Sharing Knowledge, Pt. 2; The ProActive Photographer & capturing motion

2004 ALMS Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta

Pushing hard to the finish at a national race in Rome GA.
Pushing hard to the finish at a national race in Rome GA.

Repsol Honda MotoGP racer Max Biaggi Neil Hodgson saves it! Georgia - Alabama AG DayOne of the questions I get asked most often, is how do I capture motion in my photographs. Usually this is followed up immediately with the second question / statement of “You must use a fast shutter speed and continuous burst, huh?”

I’ll give you a hint. Follow-through, not really, and no.

Even back when I finally had enough money to purchase my first motor-drive for my Nikon F2a in the 1970’s, I never used it on continuous. For me, the whole purpose of “auto advance” was to not take the camera away from my eye to wind the film crank, so I was (almost) always ready. Fast forward to today, where even some consumer level cameras are capable of up to eight frames per second captures, and pro gear gets into the stratosphere with 12-14 fps. Wow, that’s a lot of images! Which means even more time spent at the computer…

I guess I have always preferred, as Henri Cartier-Bresson stated, look for the decisive moment. My reason was a more selfish one. I hate to sit and edit out images. Why take a dozen shots and hope that one nails it? Isn’t your time valuable?

When I photograph Motorsports and aircraft, and desire to show motion, I slow down the shutter speed, sometimes even down to ¼ of a second. The way I keep things looking good is by follow-through. Imagine what would happen if you went to take a golf swing and stopped once you made contact with the ball? It wouldn’t be very pretty, would it?

Whether you are trying to capture a racecar at speed or a smiling four year-old running through the lawn sprinkler, follow or pan your camera in the same motion they are going. Important; don’t stop once you’ve pressed the shutter! Always remember the follow-through! With propeller-driven aircraft, a slow shutter speed is a must if you are to keep the propeller rotating. Nothing looks worse on an airplane or helicopter in flight than having stationary prop blades!

Oh, and if you plan on adding a flash, see if you can set your camera’s flash sync to “second curtain”. This will make sure that the motion is behind the subject, and not in front of it!

I hope this helps! Next time, ProActive lighting!

Until then, Ciao!

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