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Shake And Jerk The Camera!

Just Don’t Lose Your Grip!

The Technical. This Elite Agency model Jenni, was asked to carefully balance herself on the narrow edge of the infinity pool ledge during my glamour photography workshop in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was illuminated with a 1200-watt-seconds Hensel Porty Premium battery pack powering a Hensel Ring Flash fitted with a Hensel OctaHaze light modifier. I also placed a Rosco #3411 (3/4 CTO) gel inside the OctaHaze, directly over the flash tube.

The ¾ CTO gel changes the color temperature (in Kelvin) from 5400K to 3200K–the color temperature of tungsten. I then set my camera to a white-balance of 3700K (I like it a bit warmer), which causes the camera to compensate for the now tungsten flavored light source by adding blue to offset the warmth from a tungsten light source (similar to using an 80A filter using this technique with day-light balanced film.)

Photo of Model, U.S. Virgin Islands Photography Workshop

Jenni sits still during this photograph where I shook a bit while standing in cold water.

When my flash is triggered, the model is then illuminated but the sky is not illuminated by the flash, thus, the white balance compensation brings the model back to her normal color but the sky becomes more deeply saturated blue. This white balance technique is what causes the water and the sky to appear deeper blue than what the human eye would normally see.

This image was also shot with a slow shutter speed of 1/5th of a second (hand held), thus the camera shutter stays open after the flash has fired. In this image, this creates a slight camera shake border around the model. In the other images in this photoblog post, the camera is jerked either to the left or right creating an even more pronounced blur of the subject. The final image was then post-produced in Adobe® Photoshop® and with the Nik software Bleach By-pass Filter.

Photographer’s Tool Box

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 85mm F/1.2L USM
Shutter Speed: 1/5th shutter speed
Aperture: F/1.4
ISO: 100
White Balance: 3700K

The Story Behind the Image. Sometimes photographers hit ruts, not the ruts you drive over with your car, but basically, a brain fart. But, there’s a solution, brainstorm, and once while I was back in the U.S. Virgin Islands, standing deep in the swimming pool as the sunset was so over it was hard to even focus with my Canon 85mm F/1.2L USM lens, that I scratched my head and thought, it’s time for something different—so I jerked!

Nope, not a knee jerk, but I jerked my camera as I was photographing Jenni, an Elite Agency model. She thought I was trying to slap away the noseeums (mosquito like bugs you can’t see) with my camera, so I told her, “No, just don’t move, it’s important you stay perfectly still. I’m trying out something.” She said, “OK, hurry up, the bugs are biting and I’m getting hungry.” I laughed, what’s new when it comes to models, they just don’t believe in those t-shirts they sell at Spencer’s that say, “Don’t feed the models.”

Amy Davis, Photo, U.S. Virgin Islands.  Camera Technique

American Idol star Amy Davis was photographed in the U.S. Virgin Islands with the camera jerk technique.

Joking aside, it’s a simple technique with no guaranteed results. Thank goodness for chimping, as they say, when we ooh, aah, while looking at the LCD screen on our digital cameras. In the old film days, we’d try new tricks by spraying (motordrive) and praying something would develop nicely knowing it was a potential crapshoot. But today, we just play and say, “I think I’ve got something,” then the model goes from a frustrated look to a happy, happy, happy face. Body language and other forms of communication can change a model’s attitude real fast. Not that Jenni developed an attitude during the photo shoot; Though she was being eaten by bugs, tired, hungry and balancing herself carefully on the infinity edge of the swimming pool, which is dangerous.

It was just one of those late evenings during another “VI” workshop where I had run out of light and ideas. So I slowed the shutter speed down to 1/5th of a second, and while standing in the cold water of the infinity edge swimming pool, I jerked my camera. First, I’d jerk it from right to left, then from left to right with each exposure as I released the shutter. No tripod, no monopod, just my waterlogged legs. Each time after releasing the camera shutter, I’d warn the model to sit perfectly still, to heck with the bugs. I need that model frozen solid while I moved my camera.

Doesn’t make sense does it? I’m using a shutter speed well below 1/30th of a second, which is about as low of a shutter speed that most photographers can pull off without using a stabilized lens and/or a tripod or monopod. Nope, I’m not that steady to pull off 1/5th of a second shutter speed, hand-held, while standing in cold water. It’s just I know my equipment and I like to experiment from time to time.

Camera Jerk Technique, U.S. Virgin Islands Photography, Infinity Edge Pool

Tess H. was photographed in the U.S. Virgin Islands with the camera jerk technique. She was asked to be very still during the exposure while the camera is jerked.

The concept is simple, the camera’s shutter speed will only affect the background during that time of darkness and there will be minimal effect on the subject who is reflecting light —the sky is transmitting light—the subject is frozen in time thanks to the short duration of the portable studio flash unit illuminating her. That short flash duration is the model’s shutter speed. The jerking of the camera mainly picks up the ambient light, which is very minimal. Think of it as when a car’s headlights briefly hit you while you’re driving at night. You still see those headlights or spots, but the ground around you keeps moving.

Basically with this technique there are no guarantees other than you will capture something in your camera. There is light out there, hence the low F/1.4 setting on my Canon 85mm F/1.2L USM prime lens. Could I have just not jerked the camera? Sure, but when it’s that dark to the human eye, by slowing the shutter speed down at such a low aperture, the sky’s true colors come out because in essence, I’m capturing a time exposure—the problem is, without a tripod or monopod, I’m dead in the water, sort to speak. So if I’m going to get a blur, I might as well make it more controlled, action in one direction, and interesting, than just a blurry picture.

In a nutshell, if you ever get into a photographer’s rut mindset, or develop a brain fart, just do some brainstorming and don’t be afraid to try some tricks or creative techniques, you might be surprised at what develops and you’ll know right away that it’s either working or not by chimping your digital camera (DSLR) and watching your model react from grumpy to excited.

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