Painting with Motion

Shooting sports usually calls for a super fast shutter speed to freeze peak action or capture reaction/emotion. Sometimes however, it’s good to do just the opposite – something I like to call painting with motion – using a very slow shutter speed and following the movement. This is more commonly called panning, or dragging your shutter.

I wanted to challenge myself this past weekend at a local bicycle race, using this technique. And to make it even more of a challenge, I chose to stick with a super slow shutter of 1/2 of a second.

What I like about painting with motion is that you never know what you’ll get. The motion of the camera following the motion of the racers creates unusual results that you can’t predict and that’s what I love about this technique. Trying to follow the racers as they speed by at 30-35mph can be quite a challenge, especially with a 1/2 of a second shutter. You just do the best you can, and sometimes your mistakes can actually work in your favor, producing an interesting effect that you couldn’t predict.

To get proper exposure with a shutter speed of 1/2 of a second in bright daylight, a neutral density filter is needed. I used a B+W 3.0 – 1000X ND filter which allowed me to shoot at 1/2 second at F5-5.6 at ISO 200-320 in bright daylight. This filter gives you 10 stops of light reduction. Shooting through such a filter with a DSLR however offers a challenge – it’s so dark that you cannot see your image! Hard to follow movement when looking through a black viewfinder! Easy fix however if you have live view capability on your DSLR.

50mm, .5 second, f5.6, ISO 250

50mm, .5 second, f5.0, ISO 320

35mm, .5 second, f5.0, ISO 200

A few more tips for a more successful shoot :

1. Shoot in RAW mode as you will have some color shift with the filter.

2. Use the center focusing square to target your subject and try to keep it on your subject as you make your long exposure.

3. Auto focus will not work if you are using the 1,000X ND filter so you need to manually focus before attaching the filter or use the live view mode.

4. It also helps to lock on to your subject way before you shoot, moving your body from the waist up with elbows tucked to your sides as you trip the shutter. Trying to time your movement to the action is the challenge.

5. Change your background for different effects. Sometimes a cluttered, contrasty background works better.

6. Shoot a lot and try different shutter speeds for different effects. For this outing I kept it at .5 second just for the challenge.

I will be leading a sports photography workshop in May. See the post in our Upcoming Events column located at the top right of this page and for more info, contact me at 

The Eloquent Eye

Alfred Stieglitz is perhaps best known for his spiritually rich photographs of his surroundings, family, friends, and the many women he loved, including his second wife, painter Georgia O’Keeffe. But few people know that his influence went beyond his own individual artistry. At his gallery “291″ he presented the first American exhibitions of Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Rousseau. His militant advocacy of photography as art won widespread acclaim for the medium.

Check out this in-depth look at the life and work of legendary photographer Alfred Stieglitz. It’s part of the PBS American Masters series, and you can watch it here in it’s entirety.



Yosemite Time Lapse

Half Dome on a recent stormy spring morning ©2012, Michael Maloney

The Nose of El Capitan ©2012, Michael Maloney

I love Yosemite, especially in the winter and early spring months when the storms are rolling through. As a photographer,  I find cloudless skies boring…give me storm clouds any day and I’m a happy shooter.

I would like to share with you a recent time-lapse video I shot a few weeks ago while in Yosemite. Time-lapses are simply a number of still images shot at a slow frame rate, and then sequenced together and sped up in the finished video. An intervalometer is used to actuate the shutter and the camera is placed on a tripod and usually not moved, although some really cool effects can be made with a motorized motion rig that will move the camera between shots creating a dynamic, cool looking video.

In my video below however, I kept it simple, locking the camera to my tripod. I shot 1 frame per second and continued at this frame rate for 30 minutes (total number of photos : just over 1,800). That gave me a finished video of 1 minute and 15 seconds when put on a 24 frames per second timeline. To add a bit of camera movement, I zoomed slightly into the image in post.

I shot this from Tunnel View. Those of you who have been to Yosemite know exactly where this is. It’s the classic spot to get in one frame the entire Yosemite Valley with the two iconic granite landmarks, El Capitan on the left and way off in the distance, Half Dome. That’s the Three Sisters and Bridalveil Fall you see at the right. On this particular late afternoon, an approaching storm was coming in so I knew it would be a great opportunity for a time-lapse

I chose the 1 frame a second interval because the clouds were moving fairly quickly and I wanted a smooth look. Had I chosen 1 frame every 2 seconds or more, the cloud movement would look more stuttered -not the effect I was after.

A B+W MRC circular polarizer was used on my lens to bring out more definition in the sky and I kept my exposure set to manual to avoid any flicker issues that auto exposure can create.

Time-lapses can be done with any camera that allows you to set the interval of your shutter release. Some cameras have built-in intervalometers (most newer Nikons). Others allow you to plug in an intervalometer.

Here are a few tips that will help you shoot a successful time-lapse :

1. Use a tripod and don’t move the camera.

2. Turn off image stabilization.

3. You can use aperture or shutter priority, but if you don’t need to, don’t. Using a set manual exposure will help eliminate flickering.

4. Turn auto focus off.

5. Set white balance. Don’t use auto white balance.

6. Determine your shutter rate. 1 frame per second will look smoother than 1 frame every 2 seconds, or three.

7. Unless you’re great with math, use this app to determine how many photos you need to take to get a video of the length you want. In my video, I shot 1 frame per second for 30 minutes, giving me a 1 minute and 15 second video. (based on a 24 frames per second timeline)

8. Make sure you have a fully charged battery and a high capacity memory card if you plan to do hours of time-lapse.

9. If shooting at night with long exposures, lock the mirror up to avoid any vibrations. Shooting in live view mode if you have it can also work however it will drain your battery quicker.

10. Have fun!


New Digital Backs for Mamiya Leaf

 Mamiya Leaf, a provider of medium format camera equipment, today introduced a newly designed medium format digital camera back platform — the Leaf Credo. Available in three different models, the Leaf Credo 80, Credo 60, and Credo 40 digital camera backs feature high-quality resolutions of 80, 60 and 40 megapixels respectively.

Key platform features include:

A large, high resolution (1.15 megapixel), multi-touch screen with excellent rendition of 16 million colors for quick and easy verification of focus and tonal accuracy

Fast, new dual-core microprocessor enables powerful performance for the fastest available image viewing, focusing and editing

A new, intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) offers easy navigation and extends the touch screen beyond the LCD area — letting you navigate and click outside the image area

New FireWire 800 and USB3 implementation delivers fastest image transfer speeds.

Nikon D3200

Nikon has introduced the D3200, an entry-level DSLR with a 24 million pixel DX format sensor, 4fps continuous shooting, a top ISO of 12,800, 1080p/30fps or 720p/60fps video capture and compatibility with the optional Wireless Mobile Adapter WU-1a, a new Wi-Fi accessory.

Available in both black and red colors, the Nikon D3200 is expected to ship at the end of this month at an expected price of $699.95 in a bundle with the AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR. The WU-1a is slated for release at the end of May for $59.95.