Sunday, 10 October 2010

A way of seeing: Project - photographing movement

Exercise: Panning with different shutter speeds.

Aim:  The aim of this exercise was to compare the results of panning with a moving subject using different shutter speeds.

Plan:  The plan was to take my partner's two nieces to the park and photograph them on a zip wire which would have a fairly constant speed as it mainly uses gravity.  What actually happened was a minor accident resulting in two nieces unhappy with going on the zip wire and Katya (my partner) acting as the replacement.  There are only 7 shots as there is only so long an adult can hog a zip wire in a busy childrens' playground with a queue of kids and parents waiting (sorry)!


The results range from 1/5th sec to 1/125 sec.  Although there are only 7 shots, they cover a good range of movement.  A lot depends on the panning action as the slowest shutter speed is, in fact one of the clearest.  The shots at 1/6th and 1/10th have not frozen the subject which is down to my panning.  1/20th and faster became much more manageable but much less animated.  1/40th and upwards did not provide enough of a sense of movement and are uninspiring as a result.

The shot at 1/20th is the best for a number of reasons.  The subject is sharp and the background is blurred but not overly.  Also Katya's position, angled slightly more towards the camera adds to the shot and finally she is smiling which, in this case, adds to the sense of fun and compliments the sense of speed and the thrill of the zip wire.

F8 1/20th sec

The shot at 1/5th shows is an interesting result.  There is a much greater sense of speed which is more appealling.  However, I know that Katya wasn't going that fast; but does that matter?  I don't think so in this case.  It looks more exciting.  Another issue is that movement has only been frozen around Katya's head whilst every other part of her shows some blurring.  This adds to the picture showing that it is important to keep the main features sharp but not necessarily the rest.  I'm not sure how it happened, I'm assuming that Katya's head was moving along the same plain as the camera whilst the rest of her wasn't.  The image seems to pivot round the head?  In some ways I prefer it but it's not as much fun as the shot at 1/20th.

F11 1/5th sec
 Learning points:
  • Panning takes practice and the same shot in the same conditions can be sharp or blurred depending on your panning action.  I would still persevere with a slower shutter speed and keep taking the shot until it was right (if possible).
  • Single elements are important but it has taken a number of elements combined to make a good picture in ths instance. This may not always be the case if a single element is that dominant, but I think it is here.  In this case it's a combination of panning, shutter speed and expression that produced the best image.
  • Turn the image stabilisation off you fool!
  • Never work with children or animals.

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