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Portraying Movement

Portraying Movement
Image blurring results from poor focus, and/or a shutter speed that is too slow to freeze the subject. Insufficient shutter speed is, in fact, one of the primary causes of disappointing safari photos, but it can also be used deliberately to convey a sense of energy and drama.


For a creatively blurred action shot, set your camera to shutter priority (Tv), and select a slow shutter speed (or use fully manual settings, if you're proficient). The "correct" shutter speed for a blurred motion shot will depend on the speed of your subject relative to the camera, and the desired amount of blur - as a rule, the slower the shutter, the greater the degree of blur. In most instances, we've found 1/30 second to be a good starting point, and will make adjustments from there to achieve the desired effect.

Most blurred action shots are improved by panning with the subject. Set your camera to continuous shooting mode, track your subject through the viewfinder and fire a 2-3 second burst of shots, then "follow through" while you take your finger off the shutter release. This technique will keep your subject sufficiently focused to be recognizable, but will leave the background blurred and streaky, emphasizing the sense of movement and highlighting the subject. Having multiple shots allows you to choose the best one(s) during editing.

Artistically blurred action shots are not particularly difficult to create, but they do require a modicum of technical ability, and practice (pets and children make excellent pre-safari models). Used judiciously, they will add drama and dynamism to your image catalog, and help your safari slide show stand out from the pack. Unless you already have an extensive safari image library and/or you are an advanced photographer, we don't recommend experimenting with blurred shots at a high profile or rare sighting - save the action shots for fairly common encounters, when everyone else in the vehicle has their cameras down for lack of a "worthy subject". Such apparently mundane scenes as wildebeest cavorting, elephants scurrying to water, birds taking off, or baboons misbehaving are prime material for the blurred action shot.

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