What's it all about?

This blog is about photography and photoediting. Its purpose is to provide hints and tips and links to interesting and useful resources for digital photographers, regardless of their level of expertise or experience. It is aimed at people who use digital SLR cameras and who process their images using the latest versions of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

The author of this blog is Glenn Springer and you can read more about him at his web portal at faczen.com. Information on workshops, and links to everything is at photography.to. Glenn's original blog, which is an ongoing journal of his photographic meanderings goes back to 2006 and contains many additional hints and tips, as well as representative images that he has made. Gallery quality prints are available through his Smugmug gallery site. It is an interesting place to visit to see a variety of quality images, as well as an ongoing general journal of photos going back several years.

Photography workshops are scheduled every few weeks starting in the Spring. For an overview of what's happening, please visit the photography.to website.

The most recent blog post is below. Scroll down to the bottom to see the list of previous postings or search for any particular topic.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shooting Action Scenes

Here’s the bottom line. If you want an action image with everything is focus and no blur, you’re going to have to use a fast enough shutter speed. But do we really want everything sharp in all of our images? There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

For everything to be blur-free, the slowest shutter speed you can shoot if you’re hand-held is “one over the focal length of the lens”. So for a 200mm lens, 1/200 second. For a 50mm lens, 1/50 second (there are some of you who are going to argue that cropped sensors – less than full-frame – are even worse. We could have that technical argument all day but bottom line, it’s the same). There are ways to get around that: shoot with a tripod or monopod. Have VR (vibration reduction) lenses or cameras. But even if the subject is not moving, that’s your limit.

 If you’re trying for tack-sharp focus, think again. Double that speed, at least. To reach that high speed, you may need to compromise on your ISO setting. I’m shooting hockey action next week with my 70-200mm lens. Indoor lighting in an arena is awful. I expect I’ll be shooting at ISO 1600 or 3200, 1/1000 sec at f/2.8.

 If the subject is moving, it’s a whole new ballgame. Or, by the way, if you’re moving. Sometimes you have to go a whole lot further. Picture a racing motorcycle coming right at you at 200 miles/hour. Good luck. Even if your autofocus is up to it, are you? What you need to do in that circumstance is manually focus on a point and when the racing bike hits that point, trip the shutter. Right. Good luck with that. The solution in that circumstance is to use your fastest cycle rate – in the D300 it’s 6 frames/second or 8 if you have an external battery. Hold down the shutter release just before the bike reaches the pre-focused point and pray.

 So what about that same motorcycle travelling across your lens? Even with a high shutter speed, you’re not going to get the shot unless you pan with the bike. And never stop moving, even after you’ve released the shutter (trust me. I know, after the shot, who cares? But if you don’t, you’ll be bringing your camera to a stop just at the point of release. Follow through, like a golfer or a skeet shooter.

 OK, now as I said, does everything have to be unblurred? Not necessarily. In fact, you give the impression of motion when the background has a motion blur to it. The trick is to pan the camera with the moving subject. Believe it or not, I’ve gotten pretty good images shooting a 200mm lens at 1/30 second. Pan smoothly – keep some part of your subject in the same place in your viewfinder – let’s say the driver’s door of that car or the wheel of the bike. This takes practice, lots of practice. Go out on the road and shoot at cars going by (Watch them slow down if you dress in black or dark blue when you do this. They think that’s a radar gun!). Think about what you want to accomplish in advance and try it!

Stop Action. Doesn't look like he's moving but this is the sharper image. Shot at 1/1000 second, f/7.1, ISO=200.

Panning with the moving car. Shot at 1/40 sec at f/22, ISO=100.
Even with such a low shutter speed you can get sharp images, but you have to practice, practice, practice!