Playing with Cameras --- Zooming

Are you looking for ways to make your photos different than the usual snapshot? Try breaking the rules you normally follow when photographing. Usually we're told to keep the camera still to help us make a sharp picture. But zooming the lens during a long exposure is the opposite of that. While this technique is easiest with an interchangeable lens camera, you can also accomplish it with a compact model that has a zoom lens.

Zooming 1/4 second, f/22, ISO 100

Zooming the lens during a long exposure creates streaks of color and sometimes double exposures of your subject. Try zooming in, zooming out or both in one exposure. Zoom smoothly or roughly, in fits and starts. Zoom for the entire exposure time or just part of it. If you delay your zoom at either the beginning or end of the exposure, your camera records a sharper image of your subject. Check the results on the LCD monitor and adjust your zooming method or exposure time for different effects.

Zooming 2 seconds, f/8, ISO 100

Here are some suggestions for playing with this effect.
    • Select a colorful subject
    • Attach a zoom lens to the camera
    • Place the camera on a tripod (or hand-hold it)
    • Select a low ISO setting (100 or 200)
    • Select Shutter Priority mode and pick a slow shutter speed (1/15 second to 1 full second or longer)
    • Or use Aperture Priority mode and choose a big aperture number (f/22 or f/32)
    • Check the composition twice, once at the short end of the zoom range and once at the long end, so you can see what will be included.
    • Just before pressing the shutter button, start zooming the lens and continue zooming through the entire range.
    If your camera does not have aperture or shutter priority modes, try the Night or Fireworks scene modes. Make sure the flash is off.

    Zooming 1.5 seconds, f/8, ISO 100

    It's easiest to start this technique by putting your camera on a tripod, but you may experiment with hand-holding.

    Zooming 2 seconds, f/6.7, ISO 100
    Image Copyright Michael Alexander

    Zooming always results in the streaks radiating from the center of the image, so compose your picture accordingly.

    Zooming 0.3 seconds, f/22, ISO 100

    Because you need a long exposure time, zooming is easier to do in dim lighting conditions. At night, indoors, under overcast skies and in the shade are all conditions that help make slow shutter speeds possible. If you're working under bright conditions, try using a polarizing filter or neutral density filter over the lens to block more light.

    Zooming 1 second, f/22, ISO 100

    Want to learn more ways to play with your camera? Come join me for Playing with Cameras at the Kanuga Photography Retreat in North Carolina April 21-26, 2013. We'll explore panning, zooming and lots of other fun ways to make your images stand out in a crowd.