Photo Session 4: Capturing Motion

Blurred Car Lights at Dusk

This is my third post in a series describing my learning experiences as I progress with my Digital Photography course.

As I mentioned in my post from last week, my most recent assignment was to capture the three main types of motion exhibited in photography: stop-action, panning and blurred. This post showcases my first attempts at those techniques.

The photo at the beginning of this post represents one of the most typical ways to capture blurred motion. Capturing the lingering lights of cars as they speed on the highway at dusk. I’m pretty proud of the result from this experiment, but I also felt I could do something more original. So I decided to head over to the National Mall in Washington, DC where the influx of tourists for the Cherry Blossom Festival and the extraordinarily good weather were guaranteed to give me some original and intriguing photo opportunities. I was right to place my bet on finding an original subject for my motion photos there. The photos below are the best selections from the batch I took over the weekend. (Speaking of cherry blossoms, I also took a whole lot of Festival-related photos. More on this in a separate upcoming post.)

Stop-Action Motion Photos

Stop-action photos are perhaps the most frequently seen examples of motion-capturing photos. We often see in the Sports section of the newspaper some stark images of basketball players hovering frozen in the air milliseconds before slam-dunking. We also often take some pretty good stop-action photos by mere chance when we shoot outside in the wild. Due to the ubiquitous nature of stop-action photos, I chose this category as a starting point for my photo assignment. Below are two of the results from my photo sessions on Friday and Sunday.

Kite Skateboarder Letting the Wind Pick Him up in the Air

Bicyclist Speeding on the National Mall

The second photo (i.e., the bicyclist) turned out to be a sort of a hybrid between stop-action and panning. I took it at a high shutter speed (1/400th of a second) but panned the camera slightly along with the cyclist, as he sped down the lane. That warmed me up for the next challenge – taking a true panning photo.

On top of that, the kite skateboarding theme in photo #1 looked sufficiently cool and unique to me. That prompted me to remain on that location and experiment with the other two types of motion, using the same kite skateboarder as the subject for my photos.

Panning Motion Photos

Panning is my most favorite type of motion capture in photography. According to many people, including my course teacher, panning is also arguably the most difficult of the three motions. The bicyclist photo from the section above, which turned out to be a hybrid between stop-action and panning, gave me some good encouragement. So I sat down on the lawn, lowered my shutter speed to 1/30th of a second, and set out to take a few true panning photos. Below are the two best examples.

Kite Skateboarder Rushing Down the Lawn (Take 1)

Kite Skateboarder Rushing Down the Lawn (Take 2)

Both of these takes turned out quite satisfactory for first attempts at mastering this motion technique. I am particularly happy about the stark contrast in crispiness between the skateboarder as the subject and the blurred background. Last but not least, one of the photos also captures some blurred blossoming cherry trees in the background. :)

Blurred Motion Photos

Having successfully achieved two of the tasks, I proceeded to the last part of the assignment. The third remaining motion I had to capture was the so-called blurred motion. I have to admit that this type of motion is my least favorite. I have seen some very creative uses of that motion – especially in photos of streets with busy traffic and of two people dancing. But I just don’t find it as striking as taking a nice panning motion photo. That said, I decided to stick with the kite skateboarding motif so that at the end I would have examples of the three motions from the same setting. Here is what I came up with.

Kite Skateboarder in Action

The wind was blowing quite hard at the National Mall on Sunday and that kite skateboarder was moving at a pretty high speed across the lawn. Thus, I think this blurred photo captures his velocity very realistically.

It was a real pleasure spending an hour observing and taking photos of that kite skateboarder. I don’t know who he is but I would like to thank him indirectly for the great photo opportunities his sport presented to me on Sunday.

This week, we’re covering aperture/depth-of-field effects in my course. The Cherry Blossom Festival presented me with good opportunities to experiment with my aperture settings to achieve several creative effects. I will sift through my photos and showcase a few select ones in a separate post coming later this week.

In the meantime, please let me know your thoughts on my motion-capturing photos.

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