Blur Effect

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Today’s Question: Can you tell me how you got the blur effect in the New York skyline photo you shared on 500px yesterday? I’d like to give this a try.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The image you refer to was created using a “zoom blur” technique. Using a zoom lens you set exposure settings that will produce a slightly long exposure duration, and then you change the zoom setting during the exposure.

More Detail: If you didn’t see this particular image, you can find it (and follow me on 500px!) using this link:

https://500px.com/photo/110232149/new-york-skyline-zoom-blur-by-tim-grey

In this specific case the exposure time was 1/8th of a second, which is a relatively fast shutter speed for this type of effect. Generally I aim for a longer exposure duration, so I can adjust the zoom setting for the lens a little more slowly.

There are numerous variations you can take with this effect, but the basic ingredients are relatively straightforward. With the camera (preferably) mounted on a tripod, you establish the settings for the exposure and frame up the scene as desired.

If you want to have an effect where the image is entirely blurred, I recommend starting to adjust the zoom before triggering the exposure, and making sure you are still adjusting the zoom setting when the exposure finishes. It can take a little practice to get the timing right, but the sound of the shutter mechanism operating is very helpful for providing a sense of how fast you’ll need to adjust the zoom setting.

You can also create an effect that combines both a still image and the zoom effect by either starting the zoom adjustment after the exposure has already been started, or stopping your adjustment of the zoom a little before the exposure ends.

The key here is to have fun playing with different variations on technique, and see what you like. The results can be unique and interesting, and the process can be a lot of fun too!