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Friday, April 1, 2005

From Sharp To Blur

Art Wolfe shares his insights for the creative use of motion

Tripod Wolfe is a strong advocate of the use of a tripod. His enthusiasm isn't reduced when it comes to shooting motion. "A 500mm or longer lens is a heavy lens and so the bulk of that weight is better beared down on the tripod," he says.

The tripod provides the photographer with greater control over what's sharp and what's not. That control is important, as the intended motion of a handheld camera, even with a moderate telephoto or wide-angle lens, can result in an unintentional blurred shot.

"For an image to be successful, the appearance of motion and blur has to look as if it was intended rather than accidental," says Wolfe. An image that looks like it's just blurry takes away from the strength of the photograph.

Panning The technique of tracking a subject while photographing is key for an effective motion shot. When done properly, panning maintains a relatively sharp subject while producing a blurred background. Wolfe finds it indispensable. Panning results in a contrast between the sharp subject and blurred background that reinforces the action.

He also notes that it's important to be aware of the background for such images. "For example, a complicated background like a forest with branches creates lines that move across the frame," explains Wolfe. "In a panned shot, these lines moving horizontally create an even greater sense of speed.

"The shots that are ultimately successful are those where one part is tack sharp and the other is wildly out of focus. That creates a sense of motion, of emotion with the image."

Light Wolfe says that an awareness of light is crucial for any successful image, even one emphasizing motion. Although it's easy to focus solely on the subject, he stresses the importance of remaining constantly aware of the quality of the light.

"Bad light is as bad for photographs in motion as it is for the static shot," says Wolfe. "It's all about the light. I'm often shooting when the light is low on the horizon and behind my shoulders. For wildlife, it produces a catchlight in the subject's eyes as well as reduces the harsh contrast you would have when shooting during midday."

Even in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, camera movement and a slow shutter speed reduce the impact of strong contrast on an image. "It will soften the harshness of the look, but when I can, I try to use the best light," adds Wolfe.


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