Lens Painting is a “triple-motion-blur” technique Zmak has been developing since 2006 in which he uses the lens as a paint brush.
The technique can also use Irmin Roberts’ & Alfred Hitchcock’s “dolly zoom” technique in which the movement of the camera’s position is countered by the zoom of the lens.
Since completing the “A Year in the Vineyard” portfolio and book in May 2010, Zmak has been doing more color in general, but pushing far deeper into the abstract and printing on canvas for a more painterly look.
“As a painter, I could never recreate imagery as I saw it in my mind’s eye. But with a digital camera and the ability to make exposure adjustments based on instant results, my camera lens has become my brush. Seeing a Jim Kasson exhibit on motion blur in 2005 really got me experimenting with motion and time exposures in ways and combinations I’d never thought of before. I’ve also been influenced by David Gubernick and Jack Wasserbach, who have been experimenting with their own styles of motion blur and soft focus, and by Rob Ellis and Bert Ihlenfeld with their approaches to abstract color.”
In June 2007 on a trip to Catalina, Zmak played around with combining 2 types of motion blur at night in black-and-white: zooming a telephoto lens while rotating the camera in its tripod mount, and walking closely behind people while zooming a wide-angle lens.
A few months later on a trip to Glacier National Park, Zmak combined all 3 types of motion blur during the day on backlit autumn trees: he is in motion (65mph on a windy highway), he is moving the camera in patterns (such as circles or zigzags), and zooming a telephoto lens (100-400mm). Exposures ranged from 1-8 seconds at f32-f38, and sometimes he would add neutral density and polarizing filters to slow down the daylight. This was the effect he was searching for because the patterns were not symmetrical and the streaks of light resembled brush strokes.
In October 2009, the final touches of this “triple-motion-blur” technique came together during Zmak’s “A Year in the Vineyard” project. In September 2010 in San Francisco, and in December 2010 in Carmel and Monterey, he was able to apply the technique with full intention and expectation of the results, and use his “brush.”
In August 2011, B&W+COLOR Magazine gave Zmak a Merit Award in their annual color portfolio competition for a collection of 11 images from San Francisco, Carmel and Monterey. He continues to experiment with the technique in a variety of settings and teaches it in his workshops.