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Motion Study: How to Capture the World As It Goes By

Post by Andrew Darlow

Capturing motion in an image is like having your own time machine. Photography allows us, in a single frame, to produce images that cannot normally be seen with the naked eye.

Not only is rocking back and forth on a swing, hammock or rocking chair a stress reliever, it can also provide for striking images. To produce the photo above, I relaxed on a hammock and held the camera very still just above my chest after giving myself a little push with my foot (a push from a friend can make the process easier and safer!). I also took some photos with the camera directly on my chest, using my body as a makeshift tripod.

Depending upon your shutter speed, the look will be very different. I generally use Aperture Priority mode on my camera for these types of images, which will cause the camera to automatically determine the shutter speed after choosing an f-stop. Aim for about 1/2 sec. exposures to start. Shutter Priority Mode will allow you to choose the exact duration of the exposure, so consider that as well. In the image above, the exposure was f/4.5 at 1/2 sec. A smaller aperture such as f/11 will generally increase the depth of field (more areas will be sharp from front to back). Without going too deeply into it, keep in mind that regardless of the mode you choose (including Manual), your ISO plays an important role both in exposure and the noise level (amount of “digital grain”) in your images.

Continuous shooting mode or “burst mode” (as opposed to single-shot mode) and Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) are two features I recommended exploring when shooting images like this. Continuous shooting mode will help you take more photos in less time and it also usually helps get a higher percentage of sharp exposures since you can just hold down the shutter release gently without “punching” the shutter release button each shot. AEB will give you more exposure options. A 2 or 3 second time delay setting can also be selected on most cameras, which can help with sharpness since you’ll have a few seconds to get ready and to steady the camera before the shutter trips.

Some of the photos in this series were a complete blur, and what I really like about this technique is how distinct images can be from shot to shot, even though they may be taken just seconds apart.

With regard to focus, I generally recommend manual focus, but there’s no harm in trying autofocus as well. If you do use manual focus, slowly change the focus so that you can explore different looks. It will also improve your chances of getting tack sharp images.

And don’t worry about constantly checking the LCD-just keep shooting and enjoy the ride!

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