Friday, October 15, 2010

Freezing Action

 I have written many blogs on how to show motion in a still image...but what about freezing it?  Certain subjects benefit from 'freezing the motion' and capturing a split second in time. In order to freeze the action, a high shutter speed is a must!  Of course, it depends on how fast your subject is moving, but a good starting point for a high shutter speed would be 1/500 second or higher.  A long lens with a shallow depth of field helps to separate your 'frozen' subject from the background.
Two other features on my camera which I activate for this kind of photography are high speed motor drive and AI focus or AI servo auto focus.  These auto focus modes do a great job of tracking your moving subject and keeping it in focus as long as you are 'locked' on it!  Once focus is locked, it's a matter of tracking your subject while depressing the shutter release.  It sounds easier than it looks....

This image was made at the 2010 Indiana State Fair.  The attraction was called "Dock Dogs" and consisted of dogs competing in distance jumping from a 2 foot high platform into a pool of water.  If you have been following my blog for a while, you are aware of my love for dogs, so this attraction was a 'must' for me to photograph!  My goal was to catch dogs in flight, and I really liked this image since you can see the ball in the water and the determination on the lab's face to retrieve it.  The next frame on my CF card was a huge SPLASH, which is anticipated by the viewer when looking at this image!  (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 f4 IS lens, 1/1600 second @ f 4.0, ISO 800)

Water is an excellent subject for freezing in the moment since one can see each droplet of a splash if a high enough shutter speed is used.  This image was made in Oregon as a cowboy rode his horse through a shallow stream.  The back lighting of the water makes every droplet shimmer.  Freezing the action on this scene allows the viewer to see the intense concentration on the cowboy's face and the details of the splashing water. (Canon 1D Mark II, Canon 100-400mm IS lens, 1/4000 second @ f 5.6, ISO 400)
And finally, this image of two running springbok helps to understand how they got their name.  In Afrikans, 'Spring' means 'jump' and 'bok' means 'antelope' or 'goat.'  They move very fast and capturing them while they 'spring' is quite challenging!  The use of a long lens and shallow depth of field in this image illustrates the point made about isolating the 'frozen' subject from the background.  (Canon EOS 50D, Canon EF 100-400mm IS lens, 1/2500 sec. @ f 5.6, ISO 400)


  1. Excellent post, Wendy! Thanks for sharing your great pictures and your technique for them. Stop-action photography is challenging but great fun when you master the technique.

  2. Thank-you for the feedback, Brenda.