The On Field Media Project is an organization I started a couple of years ago that provides training in photography, videography and social media for small non profits so that they are better prepared to tell the ongoing story of the good work they are doing in the field. In the modern day, building a continual digital relationship between the organization and their supporters is essential. OFMP bridges that gap to give these organization the storytelling tools they need to continually share with backers, donors and allies. We also strive to see these organizations become self sufficient and non-reliant on pro photographers. Not to take any work away from the pro (there will always be work for the pro), but to empower these organization to begin to tell their own story in a powerful and timely way when they can. Continue reading
(Note: all images taken with the new FUJINON LENS XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR)
Are you a runner? If you are, I would guess that you have a sports watch with a GPS function. There is a high probability that you can use this watch to geotag your photos. I can’t write this with certainty that it will work with all watches, but there is a really high probability that yours will work. Continue reading
Our family is sort of obsessed with the Hollywood film classics of the 1930’s and 40’s. Even as a kid I had old movie stills of Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart on my walls. I am sure this is part of why I am so into fedoras. I always thought the glamor shots of those classic Hollywood beauties were amazing. But for some reason I never tried to emulate it until this week. Maybe because of the British drama Indian Summers, for which I have been shooting. The drama takes place in the 1930’s, so I thought it might be fun to make some stills of the actors in the style of George Hurrell. Continue reading
I came close to titling this post as “Pro Sho – Who says?” I have read so many Facebook posts, blog posts and Twitter tweets about what a “pro-camera” should have on it that I am ready to scream. At this point I could get all esoteric and say, any camera you make money with is a pro-camera. This is true, but that is not really what we are talking about. I think I want to be a little less obtuse and more to the point. When I say “pro” I am talking with the same mind set you might have when you go into a hardware store as ask for pro tools. These are tools that can be abused and often have more “horse power” or specialized features. The same goes with cameras. In my view a pro-camera needs to have very little for this classification. Just as the pro-drill needs to be able to take hours of constant use and abuse so must a pro-camera. It would need to be able to survive a high shutter count and would need some sort of metal alloy body construction to help it buffet physical abuse. That’s about all I would say that it would have to have. After that everything else is just rhetoric or personal opinion. Continue reading
If you think about it, it’s funny to talk about movement when discussing photography. Photography is all about stopping motion, capturing split seconds in time. At the core, photography is about recording reality at 1/1000 of a second. Yet, is it this very thing that pushes us to show action? How can we create movement in a still image?
Before we can talk about showing movement, we need to understand the basics of how we freeze time to being with. If the photographer wants to stop or freeze a moment, they use a fast shutter speed and an electronic strobe (a flash) to accomplish this. The super fast shutter slices through time and stops the motion mid-flight. The strobe does the same thing. The best way to explain how the strobe works — and the reason I used the antiquated term strobe — was to drive home a point. If you’ve ever been to a nightclub with a strobe light, you notice how time seems to stop in small chunks as the strobe flashes. The camera’s strobe does the same thing, and the film or sensor records this moment.
But for our purpose here, we want to accomplish the opposite. We want to show movement — to somehow elongate time. We can accomplish this in at least three different ways. Let look at them.
Long exposure is the most obvious, but few people really use it effectively. When you want to show action, use a slower shutter speed. In the photo above, you see a man walking out of a green door. On the door and the walls are clues. We see a sign that says Musjid, meaning mosque. We can also see papers in a Persian or Indian styled arch. All these are clues to what is happening. But I wanted to show the man moving through the doorway. The problem is, if I shot the frame too slow, he would be so blurred he would look more like a phantom. But at 1/20th of a second, we cannot only see he is a man, but we can also see he is wearing Indian clothing and a prayer cap, giving us clues to where the photo was taken. Without a tripod, shots like this can be difficult to capture. For this shot, I leaned the camera against a wall to steady it.
Another way to show movement with a long shutter speed is to use a tripod and set your camera’s shutter speed to something closer to 20 to 30 seconds. If you are in a crowded location, some people will inevitably remain stationary while others move. Anything motionless — like a building, a street sign, markings on the street or certain people — will be in focus while life seems to be passing them by. It’s a fun and creative technique that capitalizes on the slow shutter value to show movement. It can also serve to emphasize how crowded a location is.
Another technique that a photographer can use to show movement is panning. Panning is a simple yet effective technique that delivers the opposite effect of the long exposure technique above. While panning, a photographer sets the shutter to a slower speed — anywhere between 1/15th to 1/30th of a second — and moves the camera at the same speed as the subject. By doing this, the subject will appear more in focus and the background will be blurred. Panning gives a different point of view (POV) than the long exposure technique. It makes the viewer feel as if they are moving along with the subject and the world is rushing by them. Done effectively, the photographer can achieve some stunning effects.
You can also play with around with the panning technique and get different effects. For instance, panning from a moving vehicle will give you a much different feel than standing stationary.
Panning while moving at the same speed as your subject will give you a different feel than panning a stationary object from a moving vehicle.
Rear Curtain Sync
The last technique to consider is a mix of both long exposure and panning, with the addition of flash.
To start with, you need to understand a shutter is not one curtain, but two. One curtain opens up from the bottom to expose the sensor, and then another follows in a split second to close or hide the sensor from the exposing light.
Usually when we use a flash, the shutter’s first curtain opens, the flash fires, and then the shutter’s second curtain closes. The flash is synced to fire right when the first curtain opens, at around 1/180th of a second to about 1/200th of a second on the average camera. After the first curtain opens and the flash fires, the image is recorded and motion is stopped (remember the disco strobe).
However, while the shutter is still open, ambient light is still etching an image on the sensor until the second curtain closes. Let’s suppose a ball enters the frame from the right. Just as it enters the frame traveling towards the left, the flash fires and freezes the image on the sensor. But with the shutter still open, the blurred image of the ball crossing the frame is still recording. In the end, the photo looks a ball but with a “trail” of itself reaching out in front of it. Very odd.
But what if you could somehow turn that around and show the ball leaving the frame, with the motion blur trailing behind it, much like an artist might draw motion lines behind a ball in a cartoon? It would look natural and feel right. The good news there is a way to do that simply by changing which curtain the shutter syncs with. It will alter the outcome and give us that “trailing tail.” Most advance flashes and camera have an option for something called rear curtain sync or second curtain sync.
Many photographers use a slow shutter sync to bring in more ambient light — this is called dragging the shutter. What we are talking about here is really slow shutter speeds. It is not uncommon to use rear curtain sync with a shutter speed as slow as 1 second. It can give a very dream-like effect that combines the suspension of time with movement.
Play around with these three simple techniques for showing motion, and you will give yourself and your work a creative boost.
This past week I was in Kolkata, India leading a On Field Media Project workshop. The days were long, but rewarding. One day while shooting my X-E2 I found that my flash was not working. I could tell it must have been turned off in a function setting because it had a tiny icon of a lighting bolt with a line though it on the view screen. The flash mode button was also greyed out. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. The only time I was using the flash, and thus even considered this problem, was while I was in the streets of Kolkata walking to or from the hotel for dinner. Not having a local SIM fo rmy iPhone I could not Google the problem on the spot. Once I was back to the room I was too tired to even think about it. Continue reading
Day two of Thaipusam. I was up at 4 am to catch the action on Waterfall Road. Waterfall Road is one of the busiest spots during this festival. Long lines of people making their way to the temple to deposit their kavadis of milk. I brought the Fujifilm X-E2 thinking it would do well with the constant movement of people I would encounter. After all, it certainly did well in the Philippines last month. The difference is that when I used the X-E2’s AF-C (Auto Focus Continuous) in the Philippines it was in daylight. This time it was in the wee hours of the morning with very little light and it failed..badly. Almost every frame was out of focus. I didn’t just shoot in AF-C I also shot in AS-S (single) and tried to capture scenes on the move. Continue reading
If I am in Penang during Thaipusam I try to cover this amazing event. Thaipusam is a Hindu festival. To explain it fully would take up more space than I am willing to give it here. But simply put – it is the celebration of the occasion when Hindus believe the goddess Parvati gave her son Murugan a vel or “spear” so he could kill the evil demon Soorapadman.1 The way in which these people commemorate this occasion, what gives this festival it’s unique… ah… shall we say charm? Devotees will often pierce themselves with small “vels”2 and carry kavadis or “burdens” up to a temple. Continue reading
A novel is always written in a particular voice or point of view. This is a literary technique to grab the interest of the reader by giving the reader a point of view (POV) of a particular subject. One way authors do this is with a first-person point of view, where a character narrates the story. In photography we can use a similar technique: the first-person POV, also known as the subject’s POV. Continue reading at the New York Institute of Photography →