A Guide to Time and Motion in Photography


One of the fundamental tools that a photographer has at his/her disposal is the ability to record time.

This isn't just the moment in time, or the ‘decisive moment', as Cartier-Bresson called it, but the duration of the time interval as well. It's a matter of when and how long.

We can not only get the sense that we are witnessing a precise moment in history but there is a passage of time, an event taking place that requires of the viewer, an understanding of progression; moving from one place to another, moving forward in time and space. Time and movement in photography are synonymous.

Modern cameras have the technology to record smaller and smaller time intervals. It is quite feasable that you camera could be capable of recording 1/6000th second or less and with a strobe light, 1/100 000th second is possible.

This capability allows us to capture and freeze motion and to recall that moment over and over again.

We are also able to capture progression by photographing in quick succession by using  sequence shooting with the camera or repeat lighting with a flash. A sense of motion and passing time can be presented in many interesting ways.

By slowing down the shutter speed, any moving object will be blurred. Although we might try to avoid this, it also has the effect of establishing a sense of motion (and hense the progression of time) in the photograph.

Moving the camera while shooting is also something we avoid. But moving the camera while focussing on a moving object (panning) will also generate a sense of motion and time.

Its also possible, if you didn't capture it in the camera, to generate a sense of time and motion in your photo's using post-processing techniques such as motion blur and multiple layering.

There is also that magical moment you can capture when, in spite of any technical considerations, the moment in time recorded seems endless. The ability for us to record and recall times and laces that bring to light, a time or place we want to remember forever. Where time seems to stop right there and we linger. The beauty of photography is that it enables us to record and enjoy such times in an endless parade of images. For those moments we can afford to stop for just a while.

This is a guest tutorial from Light Stalking community member and professional photographer and teacher, Tom Dinning. Check out Tom’s photography website and his blog for some great photos and tutorials

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