Slowing Down the Shutter

When we take photos, we normally want the photo to be a literal snapshot of a point in time, a frozen moment that does not melt away or loses its flavor. We photograph many things that catch our eye or impress us. It may be our children running, riding a bike, a fancy car going down the street or some other item. My wife and I were riding down the highway when several bikers came from behind and began doing various stunts on their bikes (i.e., wheelies, standing on the side, etc.). Unfortunately, I was driving so Deborah took out the camera and began shooting. When we got home, I noticed she did a great job in taking the shot. However, there was something missing in the photo. We didn’t capture the thrill of the moment. The shutter speed was so quick that it froze the motion and it looks as if the biker is standing next to the bike.

There’s an opportunity to catch these events in a more “dramatic” fashion. It involves a slower shutter speed and the technique of panning. Panning requires the photographer to follow the subject as it moves from right to left or vice-versa while simultaneously snapping multiple photos. In order to imply motion the camera’s shutter speed must be slower than normal. This technique allows you to have a sharp image of the moving subject while the environment containing the subject is blurry. A good shutter speed, starting point would be 1/20s and you can increase or decrease the speed depending on the object’s speed or the desired effect. If we use this technique for the biker, the background would be so blurry that it leaves no question as to whether or not he was moving.

Place the camera in the Shutter Priority mode and set the time to 1/20s. Also, put the camera’s shooting mode to continuous. This allows you to hold the shutter button and the camera continues to take images. Finally, follow the action on your LCD screen or view finder and begin shooting. This is a hit or miss technique that produces plenty of misses initially. However, as you get a feel for the technique, you’ll discover a new way of photographing images. I find this technique so challenging yet rewarding that I commit to this technique whenever I travel. I take many shots. However, I usually find a few keepers that make it worth the effort.

Panning is such a popular technique that SLR lenses have components in place to help keep the moving object in focus as you follow it. It is often used in sporting events. However, they often freeze the image with a fast shutter speed (i.e., 1/250s or higher). Nevertheless, the same principles are used during slower speeds.

Thanks for reading and “Keep Shooting”.




Independence Day Photos & Suggestions

I begin this weekend without any major shooting events. Considering I’m living in a country that was on the losing end of this American holiday, there aren’t many celebrations to be had. However, I received many emails on shooting 4thof July fireworks celebrations. Therefore, I wanted to provide my input.

Historically, the camera settings were the “trickiest” part of photographing fireworks. However, many newer models come with an actual “Fireworks” setting. Therefore, much of the mystery is removed.

Great fireworks images contain more than the brilliant and colorful bursts in the night sky. They provide a beautiful skyline composition or other landmarks that provide a sense of place to the image.

However, before we begin with the composition, some basic gear is necessary. Any sharp fireworks image requires a tripod. You can obtain an inexpensive one, under $30 dollars from local electronic or retail stores. They provide stability and provide sharp images difficult to obtain otherwise. Next, use a remote trigger. This allows the user to activate the shutter without touching the camera. Even the slight vibration from pressing the camera button creates enough shake to blur the images slightly. If that is not available, put the camera on a two-second delay if possible. That requires great timing considering you must anticipate when the bursts will appear.

Secondly, compose the shot to include buildings or a familiar image. These elements disclose your location and show how large the displays were. They also help to focus the camera prior to the fireworks.

Some cameras do not have a fireworks setting. Therefore, manual exposure settings are necessary. If you have a Point & Shoot (P&S) without a fireworks setting, I recommend you put the camera on the “Shutter Priority” setting (i.e., S or Sv) between three to five seconds. This value depends on the length of the fireworks burst. I typically try to keep the shutter open long enough to get a burst from its lift-off to the burst in the sky. You may have to change this setting during the fireworks. Therefore, understand this setting so you can make the necessary changes quickly.

Taking photos of fireworks at night is difficult for the camera’s auto focusing mechanism whether it’s a P&S or SLR. The camera is attempting to photograph a moving object at night that is visible for only a few seconds. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you turn off the Auto focus setting—if possible. This is another reason why landscapes are helpful. They allow you to focus on the building manually. Therefore, when the fireworks begin, the camera is set to sharply capture the images.

SLR USERS – I recommend the aperture set to F/8 to F/16. This will allow you to obtain enough depth of focus even if the fireworks are not allows on the same focus plane. Also, set the manual focus to infinity unless you’re very close to the action. P&S users do not typically have to worry about their aperture since the smaller sensor size provides very adequate depth of focus.

Lastly, I included fireworks shots from my first attempt. They’re only the burst. You do not see the lift-off. Also, there are no recognizable landmarks. They do not provide any scale or sense or location that I discussed earlier. The images lack interest. However, I linked my other images and you can immediately tell where I was and how big the celebration was.

I Included a link to some additional fireworks images. I hope you like them.

God Bless & Keep Shootin’