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Creating Painterly Photographs

Lesson 12 of 21

Exploring Creative Blur Through Subject Movement

Kathleen Clemons

Creating Painterly Photographs

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

12. Exploring Creative Blur Through Subject Movement

Lesson Info

Exploring Creative Blur Through Subject Movement

Going to start off talking about fun with a slow shutter, and I'm sure you've probably all tried photographing moving water with a slow shutter, but let's move beyond water and your typical subjects and see what else we can do with that for fun. My friend, the late Clifton Mair, was an amazing photographer, and he loved to capture motion. We were talking one day, and he told me that 1/15 of a second was his favorite shutter speed. I never thought about having, I might have a favorite aperture, but I really never thought about having a favorite shutter speed. And since that time, I've really tried to play around with shutter speed both with moving subjects and stationary subjects, a little bit more. But he was a huge influence on that for me. So here are a couple of older shots of mine that I took of a Spanish dancer and started to try and play with shutter speed to emphasize the blur, to create that feeling of motion. I wanted you to be able to feel the dance, and a shot with a fast sh...

utter wouldn't do that. It would freeze the motion, but I think a slow shutter allows you to feel the dance more. So the subject moves, and your camera remains still. This is a shot that I took. Those are alewives. It's a fish that we have in Maine, and they were having a little swimming frenzy, and so I shot them with a fast shutter and froze the motion. And then I thought, "What would happen if I played around "with some slow shutters?" So this is at 1/20 of a second. And one of the fun things about shooting moving subjects with a slow shutter is that no two of your photos are gonna be the same. There's gonna be more movement especially if you're experimenting with different shutter speeds. It's just really, really fun, and it's a non-documentary shot. It's a more artistic photo of the subject. This I shot above that fish pond. These are some gulls having a feeding frenzy chasing alewives, and it's beyond the obvious. Nobody's ever gonna say to you, "I have one "exactly like that" because they can't. There's no way, and that's at 1/13 of a second. This is a leaf whirlpool that I shot at Acadia. I was on a tripod because you can see that there's a large area that had to be tack sharp here around the edges, so when I need tack sharp, I am on a tripod as well. So I want you to start thinking about embracing the blur. Think outside the box. That's a 10-second exposure it took me to capture that whirlpool effect. We could just see the leaves moving around a little bit and thought, "Hmm, slow shutter." I shot this during hurricane Irene. Well, not in the middle of it. (laughter) As it was coming up the coast, I live right on the coast of Maine and as it was coming, the wind was starting to churn. My neighbor's Japanese maple was just crazy with the high energy wind and no rain yet, so I went out, handheld and braced my elbows against my body and tried a slow shutter and shot. And for me, that captured the feeling of the storm. I can feel the energy in that and if I'd shot that with a fast shutter and just froze the motion of the leaves, I wouldn't have that. This is another one at Acadia and I'd already put my tripod in the car and I was waiting for my friends and sitting next to this little brook and the leaves started to move around, so I braced the camera on my knee and shot this in 2.5 seconds. Now, there's nothing (laughing) sharp here, but I still like it because I love the feeling of movement and the autumn colors. This is a flirtatious peacock in Charleston at Magnolia Plantation doing a dance in full display, and I already have a couple of nice peacock shots of the little face and then the feathers, but I wanted to do something different. And so I thought, when I'm trying to think outside the box I think, "Well, slow shutter." This image I shot in Boston at South Station. I was shooting Boston with some of my friends and it's a hard place for me to shoot because I'm not a street photographer and everything is straight. The buildings are straight, the lines are straight, and I'm attracted to curves, so it's a real stretch for me. So, they were off shooting something else and I was in South Station and thought, "Well, I'll play "with slow shutter." So I followed the passengers with my camera so that there are just very, very small areas in focus and the train is not in focus, but you get the man's face and it's just a very painterly look. So, don't think about just nature with these techniques. I actually braced the camera on a railing so that I could hand hold it, and this is a situation where you can try shooting on burst because as they're moving you can just follow them and shoot on burst. This is another one from the same shot, and this time the train wasn't moving, but look at her boot. That boot is tack sharp and when I saw that on the back of my camera, I'm like, "Ah, I nailed it." I loved the shot. I like the reflections in the window, and the windows of the train as well, and the slow shutter. This is my husband doing one of his favorite things, and that's racing cars. This is a '34 Chevy and when I shot him he was going 115 miles an hour. This is at 1/60 of a second. So, I wasn't new to high speed panning, so my first shot he's not even in it. (laughter) Second shot, the back of the car is in it. So then I got smart, set my camera to burst, and as soon as I could hear him getting close, I'd hit the burst, pan, and then I could catch him in the frame. But, he's not crazy about many of my blurry photos, but he really does like this one. When you do this, you really need a colorful background and this is a really challenging technique, not for everybody, panning is. So you have to be prepared to delete a lot, but now and then there'll just be a gem. I tried the same technique. I went to a barrel race event. More panning fun and tried to follow the barrel racers which is tough because they go in different directions, and it was fun. And what you wanna do is get your subject in focus and the background blurred, so you need a good background with a lot of detail and fun. Not easy, but a fun challenge.

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!