Sunday, 7 March 2010

Exercise: Movement and effect of shutter speeds

This and the subsequent exercise are intended to demonstrate capturing movement and the effect of different techniques on the end result.
For me these were fun exercises, so I ventured out on a dull and cold day at the end of February, to my chosen spot. I had in mind obtaining a series of shots of cars on the fast A120 with mostly the road as a background. I had hoped, and achieved, that I will end up with a series of blurred streaks against grey tarmac, tending pretty much towards the abstract.

I set up the camera on a tripod and started off the sequence with a shutter speed of 1/1600 and ISO 1600, stepping through the speeds available until I arrived at the point where I was just getting a hint of colour on the road. This was at an exposure of 1 sec at ISO 100. I balanced my exposures by adjusting ISO, and the dullness of the day gave me a large range to work with, without the need for aids such as ND filters.

So, what were my results?
1. At this shutter speed, movement of the fast moving car, probably travelling at around 70mph, was frozen. To me this photograph is very static and the viewer is unable to tell whether the car was travelling along that road.

1. 1/1600
2. Movement is now just perceptible. With the amount showing it does not "add" to the photograph and to the viewer it is not particularly satisfying. With a different subject then it is likely that a fast shutter speed such as this would have successfully "frozen" movement.

2. 1/1000
3. Movement is visible, but this is still slight and gives more the appearance of "camera shake" than anything worthwhile. This is not pleasing to the viewer and the subject still looks static.

3. 1/640

4. For this shot, taken at 1/400, the same comments apply as to the shot taken at 1/640. Movement is perceptible, but the subject still appears static in the frame. At this shutter speed there is still no real impression of movement.

4. 1/400
5. At 1/250, there is at last an impression of movement, rather than an uncomfortable, to the viewer, impression of camera shake. To me, however, this still does not convey real movement in the subject.

5. 1/250

6. More movement visible, but to my eye this is insufficient to convey movement, or indeed speed. The cars are travelling at over 60mph, and this shot just does not give that impression of speed.

6. 1/160
7. I chose this time to show just part of the frame in order to give a better impression of what is happening. Certainly some movement, but again, at 1/100, no real impression of speed.

7. 1/100

8. At last an impression of movement which is conveying speed. To me, this sensation of speed is all important in this subject. With a different subject, the impression of speed may not be essential.

8. 1/60
9. At 1/40 I am now getting the impression of speed which I was looking for. I am surprised that it has taken until this shutter speed for this to come through, given the speed of the subject. The camera is almost perpendicular to the direction of travel, so I expected the effect to be maximised.

9. 1/40
10. Even the "AA" van appears to be travelling at speed. This is the effect I was looking for, with significant blurring giving that impression of forward motion.

10. 1/25

11. Really good sense of motion, particularly since for the car nearest the camera, the wheels have traced out an interesting pattern which further accentuates that impression of speed

11. 1/15

12. The patterns I referred to above are clearly visible in this detail. There is, to me, another curious effect happening. The direction of travel is not clear. If anything, to me, the car appears to be travelling backwards - perhaps this is the effect caused by "darker" colours being "on top" of the lighter bodywork, for example, the tax disc picked out in green.

12. 1/15 detail

13. Great impression of movement, helped by the headlight adding a "streak".

13. 1/10

14. Detail from the above shot at 1/10 second. Taking the reference of the frame away from the subject, there is clearly an impression of movement, becoming abstract, but now there is certainly no real sense of direction. Such an effect may be desired, depending upon the subject matter and what the photographer wishes to convey.

14. 1/10 detail
15. Here the car is certainly travelling faster than in reality.

15. 1/6

16. Showing just a portion of the frame shot at 1/4 second. The cars are no longer discernible and we are left with an abstract streak across the tarmac. Our knowledge of the surroundings tells us that these are cars travelling along the road; this opens up the idea of how a photographer can make use of everyday knowledge stored in the viewers' brain, to convey a greater sense of what the photograph is depicting.

16. 1/4 detail

17. 1/2 second

18. 6/10 second

19. 1 second
In the last three photographs, shot at 1/2, 6/10 and 1 second, the subject has been dissolved into a blur of colour. This conveys tremendous speed, and it is left to the viewers' own knowledge to shape the picture into their interpretation of the subject.
All in all - great fun and some interesting concepts explored beyond just movement.

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