Zoom Blur Experiment

Reading a photography book a couple of months ago I discovered a picture that was taken using zoom blur. I read tat the photographer had set a low shutter speed, rotated his zoom from wide angle to telephoto.

Preparing to go to an airshow last weekend I decided that I would try out the zoom blur. I took my ND filters, knowing that it was going to be a hot sunny day and I would need to slow my shutter speed down. Even with a mid to high Fstop my images would have been over exposed without the ND filters.

The following three images are images that I like (I have only used auto tone in Lightroom, no other processing).

Richard Keys

ISO 100, 1/6sec, F13, 170mm

I like this image even though there are some technical faults which could be corerected (some vignette from longer focal length, sloping horizon, yellow block to left of the bike, painted lines). This image was taken by moving the lense from wide angle to telephoto, moving the lense slowly before releasing the shutter, and the effect makes it look like the rider (Dave Coates) is heading for a crash with the crowd and is jumping of his buggy. The zoom blur creates a punchy image thats full of action.

Richard Keys

ISO 100, 1/13sec, F11, 27mm

Similar technical faults with the addition that the front of the scooter shows motion blur from not using a tripod. However, what I do like about this is that Dave is realtively in focus, and themotion makes it look like I am retreating from a moped that will soon hit me. The image also has context, you can see the barrier and the crowd on the left and in the distance, the other bikes and van in the middle of the image, and the grass to the right, all of which show that this is part of an organised display. This image was taken as part of a series (continuous high) where I was moving the lense from telephoto to wide angle.

Richard Keys

ISO 100, 1/20sec, F9, 50mm

What worked well here was turning the lense from wide to telephoto in keeping with the motion of the musician at the centre of the image.It creates a very shallow depth of field with movement towards the man as the object.


The following three images do not work.

Richard Keys

ISO 100, 0.5sec, F22, 85mm

There are a few things that do not work here. Not using a tripod leaves the image with noticable blur from movement of the camera. Not being in line with the lines on the concrete and paint mean that the lines show paralels and shifts either side, and they look very messy. Because of the position of the Hawk in relation to the lines it was not possible to have the plane, lines and myself all inline. Solution – don’t take the photo, go to a plane that is lined up or somewhere where there are no lines.

Richard Keys

ISO 100, 1/15sec, F5.6, 70mm

With the front of the bike being so close to the viewer, centre subject, having a blured light and movement on the handle bars all make this a poor image.

Richard Keys

ISO 100, 1/13sec, F11, 155mm

Aaargh, yuck, permanently delete me please. Poor contextualisation, handshake, subject to full in the frame. Disaster.


Will I be using zoom blur in the future? Yes, particulalry for sports photography. I took several hundred photos using this technique and there were a few that worked well. There were a couple of static images that looked quite dramatic as well, but I probably wont use this technique on static subjects. I believe that the best shots I got were when I was zooming from telephoto to wide angle in most (not all) instances, and more so when I was turning the lense at the same speed that the object was moving.

Be prepared to take lots of photos when making use of this technique, especially for sports photography so having spare batteries and an additional memory card are needed. Using a tripod would not have worked for these images, as the object was moving at high speed and making use of the full arena. If I knew that I was going to be taking images where the is no lateral movement, then a tripod would work, but in this instance it would have meant carrying extra equipment that would have hindered my photography.