Capturing Action: Nagasaki Memories

I’ve done a lot of talk about using the shutter to blur out people or calm ocean water in earlier Photo Mondays.  However, most people use the shutter for more pedestrian purposes–i.e., stopping action like sports, animals, cars, etc.  I do occasionally drag myself from landscapes and architecture shots, so I thought I’d share some of my “technique” with the masses.

This photo really captures the feeling of Yosakoi! for me.

In October, Sasebo hosts a Yosakoi dance, a modern-traditional fusion of dance that is very uniquely post-war Japanese.  It’s characterized by a lot of color, noise, and (of course) quick dances.  There could be a number of ways to catch this spirit, but I like this picture a lot.  I took it near when I first arrived in Japan, back in 2008 (I know!).  The shutter is at 1/3200th of a second–I’d set my aperture really wide (F/2) in the hope that I could seriously stop the action.  (Also, ISO 100.)  But as you can see, there’s still a great deal of movement in the photo.  The position of the people in the background, the slight blur of their hair, the flip in the wind, it all pulls you into what’s happening at the time.

But the super fast shutter allowed me to catch the focus of the photo in a moment of what looks like pure rapture.  I think that’s pretty cool.

View my original post on Yosakoi here.  (There’s an earlier version of this photo, too.)

You can really feel the determination in her pitch.

Here is another pretty stereotypical “fast-shutter” shot–a student playing softball (uniform purposefully blurred to protect her privacy).  The shutter is at 1/500th of a second (F/5, ISO100, 300mm) which stops most of the action, but left her snapping arm blurred.  The selective use of blur is a good tool to emphasize the movement of a photo when it’s not possible in the rest of the image (as in the above).  You can get a solid view of her focus in the contours of her face, and then feel that ball about to be launched because it’s captured in the image the way our eye might see it–as a blur.

Though I’d set the shutter high, I could have bumped up the ISO to increase it even further.  At ISO 400 or 800, I might have been able to go to 1/1000th of a second, possibly.  Then the arm could have been sharp, but I feel like that might have affected the feel of the photo.

Who knows what game they were playing. Does it matter?

Finally, we have an interesting picture that is all about movement, not even the sport or the dance.  (This picture was the 2/11 photo on my 365 Blog.)  Honestly, when I was taking the photos, I’d hoped to stop the movement but the low lighting in the room made that harder to achieve without using a flash. (Also, I’m always hesitant to increase ISO as my camera, being old, creates SO MUCH NOISE.)  But the blur of their bodies against the sharper background emphasizes the contagious playtime of children, plus you can still make out smiles.  Which is pretty cool.

This was ISO 200, f/2.8, shutter at 1/20th of a second.  (The background is actually not so sharp.  I can’t handhold that slow.  Tremors run in the family.)  Unlike the first photo, where the eye is drawn to a single character, in this photo the eye sprints from person to person, changing the meaning of it.  At least depending on how much you liked playing as a kid. 🙂

So which photo is your favorite? And why?  Have you taken any action photos that use similar techniques?  What other situations might be good for using a fast shutter?

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