Jay Sousa: Creating a sense of motion with photographs brings them to life

10/04/2013 8:10 PM

10/04/2013 8:33 PM

Still photographs capture a moment frozen in time, normally without the feeling of motion. For quite a while now I have been fascinated with the idea of adding a sense of motion to my images. There are several ways in which the photographer can do this by using solid camera techniques. .

One of my favorite subjects to point my camera at is water, whether it is a mighty waterfall in Yosemite, a pristine mountain stream or the endless ebb and flow of the ocean. It’s actually an easy task to create a sense of the flow of water. All you need is a good tripod, a remote camera triggering device or cable release and, of course, your camera.

I almost always try to make photographs of water late in the day or very early in the morning when there is not as much light because a very slow shutter speed is required.

Pick a shutter speed from half of a second up to a minute in length; keep in mind that on most cameras exposures longer than thirty seconds will require you to put your camera on “B,” for bulb, and time the exposure manually. The longer the exposure the more of a sense of motion you will achieve.

Also, if your camera has a “mirror lock-up” feature, use it. This handy feature allows your camera to lock the mirror up and out of the way after you focus your camera. If you don’t do this, the force of the mirror moving out of the way so the shutter can open and expose your image will cause some camera shake, which could make for an image that lacks sharpness at a longer exposure.

Another way to use a long exposure to capture motion is during a sporting event. Typically we want to stop the action of a fast-moving event like a bicycle race. But sometimes we can make a very interesting image by slowing down the shutter to create a sense of speed as the racers come speeding past our field of view.

The speed of the event will dictate the speed of your shutter. The faster the movement of the action, the faster the shutter speed you can use to get some blur.

You can also use a slower shutter speed on a fast moving object to keep the object in sharp focus but have the background a blur. You do this by panning the camera along with the subject.

Let’s use a bike race as our example. Select a shutter speed of around a 1/60 of a second but don’t forget to adjust your F-stop to make a good exposure. Next, as the cyclist is coming across your field of view, pan the camera along with the racer and try to match his speed as you follow along. At the right moment, depress the shutter as you pan along with the cyclist.

If you have a zoom lens, there’s another cool trick you can use to create motion. First, pick an object that has a strong center of interest that you will compose right in the center of your frame. A flower is a good subject to practice this technique. Next, select a time of day that will allow you to have a shutter speed between 1/30 of a second and 1/8 of a second; make sure your F-stop is set to make a correct exposure. Next, with your camera on a stout tripod, set your zoom lens on the shortest focal length. I use a 24-105mm lens so I would be on 24mm to start.

Now comes the tricky part – as you depress the shutter release button, quickly but smoothly zoom the lens during the exposure. The resulting image makes a crazy mix of motion and the effect of a kaleidoscope. This takes some practice to perfect, but trying is half the fun.

You can check out some motion images at my website www.jaysousaphotography.com. Go to “Rangefinder” under galleries.

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