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Category: Landscape and Travel

Drag Zoom Landscape - ePz member Duncan Simey shows us how to create drag zoom landscapes.

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ePHOTOzine member Duncan Simey (DuncanDisorderly) gets even more creative with the popular drag landscape technique which we covered back in April.

Shooting on location
Photo by Jacqui Price.

Images and words by Duncan Simey (DuncanDisorderly).

This exercise started while out with a group. It was mid-afternoon on a roasting hot cloudless day
and we had to get out of the heat. We headed to Hodder's Combe on Exmoor to look for interesting colours and textures in the stream and relax in the cool dappled light of the wood.

Admittedly this started as an entertaining way to pass the time; but I actually like the results!

This straight shot shows the problem we faced. The contrast is very high making normal
landscape photography all but impossible.

Landscape shot taken on Exmoor
ISO160, 116mm, f/8, 1/125s, EOS 5DII with 70-200mm f/4 IS L.
 

Hence we started to play with Drag Zoom landscapes. This is a typical dragged landscape taken
from the same spot as the previous straight image.

One reason this scene works well is that the path and trees have strong verticals and I was dragging vertically. Any part of the subject running parallel with the drag direction will be emphasised in the resulting image. Notice how the harsh light is not a problem with this technique...

I created this this by setting the ISO to it's lowest setting and a small enough aperture to end up with roughly half a second exposure. IS was turned off as its attempts to keep the image sharp would interfere with what I was trying to do.

You need to drag the camera smoothly. The easiest way of doing this is to start moving and then
open the shutter; start drag – shutter open – shutter close – stop drag.

I prefer starting at the top and 'drag' down. The reason I prefer top to bottom is that sky creates
bright spots in the resultant image. Starting at the top allows me to compose the image so the
exposure starts just below the sky. Starting at the bottom and going upwards I find it is too easy to
end up with the sky intruding on the result.

Drag zoom landscape
ISO50, 85mm, f/29, 0.4s, EOS 5DII with 70-200mm f/4 IS L

Here's a variation that has resulted in a dreamy image with a lovely sense of peace.

The reason it doesn't look like a traditional Zebra striped dragged landscape (see above), is that I
paused momentarily at the start of the exposure; shutter open – pause – start drag – shutter close –stop drag. This pause allows a recognisable image to form before adding in the dreamy drag.

A recognisable image has formed  before adding in the dreamy drag
ISO50, 85mm, f/29, 0.5s, EOS 5DII with 70-200mm f/4 IS L
 
Now I'm starting to get more creative! I like the way the swirls in this image hint at the possibility they could be real parts of the landscape.

This was created by starting the drag landscape in the traditional way but moving the camera in a circle instead of a straight line. I started by dragging downwards and by the end of the exposure had just passed the bottom of my quarter circle.

This still requires smooth movement; start drag – shutter open – shutter close – stop drag.
 
This was created by starting the drag landscape in the traditional way but moving the camera in a circle instead of a straight line
ISO50, 70mm, f/29, 0.4s, EOS 5DII with 70-200mm f/4 IS L.
 
 
This next image is pure texture and for me it works because there is just enough detail in the texture and that lovely mix of blue and green.

I used the same circular drag technique as before, but this time the subject was the tree canopy which has no prominent lines or hard edges. I also dragged around the edge of a bigger circle.
 
I used the same circular drag technique as before, but this time the subject was the tree canopy
ISO50, 135mm, f/29, 0.6s, EOS 5DII with 70-200mm f/4 IS L.
 
Here's an example where drag and zoom has been combined in a single exposure. I love the way iit appears to explode from the bottom of the image.

The tricky bit is getting the zoom to be off centre - here's how I did it... Start dragging downwards,exactly like a normal drag landscape; but during the drag also zoom in. When you get the drag speed and zoom rate just right, the bottom of the image does not move in the frame. This requires alot of experimentation.

Watch the bottom of the frame and keep practising until the subject does not move around too much. This image was helped by dappled light on the forest floor contrasting with the dark tree
trunks.
 
Here's an example where drag and zoom has been combined in a single exposure
ISO50, started at 100mm, f/29, 0.5s, EOS 5DII with 70-200mm /f4 IS L.

Finally – one of my favourites from this session. Ethereal trees emerging out of a glowing forest floor.

This was created by framing the main composition and during the exposure dragging the camera down a little before accelerating upwards. If you look closely at the image you can see shepherds
crook shaped light trails left by the bright spots.

This leaves the image with recognisable detail and all the bright parts appearing to drip down to the canopy floor.
Ethereal trees emerging out of a glowing forest floor
ISO50, 70mm, f/29, 0.5s, EOS 5DII with 70-200mm f/4 IS L.
 
 
In summary....

We had a lot of fun doing these and the results are very pleasing.

The technique works in harsh contrasty light normally regarded as being no good for photography.

Images and words by Duncan Simey (DuncanDisorderly).
 
Find the tripod to suit your needs at www.manfrotto.co.uk.

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You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.


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