The Great Journey in Photography

All About Speed

Snow Goose at slow shutter speed

420mm f6.3 200iso 1/25sec


The following is an excerpt from a new application I am writing “All about Speed” (not the real name) that will be available in a double of months. If anyone has a comment or suggestion please let me know.

There are more than 120 photos in this application. Combined the were all made in less than 2 seconds. All About Speed is a visual treatise into the effects of shutter speed in bird photography. It is that thing that splits seconds by thousands  and captures an image in a fraction of the time of a heartbeat. The shutter of DSLR’s open just long enough to allow light for a proper exposure to pass through it. The length of time a shutter needs to stays open is determined by three other factors, first and most important, the amount of light available to the camera, the desired depth of field or aperture setting and the sensitivity setting of the camera.  In action it is essential to have a relatively high shutter rate, but what does one do when there is just not enough light to freeze the action or what if there is too much light. Rather than making the shutter as fast as possible it is always best to think of every photograph in terms of the right shutter rate. The right speed will let you accomplish the things, the details that make a great image and it is very often not the fastest possible speed. Consider if you want to convey the sense of motion by having the tips of wings blurred or if the very slight addition of some fill flash would be the finishing touch, best possible speed won’t get you there. While it is a symbiotic relationship between the 4 elements the range of desired shutter speed should be your first consideration and that is contrary to many other genre of photography.

Having just read all that you may think that I always set my camera to “Shutter Priority” mode, after all it is the priority. It sounds counterintuitive but I almost never use shutter priority mode. First, I am always thinking about the shutter speed, that is built in to the thought process, so why would I set the camera to operate outside the thought process. It is easier and more flexible to adjust other settings to achieve my desired shutter rate using either the aperture priority or manual modes. And lastly, I am looking for a desired range not a set speed and having a set speed may ultimately throw other setting to places I don’t want to be. Ultimately the setting that is most comfortable to the user is the best setting to use as you can get the same results just maybe not at the same frequency. The key is become comfortable at all settings and have the ability to choose what works best for you.


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