Slow Shutters

May 6, 2010 

Many of the technological advancements in camera equipment are most practically applied in creating sharper images. Since Niépce first captured a day-long exposure of the view from his window, we now have fast-recycling flashes to make up for the lack of light and high ISO films and their digital equivalent. The main camera body I use at work, a Canon Mark II N, is able to capture images with exposures as fast as 1/8000th sec. Long gone are the days in which portrait subjects have to remain motionless as their souls are transferred to glass plates.

There is still a place for slow shutter speeds, however. The most obvious is panning. Panning is where you move your camera along with a moving subject during the exposure. If you move your film plane or digital sensor along with the moving subject, s/he/it will be reasonably sharp while the background will be a streak. It’s a good way to convey a sense of motion and is common in racing and sports photography.

I recently had the urge to pan at the 10th annual Salmon Summit when I saw a station I remembered from last year that taught kids about predators and prey. Like many of the activities there, it started with some information and ended with a fun activity to keep the little ones engaged throughout the day. This station had kids dress up in animal costumes and play a concentrated game of tag. I missed my chance the first couple times passing by that activity, but managed to get one I liked before the summit broke for lunch:

I went with 1/30th sec., slower than I would normally pan at, because I wanted a nice, artsy, semi-abstract and colorful frame to end my gallery. I didn’t need a sharp frame with recognizable faces to offer for print and wanted to make an image that conveyed the swirling fun madness I saw. You can decide if it was successful or not.

Last week at the 21st annual Hispanic Academic Achievers Program (HAAP) awards, I utilized a slow shutter for another gallery shot, this time to borrow another photographer’s strobe during the group shot of all the scholarship winners:

I went with a very slow exposure of 0.3 sec. and f/7.1 at ISO 1600, which gave me a decent exposure for the brighter background. I wasn’t sure how strong his flash was going to be, but based on how fast his strobe seemed to be recycling during the awards portion of the program, I guessed it would be pretty close. I went with the slow shutter to have a bigger window of having my shutter open when his flash went off. This means stuff that was bright enough to be properly exposed in the brighter background has a good deal of camera shake and motion blur:

while the kids in who were standing on the risers in a dark corner of the TRAC stayed reasonably sharp because their exposure came from the other photographer’s flash:

Compositionally, I wish I could have utilized that dead space in the middle a little better, but it accomplished my goal of trying something a little different to help flesh out the gallery.

I used another slow shutter technique last week when I photographed actors in the Richland Players’ production of Blithe Spirit. When I learned that the play involved mediums and ghosts, I knew I had to bring a tripod to the shoot. After a basic CYA shot of the cast:

I went with a two-second exposure and had Crystal Deines, playing the ghost, move on cue from the right before pausing over Paul Roy’s shoulder, when I popped a little flash to expose Crystal. Paul and Christy Batayola had to hold still for each frame:

Crystal appears translucent because the slow shutter properly exposes the background. By the time she reaches her mark, the set has been exposed and a double exposure is created when the flash goes off, capturing Crystal’s likeness. This is especially noticeable and distracting in this outtake, which features some obnoxious flowers on the mantel and a very un-ghostlike shadow on Crystal:

As I was setting up for this shot, somebody suggested I combine two separate images in Photoshop. I said thanks, but no thanks, to which he insisted that digitally combining the shots would allow me to make Crystal translucent. He wasn’t wrong, but if I can accomplish something in-camera, that’s always my first option. Some people will probably see that shot in this week’s Atomictown and assume I digitally combined the photos, anyway, but it’s much more exciting to try and hang onto just a little bit of the magic you used to be able to create in a still photograph.

~~~~~

kyau@tricityherald.com
(509) 585-7205
Click here to subscribe to the RSS Feed.
Click here to become a fan of Behind the Fold on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service