ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY: SHOOTING FOR THAT DEFINING MOMENT

 

The sun had yet risen over the haze of this south Texas landscape when the handsome whitetail buck decided that the figure of this crouched human was all that he could take. Busting into full flight with head held high I was appalled that he had made my location before the light was adequate for good photo light. Swinging on his running form in the dim light with my Canon 500mm f4.5L lens and Canon F1N camera, I noted that the exposure was a dismal 1/8 of a second and as I was handholding the camera and lens I realized instantly that chances of a sharp photo was out of the question. My only hope was that I could come up with an “artsy” look of fluid motion so continued with my manual focusing job and shot a couple of frames.

Here is a fine example of that art of "panning" and is achieved by carefully swinging the camera and lens at the same speed of the running subjects while using a relatively slow shutter speed to obtain the fluid look of motion. Focal point is on the center of the group. Shallow depth of field is realized by using a medium telephoto lens at a short distance from the subjects. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm f4.0 lens. ISO 50 Velvia film and hand held.

 

Since those days of ISO 50 film and manual cameras, good photography results have been made much easier through improved light meter systems and auto focus capabilities. I sometimes gripe about the loss of the “good ole days” but when its time for hard core action photos I smile and turn that beautiful autofocus to the “on” position and start tapping the shutter! LOL!

In this case my intent was to not only show the kayaker in motion but also the water in the foreground. By using a super wide angle lens that offered an extensive area throughout the field of view and shooting at 1/30 of a second while panning, my intent was realized. In these cases one must also maintain some consciousness of the overall composition such as the ratio of sky to foreground. Canon EOS 1N and Canon 17-35mm f2.8 lens. ISO 50 Velvia film.

 

Without doubt auto focus technology has made action work easier to achieve for neophyte shooters but its still hard core photography experience coupled with the electronic capabilities that produce the really dynamite photos that stand the test of time. Like being effective in the game of poker,  possessing the knowledge of knowing when to hold or when to fold is like a photographer understanding the nuances of shutter speed, f stop, lens selection and having the natural talent to “follow through” at the correct instant. It takes practice and at least some skill to be consistently productive in the craft.

A very difficult action shot just as this wild free ranging whitetail breaking for cover. In these cases tripods are totally useless as such moments are the result of a stalk with spontaneity being the order of the day. Visualizing the finished image before the action begins is an added help. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 400mm f5.6L and handheld. ISO 100.

 

Hope you will enjoy some images here that define some pretty good examples of action photography in the wild world. Perhaps my  captions will help you to understand the technique that was applied in order to realize the results shown herein.

Here a wild coyote lopes past me on a dimly lit winter morning. This was in the days before autofocus so total concentration and at least some good hand to eye coordnation is necessary to realize these types of results. Again, this effective panning at about 125th of a second at f4.5 with a Canon F1N and Canon 500mm f4.5L lens and handheld. ISO 50 film.
Beautiful light and a handsome whitetail buck pairs to make this photo special. Also, the reaction time in capturing the deer in mid jump really sets this image apart from less dynamic action work. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 400mm f5.6L at ISO 100. Hand held.
Timing is essential in these cases and I was fortunate to have tripped the shutter at just the right moment. Shutter speed was around 500th of a second to stop the action. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 400mm f5.6L. ISO 100 and handheld.
Dynamic backlight with dust and insects floating in the air really dramatizes the impact of these horses being driven to the chuck wagon. Also an elevated position from which to shoot kept a lens flare from being a distracting element in the photo. Horses were running at me so panning was not necessary and I focused on the middle of the herd for impact. Canon F1N and Canon 300mm f2.8 L lens using Velvia 50 ISO film and hand held.
Here my wolf dog runs gleefully along the lake shore late today near Benjamin. Using the AI Servo mode on my Canon 5D Mark II the predictive focusing system stayed on point with the wolf even when it was running quite fast directly at me. Remember that auto focus cameras rely on contrast for focusing accuracy so pinpointing a spot on the animals face that exhibits contrast is essential in getting a well focused subject. Canon 400mm f5.6 L lens at 100 ISO and handheld.
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6 Responses to ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY: SHOOTING FOR THAT DEFINING MOMENT

  1. Maxine Cockrell says:

    Wyman, you are a Master…………your images so often move me to tears with their beauty….’nuff said.

  2. Rita Knipstein says:

    Your photographs are awe inspiring! You have captured the beauty of Texas like no other. Thanks for sharing your expertise and knowledge on the proper technique to obtain a specific result and other helpful tips on capturing shots to enhance the quality of your photo.

  3. Judy Garner says:

    I just finished watching a video of the pictures you compiled of Texas. You have a gift and thankfully, you are willing to share it. I met face to face with my first coyote while staying in Albuquerque a few years ago and he was the most handsome creature I had ever seen. To say “he took my breath away” was an understatement.” Thank you for what you see and give to others. God Bless. Judy Garner – Houston, Tx

  4. Betty Damron says:

    Our Museum of the Desert Southwest is interested in learning to do some pod-casting, photography, do you ever make a presentation to such a non-profit organization. The history in Crane County is unique and rich in heritage.

  5. Rafael says:

    Wyman,

    I’m a Tech Alum and getting started out in Photography, especially wildlife photography. I now live out in East Texas with my Family and look to your website for information and tips to make me better. I want to be as good as you are someday. Your tips under the pictures help Tremendously. I miss West Texas so Much!

    Thanks again!

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