The second exercise in the Photographing Movement project allows us to explore the effect of shutter speed when photographing movement. When I read about this project in the course notes, I immediately had the idea to shoot today’s hill climb cycle race.
The chances are that as I add more content to this blog, there will be more and more cycling related material. As well as riding my bike to work each day, I’m also a member of Leicester Forest Cycling Club. If I’m not riding or racing their events, then chances are that I’ll be there taking pictures. Today’s event was to decide our hill climb championship by racing up the 1.2km of Polly Bott’s Lane. It is usually a social event with many members of the Leicestershire clubs turning out and cheering on the riders from their respective clubs.
Conditions were terrible, with heavy rain and thick clouds meaning that I’d be struggling for all available light. I set the camera to shutter priority (Tv) mode and photographed riders from 1/1600s down to 1/10s. The speed that the riders passed and my position relative to them changed giving the variety of results shown below.
This guy was going very well. In fact he was one of the quickest riders of the day. However, other than his facial expression, there is no indication of speed at all. With the shutter set at 1/1600 of a second, and even with the lens wide open at f2.8, the auto ISO hit 3200 to get a reasonable exposure so gloomy was it. Because of this, I didn’t shoot anything quicker than 1/1600s.
Next up is Simon, shot at 1/200s. His spokes, that are travelling much faster than he is, are blurred. His feet, travelling at a speed somewhere between the two, are just beginning to blur. The background blur is a combination of the narrow depth of field and his movement up the hill.
At 1/100s, there is plenty of movement in the wheels and legs to give an impression of speed, whilst leaving the face and body clear enough to see plenty of detail.
It is, as you might expect, a similar story at 1/80s, although I was now shooting into a much brighter background. The spectators, road and background are all nicely blurred and the wider shot tells a little more of the story of the day, explaining that there were people watching as well as taking part. We can also see that there are young and old, male and female spectators, without being able to identify anyone.
This shot of Andy was accurately panned at the same speed as he passed. At 1/40s his legs and the rotating parts of his bike are all blurred, as is the background. There can be no doubt that he is travelling at a decent speed (and enjoying himself. This was his warm up ride, rather than the timed run).
At 1/25s, very little of the scene is clear. Again, the panning action catches the guy’s face clearly but the spectators are now lost in motion blur and unrecognisable.
At 1/15s, panning had to be very accurate. The ‘hit rate’ of useable shots at such a slow shutter speed is low, but the results, when it works are great and regardless of his finish time, this guy looks extremely fast.
I didn’t manage to get a shot below 1/15s that showed a rider’s face clearly. From this at 1/10s, we can make out the bike’s manufacturer, but not who is riding it. No part of the image is clear, but because we can identify that it is a man riding a bicycle, our brain fills in the rest and tells us that he must be moving quickly. Incidentally, and by pure fluke, this rider was the fastest of the day and won the event.
My favourite of these shots is the on at 1/15s. It is a much slower exposure than I would normally have used in this situation, and is ‘high risk’ as very few of the images taken at this speed were useable. When the panning was accurate though, it gave the best impression of speed. I enjoyed the exercise and exploring shutter speeds. I’ll enjoy it more when my camera has dried out fully, having been soaked while taking these.
I’ve avoided post-processing any of the images used in the exercises so far. My understanding is that the right time for this will come later in the course. However, it is something I’ll ask my tutor and on the OCA forum. As an example, I processed this final shot to give more of the atmosphere of the cold, wet October morning and if this wasn’t coursework, I’d have done something similar to the other pictures in the set.