Skip to content

Motion and working with limitations

I think motion is such an interesting element of photography. Despite solid matter displaying motion under the microscope, objects photographed in a room have no apparent motion, aside from the force of gravity playing its role. Even landscapes display some motion thanks to changing weather and the possibility of the odd animal or person entering in. But aside from the odd storm, motion is often fairly gentle in my experience.

Now on photographing events or reportage photography, motion enters another strata. You perhaps have framed a shot where you can totally see the potential, your heart races as you know your about to capture something special. People are interacting and forming an interesting composition and you’re about to snap, when a person pops right into frame and the moment is gone.

That’s an exciting problem of photography, the very prediction of motion. Which space shall I anticipate? Where the action is going to happen? Is my vision peripheral enough to predict a surprise motion?

So I thought I’d start a series of works looking at just that, as an opportunity to learn more and exercise my eyes.

I firstly called on a sporty friend of mine, Claire, and joined her netball group one evening. Camera in hand, I looked at the area for play; a rather grim, chilly, concrete unloved court with dim outdoor lighting. Well, at least the rain had stopped, or so I thought.
Several keen women entered into the court for a warm up and I jogged behind them, keeping warm and testing out my work within the limitations rule; I had very low lighting and lots of movement. I needed to capture enough still motion without too much motion blur.

After whacking up the ISO (International Standards Organization – the camera’s sensitivity to light), I realized that flash was needed after all, but not my preferred choice. The next task was to predict the movement of the ball and decide where I wanted to be. There was a point, when the players were in the throws of practice, that a pattern of motion developed. It was so poetic, that it created enough prediction to capture some nice moments. I just had to be careful not to get in the way of the game; notably it’s easy to get carried away as one’s eye is keenly connected to the camera. One’s perspective can get distorted and much like the rear view and side mirrors of a car, the lens view can be wildly different to the actual view. I almost got in the way a few times, but it was exhilarating.

Droplets of rain started to fall, the girls carried on and I used one of Claire’s doggie poo bags as a makeshift rain-cover. As the precipitation persisted, we headed for shelter and the game came to a close.

It has to be said that sports may not be my thing, but my appreciation of it came up an echelon since looking into this area. I had done some research to get the idea of how best to handle sports photography. One key ingredient is to decide what you want to capture, the ball arriving to the wanted destination or the ball leaving a destination. It creates some predictability to work with. The other area is lighting, in this case it was extreemly limited so I opted for flash to enable a motion freeze. Usually I wouldn’t recommend flash in this type of photography, flash can interrupts the players game.

Although there are a lot of settings to play with in a camera, limited lighting does restrict camera settings. Depth of field for one. The depth of field is the ‘f’ stop on the camera lens, it’s the focal distance you have to play with. With limited lighting you may be stuck with a short focal length of f:5.6 whereas a setting of f:11 or above will put more of your subjects in focus. Also the shutter speed is very key in getting a good stop frame of movement. One needs to go fairly fast, as close to 1/800 of a second as possible unless you intentionally want to see the sweep of motion. Experiment and discover what happens when you change these settings and see what effects you get.

The advantage of having limitations is it stretches one’s ability. In my next blog I enter a similar challenge of limitations with contemporary dance. Low lighting and no flash!

Netball motion

This entry was posted in Photography. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.