Landscape photography is typically all about capturing photos with smooth water and long shutter speeds. When someone sees an abstract image of a bubble bursting (such as the boiling mud pots of Yellowstone National Park), they often assume that it is a studio shot. However, you can capture amazing photos like this out of the studio with knowing when and how to use a fast shutter speed.
I created the following image during our workshop in Yellowstone several years ago. To capture this bizarre image, I used a shutter speed of just 1/2500 of a second.
On the day I took this shot, the light overcast sky helped minimize blown highlights on the wet surfaces. It also kept the shadows soft. After processing the photo with low contrast and cloning out a few distracting shadows in the smooth mud, I had my shot.
You can apply the same technique to many different photos in nature… a hummingbird returning to the same feeder, insects visiting a pollen-rich flower, water droplets falling in the same spot, and fishing birds.
Here are few tips to get you started…
Find the Right Subject and Location
If the subject you are trying to photograph appears randomly or moves unpredictably, it can be difficult to capture it at just the right moment. For the following shot, I observed the butterfly’s behavior and noticed that it repeatedly landed on the same flower.
So, I mounted my camera on my Induro tripod and loosened the ball head to use it as a gimbal. When the butterfly landed on the flower, I could quickly focus my camera and take this show using a fast shutter speed.
Set Your Focus in Advance
Sometimes the location of your subject is fixed. For example, the bubble in the photo below exploded in the same location although at random times. Once I knew where the bubble would most likely to appear, I focused my lens on that location and disabled the auto-focus. With my lens set correctly, I could concentrate on getting the shot.
Take Some Test Shots
You must decide what aperture and DOF you need to use. Choose a shutter speed that is fast enough to completely freeze the motion. Depending on your subject, the actual shutter speed may vary. The following are a few shots using different shutter speeds to freeze the motion of the various subjects.
The slow-moving turtle required a shutter speeds of only 1/400s of second. Although, the high-speed action of the cormorant trying to catch a fish in the Everglades required a 1/2000s shutter speed to freeze its motion. I captured the puffin with just 1/1250s shutter speed as he slowed down for landing.
I used a long, heavy lens to capture most of these landscape photos with fast shutter speeds. To prevent my arms from getting tired while I waited for the action to take place, I used a lens mount to attach the heavy gear to my Induro tripod.
Do you have any fast shutters speed photos to share with our audience? If so, feel free to share them in the comments below.