Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Experiment : Shutter Speed / Capturing Action

This is a super simple lesson on how shutter speed works and how to capture movement in your photos.  First, I’ll cover some basic shutter speed terminology, and then get into a couple easy step-by-step experiments you can do on your own.  At the end are suggested links to places to shoot action.

For the experiments you will need:

o  a camera that has a shutter speed priority setting (either TV or S).  Check your camera manual if you're not sure where the shutter speed setting is on your camera.
o  your favorite lens.
o  a constant light source
o  a moving object

[optional: tripod]

Shutter Speed

“Shutter speed” refers to how fast an aperture shutter opens and closes and is measured in seconds.  (See Experiment : Aperture and Depth of Field to learn about aperture.)

A camera’s preset shutter speed can range from as fast as one eight thousandth of a second (1/8000) to as slow as 30 seconds. You can go even slower when you use your camera's B or Bulb setting.

Setting your camera to shutter speed priority allows you to change the shutter speed to whatever you like. The camera will automatically decide the best aperture and ISO.

How does shutter speed work?

It’s all about letting in light.  When you set the shutter speed on your camera, you control how long you let light hit your camera’s sensor (or film).

Getting Creative - Capturing Movement

Besides controlling how fast light hits your sensor, you can use shutter speed to stop the action in your photos.  The speed of the shutter opening and closing decides how much action is stopped.  

Fast Action

The faster the shutter speed the more likely you are to "freeze" the action.  Shutter speeds higher than 250 are best when you want no blurring in your photos.

Blurred Action

The slower the shutter speed the greater the action blur.

If you wanted to capture action, but you want to show movement you would set your shutter speed to something slow.  How slow depends on how much blur you want.  

 The slower the shutter speed the more blurred the action. A tripod that allows you to move your camera from side to side is really handy, especially if you choose really slow shutter speeds.

Unless you are made of iron or don't breath, the slow shutter speed will also show camera shake.  

Points to Ponder

The angle that you shoot from plays a part in how your action photos turn out. 

It's easier to capture objects that are moving directly towards or straight away from you.  Objects moving from side to side in front of you are a little more difficult to capture.  For objects moving from side to side, you might want to try panning.


Panning is when you follow your moving subject with your camera.

To show how it's done, here's a quick One Minute with Willy video by photographer Willy Foo.



The following experiments will illustrate what happens when you change shutter speed.

Set up:

  1. Set your camera to shutter speed priority – TV or S.  The camera should automatically select the proper ISO and aperture setting. Your camera settings might blink if the shutter speed you have selected exceeds what the settings the camera thinks it can handle.  (Think deer in the headlights.)  Unless you make adjustments, your photos might be extremely over or under exposed.
  2. Find or create a moving object.  Examples: a running pet, a jumping friend, a waterfall or water fountain, rolling pool table balls.
  3. A consistent light source.

Experiment 1

Question: What happens when you focus on a moving object at various shutter speed setting?

  1. Set your camera’s shutter speed to as fast (e.g. 1/4000) as your camera will go.
  2. Shoot your moving subject.
What do you see?  What aperture did your camera choose?  How sharp is the action in your photo?

  1. Reset your shutter speed to 1/125.
  2. Shoot your moving subject.
What do you see?  What aperture did your camera choose?  Is there any blurring in your photo?

  1. Reset your shutter speed to as low as your camera will go.
  2. Shoot your moving subject.
What do you see?  What aperture did your camera choose?  How much blurring is in your photo?

Experiment 2

Question: What happens when you focus on a moving object at various shutter speed settings, shooting from different angles?

  1. Have your subject move towards or away from you.
  2. Repeat the steps from Experiment #1.
What do you notice?  Is it easier or harder to focus on your subject?

  1. Have your subject cross in front of you and try panning.
  2. Repeat the steps from Experiment #1.
What do you notice?


Suggested places to shoot action:
For more shutter speed information have a look at the Allversity Moments and Motion lecture.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Junetta Jamerson

Junetta Jamerson by Wanderfull1

Junetta Jamerson, a photo by Wanderfull1 on Flickr.
Junetta Jamerson belting out Koko Taylor's "I am a Woman" at the Calgary Public Library's One Book One Calgary launch, last night at the downtown Central branch. Junetta's band included her husband Rick Jamerson on bass. [Yeah, I was thinking maybe his name might be James... like the Funk Brothers' James Jamerson.  I wonder if they might be related; even distantly.]

The Library's program publications said a gospel singer was going to perform. I'm not a big fan of the gospel. But because I'm a photo-slut I committed to taking photos for the Library before checking the performer lineup. What a surprise, though. I thought I'd explode with joy when I heard the first blues riff.  Then Junetta sang... the joy went nuclear!

But the night was about a book... the One Book, One Calgary selection as a matter of fact.  This year, OBOC celebrates Lawrence Hill's "The Book of Negroes," a fictional account of an 1700s African woman kidnapped and sold into slavery who spends her life trying get back home to Africa.  Although the book is fiction it is based on fact; including something never mentioned in history books -- black slavery in Canada.  Lawrence Hill puts a human face to historical events. I understand they're going to film a series.

Lawrence, or Larry as he prefers to be called, was a shyly wry speaker.  I especially liked his story of why he chose to become a writer. It involved Larry wanting a kitten at age 6 and his father tasking him to write a paragraph explaining why, who would feed it, and how to keep it from having kittens in the closet. Larry got the biggest laugh when he asked if we would mind trading mayors.  He's from Toronto.

What was also cool was a huge wall map of the world on the main floor.  Using strings and pins people were invited to show the route they took to get to Calgary from their home country.  At one point I got too close and a couple people handed me their cameras, wanting me to take photos of them tagging the map.  One guy gave me his iPhone, something I have got to learn how to use some day. Give me a DSLR or point and shoot camera and I can eventually figure out how it works. But iPhones... such a thin little thing with buttons all over the place... I feel like I'm all thumbs.  I hope I gave him at least one good photo.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Haunted Hollywood

Haunted Hollywood by Wanderfull1

Haunted Hollywood, a photo by Wanderfull1 on Flickr.
Hallowe'en night a few die-hard classic movie buffs took part in the National Music Centre's Haunted Hollywood tour.  This lady, dressed as the Bride of Frankenstein, was waiting for the tour to begin.

The evening started off with the tour guide playing this theatre organ, accompanying a brief showing of the movie Nosferatu (1922 version).

Shot with the Pentax k-5, 18-135mm lens; edited with Photoshop CS5 and added Corel Paintshop Photo Pro X3's Time Machine effect.