motion blur

Farm From the Road: The Story Behind the Image by Todd Henson

Farm From the Road (Mount Jackson, Virginia)

My brother and I were on a trip to see the Fourth of July fireworks from Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park. We were curious what the valley would look like from the mountains. On our way there we passed through Mount Jackson, Virginia. We knew of a covered bridge in the area and wanted to see it. But the bridge didn’t end up the highlight of that drive, at least not for me.

We passed by the farm in the photo above, with the green fields in the foreground. Something about it caught my eye. As a kid I’d always been fascinated by the foreground blur seen from the passenger seat of a car. Something about the farm brought back that memory. So I asked my brother to turn around and drive down the road again. This time I had my camera ready, set with a slow enough shutter speed to allow the foreground green crops to blur while we drove by.

To capture a sharp view of the farm I panned the camera from the car, keeping the lens pointed at the farm while we moved by in the car. This takes practice. You need the right shutter speed to give the effect you want, and you need to keep your camera steady as you pan. My brother kept the car as steady as he could and I kept the camera as steady as I could. I used a shutter speed of 1/20 of a second, which in this light required an aperture of f/18 at ISO 200.

We probably drove over the stretch of road 3 or 4 times before deciding to move on. I’ve no clue what we might have looked like to someone at the farm. But I’m pleased with the results. It was a fun day, and we still had the fireworks to look forward to the following evening.

For this image we were moving slowly, maybe 35 miles per hour, and the subject was at a distance, so I was panning very slowly. But you can also try photographing subjects much closer to the car, or from a faster moving car, requiring you to pan much faster and creating much more motion blur in the foreground or background.

Have you ever shot from a moving car? Give it a try sometime (just be sure you’re a passenger). It can be a lot of fun, and you never know what you might create.


Stages of a Lotus Flower Blooming at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens by Todd Henson

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, in Washington, D.C., is full of beautiful blooming lotus flowers each summer. They have pond after pond of these amazing plants.

This year I tried to capture as many of the stages of the lotus flower as I could. Below are the results of my attempts, along with some examples from previous years.

Unopened Lotus Bud

Unopened lotus bud at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

The earliest stage of the lotus flower I captured is the unopened bud. In this example you can see some of the folded up petals already turning pink. It won’t be long before this bud begins to open.

Newly Opened Lotus Flower

This lotus flower hasn’t been open long.

Newly opened lotus flower at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Finally, the bud has opened. Early morning light can work so well with these flowers, causing the petals to almost glow at times. You can still see green on the lower petals, which would have been the outer layer of the bud. I love the dark pink of the center since it’s still mostly in shadow.

Blooming Lotus Flower

Blooming lotus flower at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Now the lotus flower is blooming, almost fully open. The center is more open, less in shadow, but still a deeper pink than the outer petals. The out of focus green leaves of the lotus plant make beautiful backgrounds for the pink flowers.

Fully Open Lotus Flower

A beautiful, fully open lotus flower with a bumble bee buzzing into the center.

Lotus flowers can be so beautiful when fully open. This is one of my favorite photographs of a lotus flower, with a bumble bee flying in towards the center. This photo makes a beautiful print and can be purchased from my online store.

Fully open lotus flower at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

This lotus flower is fully open. In fact, it is at the later stages of being fully open, when it begins losing its petals. Notice the shape of the yellow center, with all the darker yellow dimples on the top. The seeds will form under these dimples. 

Closeup of the center of an open lotus flower.

It’s a little later in the day now and there were very few clouds in the sky, so you can see shadows forming on the petals. They lose the ethereal glow seen on the earlier flowers which were created a little earlier, and possibly when the sun was behind a cloud.

Green (Unopened) Lotus Seed Pod

Green lotus seed pod after the petals have fallen.

Now the petals of the lotus flower have fallen, leaving behind the central seed pod which has turned green. This one still has some of the hair-like portion that forms at the base of the center. I didn’t notice until later there is an insect flying just under the seed pod on the left. 

A large lotus seed pod, not yet opened.

This photo shows a larger seed pod, later in its development. Behind it is the blurred pink of a still blooming lotus.

Opened Lotus Seed Pod

Opened lotus seed pods.

In this stage the center section will dry up and turn brown. That’s beginning to happen in this photo, though the pod is still mostly green. Those dimples we saw on the top on the fully green seed pods have opened, revealing the seeds. The brown seed pods are sometimes used in flower arrangements.

Bonus: Lotus Flowers Dancing in the Wind

A pair of lotus flowers dancing in the wind, using a slow shutter speed to capture the motion blur.

Finally, as an added bonus, here are a pair of lotus flowers dancing in the wind. As the day progressed the wind began to pick up, making it more and more difficult to photograph the lotus blossoms without motion blur.

So instead of getting aggravated, I decided to go with the flow and intentionally slowed my shutter speed to make the most of the motion blur caused by the wind. I certainly wouldn’t consider this an award winning photograph, but it was fun creating. You never really know what you’ll get when you try these sorts of experiments.


I hope you enjoyed this short exploration of the stages of a lotus flower blooming. If you’d like to see more photographs from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens check out the following posts:

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And if you’re looking for some beautiful wall art, check out Lotus Flower and Bumble Bee at my online store. It’s also available on throw pillows and various other products.

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