Project – Photographing movement

Exercise 4 : Shutter speeds (p. 20)


The aim of the exercise was to :-

  • Focus in front of something that moves several times or continuously and use a tripod
  • Make a series of exposures from the fastest shutter speed to a very slow one, adjusting the aperture each time to maintain the same exposure.
  • Compare the finished images and find the slowest shutter speed at which the movement is sharply frozen.

My first thought was to ask my husband to ride up and down on his bike or walk up and down.  Then I thought of moving water – maybe our small water fountain – but I was told that it might not be a good idea because it was probably silted up at the moment.  Suggestion was made of a running tap but I didn’t like the idea of wasting water!  Instead we decided on a trip to Wisley RHS Gardens, mainly to see the butterflies, but, of course, there are water features there.

There are several small water cascades in the gardens but I decided to see the butterflies first in the Glasshouse where there is also a larger waterfall.  The butterfly section was quite crowded and the moist heat kept misting my camera lens so we decided to leave that section.  We looked around the exotic plants and then I set up my tripod with the prime 100mm lens on my camera and tried to forget my inhibitions about ‘taking photos in public’.  It helped that there were quite a few other photographers there as well.

I changed the camera setting to TV (shutter speed priority) and discovered that in this particular spot, the only way to get a fast shutter speed of 1/800th was by increasing the ISO to 800.  There is a walkway behind the fountain (you can see the railing in the picture above) and I think that this was creating an area of darkness behind where I was focussing – hence the need for a higher ISO).  IS0 800 produced an aperture of f2.8.  I gradually worked my way down to 1/13th which produced an aperture of f13.  I then decided to try an ISO setting of 400 and some of those images are below.  I have chosen the ones which, to me, showed specific changes in the movement of the water.

1st image – f2.8 1/640 (ISO 800)

Individual droplets can almost be seen.

From here is where I changed the ISO setting to 400.

2nd image – f2.8 1/200

Here, the droplets of water appear more elongated

3rd image – f2.8 1/160

The droplets are beginning to become more frozen

4th image – f3.2 1/125

5th image – f5 1/50

The water is now beginning to look more like ‘streamers’ than drops

6th image –f9 1/25

The water has become more like a veil

7th image – f10  1/15

8th image – f22 ¼

9th image-f22 0.3

10th image – f29 0.5

11th image –f32 1.0

I then moved to the right and focussed (hand-held) on a higher portion of the waterfall.  This was just under the glass so there was much more light and here a shutter speed of 1/25th provided an aperture of f11.  The water looks even more like a curtain here as well.

12th image –f11 1/25

I prefer the 4th image I think where the water is becoming more curtain like, although I like the 12th/last image where the water looks almost  like a net curtain.

I enjoyed this exercise and got quite obsessed with water. I took more photographs afterwards of the smaller cascades in the grounds.  The butterflies got a bit forgotten but I’ll be going back soon with my daughter and grandsons before the butterfly event ends at the end of February.  I found it interesting to see the degree to which the the apertures became smaller as the shutter speed slowed down and how the ISO affects everything.  An enjoyable day and considerable learning for me.


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