Daydream - My First Orton

by Michael Orton
September 22, 2011


Daydream by Michael Orton ©


Can one photograph change a life? A politician or public figure in the wrong place at the wrong time might say regrettably yes. Fortunately I am not in that situation but I can say that this photograph has had a major impact on my life. For me it was the beginning of a style of photography that has become known as the "Orton Effect".

 A Good Day by Michael Orton ©

A Good Day

Near the beginning of my photographic career, I met a group of artists (painters) whose work I admired and attempted to imitate with my photographic tools, not with brushes and paint. My early attempts were out of focus blocks of color. Then I saw a technique called "pen and ink with watercolor". I was already making the watercolor (at least in my mind) and realized that the pen and ink could be simulated by overexposing to remove most of the color but still retain the detail. I then mounted both transparencies in the same slide mount. In order to get the two to index properly, it was necessary to focus or defocus and zoom the focal length so that the image would not change size in the viewfinder.The camera was locked securely on my tripod . Bracketing exposures allowed me to experiment on the light table to obtain the desired effect . Using two or three actual transparencies mounted in a single slide mount also gave an extra sense of depth that is not seen in other techniques such as double exposures.

Misted by Michael Orton ©


Daydream and many others produced in the same way were soon piling up in my files. Some of these were included in my first book "Once Upon an Island" (Images of Vancouver Island) and various magazine articles in the early 90's. The owner of Allstock, a stock photography agency based in Seattle, saw "Once Upon an Island" in a book store and contacted me with the proposal of representing my work in the stock industry. Subsequently some years later Allstock was purchased by Tony Stone and Stone in turn was purchased by Getty Images. Stock photography became a reality.

Santa Rosa Garden by Michael Orton ©

Santa Rosa Garden

It is fulfilling to receive comments from those around the world who enjoy this effect, now produced digitally in Photoshop and similar programs. Adobe recently asked permission to include an "Orton Effect" in the new version of Adobe Photoshop Elements being released this fall.

Refuge by Michael Orton ©


Today I am currently enjoying a "reawakening" after years of stock and have returned to my beginnings and once again am using my camera to imitate art. To me it is as exciting as my early days as I now use compound camera motion to blend the colors of the landscape.

Mary and Michael Orton portraits


Bio - I am a husband, father, grandfather and photographer. A camera has been a part of me for a large part of my adult life and has taken Mary and I on a wonderful ride.

In 1992 Orca Book Publishers published our first book "Once Upon an Island" and as luck would have it, the owner of a stock agency found it in a bookstore in Seattle and our stock photography career began. We now license through Getty Images and Age Photostock.

Once Upon an Island contained some of my first painterly impressionistic images, which have since become referred to as "Orton Imagery" by other photographers.


Links to Additional References on Orton Imagery


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