Bigger is better, part 2…

What IS bigger?

Let’s talk about the second of the three elements I mentioned in my last post (which was a really long time ago–I promise to do better): shutter speed. Which way is up on this topic is sometimes a problem. When I set the shutter speed on my camera, the numbers I see in the viewfinder are anywhere from 30″ to something really big, like 5000; I don’t have the 60D in front of me right now so I can’t say for sure.  In any case, which is larger–30″ or 5000? In this case, the latter is deceiving–5000 is actually 1/5000 of a second, or a really, REALLY short span of time. That lets very little light in. And the ” symbol denotes ‘seconds,’ meaning that the 30″ number is a 30 second exposure.  That lets a whole LOT of light in. Think about when this matters…Say I’m shooting a small bird.  That bird’s wings are flapping like crazy a lot of the time. If I open the shutter for an extended period, that wing action is going to result in a blur  instead of a wing.  This can make for a pleasant effect, but causes a loss of detail in the wing (unless you freeze the action with a flash, which we can touch on some other time).  On the other hand, a really fast shutter speed can freeze the wing for a moment in time, and if you’re lucky enough to get it in the right position during that moment, you can end up with something like this: 


Usually, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I shoot in Aperture Priority at f/8 or thereabouts, to give me some room for error as far as what’s in focus.  When I was out shooting on this particular day, the sun was so bright that it was driving pretty fast shutter speeds, but not fast enough to freeze a bird in flight. So I switched to Shutter Priority (Tv, for those in the Canon world) to make the shutter go faster.  I picked a number at random, pretty much, and set it at 1/1600 second–which is darned quick. In turn, though, the camera forced the aperture to f/4, in order to let in more light.  Since I was shooting a moving target, and wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the focus, I wanted this to move BACK up to f/8.  What to do, what to do…


So I did the unthinkable–which you will see if you look at the details of this picture: I switched to manual mode.  In my case, manual isn’t exactly manual, in the sense that I left the ISO on “automatic.” I set the shutter where I wanted it (1/1600), and the aperture where I wanted it (f/8), and let the camera do what it would to get the exposure right.  In this case, instead of ISO 100, the “sensitivity” from the last post went up to ISO 400.  The result?  Didn’t have to worry about what was or was not in focus; got the action frozen just how I wanted it; got just enough light in the camera to make the shot look good; and got the wing in JUST the right place!


The other thing about this shot: Sometimes when I get a photo I really like, I’ll give it a name. That is a very hard thing for me to do, since I’m not all that creative. But this one came with a name from the moment I first saw it–I call it “How’s the Water?”


Next stop–an exploration of aperture… The setting, not the program!

About Brian Angelo

I am an amateur photographer with no designs on going "pro." I just want to learn, and I suspect there are a lot of others who have the same aspirations. So I'm here to share what I've learned, and some of my favorite shots AND favorite mistakes. Learn along with me!

Posted on June 28, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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