Slow Shutter as a Photo Impressionistic Technique

Via Flickr:
Toronto International Dragon Boat Race – dragged shutter technique ( 1/3 seconds). www.dagostino.ca

Using a slow shutter is a fabulous way to capture movement and energy to create a photo impressionistic effect. Here are some ideas that I have found through experimentation:

Light is always going to be your concern when photographing subjects in motion. The photo impressionistic effect comes from the slow shutter speed. A good neutral density filter is a must. I really like variable neutral density filters because of their flexibility and have had some success with the Cameron Fader ND Filter.

Its all about experimentation. I have had some good results with dragon boats in the 1/3 to 1/2 sec range (even down to 0.7 sec on occasion) with my aperture close to f22. Try some test shots to get the balance right.

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Panning is the critical skill here. I look for my point of visual interest (think picture in the picture) and try to keep it at a specific reference point in the view finder. You want that element to freeze in the image while all the other elements move creating a blur. It’s really hard to do even with a tripod or mono pod. The effect I was trying to achieve with the dragon boats was a sense of the circular motion of the paddles and the streaking background.

The shot below (0.7 secs at f18) was taken with a Kenyon Labs gyro. They are a really heavy addition to an already heavy kit but the results are great. As a result, the person who invented the wheel also deserves a camera credit here 🙂

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Post production is a matter of taste. I find the images need a bit of structure so I use photoshop to add a bit of contrast using NIK contrast and tonal contrast filters and Vincent Versace’s mid tone contouring action. Sometimes the images need just a bit of extra saturation as well.

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