motion into pieces.
Here is what he wrote:We despise the precise, mechanical, glacial reproduction of reality, and take the utmost care to avoid it. For us this
is a harmful and negative element, whereas for cinematography...it is the very essence.
And so [ED: with Photodynamism] just as the study of anatomy has always been essential for an artist now a knowledge
of the paths traced by bodies in action and of their transformation in motion will be indispensable for the
painter of movement.
BRAGAGLIA'S FUTURIST PHOTODYNAMISM MANIFESTO
ABOUT MY WORK AND METHODSLike any artist, I have my own particular way of
approaching my work and my subjects. Virtually all of my photos were taken handheld even with exposures as long as 10 seconds. I took these shots in candid situations and under available light,
usually at night. I tried to frame each picture as tightly as possible so I didn't crop most of them. I also tried
to get the exposure right at the time, but was not afraid to use standard darkroom tweaks such as adjusting the contrast, lightness-darkness, etc.
Most effects you see here were photographic and I rarely used computer graphics. I wanted to see what could be accomplished photographically rather than
with software or trying to fix a bad shot with software.
Just as a painter paints with a brush, a slow exposure allows a photographer to paint with light. Each point of light is like a brush that is spread across the image for as long as the shutter is open. These brushes can move in different directions depending on the movement and therefore can create myriad effects. These effects are similar to the work of the Impressionist painters who were preoccupied with the effect of light. The example below compares a Seurat painting on the left and a time-flow photograph on the right.
The following screens compare Impressionist and similar work on the left
with my time-flow photographs on the right.
The Impressionists were not the only artists working with a new way of seeing. The Italian Futurists and the Cubists
were developing imagery that showed movement and multiple perspectives. Below on the left is a Futurist
painting of a woman walking her dog, on the right a time-flow photo of a woman walking her dog. The next screens
show Futurist images compared to time-flow photos.
In the last comparison, here is a photo on the left by the photographer mentioned before, Anton Bragaglia. He took
photos of continuous motion over time. Time-flow photography also records unbroken motion and, so in a
sense, is picking up where he left off 100 years ago -- but now using the new tools of digital photography.
Understanding The Effects Of MotionWith Long Shutter Speeds
Some people believe that the effects of movement in long shutter speed photography are more or less the same and accidental. Nothing
could be further from the truth. There is a quite sophisticated vocabulary, a physics of motion, that can be understood and once
understood is not accidental. Subject MovementCamera Movement
Subject & Camera MovementRelative MovementAbsolute Movement
Stillness & Movement in the same shotGhosting
Negative GhostingMultiple Exposure Effects
Subject Movement-- the cab is moving but the pavement is sharp --
Subject Movement-- the fireworks & rides are moving but the parked cars are sharp --
Subject Movement-- a big band playing energetically on TV combined with an 8 second
shutter speed and an unmoving camera created this shot --
Subject Movement-- in a 4 second handheld self-portrait,
the moving images on the TV screen paint and created the abstract design --
Camera Movement-- the camera in a moving car 'paints' the traffic lights in a long exposure --
Camera Movement - the camera in a moving car 'paints' traffic lights on rain on a windshield -
Camera Movement -- taken at the same place, the photo on the left is a sharp photo,
while on the right, the camera paints the light to make an abstract design --
Camera Movement -- taken at the same place as the previous photo, controlled camera
movement, known as 'camera painting', created this abstract design --
Subject & Camera Movement-- the camera panned with the moving go-kart --
Subject & Camera Movement-- in a moving car with moving traffic after a rain, the tail lights of cars
made an interesting abstract design --
Subject & Camera Movement-- in a moving car, the background streaked, but the camera was stationary relative to the driver who was moving as she drove --
Subject & Camera
-- this is a panning shot of a person
walking at night with a lantern near a bay;
the light in the background was light
on the water that streaked as I panned
with the moving person --
Absolute Movement (a Futurist concept)the general direction of a person or car or object in motion
Relative Movement (a Futurist concept)internal movement within the object such as tires rotating on a car
as it moves forward or feet moving back and forth as a person walks
In this shot the car is moving to the left, but the wheels are turning with their own relative motion
Absolute & Relative Movement-- panning with a group of people as they walked made their
bodies fairly sharp while their feet and arms were blurred with relative m