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  • valeriehuggins0

Playing with shutter speeds

Yesterday at the end of a very rainy day, I headed for Teignmouth to meet up with some fellow u3a photographers. The plan was to play with shutter speeds, to learn how to use them to get different effects.

When I arrived, the skies were grey and threatening more rain, the wind was blowing a hoolie, and the high-tide waves were crashing over the promenade. I wondered what on earth was I doing, and if we would get any decent photo opportunities.

But it wasn't long before the clouds parted a little to let in some shafts of evening sun. And then we spotted a group of surfers near the pier - what a great subject for trying out fast shutter speeds!

And the surfers put on quite a show! There were many breath-taking moments when they crashed under the huge waves, and others when they rode the wave almost up to the seawall that we were standing on. Exhilarating to watch, and clearly also to do, given the smiles on the surfers when they had finished.

I struggled though to capture the images that I imagined in my head! I used my 100-300mm zoom, but it was not long enough to fill the frame with the surfer. I used shutter priority with speeds of 800-1000/sec and that seemed to be ok to freeze the action, but hard to tell on the LCD screen how the water droplets were captured. So, I found the process very frustrating. My eyes kept straying to the other end of the beach, where the waves were crashing into each other on the rebound, throwing up huge amounts of spray that sparkled in the sun. So many ICM possibilities! But I stayed with the group and here are some of the images I captured - edited in Lightroom (daylight white balance applied and adjustments to blacks and whites to get a consistent palette across the set, and some sharpening).

I couldn't resist having a little play with ICM and I really like the effect in this image:

We then moved on to taking photos of the trains as they travelled along the line by the sea wall. The train journey between Exeter and Newton Abbot is one of the most scenic in England. The line goes along the bank of the River Exe to Dawlish Warren, along the sea edge (literally!) until Teignmouth, and then follows the River Teign into Newton Abbot. I love this journey, as it has so many memories of times when I have been coming home. I played around with a mix of panning, slow shutter speeds and ICM - with very limited success! And more frustration too. I am clearly not cut out for train photography! I kept getting distracted taking photos of other more interesting things while waiting for the next train and then the camera wasn't on the right settings when it suddenly whizzed by. But here are three images of moving trains!

I revisited the surfer images in post-processing, trying to capture what I had envisaged. I wanted speed, action, dynamism in the movement of the board in the waves. I cropped right into the board, removing the top half of the body of the surfer, and after much playing, chose a square crop. I then converted to monochrome with a punchy filter. This was now closer to what I had hoped. Maybe there is a future for me in surf photography after all!

On reflection, I found it really interesting being part of a group. Photography for me is normally a solitary occupation, starting with a mindful approach, journalling the key impressions of the place before I start taking any images. In a group, I didn't feel comfortable doing that. I also felt like I was following what others were doing, comparing settings, noticing where they were pointing their cameras, rather than pursuing my usual instinctive approach. And it unsettled me. But what was the underlying purpose of the evening - was it to capture great images, or was it to spend time with people, sharing ideas about photographic creativity and learning together? I think it was the latter and in which case it was well worth braving the elements!

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