A little group was born on Flickr (almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world) circa 2005 that presented beautiful flowing abstracts that were different from anything I had ever encountered before. They weren't simply blurs or bokeh, zoom pulls, or camera waves. These were highly defined geometrical streaks, Spirograph-esque forms, and lush shapes that resulted from the process of applying kinetic motion to the camera as it exposed the frame.
I was a lurker (someone who watches without participating) for some time just enjoying the show thinking "yeah, that's cool stuff but I'm not going to do it!" Then when my Olympus point and shoot started to develop some problems out of warrantee I thought that maybe I'd give it a go. If I break this I thought, no worries it's on its way out anyway.
Most of my initial attempts were not very pleasing, you could tell where I had released the shutter making the first part of the spin irregular as seen in "Seven Flags Amusement Park."
|Seven Flags Amusement Park|
Still, it was more interesting than any blur or wave I had tried.
Then I started achieving some nice smooth spins and experimenting with various light sources and I became hooked. The mantra had now become: But I'll never toss my DSLR! The more I tossed the more I noticed some limitations in the dynamics and balance of my point and shoot, and the lack of noise reduction that could be achieved. I had always practiced "safe tossing" meaning avoiding a chance of a drop on hard ground. So slowly but surely I worked up the nerve to toss my DSLR. Tentatively at first and now with reckless abandon. I am in no way condoning that you do this yourself without evaluating the risks. But the rewards are ample and yes I've even dropped the Mark II a couple times without adverse affect. Your mileage
|String Toss #10|
So you've got your flight path down, now you need to play with exposure times. Generally, I like .5 to 1 second. You will be able to judge from a few tests whether you like the length of the trails or not and adjust accordingly. Since you know about the golden triangle of exposure, you will know how much aperture you need and if that's not enough how much more ISO to boost.
After that you can go for perfectly circular spins to chaotic flips that resemble something an olympic diver might get high scores for. The possibilities are endless.
I have dedicated a store to these abstract light forms over at Zazzle. Postcards to stretched canvas, the collection includes all of the techniques I have noted here. Enjoy!
Check out the official Camera Toss Blog for more info, pointers and examples.
And I would be remiss in not mentioning some of the pioneers of tossing that you should visit to get a true taste of what the cutting edge of this crazy technique can result in. I owe many thanks to them for the support, encouragement, and continued inspiration: Ryan Gallagher, David Hull, and Jens Ludwig.