Photographer of the Month – Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

Darwin: Michael, the ‘Orton Effect’ or ‘Orton Imagery’ is now in the lexicon of photography as a creative artistic technique (whether done the old fashioned way with film or now using digital tools). I hear that soon there will be an Orton Filter in Photoshop Elements. How does it feel to have a process you refined become so popularized?

Michael: To be honest, up until a couple years ago I had no idea how widespread the use of this technique had become. The opportunity to replicate the original approach digitally, rather than with a camera and zoom lens, increased its popularity . It certainly lifts my day when I hear from someone who is using this , and who also seems to “get it”, and by get it I mean the idea behind its conception (Imitating pen and ink / watercolour technique).  As for Adobe , they contacted us and said they would like to use my name and  the effect in this falls  Photoshop Elements Version 10 . This exposure should bring our new website to an expanded audience. The website slideshow “Earth Symphony” (viewable 1080p full-screen) Is loaded with “Orton Effect” images from the beginning years to the present.

Darwin: Your new artistic direction involves motion blur with your camera. When I first heard about this I thought to myself that you would just be repeating the motion blur effects that Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant have made popular. But I was wrong! I am impressed by how you made a technique that is relatively simple and available to anyone into your own vision. To me that is like taking a C chord on the guitar and somehow making it your own. The lesson here is to take any technique and use it to express your inner vision. How did you motion studies evolve into their current form?

Michael: I have been using camera motion , along with many other photographers , since the late 80’s, so this is not new to me. There are several examples of these, used in different ways in the book “Photographing Creative Landscapes”. This last year while away I  began to “play” again, and take this basic concept of moving the camera to a place I had not been. I had used some compound movements in the past but now I really began to explore and combine them. Things started to happen . It was  as exciting to me as seeing that first “Orton Effect” years and years ago. Every day I seemed to discover another path , to the point where I was moving the camera in two or more directions and changing focal length or focus at the same time. I started to recognize potential in subject matter that a week before I would have walked right past. I had not been this pumped in years. When I saw these images on a monitor the colours and blending where simply amazing to me. I was hooked.  Technology is great , but creativity does come first . The slideshow “Freedom” on our website is completely camera motion.

Darwin: This new motion work you are doing is so distinctive that I think we may have an ‘Orton Motion Effect’ Again I want to congratulate you on turning whatever technique you try into you own unique form of expression. What is it about your personality that so clearly brings out your voice (it isn’t those special BC mushrooms is it?).

Michael: Oddly enough I have actually asked myself this question these last few years. How did I get here?  In my case I would say  a real sense of curiosity and an inquisitive  problem solving  mindset. I am constantly questioning not only what I am seeing but what my choices are in response .  This I call my inner or creative conversation and this was the basis of the ideas put forth in “Creative Landscapes”. In my world the tools of photography are far outweighed by the multitude of choices we have in using them . At this point what pushes me on is the need to create something that surprises me, to find what I haven’t seen or done in the past. Where it goes from here , we will see. I am just grateful to pick up a camera and make it happen. ( I do spend a lot of time in the rain-soaked woods , hmmm ! )

Darwin: You have been a successful stock photography and now you are entering the fine art print market. How different are the two disciplines and which do you prefer?

Michael: Stock has been a very good ride for Mary and I . It certainly changed our lives in the monetary sense. I tried to be as creative as possible  and still produce marketable “concepts” which was no easy task. There is no doubt that this does change the way one creates imagery. With the recent swing in the stock world I have been given the freedom to return to my days of “play”, and just make images for  myself. ( Is there a better reason? ) .  Where the fine art work goes from here is something I cannot predict as the world economy is so precarious . So far we have had very encouraging responses to the new work, many saying they have not seen  comparable imagery before and that these images are more visually exciting than the “effect” from years ago.. The prints done on canvas and watercolour paper in large sizes have some amazingly intricate colour blending . I cannot believe some of the hues made possible simply by blending existing colours. We will see what happens.

Michael:  By the, funny that you should mention the C chord. Not being able to obtain / license the music / soundtracks I would have liked for the slideshows (Vangelis and Kitaro didn’t answer the phone!)  I set about creating them myself last year. I used acoustic , and electric guitars, a synthesizer, and a multitrack recording studio to lay the tracks and then mixed down from these. Since the 80’s I have loved working with what I refer to as the “third image” , the one created as two slides blend in the dissolve, and when you add music to this it becomes magic for me. If I can share only one experience I would chose these slideshows. If you can find some time to watch them in a darkened quiet room , this is as close as I can come to recreating what photography feels like to me. ~ Michael

To see more of Michael”s new work and slideshows visit his website:

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton


7 Responses to “Photographer of the Month – Michael Orton”

  1. Great interview. I am a huge fan of the Orton Effect and now I’m diggin’ the new direction Micheal is going with the motion blending!

  2. Beautiful Photo’s and well chosen to show the Orton effect.
    He apparently used two slides sandwiched together to create his photo’s in the Darkroom.
    here’s my take on the Orton effect-done in Onone phototools photoshop plugin,
    good shooting,
    Evan Spellman

  3. I watched Michael Orton’s videos this morning after reading your blog and they are so beautiful…what a wonderful meditation experience.The music and voiceovers are perfect.

  4. Nice interview and some awesome, inspiring photographs! I especially like the first three images.

  5. Artists are sometimes stuck in comfortable zone. I myself find it can be long process to create new ideas and bring them up to my own. I am motivated by this interview. Great interview, Darwin.

  6. I’ve seen many photographers attempt this effect. Most are unsuccessful. These are truly exceptional images.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: