"Following on from the articles by Nick Melidonis on ‘Time and Motion’ in Issue 100 and Ken Spence’s article on ‘Intentional Camera Movement’ in Issue 101, I think it’s well worthwhile exploring these ideas further, especially when looking at how modern technology now allows us an even higher success rate when exploring visual communication using slow shutter speeds."
Mike Langford continues: "For a while now I’ve been fascinated with the evocative metaphorical communication that comes from using slow shutter speeds while panning with a subject, to create a feeling and illusion of movement, while at the same time allowing for a sense of place.
"The first time I saw this technique used was in Ernst Hass’s 1971 book, The Creation, where he photographed birds flying and horses, deer and buffalo running while using very long telephoto lenses combined with slow shutter speeds. During the mid 1950s, both he and fellow Magnum photographer Brian Brake collaborated in working out ways to illustrate movement, while at the same time allowing a sense of place. Ernst started by creating and publishing a series of bullfight photographs in Spain, which were first published in 1956 by Life Magazine, while Brian (a New Zealander) was working out how to visualise the effects of weather on the subcontinent of India and its people in his feature on the Monsoon, published in 1960, also for Life Magazine. Both mastered the slow shutter speed panning technique while using Kodachrome 25 film, (ISO 25 in modern digital terms). This low ISO allowed them to work with very slow shutter speeds without having the problem of overexposure.
"Back then, it was also a very expensive exercise, with each transparency frame costing around 45 cents. Added to this, they had to wait several days before being able to see if their experiments had worked successfully.
"But today, the costs have disappeared with photographers now able to shoot hundreds of shots to obtain just one frame that looks exactly the way we want it to.
"I spent much of this past summer photographing events that involve movement to try to understand what shutter speeds work and what don’t. While I didn’t find that soft light made it better or worse, I did find that lower light angles made for greater separation of the subjects against their backgrounds. I also found that the slower the shutter speed, the more abstract the result. Obviously, slower moving subjects cope with longer exposures more readily than faster ones, but..."
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