With the two previous photo assignments focusing on panning and sports, I thought it fitting that this week we look into freezing motion. Our lives are constantly in motion and it can be fun to bring that motion to a stop with the press of a button. By freezing the motion we experience the image in a unique way, sometimes with humor (a silly expression) and sometimes with awe (as a bear snags a salmon out of the air). The challenge is to capture the right moment (you didn’t think it was going to be easy did you?).
Good frozen motion images require three things: a fast shutter speed, excellent timing, and a subject worth looking at.
Fast is a relative term. How fast a shutter speed do you need? It depends on what you are photographing (click here for more information about the relationship between shutter speed and motion). A flying vulture will require a faster shutter speed then a yawning leopard. Still, I recommend that you use the fastest shutter speed you can reasonably achieve. A setting of 1/250 of a second is a reasonable place to start, with the understanding that the shutter speed can be modified based on results. Faster subjects will need faster shutters speeds while slower subjects permit slower shutter speeds. Just remember to use the display screen on the back of your camera to review your images as you seek out the perfect shutter speed. If you are having problems obtaining fast enough speeds, don’t be afraid to crank up the ISO.
Timing is another essential element when freezing motion. To early and the viewer wants to know what happens next. Too late and the viewer feels she missed the moment. The key is to capture the action at its peak. The top of the jump, a fully extended yawn, maximum extension when reaching for one more leaf.
Finally we come to subject. Be it wildlife or something else (I admit that not everyone likes photographing wildlife……oh, the horror), we need to be conscious of what the subject is doing. Just as not all subjects are created equal, not all actions are equal. Some actions look great when frozen; others don’t. How do you know which is which? In the beginning you don’t. The only way to tell is to shoot everything and then look at the results. Only then can you tell what works and what doesn’t. With experience, it will become possible to predict (with some success) which situations will produce interesting results. In the meantime, just shoot and only share the good stuff.
(click on the images to see larger versions)