Monday, 23 August 2010

Photographing movement

Exercise: Shutter Speeds (10-12 photographs)

This exercise entails taking a series of photographs of a moving object from the fastest shutter speed on your camera to a very slow one. The aperture has to be adjusted to maintain a constant exposure and for this exercise my camera was fitted to a tripod to ensure a consistent viewpoint.

f/22 shutter speed 1 sec

f/13 shutter speed 1/10

f/8 shutter speed 1/20

f/5 shutter speed 1/60

The first four images taken are shown above. The slowest shutter speed of 1 second shows how at a very slow shutter speed a moving object can become indistinguishable. There is a feeling of movement and speed but the object cannot be seen in any detail. The car has crossed the frame before any discernible detail has been recorded.

In the remaining 3 images above, the image of the car(s) is at least recognisable by its shape. There is a sensation of speed and movement but again no fine detail can be seen. At these shutter speeds and with a constant stable background, the movement in the image at least appears intended and not as the result of camera shake or poor technique by the photographer.

f/4 shutter speed 1/100

f/3.2 shutter speed 1/320

f/3.5 shutter speed 1/400

f/3.5 shutter speed 1/640
In the next 4 images in the series above, the car(s) become more static in the frame. It is not so obvious that they are moving across the frame and in most the only area of movement visible is in the wheels. In general these images give me the impression of poor technique and focus rather than movement and lack any interest.

f/3.5 shutter speed 1/1000

By the time the shutter speed reaches 1/1000 of a sec the passing car is totally static in the frame. There is no feeling of movement and nothing within the image to suggest movement, both occupants and wheels are motionless. For me this image lacks any interest and I can't imagine it would be inspiring to others.

Whilst setting up my camera for this exercise I took another image of a passing van which, when I reviewed on my camera screen, decided was too large in the frame and resulted in me taking the images reviewed above. However this is the image I now prefer.

OK, so technically its not ideal as there is flare in the lens but the subject is more interesting and although there is an obvious sense of movement you can still identify the subject. Both the colour and the image on the side of the van add interest. If I had taken the van travelling left to right across the view it would have felt more "natural" as apparently because we read left to right across a page it feels more normal to show movement in this direction.

So, what have I learnt? 
Obviously, the shutter speed used has an effect on the movement of a subject in an image. Faster shutter speeds freeze movement and slower shutter speeds blur movement. You can experiment to create different effects and to capture a precise moment takes practise. Pre-focusing on the expected subject area also require practise and is something I have not achieved very well in this exercise.

Personally, I have also learnt that I shouldn't edit my images in the field using the camera LCD screen. You can regret this later!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Exercise : Focus at different apertures

Hooray ! It's finally stopped raining........

This exercise involves taking three photographs of a subject that will show the effect of the change in aperture on the area of focus. Throughout the exercise exposure and the point of focus have to remain the same. i.e if the aperture is decreased by 1 stops from say f/16 to f/22 then an increase of a corresponding amount has to be made to the shutter speed to maintain a constant exposure. The smaller the lens aperture the longer the aperture has to stay open to allow in the same amount of light.

When the three photographs were processed the effect the change in aperture has on the depth of field can be clearly seen. The examples below are marked to show the area of sharp focus.

Fig.1 f/4.5                                                                                         Fig. 2 f/22
For the purpose of this exercise these images were scanned onto the computer and are at a lower resolution than the original photographs therefore they do not show the areas of focus clearly.

Fig 1.taken with the aperture wide open at f/4.5. A relatively small area around the point of focus is sharp. Fig 2. taken with a small aperture of f/22 shows sharp detail throughout the image from front to back.

As the aperture that is used to take a picture has a direct effect on the area in focus it is a valuable creative tool. You can use depth of field to emphasise a focal point or remove distractions from an image e.g. in a portrait with the aperture wide open you can concentrate the viewers focus on the eyes of the subject and throw the background out of focus.  However in order to maximise depth of field in an image use the smallest possible aperture and focus approx 1/3 of the distance into the frame.

Monday, 16 August 2010


Exercise 1 - Focus with a set aperture (2-3 photographs)

This exercise entails taking 2 or 3 photographs of a scene with some depth using a fixed wide aperture. The camera has to remain stationary but the point of focus has to be at a different distance from the camera in each shot. e.g focus point at the front, middle or back of the scene.

The weather here has been appalling this week and as I am keen to keep going with these projects I have had to improvise and arrange a scene to photograph indoors. Ideally, I would have liked to photograph a scene outdoors e.g. the harbour pier with a lot more depth that would have accentuated the results of the changes in focus.

However I have taken the following 3 photographs all shot using my camera mounted on a tripod, in Aperture Priority mode and at an aperture of f/4.

Rear candle in focus - Image 1

The three candles were placed on a black velvet cloth to remove any background distractions. In this image the rear candle is in focus which has the effect of drawing your eye through the image.

Middle candle in focus - Image 2

In this second image the middle candle is in focus. With this image your eye tends to move around the picture and finally settle on the centre candle. To me this image feels more 3 dimensional. The final image below ( Image 3) has the main focus on the foremost candle.

Normally, or what is assumed to be the correct way to take a photograph, is to focus on the 'subject' of the image. By this I mean -what is the main focal point?  The area of sharpest focus draws the eye and becomes the area of attention. In these examples as there are no competing background patterns or colours to distract your eye from the main point of focus this is particularly true.

Personally with these simple photographs I prefer Image 2, with the sharpest focus point on the middle candle. Had the photograph been of a different subject, then the area of sharpest focus I would have decided upon may have been entirely different. E.g. In a portrait picture I would have expected the eyes of the subject to be in focus whether in the centre of the image or not and in a landscape picture I may have decided to take a photograph with the foreground sharply focused.

The area that is focused upon has an effect upon design and in Image 2 (middle focus) the photograph is more interesting. Although all 3 objects are identical, your eye is drawn to the centre candle but then searches around the image to see what is in front and behind the main point of interest. The image is more 3 dimensional, has more depth and you spend more time looking at it.  With Image 1 (rear focus) your eye is drawn quickly to the last candle and has by then seen the entire image and in Image 3 (foreground focus) you arrive at the main point of interest straight away and don't need to look any further.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Project 1 - Getting to know your camera

I own a Canon 400d and as I have been using it for 3 or 4 years now I like to think I know my camera quite well. I have in the past read the camera manual but I have re-read it for this project and am surprised at the amount of advanced setting details and menu options that I had forgotten about or were too advanced for me to pay much attention to when I first started using the camera. I would recommend to everyone to re-read their camera manual even if you think you already know it.

I usually use Aperture Priority as I like to be in control of  the depth of field in an image and have dabbled with the Manual setting but that is still a bit more hit and miss. I only ever use an auto setting if there is a photo opportunity happening so quickly in front of my eyes that I don't have time to think about the settings. I guess this means I have to keep practising until changing camera settings becomes automatic depending on the setting and effect I want to achieve.

Exercise 1 (1-3 Photographs)

The objective of this exercise is to understand the relationship between the focal length of a lens and the angle of view and to establish what the "standard" focal length is for my camera.

For this exercise I chose to photograph the St Andrews Cathedral and Priory ruins and mounted my camera on a tripod. I chose to take the pictures in portrait format to accommodate the full stature of the ruins. The first photograph was taken with both eyes open as instructed and viewing the scene, one eye through the camera viewfinder and the other viewing the scene directly. The lens was adjusted until both views appeared to be equal in size to give the "standard view". In this instance it appeared to be approx 27mm.
f/22-ISO100 - 1/50 at 27mm
Standard View
f22 - ISO100 - 1/13 at 10mm
Wide Angle View
The second image is the wide angle view taken on a Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm. You can see that the perspective has totally changed and there is much greater distance between the foreground and the distant tower, also the field of view is much greater with the cathedral wall and the tree now visible at the edge of view.

 The final image is the telephoto image taken with a Canon 55-250mm lens at 250mm.
f/22 -ISO100 - 1/13 at 250mm
Telephoto View
The telephoto view gives much less depth of field with the background being out of focus and gives a much closer view than your eye would normally see.

When I printed off the images and returned to the same spot the standard view needed to be held at about an arms length away from my eyes in order to appear the same size as the actual view. The wide angle view had to be held so close to my eyes it was impossible to focus on the scene and the telephoto scene needed to be held so far away it wasn't possible to reach.

So what did I learn?
I now know that the "standard" view for my camera is approx 27mm and that this view of an image is as the eye would normally see a scene. There is no distortion in the perspective or size of objects.

With a telephoto lens at longer focal lengths the field of view is much narrower and depth of focus shallower.

When shooting with a smaller focal length or wide angle lens perspective is altered and there is a wider field of view. Objects appear smaller and the distance between foreground and background is increased.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Where to start?

Well I finally did it. Signed up for the OCA "The Art of Photography" course.

My course work has arrived and one of the first things to do is set up a learning log which I have chosen to do in the form of this blog. The idea is to help me express understanding of the course, self assess both my successes and failures during the course work and include any ideas I may have. I hope to include details of relevant exhibitions I have visited and other work which I have seen that has inspired me.

I would really like some feedback from others on the course, so please feel free to comment whether good or's the only way to learn.