I’m just past the halfway point in a class from betterphoto.com called “Impact in Your Photographs: The Wow Factor”. I’ve really enjoyed it so far because it forces me to concentrate on the various techniques that are presented each week. Each lesson has an accompanying homework assignment, usually 4 photographs showing use of the techniques presented. Most of the material can be found (written in different ways) all over the net; the real value of the class is in the weekly critiques. So far I think the instructor has been spot-on. (It helps that he’s actually liked some of my submissions.)
This past week, the lesson was on various techniques that make photos look unusual but interesting… and as part of the homework, I have been playing around with shutter speed. I feel pretty confident about the stop-action shots that are the result of a very fast (1/500+) shutter speed, but since the results of a slow shutter speed (less than 1/30 of a second) are pretty much a matter of taste, going there makes me nervous and sharing those shots makes me even more nervous.
That said, this is digital and all the extra shots really don’t cost anything but time.
The really yellow shot up top is a picture of one of the hickory trees in my yard – we have a lot of these trees, giving our yard and house a yellow glow this time of year. For this shot, I pointed the camera straight up, set the shutter speed to 1 full second, and swung the camera in about a 30 degree arc. A cloudy day, an ISO of 100, and using shutter priority (resulting in an f-stop of f/22) compensated for keeping the shutter open so long.
This photo to the right is a classic slow shutter shot, with lots of motion blur caused by people continuing to walk (and ride motorcycles) while the shutter is open.
I pretty much expected the results that I got from those two shots, but then I started to play with some new (to me) ideas and was surprised. I was playing around with taking slow-synchro flash / 2nd shutter curtain flash shots of a book (moving the camera around), and then decided to leave the shutter open while flipping the pages of the book. The result was a translucent effect on the pages plus a ethereal glow where the pages pass by – not what I expected at all!
For comparison, I later took a quick (and somewhat blurry) version of the same shot with a fast shutter speed. Not only did the pages pick up hard, chunky edges with a strong shadow, but there was less ambient light, resulting in a cooler tones and a stronger flash feel.
I really prefer the long-shutter version. I’ll have to play with this some more.