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!

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