Why Camera Dashing is Superior to Camera Tossing

Have you ever done something completely wacky with your camera? Something that no one could anticipate? Something that even the camera’s designers never had in mind?

If you haven’t, you’re really missing out on a great opportunity. Some of the most unique photos I’ve ever taken were through spontaneous, wacky, and unconventional uses of my camera. Today I’m going to share a very different way to take a photo, a technique that I stumbled upon when my mind was in a state of play. Today, I’m going show you how to literally paint with light on your camera’s sensor (or film if you’re still into that) to produce some truly unique images.

Being Crazy & Shameless

For this shoot, I’d returned to the dock where I’d photographed the Rainbow Rocks over a year before, but this time I wanted to do something really different. With modern auto-focus and light metering, any cross-eyed orangutan can take a decent photo of a tree, and even a child can frame a photo pretty well these days. But it takes a slightly odd human being, such as myself, to do something a little crazy without being ashamed about it; and to be honest, I felt bored with the idea of taking photos in the conventional way.

Fiery Orange Leaves

I had taken thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of rather conventional photos before. (A good example of a rather conventional photo is this intimate macro shot of warm autumn leaves and pine needles nestled inside of a hollowed-out log. Great photo, but not any territory that hasn’t been covered before.)

In the past, I’d taken advantage of everything I could think of, always aiming for an image that gives people a new perspective, or at least an image that they find pleasing. But this time I wanted to do Something Different™, and yes, something a little crazy. In the process, I inadvertently started painting with light, creating abstract and perspective-altering images by smearing the light as it hit the sensor.

So how did I do this?
And subsequently, what do I highly recommend you try?

How to Camera Dash

Green Grass blurs away

First, I increased my camera’s shutter length to 1/20th of a second and sometimes as long as 1/13th of a second depending on the light around me. How long your shutter length should be depends on your lighting situation, but if you’re not getting results, try increasing your shutter length. Secondly, holding tightly to my camera’s gripping area, I literally flung my arm around, and took a photo as the camera was moving quickly through the air. Timing is key. I tried a lot of different things, sometimes rotating the camera and sometimes diving the camera near the grass to get a warping effect. The photo to the right is a good example of a dive.

It’s important to point out that this technique is different from letting go of your camera and actually tossing it into the air. I do not recommend camera tossing at all! Camera tossing puts your camera at great risk of falling and breaking into a thousand shiny pieces. I’m not a fan of shattering expensive cameras, and I suspect you aren’t either.

Camera Dashing is Much Safer

Forest Path Rotating Vortex

My technique, which could be called Camera Dashing, is much safer. The difference between this and camera tossing is that you maintain a strong grip on your camera as you make arcs, rotations, and dives through the air while pressing the shutter. (Keeping the camera wrist strap on is definitely recommended.) And although it takes some practice to get the timing right, you should also try quickly rotating your camera as you take the photo which can produce some interesting results. A good example of a rotation is the photo of the forest on the right.

It’s the Safest Form of Kinetic Photography

I later found out that this is actually an example of Kinetic photography, which is photography composed wherein a specific effect is caused by motion. However, because you never let go of your camera when doing this technique, Camera Dashing is the safest form of Kinetic photography that I know of. As long as you know your own strength, the risk is minimal!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments. This doesn’t take long to get the hang of, and it produces some very interesting results.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and paint with light!

Be Crazy.

Be Shameless.

And most of all, have fun!

Photos from this trip are in the Camera Dashing in the Abstract Forest album. All photos in the Gallery can be used as desktop wallpapers because they are high resolution (1920×1440).

How I Found Beauty in Late Autumn

Even when your surroundings seem depressing and grim, there is still some beauty to be found within.

On Friday, I was understandably depressed. Winter was beginning to swallow up the land in her icy grip once more, and soon hazardous mounds of snow would be everywhere. (If you’re not sure why I say snow is hazardous, try driving in it sometime.) Feeling slightly morose in the face of yet another protracted winter, I decided to go on a photo walk to try and capture the general bleakness and ugliness of the day. The sun’s recent habit of giving me less and less hours of sunlight per day — combined with the fact that everything was dying — was not exactly a cheery outlook.

There was no denying it. The climate was, as stated above, understandably depressing — but this time I did something different. I decided to channel that through my photography. I wanted to capture sheer unadulterated decay and death… of the plant variety, at least. This was my plan for catharsis.

Failure to Be Melancholic

Last Red Chokeberries

Unfortunately, after reviewing the ten photos worthy of release, I realize that I have utterly failed in my task. The resulting pictures actually make my surroundings look almost poetic in their late-Autumn slumber. Something inside of me, some impulse, just couldn’t stand the idea of releasing a truly depressing album of photos to you all. When I find the part of me that didn’t like this idea, I think I’m going to interrogate it and teach it a thing or two about sheer gloom. I mean, shouldn’t all creative people be allowed to enter deep melancholy sometimes, so their most pathetic whims might be expressed?

Of course, I’m joking. Certainly some people may think that severe negative emotions may be a kind of inspiration, but that hasn’t been true for me. In my case, such negative emotional states inspire complete inaction — not art. However, I can only speak for myself. I encourage you to find out what’s true for you, though I suspect this is true for you, as well. In any case, beauty began to rear its stubborn head, and I soon entered…

The Flow State

Once again, I realized how useful is to be in a state of flow while practicing photography. As I’ve stated before, flow is the optimal creative state, and working in the flow allows the unconscious mind to have a more active role in creation. This time, the flow state led me to a Chokeberry tree nearby. The tree was almost entirely unappealing and lifeless except that some of the chokeberries, though now pitted with black spots, still remained on the tree. These weren’t just chokeberries. Even though they had blackened pits, they were the last remaining echo of summer. Using what I learned at the river a few months prior, I was able to isolate the berries within my depth of field and leave everything else out of focus.

I also stumbled upon a mossy tree that curved in such a way as to suggest a Yin Yang symbol, the symbol for dynamic equilibrium. How appropriate that as we plunge into winter, at least here in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, I find the symbol of perfect balance within my dying surroundings. In many ways, the darkness of winter is similar to the darkness of the yin area within a yin-yang symbol. Conversely, the white yang area could be taken to symbolize summer, the brightest time of the year. These opposing seasons are rooted together and balance each other just as the yin-yang does.

The Insect Skull Stem

Insect-like Pine Tree Stem

Perhaps the most surprising subject that I photographed was a particularly oddly-shaped, undeveloped pine tree twig. Its shape was similar to an insect head or even a spaceship armed with deadly weapons from hundreds of light-years away. You should see the large size of the picture to really appreciate how truly weird this twig thing was since it cannot be adequately described in words.

A Silver Lining

As I hinted above, I’m glad my plan to capture sheer unadulterated decay failed miserably. I would rather find a silver lining to winter than to dwell on the negative cycle of death and falling asleep. If you forget everything else about this story, remember this: Whenever it seems that only death and sadness surround you, you can always find a bright spot, you just have to be committed to find it.

When was the last time you found the beauty in your own personal autumn?

Photos from this trip are in the Plunge into Winter album. All photos in the Gallery can be used as desktop wallpapers because they are high resolution (1920×1440) just as the fullscreen & widescreen wallpapers are.