This week, Toecabulary brings you a photography concept that allows you to freeze action, to bring the grace of silky-smoothness to the fiercely flowing waterfalls, to tread the trail of stars as if it were that simple.
We discuss shutter speed. Watch this space today for photographs that will help us understand visually what shutter speed is all about.
This breathtaking moment in the natural world, of the cheetah hunting the impala, is captured with a very high shutter speed, less than a thousandth of a second so that the super-fast action is quite literally frozen and the subjects are also rendered sharp. A lot of sports photography is also done with fast shutter speeds to thus freeze action. The faster the action, the faster the shutter speed needs to be to freeze the action.
In this frame is the Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in Iceland. While the details of the changing terrain are captured with the wide-angle shot, the reason for the waterfalls to look silky smooth is the deliberate use of slow shutter speed, which smoothes out the flow of water. This particular image was made at a slow shutter speed of about 20 seconds, which has also made the moving clouds look like a smooth blur. So, to smoothen out the flow of waterfalls or clouds for serene landscape photos, slow shutter speed of about 10-20 seconds is ideal.
Capturing star trails in a mountainous land like Ladakh is a visceral experience. Here is a 20-minute shutter speed shot showing us the astral trail at around midnight. By slowing down the shutter speed considerably, you can photograph the paths that the stars tread against the velvety night sky. In this frame, since the clouds were also floating about over the lake, they also their movement is also captured and thus they look streaky. Another reason why slow-shutter was used in this frame is to make the image brighter; the whole scene was shot in only moonlight, and the long exposure (which will be discussed in the weeks to come) has given it the brightness you see.
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