Will you hold still …??!!

There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.                    Franklin D. Roosevelt

Motion.  Movement.  Activity. Flow.

So many ways to describe it, so many ways to capture it.

One of the features on any new camera is shutter speed: the ability to capture light and freeze motion. Athletes, birds flying, water dripping – fast shutter speeds will freeze them forever. In the darkness, a slow shutter speed lets in the light but heaven help you if there is something moving (including your camera).  Unless you meant to blur your subject ….

One of my passions (no ranking allowed) is dog sports. I enjoy love dog agility in particular, which involves guiding your dog through an obstacle course of jumps, tunnels and various other challenges using voice, hand and body signals.

Need a better explanation? Take a look:

Fast, fun and … fast.  Especially when your dog is a speedy little thing.

Being able to take pictures of fellow competitors – two and four-legged – is a great combination of two of my passions. Or so I thought.

It’s been a real challenge for me to take clear, well-composed photos of dogs on agility courses.  A number of elements conspire against me – poor lighting (inside, large windows or in bright light), distracting backgrounds and a moving focal point.

If I was going for an amber blur, I got it.

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or this … sigh …

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So how to deal with this?

As mentioned, shutter speed is the length of time the shutter remains open to allow light into the camera.

The faster the shutter speed, the greater the ability to freeze your subject. Think of images of Olympic athletes in pools or around speed skating ovals – those are captured with an incredibly fast shutter speed. It therefore stands to reason, a fast moving dog requires a fast shutter speed to freeze them in action.

Shutter speed is just one part of a photograph’s triumvirate.

ISO indicates your camera’s sensitivity to light – a low ISO of 100 is very useful outdoors on a bright sunny day when you don’t want your camera too sensitive to the abundance of light.  Indoors, in a dimly lit room, you likely need an ISO of 800, 1600 and upwards in order to see anything.

Some photographers I know advocate for setting ISO to automatic where it will adjust based on the lighting for each picture. While incredibly useful and forgiving, auto ISO also takes away your control meaning you cannot compensate for backlighting, needing greater exposure or other tricky light situations. So you need to set your ISO based on your shooting circumstances – and test it before the dog you want to capture starts their run!

Lastly, aperture is the setting that controls your depth of field.  Very handy if you want to blur the distracting background of your image but set it too narrow (an f-stop of 2.8 for example) and the dog’s head may be in focus but not it’s body.  Depends on the effect you are going for.

One of my specific challenges is the focus point. Often, I set up with a direct line of sight to a jump. I center my single, auto focus point on where I anticipate the dog to be when it launches over the jump. I have yet to accurately account for factors such as size of the dog, gait, speed, jumping style, etc. – all of which impact where the dog passes over the jump and into my focus point.

Sometimes blind luck comes into play ….

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At the next trial, I plan to try using an all focus point setting which means a greater area in my viewfinder will be focused to compensate for the scope of where a dog may appear.

How do you capture animals in motion?

Life Lessons

  1. Protect your lens from dog slobber.  A lens hood is good for that.
  2. Not all dogs are comfortable with a large camera pointed in their direction be it the noise of the shutter or distortion of the human face.
  3. Remember to cheer for your teammates regardless of how your photos turned out.
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One thought on “Will you hold still …??!!

  1. Wonderful to hear how complicated these incredible photos are, but but but PLEASE can someone take pictures of you and Gracie doing your agility runs, and then everyone can see how it SHOULD be done, including your cheering and clapping and her happy comments with her wonderful smiles!

    Happy jumps, Gracie’s grandma.

    Liked by 1 person

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