Category Archives: Slow Shutter

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” –Charlie Brown

The Christmas holidays means something different to all of us.

For me it a time to reenergize and reflect; and what a year it has been. Photographically I launched the Photoimpressionism Project, had three images chosen for Flickr’s Explore Page and made big strides in mastering my impressionistic technique. This blog has achieved a consistent ranking in Google’s top 3 using the search term “photo impressionism”. My professional life has enjoyed significant milestones as well; lots of media attention thanks to Mayor Ford, as well as the usual victories for my clients.

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This is also the year I began to understand what a great time this is to be a photographer. Digital photography now gives us the tools to fulfill our vision without boundaries. Whether it is the immediacy of iphoneography, the raw power of a pro camera like Nikon’s D4, or capturing the invisible with infrared we have a tool set capable of imaging anything. And thanks to the internet like minded photographers can share their ideas and their victories with just a few clicks.

Looking forward to next year I have 3 personal goals:

– step up my photoimpressionistic technique. There is still much to learn;
– refocus my efforts on producing physical prints; and
– continue evangelizing photoimpressionism as a genre through my work and the work of others.

Best wishes for the holidays, and happy shooting.

Stephen D’Agostino

Just Outside The Met – New York

New York is a magical place for photographers. For me it’s the energy of the place; the people; the mix of architecture.

We were walking south on 5th Avenue. A bright morning. The crowds pulling towards the Met and I wanted to capture that feeling. The image above is my second shot. A three second motion blur taken while walking. I guess you might call it a forward pan.

The back story is this. I usually shoot with a Nikon D4. It’s a great camera and my favourite for photo impressionistic experiments. But add a couple of lenses to your bag and after a while the weight is oppressive. A recent back injury forced me to consider other options so I thought I would try a compact system and bought a Nikon N1 J2. In picking the J2 price was a big factor. Nikon’s release of the updated J3 means there are plenty of deals on new cameras.

I was surprised at the image quality of the N1 J2. Even more surprising was the system’s versatility. It shoots Raw (NEF format) which can be a life saver. While it won’t shoot in camera multiple exposures; the shutter releases quickly allowing me to reproduce the effect in Photoshop. The camera gives you shutter and aperture control meaning long exposures are a possibility. Match the lens with a Cameron Fader ND filter using a step up adapter and you have some great creative choices. In my view this is a great alternative for my photo impressionism projects. My only complaint is the LCD can be a pain to use on a bright day. I like using a viewfinder.

For my taste, long exposures and in camera multiple multiple exposures are too soft and washed out. As a result I colour correct and add structure to my photo impressionistic images in Photoshop. In this case I have used NIK’s tonal contrast filter and the mid-tone conturing action from Vincent Versace.

Slow Shutter as a Photo Impressionistic Technique

Via Flickr:
Toronto International Dragon Boat Race – dragged shutter technique ( 1/3 seconds). www.dagostino.ca

Using a slow shutter is a fabulous way to capture movement and energy to create a photo impressionistic effect. Here are some ideas that I have found through experimentation:

Light is always going to be your concern when photographing subjects in motion. The photo impressionistic effect comes from the slow shutter speed. A good neutral density filter is a must. I really like variable neutral density filters because of their flexibility and have had some success with the Cameron Fader ND Filter.

Its all about experimentation. I have had some good results with dragon boats in the 1/3 to 1/2 sec range (even down to 0.7 sec on occasion) with my aperture close to f22. Try some test shots to get the balance right.

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Panning is the critical skill here. I look for my point of visual interest (think picture in the picture) and try to keep it at a specific reference point in the view finder. You want that element to freeze in the image while all the other elements move creating a blur. It’s really hard to do even with a tripod or mono pod. The effect I was trying to achieve with the dragon boats was a sense of the circular motion of the paddles and the streaking background.

The shot below (0.7 secs at f18) was taken with a Kenyon Labs gyro. They are a really heavy addition to an already heavy kit but the results are great. As a result, the person who invented the wheel also deserves a camera credit here 🙂

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Post production is a matter of taste. I find the images need a bit of structure so I use photoshop to add a bit of contrast using NIK contrast and tonal contrast filters and Vincent Versace’s mid tone contouring action. Sometimes the images need just a bit of extra saturation as well.