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Need for Speed

Freeze frame - Shutter Priority

Following on from my previous post on the option of taking photos using aperture priority, 'A' on the camera dial, and its relation to 'depth of field', this time I'm going to look at shutter priority or the camera dial function options marked 'S' or 'Tv'. Shutter priority is my first choice when it comes to the need to get a clean sharp photo of a fast moving subject or subjects such as sports events, moving cars or birds in flight. As mentioned in my previous blog, if you choose 'A' aperture priority or 'S' shutter priority the camera will choose the other setting to create the correct exposure but not always get the photo you want. For example you may want to get a sharp image of a moving subject but have the background either blurred or in sharp focus as well. This is where the 'M' manual dial option comes in to play. I will write about that next time. For now the following are samples of images where shutter speed has been the priority.

Beach Race 1/800th sec at f/8 

Beach Race 1/800th sec at f/8 

The photo above was taken in bright sunny conditions on a white sand beach. Someone had just yelled "free coffee at the other end of the beach". The shutter speed was 1/800th second which was fast enough to produce a sharp image of the runners in the foreground. With an aperture of f/8, the depth of field starts to blur from the background runners to the distant horizon and this could be partly due to the zoom lens I was using but it is clear enough to show it is a beach location and make the subject and point of focus unmistakably the runners.

The photo below is a personal favourite. I took this at a major sporting event. I had to clamber down rocks to quite a precarious position to get this perspective. I have used an even faster shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second to catch the dive from the rocks of Moturiki Island, Mount Maunganui. The aperture of f/5.6 has produced a shorter depth of field with the rocks being in sharp focus while the distance is blurred. Again, this is intentional as I wanted the focus to be on the woman diving, but its still clearly obvious this is a coastal location.    

Between a rock and a wet place. 1/2000 sec at f/5.6

Between a rock and a wet place. 1/2000 sec at f/5.6

The next photo was technically quite difficult for me as I wanted to create the impression of speed and to do this required a sharp focus on a fast moving go-kart at a shutter speed fast enough to get a sharp image of the kart but also slow enough to blur the background and give the sense of fast movement. 

Need for speed. 1/160th sec at f/10

Need for speed. 1/160th sec at f/10

If I had just pointed the camera at the kart and clicked, the kart would have been blurred as 1/160th sec shutter speed is not fast enough to freeze this fast moving object. If I'd pointed and clicked using a very fast shutter speed of say 1/2000 sec or higher then the background would also have been captured in sharp focus along with the kart which may have created an illusion that the kart was stationary. The answer was 'panning', whereby you rotate the camera on a horizontal axis to follow the subject. I focused on the kart and followed it (or panned) and then chose a moment when there was no distracting signage in the background to click the shutter. Its not easy as you have to keep up with the speed of the subject and keep the focus locked on to it.

So its not all about high shutter speed. I could have achieved a different but arguably just as interesting effect by using a very slow shutter speed and clicking as the kart came into frame. The kart would have been blurred and the background would have been sharp still creating a sense of speed. The photo below is sort of an example of this but because I was riding parallel to the bush and not standing at a right angle and photographing the cyclists riding past with a very slow shutter speed of 1/30th sec I ended up with a blurred image of the cyclists (you know who you are) and blurred trees creating a sense of movement and speed. I didn't have any input in these settings as I took the photo with an iPhone while riding in the group. "Look Ma, no hands!" 

Karangahake Gorge, NZ. 1/30th sec at f/2.8. Taken with an iPhone.

Karangahake Gorge, NZ. 1/30th sec at f/2.8. Taken with an iPhone.

 

Slow shutter speeds are also fantastic for landscape and cloud photography and a necessity for night photography. In the image below taken at night in Darling Harbour, Sydney, I used a tripod by necessity to keep the camera still because a long exposure using a slow shutter speed of 6 seconds was required to allow the amount of light to be recorded to get a good exposure.

Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia. 6 sec at f/8

Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia. 6 sec at f/8

Seasons in the sun.

It has been a beautiful settled sunny balmy April. I like the softer mellow autumn light and the ability to be out in the sun without being toasted within a few minutes, and of course the autumn colours painting the landscape such as in this scene at the beautiful local McLaren Falls.

McLaren Falls Park, Lower Kaimai, Tauranga, New Zealand. 1/80sec at f/6.3

McLaren Falls Park, Lower Kaimai, Tauranga, New Zealand. 1/80sec at f/6.3

The week that was.

I can't go past this last week without paying tribute to my father-in-law John's dearly loved wife, and my wife Margie's step-mother Martha who recently passed away in her 81st year. I had known Martha since the mid 1970's. Without a shadow of doubt her family were her over-riding passion and number one source of pride and joy. She was an absolutely devoted mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was not one to wallow in negativity. My enduring memory is of her unceasing infectious humour and positivity and that can be clearly seen in the portrait below. She had an underlying Scottish accent but was a proud New Zealander through and through. She had such a laugh and laughed and joked often, and always saw the good around her. Even after suffering a stroke a few years back and during a long hard road to recovery and also losing her home in the devastating Christchurch earthquakes she still maintained that innate sense of humour. RIP Martha.