When details or textures are not everything in nature photography !!!
Surely, at some point every photographer has flirted with the ‘low speed’, in which those trials each other like to do from time to time. Perhaps the question that one can ask himself is to what extent likes to lower the shutter speed and try to go beyond an alleged technical orthodoxy, which could wield to be suitably adjusted the shutter speed to the speed and trajectory of the moving object so that would get an image where the bulk of it has the correct focus point and sharpness.
Our eye is trained
It has reiterated on many occasions that the unconscious or inevitable reading process of a photograph goes through searching the picture of the areas with more light and / or more focused area or where sharp elements like lines are given, or in the wildlife in general primarily looking eyes or head area of the subject. It is like our eye is trained to do.
Point of focus or sharpness
But what if it is questioned that the ‘point of focus or sharpness’ which guides my look to it immediately when looking at first the image and gives a theoretical ‘validity’ to the photograph, is not necessarily essential, because I just look for to capture ‘the movement’ in imperfect but very fine and attractive figures. Just search for the pause of the action, fleeing the hyperrealism or perfect freezing and looking for dynamic pseudo-abstractions, the ‘movement’ in ‘movement’.
The aesthetics of movement
If it’s just the movement itself as a whole what you look for, I do not consider as absolutely paramount find that point of sufficient definition about the target (bird) so that it gets all the attention and thus compete with the aesthetics of movement as the sole purpose. Because your goal is just to get those forms of more or less diffuse flights and all they bring in the scene as the hatched, wakes, waves or lines, both of the beating of wings and of backgrounds.
Obtaining enough sharpness
This collection ‘Slow Motion’ that I show, it is of course ‘intentional’ and a consequence of everything mentioned above. And obviously, if I wanted obtaining enough sharpness that could satisfy other purposes, I wouldn’t have used such a low speeds as those used for these photographs.
Much trial & error
The technique of ‘low speed’ requires like many other much trial / error. There are many shots that are ruined because the success rates are very low. And if you search the supreme orthodoxy Eye / crisp head and in detail, the percentages are even lower. And I suggest to anyone looking for definition, to forget speeds as those used in the series of images here shown, all from 1 / 5 and 1/10. These very low speeds (1/5, 1/6, 1/8, ..) provide me the wanted abstractions in motion, with a very different result compared to more conventional images where typically are used speeds above 1 / 20 or 1/30, to provide less diffuse shapes on the sweeping of the background.
To be considered
Among different aspects to be considered, we should take into account:
– The speed of the moving object.
– The distance between our point and the object.
– The trajectory of the object relative to our position.
Higher speed of the moving object and / or a smaller distance between us and the object and / or a perpendicular trajectory plane between the object and our position will involve having to run hand in following.
In conventional sweeps looking for a minimum of definition of the object, with approximate shutter speeds to 1/30 and higher, we can find effective results in a sweeping of completely perpendicular plane of the flight with respect to your position and with contrasted backgrounds and not too far from them.
Draw or paint
But to simply catch movement at low speed as for these images, usually there’s not enough time to ‘draw or paint’ these trails and figures of the movement of our target with those speeds of about 1/30 and higher. On the other hand, the best planes are not necessarily perpendicular with respect to you, especially to capture the shake wings. And through oblique planes can result in more attractive images, or you can also get shapes in flight even shooting at sky, not being so critic having a non-sky background that you can sweep.
So many nuances
Therefore they are so many nuances (the speed of the target, shooting plane, the background, overexposing or underexposing depending on a sky background or other) that will give a lot of variation (stelae, double shapes, paralell lines, …), but I would summarize the most relevant aspects in implementing this type of images:
– Obviously it’s necessary movement, moving objects with an homogeneous and continuous trajectory.
– Discard flights with full frontal trajectory.
– Better contrasted backgrounds not far from your position (although sometimes no matter shooting at sky or against far backgrounds, could result into attractive images)
– Diagonal sweeps often provide more spectacular results than panoramic sweeps.
– Good stability for a good continuous tracking of the moving object (if you use long zoom lens, much better by using a tripod, in order to avoid pitching in motion tracking).
As for shooting technical recommendations:
– Speed Priority (setting desired speed) or Manual with ISO Auto (setting desired speed and aperture), both considering compensate exposure depending on the subject photographed (ie- exposure compensation between -0.3 or -1.0 if you shoot a seagull, egret or any species under risk of burning white wings).
– Keep in mind that such low shutter speeds (1/5 – 1/10) will force us to have to close as much as possible the aperture. It is therefore possible that such low speeds could not be achieved, depending on the ambient light, due to we could overexpose the image. Therefore, times with less light intensity, or cloudy or shady areas, will allow shots to run smoothly with these speeds.
– Similarly, a lower native ISO value in our camera will help not having to close the most of aperture and minimizing the risk of overexposure.
– Continuous servo autofocus with focus area between single point or 9 points and release priority. 21-points area is equally usable and may not be extremely critical for this type of photograph a rear or front focus obtained, having a big volume occupying a large part of the frame. But you must remember that we usually shoot against contrasted backgrounds that could take the focus point to the background and missing our shot.