Using Motion Blur to Create Atmosphere

Whilst planning a recent trip to a hectic fishing village that I had visited once before, I deiced to review all of my images from my last visit to see what I could do this time to avoid recreating the same photographs. At dawn in this small village, just outside of Hoi An in central Vietnam, everyone gathers on the beach as the fishermen return from sea with boat loads of fish. The beach quickly transforms into a chaotic fish market with bartering, money changing hands and a constant stream of boats off loading buckets of seafood. It’s a dream location for any travel photographer.

On my first visit we were blessed with a stunning sunrise and I came home with a series of postcard worthy images of fishermen silhouetted or semi-silhouetted against the morning sky. Here I was concentrating on creating layers in my images to give them a dynamic feel. These remain some of my favourite images.

However, as I previously mentioned I was keen to try something different this time around. In some of the outtakes from my contact sheets of the first shoot I noticed I’d occasionally left my shutter open a fraction of a second too long, and considering the fast paced movement of the activity on this beach I had failed to freeze the moment. This however, looked as if it had potential for an entirely new way of shooting this scene - and a style of photography I had never tried before. So, I set out on my next trip with the intention of using slow shutter speeds in order to convey the crazy atmosphere of this scene.

As is the case with trying any new technique, the results are hit or miss and I certainly didn’t come away with as many images that I felt proud of as I did last time, but there are a few I am happy with and I really do feel I have made some leeway in conveying the atmosphere of the mornings on this beach. I’ve included a few of the images I took below.

I would absolutely love to hear some feedback on these images, so please leave me a comment, or drop me an email. I’ve also included the same series in black and white below - any feedback on which you think works better would be very much appreciated.

If you are interested in learning more about this technique and are local to or passing through Cambodia, consider joining a photography workshop with me in Phnom Penh, where we can experiment with trying this method in many different, exciting locations.