Capturing Motion

Brazil is a country in motion, both literally and metaphorically.  The photographic challenge is to capture that sense of motion. If done well, creative motion can make a still photograph more dynamic.

Shutter Priority Mode: 1/20 second. While riding in a separate dune buggy, I set the shutter speed as slow as possible for the bright day. Camera was set to high speed continuous mode and while we were traveling about the same speed as the other buggy, I fired off a series of shots. This one was the most successful. The riders in the other buggy were sharp, while the background blurred as we sped by.

Panning is my favorite technique for showing motion.  The technique involves a slow shutter speed, and following the subject by moving your camera during the exposure.  Success with this often takes multiple tries to get the right shutter speed for the motion of your subject.  A successful pan will have a streaked background with the subject relatively sharp.  Don’t expect the subject to be tack sharp, but you do want the subject to be sharp enough that you can tell what it is.  If your shutter speed is too slow, the subject will be too blurry. If the shutter speed is too fast, then the background may not be blurry enough.

One advantage of the panning technique, is that is can create a dramatic separation between the subject and its background, by eliminating distracting elements from the background.

Our hotel location is a block from the beach, so we have a front row view to the ideal exercise venue. There is a wide sidewalk along the beach that is in constant motion. Early morning and into the evening, the sidewalk is full of people walking, running, rollerblading, skateboarding and an odd assortment of other activities.  Along this path are exercise stations with pull up bars and other structures for exercise.  There are also several beach volleyball courts and a skate park.

Running along Beira Mar, Fortaleza

For these shots I set myself at a location along the beachfront walkway that had a display of paintings.  The paintings were an assortment of bright colors, and I knew that it would make for an interesting background.  Then I stood there and fired off a lot of frames.  I looked left and right to see who was coming into the frame.  I looked for joggers or skateboarders who were by themselves, to help keep the composition simple.  My camera was in high speed shooting mode, so that I was able to fire off 3-5 frames before the subject was out of range.  In the case of this shot, photographed about 5 different subjects, and had two shots that are “keepers.”  This one of the jogger made the blog because of the red bandana and the fact that I got his feet in the shot.

Another take on panning is to experiment with shutter speed settings while you are in motion.  If you are moving at the same speed as something in your frame, then that object will be sharp, while the scenery around you is blurred.  This works great for shooting from moving cars, trains, buses, roller coasters, etc…

Shutter Priority: 1/20 Second. The slow shutter speed gives the sense of the speed of the truck as we were zipping down these dirt/sand roads. The truck and the mirror are sharp, because I’m moving at the same speed that they are. Having something sharp in the image is helpful when trying to show blurred motion, as the contrast between the two heightens the sense of motion.
Shutter Priority: 1/160 Second. This fast shutter speed stopped the motion, we might as well be parked when I took this image.


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