D850 and Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4

Looking at my photographic days in Tokyo I need to discuss the combination of the Nikon D850 camera with the Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 lens, particularly for motion blur photography.

I have to admit that I had a difficult and problematic relationship with this 50mm lens. 50mm is not my favourite focal length. For street photography it appears to narrow for me, it does not cover the scene sufficiently for my taste and thus deprives me of creating compositions that I like. For portrait the lens is too wide. I prefer staying a little further away from my model which I find less intimidating for the person at the other end of the lens. Working with 85mm or the 70-200mm zoom also gives a nicer background bokeh.

In Tokyo I used initially the 70-200mm lens for motion blur street portraits. But I realised that due to the narrow focal length I missed quite a few shots and depended a lot on luck and serendipity. And later when watching the pictures on my computer I realised that the shots with this lens looked a little smeary to a degree that I disliked the results.

For the second part of my stay I changed the lens and used the Sigma 50mm instead. And man, this was a revelation. The rendering of this lens is crisp, motion blur causes beautiful lines, the colours are also beautiful and easy to work with. And doing the blur stuff was of course much easier with this wider lens than with the 70-200mm zoom. So I am really smitten with the Sigma lens and it seems that our relationship has good chances to recover.

A word to the D850. I have praised it already just a few days after buying it. This camera is incredibly versatile. You can try anything with it and the results seem to be very convincing. I love shooting portraits with her, results are predictable and reliable. Same now with my motion blur attempts. The files are great, I can process them easily, they never fall apart, even if I try extraordinary things in pp. I can clearly confirm my first impression. This camera is amazing and in hindsight I bless my crooked old D800 for having given up its spirit.

I will use bothD850 and Sigma Art 50mm in combination in the future and I am looking forward to the results.

Motion Blur

I have been experimenting with motion blur (or intentional camera movement, ICM as it is called) in the past. You achieve this effect by using a relatively long exposure time (1/25 second or slower) and moving your camera in a planned and coordinated way when pressing the shutter release. Technically it is not easy to produce meaningful pictures because you need to calculate the visual path of the camera and the position of the object that you are aiming at. So consequently you often get pictures that do not show what you have envisaged. 

And to be clear. Motion blur does not mean that you shoot randomly into a crowd or at still objects. In order to achieve good pictures you should have a clear idea of what you want to capture and how to move your camera. Otherwise you end up with chaotic pictures that don’t have any meaning or good visual impact. 

In Tokyo I returned to the technique of motion blur. An important reason was that I was not overly happy with the expression of my “still pictures” that I had taken in the first two days in the city. So I decided to take the plunge and shoot ICM only for the rest of my stay. That gave me the opportunity of trying out this technique in many shots and to improve my technique. 


To my mind motion blur pictures have a deeper, a different expression than still photos. I find that they reveal a “reality behind the reality” that you can hardly find in the usual images with quick shutter release. Particularly when shooting people I find that their faces show treats that express something of their character that you only find when you use long exposure. 


As the viewer of these pictures you need to take more time too. Following the lines, looking into each corner of the picture helps you getting the full expression of the picture. Letting the overall impression sink in, letting your subconscious process what you see may indeed reveal a deeper reality. Of course this applies on any photograph, however do I think that in motion blur pictures, patience on the side of the viewer reveals more details and more meaning. It feels as if I as the viewer immerse myself deeper into what is happening in the picture. 

Flickr is not the ideal medium for motion blur. We “flick” through the pictures very rapidly, spending hardly longer than 3 seconds on one image. But maybe sometimes it would be good to slow down and to force ourselves into a deeper experience with the pictures that we regard. Motion blur is a good occasion to start this attempt.