Back Modifications (2)
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Ducks in flight

By carpmanstu
I shot this while fishing one afternoon and wanted to show the speed that the ducks were coming in to land on the water,I seem to have captured the duck fairly well but my background does not seem to represent what I was looking for,I was hoping to get more of a blurred background to give the impression of speed but it seems to look more like the background is simply out of focus,is this a depth of field problem or have I just got my F/stop etc wrong?? I presume my ISO was too slow at 100 but the rest i'm unsure,my only other question would be was it because it was a hand held shot? Any helpful comments or advice would be much appreciated Smile

Tags: Flowers and plants Close-up and macro Wildlife and nature

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This photo is here for critique. Please only comment constructively and with suggestions on how to improve it.


Lynamick 14 2 31 United Kingdom
2 Apr 2012 3:45PM
To get the result that you want you need to do a panning shoot. At the risk of trying to teach you to suck eggs. You need a reasonally slow shutter speed, while focasing on the ducks you need to follow them with your camera. Done right the ducks will stay in focas and the background will show the efects of their speed. Not an easy disapline to master so do not get upset at a few bad results. When you get one right you will have an image that few photographers can achive.
Hope that I have helped.

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banehawi Plus
12 1.5k 3530 Canada
2 Apr 2012 3:52PM
This is very good as it is. Michael is right above, however, you will need practice, and if you camera has the ability, use a continuous focus mode, called Servo or the like.


2 Apr 2012 4:14PM
Thanks for your advice guys its much appreciated,I agree its going to be practice practice practice and then practice some more, Smile I'm not sure if the camera has a continuous focus setting but I will check the handbook for the camera and find out,I have plenty of ideas for different shots and I know exactly what I want to achieve when taking a shot but just lack the knowledge and experience to capture them most of the time,I'll get there eventually especially with the feedback and tips I am receiving so thanks again. Smile

2 Apr 2012 6:37PM
oooh Hilda Ogden with her hair in curlers and a hair net theres a picture!! Grin All comments observed and taken in with thanks. Smile
paulbroad 9 116 1064 United Kingdom
2 Apr 2012 10:22PM
Not a bad try. You needed less shutter speed and a smaller aperture to blur the background - but compositionally the ducks are too far appart, each at the frame edge. You ideally needed them much closer together and placed near a top third.

Jestertheclown 8 7.4k 249 England
2 Apr 2012 10:56PM
Good advice from everyone there.
My first thought when I saw this was how well you'd captured the ducks against the background and then I read your blurb.
As Paul says, the composition's not the greatest ever but I don't suppose that you had a lot of control over that.
As an aside, I've added a mod. which would work a lot better if you were to apply it to your original image.
It's just an idea.
2 Apr 2012 11:17PM
Thanks for your comment Bren and after looking at your mod I can see what your saying,Paul too,it works well like that and is something I can remember for next time,hopefully it will give a better result.

Lynamick 14 2 31 United Kingdom
3 Apr 2012 9:36AM
Hilda Ogden, a name to bring back thoughts from a simpler time, so I am afraid that I just had to put up a silly mod.
Wink good old photoshop??? Love the mod a la Hilda Ogden!
I tried to do Photoshop but failed miserably to get to grips with the steep learning curve. ....Too old Grin
3 Apr 2012 7:23PM
No need to apologise for Hilda's ducks Michael cos it made me smile and if you can make someone smile then its gotta be worthwhile Smile,and thanks for your comments the other day too.

DRicherby 7 269 725 United Kingdom
4 Apr 2012 12:32AM
Hi, Stu and welcome to the critique gallery!

I rather like this. You've been quite lucky to get both ducks sharp and, while they're not in the most beautiful of poses, they have an amusing "just fallen out of orbit" look to them. This would make a good caption competition, which might not sound like a flattering thing to say but the more high-brow version of the same comment is to say that the viewer feels engaged and wants to come up with a story to explain what they're seeing. Photographs that tell stories are usually effective; photos that let the viewer fit their own stories, doubly so.

Now, you've asked a few questions which, to me, say that you're a bit confused about the camera's settings and not sure how to use them to get the effect you're looking for. First, let's look at what effect you're aiming for and what properties of the exposure you need to achieve that; then, we'll look at what camera settings will get that exposure.

Your goal is to get the background blurred to give the impression of speed. Motion blur comes from objects moving through the frame while the shutter is open or, equivalently, the camera moving past them. The longer the shutter is open, the farther the object or camera will move and the more blur you'll get. Depth of field isn't really important because the motion blur will trump any softness or sharpness. So, to achieve your goal, you need a relatively slow shutter speed and you need to pan the camera with the ducks. And we can see why you didn't get the effect you were after: 1/200s is a pretty fast shutter so you only have a tiny amount of motion blur. Because the blur wasn't enough to develop streaks, it just looks like an out of focus shot. (Actually, it looks more like camera shake but let's not split hairs.)

So, what camera settings do you need? Narrower apertures (higher f-numbers) give more depth of field but also let less light into the camera, slowing the shutter. Higher ISO increases the camera's sensitivity to light, giving a faster shutter, so you want to keep the ISO low, too. The easiest way to set the camera up would have been to keep it on ISO-100 and select shutter priority mode. Select your shutter speed and the camera will choose the aperture to give the right exposure. What shutter speed should you use? Well, 1/200s was too fast but the slower you go, the harder it is to pan with the ducks. Maybe try 1/50s and see how you get on. If that doesn't give enough blur, go slower; if it's too hard to pan at that speed, go faster.

Note that the down-side of this approach is that a slow shutter will also blur the ducks' wings if they're flapping and it won't be possible to keep both ducks sharp if they're moving at different speeds, as you can only pan with one of them. More significantly, panning with a slow shutter is difficult and requires a lot of practice: expect to get a lot of junk shots.

I hope that made sense -- feel free to ask any questions if you need more help.


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