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page 2 Nate Chappell

Written By onci on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | 7:45 AM


Using Slow Shutter Speeds to Produce Artistic Shots with Blur by Nate Chappell

Learning how to use blur to impart the feeling of motion can add an artistic touch to photos and allow the photographer more options when they are out shooting. On our last workshop at Bosque del Apache for example, I took a lot of pan blur images when we had a cloudy morning at the crane ponds. There wasn't enough light to produce high quality sharp images
and I already had many sharp flight crane shots.

When shooting blur shots you typically want to shoot at a low shutter speed, anywhere from 1/4 of a second to 1/125 or so depending on the lighting condition and what you are trying to achieve with the photo. One nice thing about having to use a slow shutter speed is that to get down to that low shutter speed you will often be shooting at a low iso which improves the quality of the image.

If you are trying to create an image like the shot of the flock of godwits pictured here with the stationary birds sharp and the moving birds blurred, it's important to have the lens fixed on one spot and not panning, so a tripod is essential. In addition to a slow shutter speed I will also usually use a wide depth of field when trying to capture a flock of birds in this manner. On the shot of the flock of Marbled Godwits which was taken at Willapa Bay, Washington I used this technique.

The shot of the flock of cranes was also taken using this method. On the other hand if are looking to have the bird or birds all blurred then you will want to pan along with the bird (follow the birds flight path with your lens moving) in flight. The shot shown here of a single Sandhill Crane and the group of 4 Snow Geese was taken with this technique. It’s fun trying to create artistic shots with these techniques and they give you more options on bad weather days and when the light is low.

Nate Chappell leads bird photography workshops and trips in the US and around the world. His website is www.trogontours.net .
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