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Creating Painterly Photographs

Lesson 13 of 21

Exploring Creative Blur Through Intentional Camera Movement

Kathleen Clemons

Creating Painterly Photographs

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

13. Exploring Creative Blur Through Intentional Camera Movement

Lesson Info

Exploring Creative Blur Through Intentional Camera Movement

My favorite way to do panning is with stationary subjects and especially trees. So you use a slow shutter, and you're tilting your camera as you press the shutter. Some people tilt up, I like to tilt down. You want to do a fluid movement. If you move like this, the lines will be choppy instead of smooth. And if you move like this, then you're just going to have streaks of color and no definition at all, and if that's what you were going for, that's fine too. So you want to go not too fast because you want to have some detail and not too slow because you want to have some effect. So here I start with my friend Cliff's favorite one 15th of a second, it seems to be a good starting speed for me. And your speed is going to depend on how fast you're moving the camera. But I need to give you one shutter speed to start with just so that you have a place to start. Let's look at some more of my pan trees. You can do this at any season. Look for something with long, linear lines. If you can't get...

a slow shutter, think about adding a polarizer to slow it down a bit or a neutral density filter will do it as well. First one is a point three seconds, point four. So I started at a 15th and it wasn't enough. Went even slower. These are birches at Sand Beach in Acadia. And my friends were all shooting the beach and the sun rise, and I've got that. You know, so I was looking around, what else am I going to shoot? And I saw these birch trees and they had such tiny wonderful little branches, so I thought vertical pan and that's my shot. So that's what I saw in my head, was that, not the other one. And the 15th of a second did it. Here's another one, another place at Acadia in autumn. This is the before shot. And there's the after. So it's a beautiful effect, I do love it for birches. And you really need to fill the frame with a lot of subject matter and a lot of line. It's also important to look for good spacing between the trees. If your trees are all clumped up, you're going to end up with a big blob, and we've already talked about avoiding blobs. So good spacing between your trees is important as well. So these were close to a 15th of a second, and that's where I start. And you can use burst with this as well. So you'd set the camera on burst, click, and then it'll go click, click, click, you'll take several different shots. And there might be one that you like more than the rest. And not just trees, lupine grows wild in Maine in June, and a straight shot like this is for me is a little boring at this point. I mean I love to shoot flowers, but I need to find different ways at this point to keep myself interested. How many different ways can you shoot lupine? Well you can take a straight shot. And you can vertical pan it. That's at a tenth of a second. Same group of flowers. This is at an eighth of a second, so my speed was a little bit slower, there's a little more blur, a little less detail. It's a more painterly look. I think that to me it looks like an impressionistic painting, and I did it right in camera. These are swamp berries that I shot in October in Maine with the same technique. And here's a before and after. You look for strong lines. I look for color most of the time. And that's that same subject at a fifth of a second. It's a very abstract look. There's really no detail, it's really just a play of color and light and line. This is Sieur de Monts Boardwalk, also in Acadia, at two different shutter speeds and orientations as well. It's just a very different look. On the left is at a point three seconds, and the one on the right is much longer at four seconds. I moved quite slowly. So work your speeds, and also work your orientations. After you shoot that horizontal, try a vertical, especially if you're dealing with line. You don't have to go vertically, you can also go horizontally. This is a beach at Cape Cod. Look for a lot of horizontal lines and flow and a mix of color for this technique. And that's a one second exposure. This is a blueberry field a couple of hours north of my house. It's beautiful and I shot it as a documentary shot, and then I started playing with panning as well. So that's at a half a second. And then I tried one more where I did the same shutter speed, but I wanted a little bit more detail. So if you look at this one, it's really just streaks of color, a little more detail coming through here. And that's just by me varying how fast I was shifting. And it's not just for landscapes. These are tulips. And this is great when the tulips aren't in great shape. You know, they started to go by, but the color's still good. You don't have to worry about any flaws showing with this. And with this I just move the camera with a little bit of arc at a 25th of a second. And this one at a 13th, where it did more of a little squiggle. So there's no rules, it's really just playing. You're playing with light. These are both irises. One is at a sixth of a second, and the other is at an eighth. Same subject, different speeds. Again, go vertical, go horizontal as well. For these, I just nudged my camera. I learned this technique from Brian Peterson, where you just hold your camera and do this. Or just this, just a little movement. And with a slow shutter speed, you never know what you're going to get. And you're going to delete a lot because you're going to go what is that? But sometimes it's quite effective and very artistic. This is a nudge shot, but to me those look like, the leaves look like they have been painted with an impressionistic style. You know and there's the little dabs of paint, and that's at a one point three seconds. So that's a lot of nudging. And an eighth of a second, and I went in a circular motion with these trees, and they were back lit. So that light coming through took on the swirl pattern, which I thought was really pretty. And here's a before and after. There's this amazing tree that I saw at Acadia, and it might be just me, but that tree looked to me like it was dancing. But I couldn't convey that with a straight shot. But if I added a little camera motion, I think it enhanced the look that I was going for. It added more of a dancer-ly, dancer-ly, is that a word? A dancing look to it, so I was much happier with the more abstract look than I was just the plain shot. And this is just an eighth of a second, just pine needles. And this is back at Dawn Garden. So I did a video for you on how I do this technique of motion blur. The road into the garden had some beautiful, really tall trees and foliage close by. So let's see what we did there. Let's talk about in camera motion with a stationary subject, that is you'll be moving the camera with a slow shutter speed and shooting something that is stationary that is not moving. I love to do this with trees. You saw quite a few examples already, and I want to show you exactly how I do that. You want to choose an aperture that will get you a decently slow shutter speed. And your shutter speed is going to be dependent on how fast you move the camera. So if you're moving quickly, you're going to need a slower speed. If you move too quickly, you won't get any detail at all in your subject, you'll just get streaks of blur. And streaks of color and line and a more abstract look. And if that's what you want, that's fine, but I tend to use a 15th of a second at least for a starting point. And then you might have to adjust how fast you're moving to how much detail you want in the final shot. So right now with 16 to 35 I'm going to shoot this road with the tall trees. And I'll be starting at the top and moving down. Now it really doesn't make a difference for this technique whether you start at the bottom of the scene and move up or down, but I find that if you move up sometimes you catch too much sky. So I would rather start at the top and move down. You also can go sideways, just wiggle the camera, anything you want to do, but we're going to be starting up high and tilting down as I click the shutter. (clicking sounds) Vary your motion, vary your shutter speed. And no two shots of this technique are going to be the same. So I encourage you to shoot lots of them. Look at them all together on your computer and choose the one that you like best. And there's one more shot. And I did go in Photoshop and tone down the whites. So see the white area is the sky coming through the background. I didn't totally take them out because I sort of like the motion, but I didn't want them to be the total focus. Because of contrast, they were so bright that they would pull your eye, so I did a little bit of cloning. Kathleen, a couple of questions before we move on to the next lesson, and let us know if you have any. I know panning can be new for a lot of people, so thank you so much for showing us in the video. So CPA Jeff had asked, as you're changing shutter speeds on these blurry photos, are you stepping down the aperture to get the exposure correct as well? Right, because my, you know when I did selective focus my main focus was aperture. Now my main focus is shutter speed, and I'll change the aperture to get the shutter speed that I want. Great, perfect. And then another question from Josie Thompson. Did you always need to use an ND filter to not overexpose a photo on pannings low? No, and I did not use one yesterday. I'm only using that if the conditions are so bright that I can't get the slow shutter that I need. And yesterday, the day before yesterday was overcast and it wasn't an issue. And just to point out, another person had asked, are these all done with lens baby? None of them. Clearly, yeah, oh none of them, okay. No, none of these, none of the vertical pans were. Great. Yep, I like a somewhat long focal length and I have panned with my lens baby, but none of the ones you saw were lens baby. Most of them were with my either 70 to 200 or 24 to to get the width that I need sometimes. Alright, thank you. Okay, any questions from you guys? Okay. While we're talking about slow shutters, I just want to show you a fun little technique. This shot was from, my goodness, 2006 I think at Fort Popham in Maine. And it's called Creating Ghosts, where you can shoot yourself, photograph yourself at a slow shutter speed walking through a scene and you're on a tripod for this and you're using your timer or having a friend click the shutter. And click the shutter for a nice, long shutter speed and then just walk through. And depending on your speed, again, will be how ghostly you appear. But this was the first one that I ever did, and it's really fun, and I find that I tend to do it now, again, when my friends are not done and I'm done. What am I going to do? Well I'll shoot myself, I'll photograph myself. This is with a 70 to 40 millimeter, Acadia, under one of the Carriage Road bridges. And my friends weren't done and so I just played a little bit with the shutter speed and walking through. Same thing, we were shooting in an old mill and I was ready to go, so I set my tripod up and started, yeah, it's a storage facility now, and just started walking through the storage facility. But it's fun. I've been thinking about maybe making this my trademark. And everywhere I go I'm going to make myself a ghost in that location. It might happen, but this is my favorite. This is at the Olson house where Andrew Wyeth painted, and I named it Spirited. And it's one of my favorites. I love the lines and the doorways and the transparency. And I think you can feel motion, you can see that my foot is about to step forward. But just another way to have fun with a slow shutter.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Make yourself stand out among nature photographers by adding a new dimension to your images. Painterly techniques draw attention to the delicate patterns, lines, textures, and designs that we often overlook in the natural world.

Kathleen Clemons is an experienced nature photographer, known for her creative techniques and her unique, stunning compositions. 

Join Kathleen for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to achieve the painterly look in-camera with slow shutter, selective focus, Lensbaby, and multiple exposures.
  • How to evoke the painterly look in Photoshop with panning.
  • How to use Topaz Impression and NIK software to make painterly photos.
In this class, you’ll learn how to create painterly images by using a wide variety of techniques. Kathleen will show you how to apply effects using in-camera settings, different lenses, Adobe Photoshop®, and low-tech tricks like applying vaseline to filters. Capture the magic of nature and turn your photography into remarkable impressionistic art. 



Wow. I really loved this class. I took her other class, "The Art of Flower Photography" as well. She is very thorough, explains concepts clearly and is professional, yet kind. I have been doing photography for decades, but flower photography is a little bit of a different animal. I have found it to be extraordinarily challenging - which is also invigorating! At the same time, using Kathleen's principles, I feel like I now have basic rules and tools under my belt which I did not have before. This is a little humbling as I have been doing photography for so long and was surprised there were a few basic concepts I didn't "get the memo" on. haha. This class will save me heaps of trial and error time. I will be much better able to zero in on what I really need to work on. I actually recommend taking both her Creative Live courses. Yes, there is a bit of overlap - but that little bit of repetition is actually helpful. They are not the same class. Oh, and one more "perk" get to view some of the most stunning flower photography ever created. Masterful. Thank you, Kathleen.

Donna Macri Stevens

As I've been watching this class, I have literally been sitting at my computer and saying aloud, "Wow....WOW!" This is an absolutely amazing class!!! I began watching it while it streamed, but had to buy it. Kathleen is an amazing instructor, and she is SO generous with her tips and techniques. I love that she supplemented her instruction with on-site videos, in class photo manipulation and so much more. If you love flower photography or want amazing tips on how to make your photos more painterly, CLICK BUY NOW! I'm just blown away! This is a GREAT, GREAT class!


Kathleen's images have a very artistic and painterly character, so she is a great presenter for this subject. In this class she openly shares many of her methods of shooting to create in-camera artistic images (even with your phone) as well as post-processing techniques. She presents this material with her open, calm, strong and passionate manner that gives you an "artistic license" to experiment and discover "What happens if?" I have admired her work for a long time and am so excited that she shares the secrets of creating her enchanting images here. If you are interested in capturing images that go beyond what you see to incorporate how you feel about a subject, you will love this class!