Motion Blur

The title image was recently selected as one of the finalists in the Viewbug Blurry Captures Photo Contest. It got me thinking about how it was created, and how at the time, I found little about the process of how it was done. So that has inspired this post.

The process although relatively easy can be time-consuming to get right.

Some dust spot removal and general RAW processing were done in Lightroom before the image was opened in Adobe Photoshop for further processing. The 5 images and descriptions below show the basic steps.

  1. The original image

  2. The layer was duplicated so that there were two identical layers. The person was removed from one layer by cloning the surrounding area.

  3. A motion blur was then applied to this layer. With this image, the Angle was set to 0° and the distance around 930 pixels. These settings would vary from image to image.

  4. This is the second layer with the background removed.

  5. And finally, both layers put back together.

There is, of course, some fine-tuning, mainly with blending the reflection, but this is the basic process.

The next image was created with the same process. This time I kept me and the bird. I think that the bird adds a little extra.

It was taken in December in Wales, and as with every time I get back to the ocean, no matter when or how cold the water is, I have to get my feet wet!

The reason for using this kind of process is because of the two elements to the image. The softness of motion in the waves and freezing of a moment of walking. It's possible to capture either one of these in separate images, but not both of them in one. The waves would require a shutter speed slower than the one that is needed to freeze the motion of the person.

I've included the following images as they also show motion and time passing, but were created using different techniques.

This one was captured at sunrise using a neutral density filter, a longer exposure time and a sturdy tripod. The motion of the high clouds would be relatively easy to replicate using the same motion blur as described before, but this wouldn't be possible with the low lying clouds.

The next two were taken on the same day at the same beach. I was trying a technique that I hadn't tried before. Also taken using an ND filter, due to the bright sunshine, longer exposure and a tripod, but with an extra step. During the exposure, I move the camera quickly from right to left to create the motion effect. As I'm restricted by only having two hands, I found that setting a 2-second delay helps a lot with the timing of pressing the shutter button and moving the camera.

I still have some bugs to work out of this technique, the main one is the curve that comes from the turning from left to right. You can see this best on the first image which was shot wide at 16 mm. There are curved lines visible in the sand at the base of the image, but less noticeable further towards the horizon. These are less evident in the second image which was shot at 70 mm.

There are lots of techniques and processes to achieve many results. A lot of the time they won't work out straight away, the trick is to keep trying.