Seconding the motion

The subject of this month’s Readers Photo Challenge assignment was “Motion.” Motion can be a tricky thing in photos. Often people will think their pictures are out of focus but in reality they’re blurry because of the movement of the subjects and the use of too slow of a shutter speed. The results are similar in that the pictures turn out fuzzy but the causes are different. 19 people sent in a total of 72 photos and most either conquered motion or actually used the blurriness it to their advantage.

Though I expected to see a lot of photos of sporting events due to their inherent capacity for action, the subjects were diverse and varied. Along with sports there were photos of animals, ocean waves and even Hawaiian dancers. Here are some of the top moments of motion and movement that readers captured.


A hummingbird’s wings can beat an average of around 50 times a second. To the human eye they can look like a nearly invisible blur. To stop their movement one has to use a very fast shutter speed. That’s what Jose Ramirez of Stockton did. With a telephoto lens on his Canon Rebel T3i, Ramirez set the shutter speed on his camera to 1/1600th of second to freeze the bird’s motion as if it was an avian statue.


Instead of using a fast shutter speed to catch a tiny slice of time David Kasinger of Galt used a long exposure to compress a full 8 seconds into one shot. Kasinger set up his camera on a tripod near the tracks (but also at a safe distance) at the Kost Road railroad crossing in Galt and waited for a train to pass. He then used an 8-second exposure as the train neared. He set his flash to its rear-curtain synchronization, which fired the unit off near the end of the shot. The resulting photo not only captured the long, laser-straight streaks of the trains light as well as the train’s logo, numbers and reflective tape in a haunting ghost-like image.


Timing is crucial in action photos. Pressing the button a fraction of a second too soon or too late can result in missing the peak moment. Mary Paulsen of Valley Springs was on vacation in Hawaii when she took this photo of a wave breaking on the shore during sunrise at Lydgate Beach Park in Kapa’a Kauai. With her Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 set in “sports” mode (which set the shutter speed at 1/800th of a second), she timed it just right to freeze the splash of a wave crashing over the rocks as it passed in front of the rising sun.


Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton used a Nikon D90 set a high shutter speed to capture the action of skateboarder L.J. Nessen, 18, as he caches some air at the skate park in Anderson Park in Stockton. The low angle of the photo makes it look like Nessen is suspended in mid-air above the trees.


The technique of panning is using a relatively slow shutter speed while following the subject with it centered in the frame, with the camera. Rick Wilmot of Lodi took a panning shot of a friend’s romping dog while on a visit to Klamath Falls, Oregon. At shutter sped of 1/160th of a second, “Buddy” is relatively sharp (his extremities – legs and tail, are blurred from motion). The background, though still recognizable, is blurred from the movement of the camera. This forces the eye to focus on what’s the sharpest thing in the photo – the dog.


Mark Sublett of Tracy went one better with his panning shot by photographing an even faster subject with an even slower shutter speed. Sublett shot a photo of Midget race car driver Scott Pierovich of Alamo speeding down the backstretch at the Petaluma Speedway. The race car can speed around the track at an excess of 80 miles an hour or more. Sublett’s aperture setting was f/22, which meant lots of depth of field (what’s in focus from front to rear) But by using a slow shutter speed (1/60th of a second) and panning with the car the background became nothing more than blurry streaks, By keeping the car at the center of the frame while moving the camera it remained sharp and recognizable. You can even make out the decals on the side of the vehicle.


As always there is a photo gallery of all the photos submitted at:

Thanks to everyone for their submissions and please stay tune for a new Readers Photo Challenge assignment next Monday.

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    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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