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Monday, 01 December 2008


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Your "Barn Dance" photo is an fantastic example of what I consider excellent motion blur photography. There are a couple of very sharp people intermixed with people that are blurred by motion, which makes the photo very different from something that you would get from camera shake. Having a clear sharp point of reference more often than not differentiate a good motion blur from something that is no longer a photograph but more of an abstract.
IS/VR is designed to be primarily a camera shake reduction tool... if it allows you a couple of extra stops of exposure, it is because it helps keep the camera steady. It has nothing to do with 'freezing motion'. Any reasonably competent photographer knows this, and it is rather insulting to you to have people mention that issue. Maybe it is because you didn't provide a half sentence "will not freeze motion" comment in your original posting.
Technically speaking, your "Barn Dance" example might benefit from both high ISO (better IQ) and IS/VR (less camera shake during a longer exposure)

Indeed. This is one of my favorite images taken at 1/4 sec. ;-) with in-body SR/IS/VR. Although there was plenty of light, I decided to shoot at F/22 to get the low shutter speed.


I'm a big fan of blurry pictures myself. But if I would like to have the option of it or not, higher ISO wins, at least for how I like to work.

Mike I think you are going around in circles. I thought the original question wasn't whether or not stopping motion is a good or bad thing - you were wondering if IS can do the same job as a faster shutter speed / high ISO in preventing camera shake. Two different issues.

Fantastic photo.

Sometimes I don't want to stop subject motion; more often, I do. So I'll take a stop of sensitivity over a stop of IS.

But of course, whenever possible, I'll take both.

Using subject motion in a photograph is hard. When I do get a "keeper" with subject blur, it's generally because I couldn't afford a fast enough shutter speed, not because I was going for an effect. Here's an example:


I have tons of respect for anyone who is able to use subject blur intentionally. If you have any advice on how to do so effectively, Mike, I'd love to read it.

I don't need to hear your explanations and technical hoo-hah. That's just a damn good photograph.

I'm not sure that's so fair Mike. Those of us talking about motion were simply making the counter-point. I was one of them and I've plenty where motion adds to the shot, but there's a difference between using motion to add a sense of drama or movement, and motion blur caused by using too low a shutter speed when you want and need to stop motion dead.

If I may be so bold I'd venture that's what we were getting at.



Mike, I do a lot of work on tripods since I use big view cameras for a lot of my stuff. But I always wonder about people who hate to see the wind make things move. I love to do landscapes where the big stuff--rocks, trees--stand stark still and render with perfect detail while the wind plays games with grasses, or light branches, and water moves through its course. To me it introduces the element of time into the still photograph. Of course when the wind gets so strong I can't keep the bellows from shaking, that's another situation. Some of this is going on in the pictures in this online gallery: http://www.carlweese.com/NLgal.html if anyone is interested in the notion.

I like the blurry dancers, and sharp trumpet (that's how it should sound, after all).

I haven't needed no stinkin' IS for a while, since going back to using rangefinders that don't suffer from mirror slap, and putting an Abrahamson SoftTouch on the shutter button to make it easier to squeeze. Here's an example from earlier this evening, the end of my son's judo class turned into a swirling stampede: http://www.pbase.com/skirkp/image/106591144.jpg
and another, at 1/2 second:


I'm interested in your K20D comparison since I use the same camera and the K10D for a bunch of night photography. I like the K20D noise - it's grainy in nature, compared to the K10D's which is blotchy and obviously digital. Often, I like a bit of noise in pictures, gives some bite to the subject. There's always my new old stock 50mm f1.2 "A" lens if I need to dial it back down to 800.

All nice photographs. Thanks for posting them.

As everyone else said, I think that's a great photo. Tons of energy all over. It reminds me of a Breugel painting of an old provincial Dutch peasant gathering. Only, uh, the modern equivalent.

If you had the extra stop and two thirds, would you have got this shot? Or would the pursuit of "perfection" not let you recognize the opportunity.

This is grainy and the contrast is out of control. Great shot.

Very nice photo Mike, in a string of very nice photos. This one looks so much like Vermont that I've been looking for people I know.

And of course you can use a tripod to get a blurry photo :-)


I use a tripod about once a year. The rest I rely on in body IS, or a RF (without the mirror slap).


Well, I talked about limitations of IS because I shoot people a lot and try to stick to shutter speeds where motion blur is an uncommon problem. I'd be thrilled with a shot like this :) I do have some that are made better by motion blur, but once I hit the point where I *have* to shoot at such slow speeds, I know I'm very limited in what I can shoot. (I should look at it as an opportunity to be creative, but I'm looking to capture certain things). But on the whole, I agree; stopping subject motion isn't a necessity, certainly not always.

All the shots on my website (http://lusalight.smugmug.com/)were taken with a Pentax K10D. What I want say about the shake reduction feature is that after one year of shooting I think it does something to the image if left on when shooting with a tripod. I am convinced the images appear more blurry and I have to remember to SR off when using tripod.


I like this photo a lot. It also reinforces the feeling (imho, at least) that motion blur captured by film is so much more attractive than it is on digital (why is that, anyway?).

Great image. Earlier in the year, the Gallery that I run, The Camerawork Gallery in Portland, Oregon (http://www.TheCameraworkGallery.org) put on a show by Doug Plummer from Seattle that uses this technique beautifully in a series on Contra Dance in New England. Your readers may be interested in more examples of this powerful use of motion that you have so well demonstrated.


Pentax does say in the manual to turn shake reduction off when using a tripod, for the K10D and K20D. I haven't found that it matters with a K20D, but then I haven't got anything longer than 300mm, either, nor have I tried long exposures.

My take on the ISO versus image stabilization thing is that the image stabilization system can use a new chip with the high ISO capability more readily than someone can develop an image stabilization system, and in the meantime, the image stabilization is better in daylight, where high ISO would force me to aperture and shutter settings I don't want.

In a lot of ways -- but not price! -- I'd like to see DSLRs head toward selectable chips; making one chip perform really well from ISO 100 through 12800 is a much tougher problem than doing that with two or three chips. There ought to be just enough room in there for some sort of chip carrousel, though I admit this would massively complicate designing in-camera anti-shake....

Your image really reminds me of a photo of mine:


Same subject matter, same use of blur. Even the setting is similar!

To the Pentax K10D on a tripod comment above, if you use the 2-second timer (mirror lock-up), then SR is automatically cancelled. I can see a clear improvement when using a tripod and MLU over not using MLU.

I like motion blur when I can get it--


but I think the effect is strongest when I'm also using a tripod, so the sharp part of the photo is really sharp, since I'm usually in the 1/8-1/15 sec. range when I'm going for motion. This shot (which has something of a scanner artifact on the right side--sorry) was made using Fortepan 400 rated at EI 640 in Acufine with a 5x7" Press Graflex SLR--a camera that is surprisingly handholdable, but not at such speeds.

There are three things to the advantage to this photos - it is basically black and white, the depth of field is wide (i.e. not selected focus e.g. to an eye say) and more important is that a significant part of the picture is sharp.

The black and white nature gives it a different feel. It is much harder not to complete distracted if there is moving colors when you have subject motion. It simply would be harder to "visualize". I guess you know roughly the effect when you take the picture whilst I bet if it is a color one there would be more surprise (especially in film day).

The wider depth of field meant that the original argument to use F2.8 (SLR) or F1.2/1.4/0.9 etc. (RF) over IS and high ISO does not apply. However, the two are very different and hence having a IS/high ISO does not preclude the purchase of the expensive lens. Just not relevant to this photo.

But the key I think is that some part of the picture is sharp and it gives us a reference framework. In another word, holding your breath in the old days and IS/VR today is important so that you do not see a blurry "amateur" snapshot but look like a pro that deliberately allow for motion.

But shall I just say that it is simply good picture.

"To the Pentax K10D on a tripod comment above, if you use the 2-second timer (mirror lock-up), then SR is automatically cancelled. I can see a clear improvement when using a tripod and MLU over not using MLU."

Hey Ry H., thanks very much for that info on the K10D. I did notice an improvement in sharpness using the 2 sec (or mirror up) feature and it was confusing me, because my images started to get sharper even though I had left SR on. It was contrary to my previous experience, but now I know why.

Nonetheless, I am convinced that electronic focus on telezooms (in particular) are vibration prone and so I use manual focus almost all the time. I recall reading many years ago that is why Leica was relecutant to build electronic lenses, as they believed it did not meet their exacting standards. But history and the digital age has almost left them behind. What a shame- and a topic for another day.

Any one remember Ernest Haas's bull fighting photo's and other work he did at slow shutter speeds.

Comment on comments, the most important one being that the "proper" element(s) are sharp, in this case the trumpet player. I think in order to fully appreciate this sort of photo, executed by someone that can rightfully say he "meant to do that", you must be conscious on some level of this fact. If all objects not nailed down were in motion it might still look interesting but not in the emotionally pleasing way it does when "moving" objects are moving and "still" moving objects are still.
...and yes, if this was in color we would be distracted by the "movement" of light, not the movement of the subjects (which are also light for the sake of argument, I know), and the photo would look good on a "wait, I used to like that brown acid" level.

Nice picture!

"and even though it's been 16 years, I still remember the shutter speed—1/6th second."

Whether your memory is accurate though, is, of course, another matter.

It's a wonderful picture, doh si doh. Dont get too doh-si-OC-doh'd about all these cameras you're messing with...it spells nothing but trouble...

I've been following this series of posts with interest--partly because I'm interested in the Nikon D700, but mostly because I, too, often find myself shooting in dim light. When I'm shooting for my own pleasure and there's nothing much at stake I basically just make-do with whatever I have available. I'm hoping for a good photograph, but if I don't get one it's not the end of the world. Good or bad, it's all a learning experience.

Things are different when I'm shooting professionally. In that case I'm getting paid for results and for meeting client expectations. If the client expects sharp images with no blur from the camera or subject, then that's what I'm going to deliver. If it takes a sturdy tripod and 4000 watt-seconds of studio flash power, so be it.

What I'm trying to say is, although it's fascinating to see just how little light it takes to produce an acceptable image these days, most people take photographs in good light most of the time, and when they do the problems you describe are minor, if they exist at all.

What a lovely picture, Mike!

It reminds me a bit of Kertész, one of my favorite photographers. If you'd ever like to sell prints of this one, you'd have at least one customer.

Here are several where I played with blur on Saturday night:

First one 120mm at f5.6 and 1/0.6, second 120mm at f5.6 and 1/4th, third 120mm at f5.6 and 1/2nd

All hand-held, no bracing or tripods.

I've used both motion and stop action for photographing dancers. Honestly I really like stopped action better than blur. Blur is easy, but I think it's sort of manipulative and also to some degree I don't think it captures what's happening on a visceral level as well as stopped action does.

Here's some blur:

And some stopped motion:

Personally I think that being able to see the emotion on someone's face is way better than seeing a big blob of dancer. For whatever it's worth, the 2nd picture wasn't sharp because of IS or tripod, it's because I shot it with flash.

Shooting with flash and getting that hard edged look is something that I've really developed an affection for. There's a magnum photographer (Bruce Glidden I think) who I stole it from.

To add my voice to the choir: very nice picture. It's a shame you don't have more of your black-and-white work online.

whoops. Bruce Gilden.

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