Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Capturing Movement

Nature photography by its very nature involves capturing not only places and moments, it involves capturing movement.  Movement can be represented in various ways. We've all seen those great sports images where the running back is frozen as he turns a corner or the basketball player is locked in mid-air just as he releases the shot.  Who can forget those great nature shots where the eagle is caught snatching a fish from the water, or the humming bird hovers outside a flower.  But movement doesn't always have to be frozen.  Often, allowing the subject to be blurred can generate a wonderful effect and sense of movement.

So how do we do capture movement?  Well, three things come into play; shutter speed, depth of field, and timing.

Your shutter speed is what determines when a moving object is either frozen or blurred.  To freeze an object, a fast shutter speed is required...something in the range of a minimum 1/250th of a second upwards to over 1/1000th of a second depending on the circumstances.  For everyday situations...walking people, playing children, things that are moving but not so rapidly that you have a hard time following them, a shutter speed somewhere around 1/250th of a second will freeze most activity.  But, for those objects that are traveling faster such as athletes in motion, or vehicles, and animals, a shutter speed more like 1/500th of a second is required to freeze the action.

You may be asking, what does depth of field have to do with capturing movement?  Depth of field as you might recall is that portion of the image from the foreground to the background that remains in focus and is primarily controlled by the aperture.  A small aperture like f/16 generates a wide depth of field where most of the image will be in focus from front to back. A large aperture like f/2.8 generates a very tight depth of field where the subject is primarily in focus and the foreground and background is blurred.  The type of lens you use also comes into play. A 50mm lens will react differently than a 500mm lens.  Depth of field comes into play primarily for those close up images when you want to isolate your subject from all the background clutter.  Also, if you use a small aperture, f/16 or so, you might find it difficult to obtain a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the action simply because the smaller the aperture the less the volume of light is allowed in.  A larger aperture will allow in much more light thus allowing you use a faster shutter speed.  ISO setting is also important in that you may need to boost the ISO up to 400 or even 800 in order to get a fast enough shutter speed to lock in on movement.

Timing makes all the difference. When capturing nature, especially flying birds, timing is critical as you want to not only capture their movement, but you want to capture them doing what they do naturally within their environment. Taking a photo of hawk sitting on a telephone pole isn't very inspiring to a viewer, but capturing a hawk as it flairs just before it alights, or just after it takes off makes for a more interesting image.

As I mentioned previously, capturing movement doesn't always mean freezing the action.  Often, allowing the object to have a blurred effect can be quite striking.  The best way to accomplish this is to use a tripod and set your camera with a small aperture and low ISO, which will usually generate a slow shutter speed.  The slow shutter is what is critical.  Depending on what is moving, a shutter set from 1/30th of a second down to as low as a full second will generate some wonderful blurring effects.  The best time to capture blur is on a cloudy windy day when the light is generally lower.  You can also attach a polarizer filter which will effectively reduce the light gathering ability of your lens by one to two full stops which will also slow your shutter down.

So, capturing movement can be quite fun to try as it can add a whole new level of complexity to your photography.  Here's a list of some potential movement capture opportunities:

Tall field grasses blowing in the wind
Birds at the feeder
Bumble bees and flowers
Moving water or waterfalls
Sporting events
Night photography of vehicle lights
Amusement park rides...especially at night

Give it a try..I think you'll enjoy it.


1 comment:

Jenn said...

Another great post!