Tuesday, December 27, 2011
How to capture time and space in a single frame
We see action before us as a blur of movement that often passes by in a linear progression. The spectator standing on the sidelines of a horse race watches his favorite charge by and turns his head from one side to the other in concert with the animal's passage through time and space. How do we tell this story in photographs?
What if you want your viewer to follow the action over an uninterrupted, extended time and distance, all visible in one panoramic image? That's what I call an Action-Sequence Panorama, but others may have different names for the technique. Here, the camera is panned with the subject and fired at specific intervals, capturing the movement and the changing background at the same time. The overlapping captures are stitched together to portray the subject in a series of stop-action images moving across an uninterrupted panorama.
The Action-Sequence Panorama technique isn't particularly difficult if planned out ahead of time. Several factors are critical to success, however:
1 The subject should be sharp and the action frozen in each frame.
2 The subject should be portrayed at regularly placed intervals across the sequence and not overlapping.
3 The background must stitch together in a seamless panorama.
4 As always, composition counts.
You want to stop action, so attain a very fast shutter speed by choosing a large ƒ-stop such as ƒ/2.8, ƒ/4, ƒ/5.6 or a higher ISO, which will help to capture the subject crisply at each position. Combine this with a steady panning motion, achieved either with a panning head on your tripod or with good hand-held technique, and the action should be frozen in every capture. A large lens opening also will offer the possible benefit of rendering the background out of focus due to a shallow depth of field.
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