Blurry Vision

In this month’s edition of Exploring with a Camera, Kat continues the discussion of Artistic Blur – this time exploring the application of blur in post-processing. Playing with Photoshop – now that’s more like it. As most of you know, post-processing is a vital part of my creative process. Exploring the various blur options was an invitation to fun.

The column image above was enhanced with textures, a common method for adding soft blur and painterly effects to images. (Vintage Craquelure Texture by Pixel Dust Photo Art).

The Snowstorm

As I wrote previously, Kat’s digital painting explorations have inspired me – the image above is a direct tribute to her recent work. Blurred in camera by heavy snowfall, these silhouetted trees were further blurred in post-processing through texture application. (Vintage Craquelure by Pixel Dust Photo Art)

Glowing Reflections

In the image above, I mimicked a darkroom technique called the Orton Effect, named after photographer Michael Orton. This process results in a somewhat surreal, glowing image which still retains edge detail. (Tutorials can be found here and here.)

Texture application and glowing effects such as the Orton Effect are options I use quite often. But I was less familiar with the other Photoshop Blur options – I spent quite a good bit of time experimenting.

Using Photoshop’s Radial blur filter, this spiral staircase was given a case of vertigo – the blur adds a sense of motion to the image, which enhances that unsteady feeling of looking down into the depths.

For this image of the original Quaker Oats grain silos – now University of Akron student housing – I took advantage of a new CS6 feature: the Tilt-shift blur option. This filter attempts to mimic the selective focus provided by a tilt-shift lens. In this image, the vertical plane equal to the width of the silo with the blue-tinted windows is the only area in focus. Selective focus via tilt is often used to simulate a miniature scene.

While many of my blur experiments were unsuccessful – the blur effect failing to add anything to the image – I can now add Artistic Blur as another tool in my post-processing toolbox. And one can never have enough tools.

Linking with Exploring with a Camera, hosted by Kat Sloma.


Posted on February 26, 2013, in Photoshop and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. I love that Orton effect shot. That’s actually something I use as well. It seems to fit now and then. But blurred against geometric is very cool. I also like that first column shot-even tho’ I don’t use textures that much, that one really shines.
    I haven’t explored this explore as of yet, but I really want. Guess I have to hop to it. Can’t believe February is nearly over, but that’s totally a good thing in my book.
    PS….I’m up and running and so delighted.

    • Susan – glad that you are back up and connected! Yes, I converted the “Orton Effect” steps into an action and usually try it out on most of my shots. When it works, it really works well, doesn’t it? As far as textures, I recently discovered the free textures offered by Pixel Dust Photo Art and I have been hooked – I’ve been texturizing everything in sight – not always to good effect but I’ve had fun in the trying. That column image is one of my absolute favorites. When I texturize, I like the effect to be obvious. I look forward to your blur explorations.

  2. I love all of these Brenda, especially the spiral staircase and the last image. It feels like you really had fun with this aspect and it shows in your images. I need to get my butt in gear and start experimenting more but its hard to hold a camera when there’s two dogs to control!

    • Kathryn – yes, I’m sure the challenges are many with two high-spirited dogs along on a photo walk. I think you should enjoy their puppy-hood – the rest will be here waiting for you. The first half of this post went together very quickly – but experimenting with the Photoshop blur filters led to many more failures than successes. But with the right image the effect can be mesmerizing.

  3. Wow, Brenda, I learned so much from your explanations. I adore the column image — wonderful texture work! That tilt shift blur is amazing. I’ve heard about the Orton effect for some time now, and have been meaning to try it. Thanks for the links. Students are living in grain elevators?? Now that’s repurposing!

    • Gina – thanks so much! The column image is one of my favorites – one of those images where texturing really took it to the next level – I am in love with the Pixel Dust textures. And yes, do give the Orton effect a try – it only works in certain situations but when it works, it is quite stunning.

      Yes, the grain silos were first converted into a hotel – my husband and I actually stayed there once – the rooms were round and very cool. Then when the hotel failed the university bought it and it’s now student housing. How would you like that for a dorm room? 🙂

  4. I’ll have to research whether that Orton effect can be done with Photoshop Elements. I really like it! I also like your reply to Susan that when you use a texture you like it to be obvious. I’ve noticed that in many cases of textured images, the texture is so subtle that I can’t even see it. It makes me wonder, why go to the trouble? These are all great examples of post-processing blurs, but then I’d have expected no less from you. You’re my inspiration in the PP department!

    • Lee – I hope you are able to experiment with the Orton effect. I converted the steps to an action so I can try it out easily on any image – so I don’t remember the specific steps to accomplish the effect. But I’d be surprised if there isn’t a PSE solution. Keep me posted on your explorations.

      And I agree with you on the texturing – my own processing can rarely be called subtle. I think we all have our own taste when it comes to post-processing – we just have to experiment enough to find it. And then go with it – even if it goes against the prevailing style.

  5. I can do the Orton effect in PSE! I found a bunch of tutorials…can’t wait to try it out.

    • Oh YEAH! Be sure to share your results with the rest of us – those with PSE can certainly benefit from what you found out.

  6. Wow! I love these, especially the staircase. The snowy trees have an impressionistic feel, and the columns at the top have such great texture. Brava!

    • Lisa – I’m glad you liked the staircase – I wasn’t sure if the blurring worked or not. I feel comfortable with texture application but using the other blur options was something quite different – I tried them out on a dozen or more images, trying to find examples where the blur added to the image. And that knowing, of whether something is working or not, is a skill that I am continually developing.

  7. Brenda, I love seeing your experiments with blur and especially the Orton effect. I learned of this effect through Andre Gallant in New Brunswick, who is a master at the process. He has a book called Dreamscapes, which is all Orton images. I started with the original slide sandwich in the pre-digital days, then switched to Photoshop Elements.

    FYI, I wrote a tutorial on how I do it at this page – – which also includes links to other tutorials.

    • Kim – thanks for providing further information about the Orton effect – very helpful for those readers who use PSE. It’s one of those effects that either works or it doesn’t, depending on your image – there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. But oh when it works – I love that dreamy, surreal result.

  8. Love these, all the effects you’ve used give such different moods to the images. Love the Orton effect – it looks as though the building is melting! …and love the vertigo effect as well. Such fun to play with these and I love all the different effects you’ve come up with. (Thank you also for the tutorial links, will be checking those out too – and Kim’s above too :).

    • Becs – I hope these images will inspire your own experimentation and exploration. And that you will share them with us. You are right – I think these effects are about mood – using them to evoke an emotional reaction that mirrors our own feelings about the image.

  9. Your artistic blur images are fabulous, Brenda! I don’t often use textures and blurs, so this was a fun exploration. I hope you enjoyed it as well.

    • Deb – it was a fun one! Of course, I am all in favor of any exercise that involves playing with Photoshop. I did learn some new things and experiment with different filters and effects than my normal. Like everyone, I have my “go-to” processing techniques – it was good to try out some new ideas.

  10. These are wonderful! Every last one of them! I could pick not favorite, each one is so unique! It still amazes me everytime I see how post-processing can enhance an image and you are a master at it!

    • Cathy – thanks so much for your enthusiastic response to my artistic blur experiments. I do love post-processing so having an opportunity to explore new techniques was lots of fun – although there was certainly some frustration as well. But I try to learn from the failures and enjoy the successes.

  11. So much fun to see you go blurry, Brenda! It’s a departure from your usual style but you used artistic blur effectively in all cases. I especially enjoyed your trees (how could I not?) and the tilt shift one of the silos. It has a very surreal feel which makes me question if it’s a photograph or not. I like that! It’s great of you to share links with the readers too, so they can play further. You always add so much to Exploring with a Camera! Thanks!

    • Kat – I appreciate the opportunity to explore something new each month along with you and the other participants. And you know I will never pass up an opportunity to play with Photoshop. I’m glad you enjoyed my tree tribute and my other attempts at using artistic blur to create mood and emotion. It was a fun challenge! I will miss Exploring with you.

  12. Blur may be your new experiment for March.
    Blurs are not my favorite types of images, but your succeeded beautifully in creating blurs I like!
    The first image–using a texture to blur–is my style, but done in your inimitable way.
    Before reading your text, I knew Kat had inspired your tree image. (I follow Kat, but don’t seem to have time to try her many ideas. How do you keep up?)
    The Orton image is my favorite of this group. Amazing. Love that you did with it. I like that you kept some basic lines unblurred, allowing me to ground myself and thus enjoy the blurred areas. Strong composition.
    The spiral stairs make me dizzy–I can hardly look at it.
    The student housing makes me less dizzy, but enough to suggest you succeeded.

    • Anita – yes, blur was definitely an experiment for me, except for the texturing and Orton effect. I played around with dozens of images, trying to find something where I thought blur added to the image. I found it rather difficult – it doesn’t seem to work as well with architectural images as it does with nature. But that is most likely due to my lack of skill and/or imagination. But it is certainly something I will keep in mind in the future – because when it works, it can be extremely effective.

  13. Hello again…

    Okay, my favorite is the grain silo turned into student housing. I love the blur, but the color…the blue, blue-gray, and yellow-gold tones compliment each other so well. I love tilt shift images! I also like the column image. I have a shot of some columns taken in Dallas sitting in my archives…I may look at them again.

    I’m inspired again!

    • Suzette – I really wanted to create a “miniature city” using the tilt-shift effect but I just didn’t have a shot where that worked. The grain silos are such a unique feature of downtown Akron – and so much fun to photograph. And yes, go get those column photos right now and play! I can’t think of a more wonderful compliment than to provide inspiration to someone else.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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