Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I really like the effect of having a part of a photograph in sharp focus and other (usually upper) part in what appears to be a vertical motion blur. I see it most often done with photos of group of trees. I've been wondering whether it is achieved by moving the actual camera vertically at the later part of a long exposure or whether it is done in a software?

Here are are a few examples by Janek Sedlar:

http://500px.com/photo/45950972

http://500px.com/photo/45330286

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3 Answers 3

You could ask him. It certainly looks to have been done in software, as there are noticeable and unnatural-looking boundaries at the base of the trees where there is both sharpness and blur.

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It looks like it was done using software. The transition between the sharp and blurred areas and the repeating patterns in the trees indicate software was used.

The only way to keep the forest floor in the foreground sharp and blur the trees in the background while shooting would be to shoot when it is dark and only light the foreground when the camera is stationary, then expose the blurred parts by moving the camera with no light illuminating the foreground. In the case of these two photos, though, parts of the background at the base of the trees are sharp while the trunks just a few inches off of the ground are blurred.

You might also take two exposures and combine parts of each of them: One sharp with a wide depth of field and the other softly focused and maybe even a little fog or petroleum jelly on the front element of the lens or on a filter in front of the lens.

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It looks kind of like he used a smudge brush or similar to paint them up. You can kind of see the rounded shape at the base of the trees where the distorted area starts. It also appears that the first bit of the tree is being repeated the entire way up, particularly in the second photo.

The only way you could do it in camera would be to use a masking setup and block one half of the image and then the other, expose the bottom of the image still and then do a large degree of blur for the top, but it still wouldn't quite give that look as the upper parts of the trees would still appear blurred in unless it was shot at night and the trunks of the trees were selectively lit.

That would be entirely too complicated though, so it's pretty much guaranteed it's done in Photoshop.

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