On my recent workshop in Toronto I was discussing and demonstrating the benefits of Live Composite mode which is available on all of the Olympus OM-D line of cameras. We talked about how to choose compositions and what made an interesting image compared to a normal plain light streak image. As usual, when you get a group of photographers together and talking, ideas continue to evolve. The above image is an example of that.
We had been walking for a couple hours around some very busy streets and found a few nice images but we wanted something different. Something that made us say wow. I remembered a busy intersection we had crossed earlier and wondered if we could view it from the elevated walk we were currently on. Sure enough, when we got to the area we were quite pleased. A busy corner with curve qualities. Earlier the same day I gave a presentation that talked about the same point, curves in roadways when in a big city make for very interesting compositions. The images below were taken with this in mind.
After some time spent capturing images on the corner I started to experiment with the zoom effect during the actual Live Composite. Earlier in the evening one of the workshop participants had reminded me of this option and I was quite appreciative. Workshops have a way of creating this type of atmosphere between the participants as well as the host. I think that is why I feel so strongly that getting involved with a workshop will always give your photography a kick start if you let it.
The zoom effect is essentially rotating the zoom on your lens while you are capturing the long exposure. It creates an interesting motion effect that can add depth into your Live Composite images. The key piece in doing this effect during a Live Composite is you are able to see it happen live and if you don’t like it, you can stop and start over again. You aren’t waiting till the image is completed 40 or more seconds later, hoping you got something worth keeping. So much of the guess work is taken out of the image by using Live Composite.
To start you need to have your OM-D on a tripod with your composition selected. If you haven’t used Live Composite or need a refresher please see my recent blog post on getting started here.
TIP: Look for tall buildings in the background that might have lights on in the windows. (see image below)
I would suggest that you shoot a few test Live Composites before you actually perform the zoom effect to analyze things like traffic flow and is the pattern of light pleasing with your frame. Once you are happy with your selection it’s time to experiment. Sample test shot before the zoom effect was used is below.
The lead image in the blog post was captured by watching the traffic flow and noticing when it slowed would be a good time to start the Live Composite working the zoom effect within the first few seconds of the image. By doing that I ensured if I didn’t like the zoom effect then I could stop the Live Composite and start over instead of waiting for it to finish only to be unhappy with the results. I start the first depression of the shutter of course to get the base image like in all Live Composite shots and then when the traffic slowed I would start the capture phase by clicking the shutter button a second time. While doing that I had my left hand resting lightly on the lens barrel, over the zoom. I would start turning the barrel slowly, but more important, consistently, all the way through the zoom from the front to the back. This created the movement in the lights which were mainly the windows in the large office buildings at the back of my frame, see tip above.
TIP: When turning the zoom in or out be sure that it is done in one motion and at the same rate of speed. If you start or stop too quickly it will leave jagged edges that may not be what you are going for.
Now that I had the motion part of the image completed I would wait for the cars to start coming through the intersection around my already formed motion streaks from the zoom effect. As soon as I felt I had enough light streaks I would depress the shutter one more time to stop the exposure. That’s it!
This effect is fun and creative. It won’t work on every one of your Live Composite images but when used from time to time you will find that it opens an amazing creative ability in a function that’s already amazing in itself. Give it a try the next time you are out shooting Live Composite and share the results with me. I would love to see what you create.
Gear used for the feature shot:
OM-D E-M5 Mark II
7-14mm f/2.8 Pro Lens