Travel Photo Thursday: Seattle View Zoom Effect (How To)

When we travel with our kids we always try to stay in a suite so that we can stay up after the kids go to sleep. Unfortunately, that’s not always an affordable option so sometimes you get long stretches of quiet time waiting for them to pass out.

On a recent trip we were staying at the Sheraton Seattle which has a very large interior window ledge covered with nice  blackout curtains. When it was lights-out time for the kids I snuck behind the curtain with my camera and gorilla-pod [] and tried to figure out the zoom effect. The zoom effect is when you use a long exposure and zoom in or out during the exposure [] to simulate motion in the photo.

Seattle Sheraton Room View Zoom Effect

It took me a long time to work out the mechanics of taking the shot as I didn’t actually do any research before I climbed behind the curtain. The blackout curtain was a big advantage because they block out reflections from light sources inside your room, but I still had some reflection within the double-pane window that I couldn’t avoid.

Should you start fully zoomed in and then pull wide, or vice versa? Do you pull the zoom evenly over the full exposure? Do you use a shorter exposure with a wide aperture, or a longer exposure with a narrow aperture? I’m sure that the real answer, as always, would be it depends on the situation. I tried many different permutations of shots to get the photo and ended up with the above result by using:

  • a 30 second exposure
  • smallest possible aperture
  • ISO 100
  • start fully zoomed in for 5 seconds
  • slowly zoom out over 10 seconds
  • leave fully zoomed out for last 15 seconds

[Update]: I originally listed the wrong instructions. Looking at the picture, you can see that the the wider shot is dominant so that’s where the exposure had the greatest time. Leaving the lens fully zoomed in for a few seconds at the start of the exposure gave those zoom lines a strong starting point.

As you can see by the squiggly zoom lines I don’t have the steadiest hand turning the zoom ring on my lens, but I’m sure it would have been better if I was using a proper tri-pod. It was a lot of fun figuring it all out though!

Below is a normal wide picture of the view taken earlier in the evening:

Seattle Sheraton Room View

This post was submitted to Travel Photo Thursday, a weekly collection of travel photos from around the world. Check out Budget Travelers Sandbox [] to see more picture.

17 thoughts on “Travel Photo Thursday: Seattle View Zoom Effect (How To)

  1. Very interesting effect and one I’ve never played with. I’m just getting into trying some night photography – especially after reading Beers and Beans “Getting Out of Auto” and am excited to experiment. Lots more depth in the top photo.

    • It’s amazing how much you can do with a camera. I can just barely get by with lots of light so shooting at night is all trial and error all over again!

  2. That’s a great effect. I’ve tried it a few times and its pretty tricky to keep the movement steady and consistent, otherwise you’ll end up with a pretty messy result (which also can look cool, but not as neat). Well done.

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