Friday, February 9, 2018

Freezing the action and creating some motion blur in ice skating team pairs

As I mentioned in the last blog post, yesterday I photographed both the team short program and the pairs competitions. All of this was taken between 10am and 11:30am before I headed back to the main media village to get prepared for the Opening Ceremonies.

I really like photographing the figure skating pairs because of the synergy between the two skaters and the lines that they create.

I started shooting this event like I do for most sports, with a shutter speed of at least 1/1000th of a second to freeze the action. My camera settings were ISO 2000, f/5, 1/1250 sec. And all of the photos were taken with my Canon 1D X MK II and Canon 100-400mm lens. As in this shot, I would wait for moments where I could see my subject's face (or both of them), look for the peak of action, and fire.

I was constantly having to zoom in and out trying to predict the action. If I saw the skaters building up speed and preparing for a jump or a throw, I would quickly zoom out. If not, I would zoom in and try to stay close to the action.

For this shot, I framed mid-way in on the lens to include the reflection of the Olympic rings at the top of the frame. And yes, this is a planned thing. When I arrive at any new location, I scan the scene looking for unique foregrounds, backgrounds, or shooting locations.

I tend to get fixated on the jumps and spins, but it is important to photograph the grace of the skating as well. Yet other thing us photographers have to avoid: tunnel vision.

When going through my images yesterday, I laughed when I saw this one. It looks like he is holding her up with his head and hand. This shot was NOT planned, but being able to shoot at 14 frames a second does help capture these types of moments. :)

More graceful movement.

As a hockey player, this move amazes me. She has to have a lot of trust in the edge of that skate to pull off this one.

As I mentioned earlier, I like the shooting the pairs because of the interaction of the two athletes, In this case, the two are married.

I am not happy with the background of this image, with the distractions of the people and TV camera, but I am so impressed with the height of his throw (and her jump) that I wanted to share it with you all.

This is a classic "rule of thirds" shot, where I have them off center, and I am using the PyeongChang 2018 logo to help fill the rest of the frame.

OK - at this point, everything I was shooting was at 1/1250 sec. But after the American's skated, I decided to change my shutter speed to 1/25 sec to try and show the motion of the skaters.

The idea of motion panning is this: We slow the shutter speed of the camera WAY down (by lowering the camera's ISO and aperture) and pan the lens at the EXACT same speed and direction as the skaters are moving. The goal is to get them sharp but blur everything else. It is very difficult to do, but can yield some really cool results.

By lowering the shutter speed, you can really see the motion of her spin and his arms. Luckily, he kept his face perfectly still for that short period of time.

In this shot, you can see that their upper torso's are sharp but I still captured the motion in their feet.

Some people prefer the frozen action, while others like the slow shutter shots. I prefer the latter, What is your preference, leave a comment on the blog.

The next blog post will be from the Opening Ceremonies!

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Jeff said...


As usual, great pictures and narrative!! I so look forward to your captivating and artistic coverage of the Olympics! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

JCusack said...

Awesome photos , will all of them the best in the world you can loose focus on how difficult these moves are . WOW , to have strength to skate fast and than lift and toss/ twist your partner and she has to keep momentum forward and somehow land gracefully and make it look like it was with ease .

I like the challenge of paning fast moving sports , it’s tough but when you nail it is great to give the photo the truth of the speed the athletes are going at . But freezing action especially sports with a puck or ball is awesome too . Watching opening ceremonies, so much going on , lots of color ,was it very windy , ask because flags were flapping but the costumes didn’t seem to be . Another 2 hours left , excited to see your photos , hope you didn’t freeze too much and are editing in a warm place . Thank you for another great day and mini lesson . Wishing you a great day tomorrow. Thank you for sharing the excitement
Jenn C

Unknown said...

I love the capture with the blur. On a side note ,your multi frame captures for the last
Olympics are some of my favorites. Wondering if you will have a chance or opportunity to try it out this Olympics? I so enjoy following you at the Olympics. Thank You

Shannon said...

I love the freeze frame for the artistic lines, but definitely prefer the motion blur for the action - jumps, throws, etc.

Unknown said...

In this case, the motion blur trick is the one that gave a real feeling of what the skaters did.

Unknown said...

I think I prefer the motion blur. It's different, it's difficult and I like seeing you make it work!