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Friday, April 1, 2005

From Sharp To Blur

Art Wolfe shares his insights for the creative use of motion

From Sharp To BlurSharpness is important to Art Wolfe, so much so that he shoots virtually all of his images using a tripod. You might even find him navigating through the crowds of a bazaar, carefully examining the scene, working on visualizing the next shot with his camera firmly mounted on a ballhead.

For Wolfe, a sharp picture for its own sake doesn't automatically mean a successful picture. Instead, he'll consider how to use motion and a slow shutter speed to enhance a photograph. For him, the photographer's control of both sharpness and motion offers the potential to elevate an image from typical to exceptional. You can see it in his images. The author of numerous photographic books, including Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky; Alaska Wild; and Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, motion is his way of using a photographic tool to make his work distinctive.

"It's an effort to do something different," Wolfe explains. "I see a lot of great images, but many are just static shots. I think, as photographers, we have to move the medium forward rather than repeating, ad nauseam, what has been done in the past. One of the ways of doing this is by altering the shutter speed with which we shoot the subject."

Wolfe shares some of the tips and techniques he uses for capturing and using motion.

Shutter Speed
Rather than simply choosing the fastest shutter speed for which the lighting or the camera allows, Wolfe recommends trying a slow shutter speed to render the motion of your subject. The shutter speed you choose should reflect the speed of what you're photographing. The faster the subject, the faster the shutter speed needs to be.

"For example, a bird flying past might be best photographed at 1/60 sec.," offers Wolfe. "Something moving faster would need something higher."

Wolfe has a natural sense of what shutter speed is appropriate for his own work, but it's a skill that has been honed after experimenting and exposing many frames of film. There's no magic bullet for all subjects. The ability to successfully render and capture motion comes only with time and practice.


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