Personal Projects: Keith Seaman's "Drivebys" Are Moving Panoramas

By David Schonauer   Wednesday March 3, 2021

Keith Seaman takes the parallax view of life.

Some years ago, the Fresno, California-based photographer began acquainting himself with the technique of stitched panoramas and, as he puts it, became fascinated with the the phenomenon of parallax.

“Although parallax was an issue for successful stitching, it dawned on me that parallax was our common visual experience while moving through the world in our cars, buses and trains: as we peer through the windows of our moving vehicles, objects nearest us blur by while those farther away remain more focused, seemingly moving more slowly,” he notes. That realization led to an experimental series he calls “Drivebys.”

I’ve always been fascinated with movement and incorporated a lot of it into my commercial work,” says Seaman. “I am frustrated by the constraints of the single-frame image.” He made his first ‘Driveby' image just a few blocks from his home while driving back from his studio. Here it is:

“The ‘Driveby’ process involved shoot — in continuous shooting mode — sequential digital images out of the window of a moving vehicle, then assembling the selected images in Photoshop,” Seaman notes. “The decisions regarding the assembling of frames are determined by several factors. Some finished images have frames that are horizontally unaligned in favor of aligning an element within the frame — a fence, a sidewalk, etc. Some of the finished pieces have overlapping frames with transparency in the overlapping areas, suggesting film transparencies arranged on a light box. I also look for foreground elements that reinforce the parallax experience, such as utility poles."

“Most ‘Driveby' arrangements are panoramic, but some have ended up as tryptichs,” notes Seaman. “All the best are turned into large prints.”

“In the last several years I’ve begun experiential with high-speed flash at dusk,” notes Seaman. "Flash reverses the ‘Driveby’ effect. Without flash, foreground elements blur while backgrounds remain more focused. With flash, foregrounds are frozen while background elements — especially those against the sky — are blurred.”

Shooting images for the series often requires that Seaman make a number of passes by the object he’s shooting — and, he notes, that can present a problem. “The sight of someone driving by the same place again and again is often viewed with suspicion,” he says. ”I have been approached by angry landowners wondering what business I have racing past their orchards, with machine-gun flashes emanating from my car. I was also stopped by mother who was convinced I was surreptitiously photographer her children with the intention of selling the images on the internet.”


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