The Timeless Sea: Tilt-Shift Miniaturization Effect on a Long Exposure Photo of My Friends on the Sonoma Coast

Who says I don’t listen to you?  Someone asked me to post the other photo I took of my friend and his two charming kids at the Sonoma Coast because this one utilizes a tilt-shift look.  This can create a sort of miniaturization effect, and quite frankly, this is usually more effective when done to cabins on a hillside or cars on the street rather than people, giving this miniature model toy effect, although that said, one of the best photos I’ve seen utilizing this effect was of masses of swimmers jumping into the ocean.

Sonoma, The Timeless Sea II (long exposure photo of the Pacific Ocean)

Title: Sonoma, The Timeless Sea II
Info: Nikon D90, 18-200mm Nikkor VR at 27mm, F/25 ISO 200 for 6 seconds, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, flat rock (forgot my tripod!).
Photography: Ken Lee
Location: Salt Point, Sonoma County, California, USA

I don’t have a tilt-shift lens, so I created this in Photoshop utilizing the Quick Mask function in Photoshop.

I began by using Gradient Tool (Cylindrical Gradient) to apply a gradually increasing blur from where I wanted the focus point to be (in this case, the my friends standing on the rocks), increasing the amount of blur further from that point.  You can use your mouse, holding the Shift Key, to draw the gradient from the focal point on up.  You’ll need to experiment with this a few times.  I then switched out of Quick Mask to Standard Mode again.

I then applied the Lens Blur Filter in Hexagon Mode, tweaking the Radius to adjust the amount of blur.  I began around 15 and started adjusting to see what looked good 15-20 is usually fine.  You can also mess with Specular Highlights and Brightness as you see fit.

Especially with toys or cabins on a hillside, you’ll want to jack up Saturation Mode to bring out this miniaturization effect.  You can lighten and add a little contrast if you want as well.  That’s what I did here.

The miniaturization effect with this tilt-shift technique is more a function of your photo and what you choose to photograph.

LONG EXPOSURE PHOTO:  This is also a long exposure photo in which my friends once again sat still for six seconds.  I used two neutral density filters stacked together to reduce the incoming light, resting the camera on a rock.

Our trip, including more photos:

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens


Featured Photo – How I Reposition Dogs In A Photo (sort of a bonus Photo Tip of the Month!)

You never know where you are going to get a really fun photo of a dog.  This one was at a photo shoot for commercial products.  Christal Smith, owner of Emergency Kits 4 All (, wanted her chihuahua next to some of the emergency kits.  Between placing the product  on the black backdrop, I took a photo of her dog.  I liked this, but wanted to reposition this sweet but hyperactive chihuahua to create the photo that you see directly below:

Stephanie the Chihuahua - alternate photo

Final version of this overhead photo of Stephanie the chihuahua after moving Stephanie’s position in Photoshop CS4.

The above photo, however, wasn’t the original.  She’s a very quick moving chihuahua, and was just about to wander out of frame in the original shot, shown below:

Stephanie the chihuahua-original photo

The original photo of Stephanie the chihuahua before I moved her positioning using Photoshop CS4.

You can see she was bunched in the lower left corner.  I liked this because the placement is unusual.

But after a while, I decided to experiment with her placement within the photo.  I opened up this original photo in Photoshop CS4 and reoriented Stephanie’s position with the Ruler Tool (right-click the Eyedropper Tool to select the Ruler Tool).  You then simply draw your line from one position to another on your photo. Not to worry, dear reader, the line is not permanent.  Then, go up and select Image > Image Rotation > Arbitrary and hit “OK”.   Boom.  This repositions your photo.  Looks funny with you photo askew, doesn’t it?  But I wouldn’t leave you hangin’.  We ain’t done yet.

I went to Color Picker (again, on the left Tool Bar, which are the two squares.  I selected black for both the foreground and background color so I would match the black background of my photo.

After this, I created a new workspace (File > New), making sure to select Blackground Color in the pulldown menu entitled “Background Contents”.  I made this MUCH larger than the original Stephanie photo.  I then simply moved the photo around using the Move Tool (the thing at the top of the Tool Menu that looks like a cross made up of arrows at the top), cropped, and voila…a new version of the photo in just a couple of minutes!!!

This is sort of a bonus Tip of the Month.  I started writing and kept going.

This was shot with a Nikon D90 and a 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens, 1/80 second at f/1.6 with a black velour cloth, lightweight travel tripod, and portable studio lighting.  I am going to discuss portable studio lighting and the tripod in upcoming Photo Tip of the Month articles.

Featured Photo: iDia de los Muertos!

Woman And Skulls - Dia de los Muertos 2011

Woman And Skulls – Dia de los Muertos 2011

It’s that time of year!! We’re going to kick off our Featured Photo series with a photo taken at Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Los Angeles in October 2011!!

I was  moved by the haunting sadness on the woman’s face.  Later, I felt that a vintage, timeless appearance would accentuate the emotion of the image further, so I created an antique look and sloppy borders. In fact, the very next Tip of the Month is a how-to on how this very thing!!!

Equipment used:  Nikon D90 DSLR with a Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens.  I also used a Nikon SB-600 speedlight off-camera (wireless), holding this with my left hand to better illuminate the woman, using it largely as a fill light because she was in the shade.  Photoshop CS4 for processing.  The Tip of the Month for November 2011 is a double-shot how to create an antique look and how to create a sloppy border!