Creating Drama With Shutter Speed

great blue heron - ardea herodias - at the capilano river

Great Blue Heron
(Ardea herodias) – 1/125 seconds

-click to enlarge-

   In October I visited the banks of the Capilano River in North Vancouver in search of some fall colours. I didn’t find much there, but the canyon is always so beautiful that I knew a photo opportunity would be likely regardless of the state of the leaf colours. Lucky for me, this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was lounging near the bank and posed for some photographs.

   Often when I shoot wildlife with my 70-200mm f/4 L IS lens, I switch to AV mode and f/4 so that I am always getting the fastest shutter speed possible. I do not know what I am going to encounter a lot of the time, and this gives me a good chance of being able to catch whatever action I may happen upon. On this day I had upped the ISO to 640, so that I had a bit of extra shutter speed available (1/125 sec) for this photo. Thankfully the 7D does great with much higher ISOs than this – so there is some room available for dealing with low light. When I came upon this Heron, I was able to make this photo quite easily with these settings.

great blue heron - ardea herodias - at the capilano river

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) – 0.6 seconds(Purchase)

-click to enlarge-

   While I like the above shot I thought there might be an opportunity to make a better photo. Having tried a number of ideas with a faster shutter speed, I decided to try a slower one to see what I could do with the water in the background. I changed my aperture to f/18, and lowered my ISO to 100 in order to create the longer shutter speed. Using a tripod, I made the photograph on the left with a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds.

   I believe that the blur in the river created by the slower shutter speed makes the second photo here much more dramatic and interesting than the first. The Heron doesn’t really change between them, the rocks remain the same, but the longer shutter speed creates a great effect in the river. While I do this quite often with static landscape subjects, this is one of the first times I have tried this with a wildlife photo. Granted, the Heron made a great subject for this attempt, but this really shows how varying shutter speed can have dramatic impact on the photographic result.

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3 Responses to “Creating Drama With Shutter Speed”

  1. Chris Knoch says:

    Great idea Michael! This also reveals the subject very good because it cleans the noisy background.

    Do you have also an idea how to realize it when the subject moves but the camera stands still? This also would be an interesting technique.

    Greetings
    Chris

    ———————————————–
    My Blog:
    http://www.christianknochphotography.wordpress.com

  2. Chris says:

    I thought more of a still image, no panning shot.
    So that the foreground is sharp and the subjekt, too. Only moving things in the background should be blurry.
    A flash could freeze the subject but this would also result in a fast shutter speed – otherwise there would be ghosting when using a slow shutter speed and flash. Seems to be impossible, doesn’t it?

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