Capturing Movement

Any movement in the frame during the exposure will be captured in the picture, resulting in motion blur. Anti-shake systems can do nothing to correct this; the only solution is to use a shutter speed fast enough to effectively freeze the action, which is why some camera manufacturers, most notably Fujifilm, have concentrated on producing CCD sensors with better high ISO performance, since this allows you to use faster shutter speeds in low light conditions.

With a fast enough shutter speed you can freeze even very fast-moving objects, as this sequence of photos will show. They were taken using a Nikon D200 SLR through the plane window on a flight to France, at shutter speeds of 1/125th, 1/250th, 1/500th, 1/1000th and 1/2000th of a second.

As you can see, at 1/2000th of a second even the spinning propeller of an aircraft in flight is virtually frozen. When I showed the last shot to the flight attendant, she nervously looked out of the window to check that the prop was really still spinning…

Sometimes you might want to allow a controlled amount of movement blur to show that the subject was in motion. There are a number of ways to accomplish this.

In this first example, the camera was fixed on a tripod, with a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second, while Graham cycled past in front of the lens. The tripod ensures that the background is sharp and the fast shutter speed has frozen the movement. The result is nice and sharp but looks slightly unnatural, as though he was somehow balancing there without moving.

With the camera still on the tripod, the shutter speed was set to 1/10th of a second, and Graham went around for another pass. This time the background is still sharp, but the slow shutter speed has resulted in lots of movement blur, making the subject unrecognisable.

In order to capture the feeling of movement, the best technique is to use a slow shutter speed, but to pan the camera (move it side-to-side) to follow the moving subject as you press the shutter. It is a technique that requires a bit of practice, since you need to be able to keep the camera moving smoothly as the exposure is taken, and avoid up-and-down movement as you press the shutter. It may take several tries to get it right, but when it works the results are very effective, with the subject stationary against a movement-blurred background. This example shot was taken hand-held at a shutter speed of 1/10th of a second.

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