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Creative zoom bursts

If you have a zoom lens with a manual zoom ring you can adjust it as you take the photograph and create interesting effects.

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Creative zoom bursts
Take your zoom lens to creative new heights.
Words & Pictures Peter Bargh

If you have a zoom lens with a manual zoom ring you can adjust it as you take the photograph and create interesting effects. This technique, known as zoom burst, is easy to do but takes time to master.
The skill is to choose the right subject and balance the speed you adjust the zoom with the speed of the shutter to ensure a uniform flow.

Zoom bursts flowerA few subjects to try

  • Walls
  • Portraits
  • Flowers
  • Church stained-glass windows
  • Neon signs
  • Statues
  • Trees.

Basically your subject can be anything, but tends to work best if there is a good defined pattern and ideally with some bright colours.

First compose the picture so that the subject fills the frame with the zoom at the longest setting and take an exposure reading using your cameras exposure lock. If you dont have an exposure lock switch to manual and adjust the settings to match the reading youve just taken. Now zoom back to the shortest setting ready to take the photograph.

Zoom bursts fernThe shutter speed should be long enough to allow time to adjust the zoom from one extreme to the other as the exposure is made. It also helps if you mount the camera on a tripod.
Press the shutter release and rotate from the wide-angle setting to the telephoto as the exposure is made. You will have to take at least one practice shot to test your reaction speed and zoom action.

Types of lens
The easiest zoom lens to use is one that has a trombone style operation where you push/pull to adjust focal length. Then you can simply glide through the range and create a smooth zoom blur. If you use a rotating ring, get a feel for the zoom before you take a picture by practicing rotating from one extreme to the other without taking a shot. When youre happy with the motion take a trial shot to gauge the speed you need to adjust to ensure a complete zoom within the period the shutter is open.
Some older lenses had variable focus, which is more tricky to use as the focusing needs to be adjusted as the focal length changes. You may need two hands for this and a great deal of eye to hand coordination.

Zoom bursts treeTip
You can also vary the zoom effect by adding an exposure freeze. By allowing half the exposure to be fixed and then zoom you will ensure the subject is recorded correctly at one end of the zoom to provide a clearly outline of the subject that you are experimenting with.

Other examples

Zoom bursts

Other ways to create zoom bursts

Zoom bursts buildingIf doing this effect with a zoom lens sounds too tricky you can buy a filter from Cokin that has a zoom burst effect and just needs to be place in front of your ordinary lens to create the effect automatically. The only downside to this is that you can get a fairly sharply defined centre where a hole appears in the filter. A wide aperture is needed to prevent this showing up too much.

Zoom bursts poolDigital photographers can create a zoom burst easily using a the Radial blur filter set to Zoom mode in Photoshop.

Here I made an oval selection around the girl's face and inverted this so that the selection was on the rest of the picture. I then set a feather to soften the edge of the selection and set zoom blur. The effect adds loads of power to the image drawing attention to the splashes.





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layer masks will allow you to control the amount of effect if you shoot the image AS IS..then use the Zoom Blur effect in Photoshop.Why limit yourself to an image out of camera you have no control over ?

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