Shoot movement in the landscape

Don’t let a blustery day put you off from heading into the great outdoors with your DSLR. Grab your tripod and master capturing movement in your landscape shots

Ross Hoddinott

When photographing landscapes, motion can prove a powerful aesthetic tool -giving your shots added interest, life and depth. By intentionally blurring subject motion, your images will appear less static and more atmospheric. Naturally, to work the technique relies on there being some degree of movement within your scene — for example, running water. By employing a relatively long exposure, any subject motion within the time the shutter is open will blur, creating dreamy, ethereal-looking results.

Without doubt, water is the most popular subject to blur. Look through the pages of almost any issue of Digital SLR Photography, or online galleries, and you will notice a number of waterfall and coastal images where a slow shutter speed has been employed to render water as a milky blur. Admittedly, the effect is one you either love or hate. The results can look amazing, though, and it is a popular technique among the majority of landscape photographers.

Water isn’tthe only subject that you can creatively blur. The landscape is full of movement and the same technique can be applied to such things as moving cloud or wind-blown grasses, flowers, leaves or crops. Using a slow shutter speed, foliage or crops swaying in the wind can create intriguing waving patterns in the foreground of wider views. Effectively, you are generating your own foreground interest. This type of implied motion can transform an otherwise mundane scene into one bursting with life.

This time of year is particularly good for capturing this type of image, with trees in full leaf, meadows brimming with tall grasses and crops fully grown. You s houldn’t have to venture far from your home to find a suitable scene. In order to capture good images of motion in the landscape, a tripod is essential.You will be using longish exposures, and a tripod will ensure you don’t add camera movement to that of the subject. Ideally, you also need a Neutral Density filter. These are designed to absorb light and therefore lengthen shutter time. They are available in different strengths. A filter with a three- or four-stop density is ideal. A polariser is also useful,as it also absorbs up to two stops of light. Ten-stop ND filters are popular today, but their effect can prove too extreme, creating exposures so long that the subject becomes unrecognisable or important detail and texture is lost.

In addition to your digital SLR,tripod and ND filter, you also need it to be windy! Look at the weather forecast first and pick a day with a predicted wind speed of at least 15-20kph -this will create a nice level of motion within your scene. A wide-angle lens, in the region of 16-28mm, is the ideal focal length,allowing you to fill your foreground with your subject in order to emphasise its movement. As your priority is a slow shutter speed, select your camera’s lowest ISO speed, together with a small aperture off/16. The key ingredient to capturing successful images of motion is exposure length. The trick is to achieve enough motion that the effect looks creative and intentional — too little or too much and the shot won’t work. Unfortunately, there is no magical formula to help photographers achieve just the right effect. The optimum shutter length will greatly depend on the amount the subject is moving and the effect desired. A degree of trial and error is often needed, so don’t be afraid to take a sequence of shots using different shutter speeds. A good starting point is using an exposure of around l/2sec. However, depending on the wind speed an exposure of several seconds might be required. Timing can also be important. If the wind is gusty, you will need to carefully release your shutter to coincide with the gusts of wind. Taking this type of motion shot is great fun. Every frame will capture subject motion differently — no two shots will ever be identical!

Ross Hoddinott

Camera: Nikon D800 Lens: NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 Software: Photoshop Elements

SHOOTING CROSS-POLARISED subjects is great fun and once photographers see the results, most are keen to try it. There is just one stumbling block, though. Traditionally, the technique involves using two polarising materials and a lightbox. If you are relatively new to photography — and have never shot film — it is unlikely that you happen to own a lightbox. Also, few photographers own more than one polarising filter, and while you can buy sheets of polarising material from craft shops and online, they’re not cheap. As a result, many photographers assume they don’t have the tools for the job. Wrong. Computer monitors, iPads and many other types of screen are, in fact, polarised. As a result, they will perform just like a polarised lightbox, meaning all you require to shoot cross-polarised subjects is a polarising filter attached to your lens.

A computer monitor certainly gives you a large area to arrange your objects on. You could stand or clamp your objects in place in front of your monitor; alternatively, carefully place it flat on the floor and arrange your objects directly on the screen. However, the type of objects you are likely to want to cross-polarise are quite small — for example, throwaway plastic cutlery and cheap geometry sets. As a result, the size of most tablets will be more than adequate. Simply set the screen to white to simulate a lightbox.

In terms of kit required, a macro lens or close-up attachment will allow you to fill the frame to maximise impact. A tripod is also essential, as shutter speeds will typically be slow. You also need to attach a polarising filter to whatever lens you are using in order to sandwich your subject between polarised materials. Arrange your objects on your tablet or monitor and position your set-up overhead. Now the fun can begin. Look through the viewfinder, compose your shot and rotate the polariser. You will see the colours intensify or fade. Also, the background will either lighten or become increasingly dark. When the light is fully polarised, the background should render completely black. Results can look really dramatic and eye-catching. An aperture in the region of f/11 should provide sufficient depth-of-field for relatively flat objects, like plastic knives and forks. Your camera’s TTL metering shouldn’t have any problems achieving the right exposure, but always keep on histograms. It is normally best to keep room lights switched off.

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