22 May 2008

Timing your photographs - 1

No matter how interesting your subject might appear, you will not get the most from it unless your timing is just right. Good timing needs lots of practise and is not something that can be mastered overnight. Sure, if you take lots of photographs and set you camera at 5 frames a second or more, you are going to get lucky some of the time. But if you want the satisfaction of capturing exactly the moment that matters, then anticipation is the key.
I think I may have said before that the best sports photographers are those who have a passion for the sport they are photographing, and who know from constant practise and observation what is likely to happen next. They are literally ahead of the game.
Come to think of it, there can be few better ways to hone the ability to time your shots than to spend some time photographing sport. Most local amateur football teams will welcome a photographer who asks to take pictures of their games. This can be a great way to get started. If, though, you are like me and loathe football and everything about it, maybe you should try something else. Even a sport like crown green bowling, which may seem pretty sedentary, needs very precise timing to capture worthwhile pictures.
The photograph above was taken at the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria, England, and was one of many pictures I took for a magazine feature. The boy in the cloth cap flicked water onto the horse several times. After he did it the first time I realised that the best shot would be just as the water was in the air and about the hit the horse. A fraction of a second later was too late. I almost always use single shot for this type of picture simply because I prefer the picture to be taken when I press the button and not when the camera wants to take it. You really can miss pictures that happen between those 5 frames a second.
The strong 'toppy' back light has also helped emphasize the splashes of water and enabled a very fast shutter seed to be used to 'freeze' the action. Backlight always lights up water frome behind and makes it shine white.

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