Monday, November 12, 2007
Trick Shots: Action
Stop fast action with these tips on everything from shutter speed to lenses
Shutter Lag And Action
When digital cameras first became available, they had a terrible delay between the time you pressed the shutter release and when the shutter actually went off. Luckily, cameras don't have that sort of lag today. All cameras pretty much take the picture when you press the shutter release, but when you photograph action, it's important to know that for most cameras, there's usually a fractional delay. This often comes from the speed of the autofocus (the camera wants to be in focus before allowing the shutter to release). This varies considerably from camera to camera and can affect your photography of peak moments or fast action.
It can help to anticipate the action when the action is fast. You need to be prepared to take the picture before the action hits its peak so you can actually react at that moment. If your autofocus is too slow for a particular action, try manual focus. It also can help to prefocus so your camera isn't searching for a focus point.
Panning is a great technique to use with subjects that are moving through an area, such as a runner, a bird or a car. Simply move the camera with the subject as it moves, taking the picture as the camera is moving.
With fast subjects, this can be the only way to get them sharp. Panning with the subject makes it "slower" in relation to the camera, so a slower shutter speed can freeze its action. The background usually won't be sharp, however, because the camera is moving across it.
Interesting effects come from actually using slow shutter speeds with panning. As the shutter speed slows down, the background blurs more until it becomes streaks of color and tone. Slow the shutter speed even more and the subject starts to blur, first along the moving edges, then over the whole thing. There's a range of interesting possibilities as you change shutter speeds.
Experiment with different shutter speeds and check the blurs you're getting on your LCD. That's a great advantage to digital—you can try out speeds and see the results immediately to know if it's the right shutter speed for you and your subject.
Lenses with image stabilization will change the way this type of blur looks. When you move a lens, it will often shift a little up and down, even though you're moving side to side. That will create bumps in the blurs. You can smooth them out with image-stabilizing lenses that include a panning mode.
It's important that you move the camera continuously through the exposure. Start panning the camera with the subject before you press the shutter, then keep moving the camera even after the shutter has closed. It's important that you don't stop suddenly—you'll get odd patterns in the blurs.
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