By: Eric Stoner
July 14, 2015
This past Independence Day weekend, I spent some family time in Thousand Islands, NY. The opportunity for amazing photography was immense and I ended my holiday on an antique wooden boat for a “three hour tour” on the St. Lawrence River.
There were tons of photographic opportunities for scenic images but I wanted to create images that people would look at for longer than a brief moment. Everyone appreciated the beauty in front of us, but merely taking a photo wasn’t enough. I needed to create something interesting, something with movement and something I could piece together to tell a story.
The boat was a gorgeous 1970’s wooden vessel named “Zipper” from the 1000 Islands Antique Boat Museum, so naturally it had a lot of character.
To tell the story a little better, I decided to photograph isolated areas of the boat as well as views from a passenger’s perspective.
Next, I wanted to photograph movement in some portions of an image while maintaining sharpness in others. While cruising, I became fixated on the splash from the front of the boat cutting through the water. That was the motion I was looking for!
Creating blur in an image is fairly easy to do by using slow shutter speeds. To record blur in some areas while maintaining sharpness in others, all while hand holding the camera with slow shutter speeds, is a bit more challenging.
I determined I could probably achieve the effect I was looking for by setting the shutter speed in the range of 1/8 sec. to 1/15 sec. It was going to require a very steady hand on a moving boat. To increase the odds of getting the shot I was after, I switched my drive mode to continuous mode (five frames per second) while trying to maintain a steady hand. Often, the first shot or two will be blurry from the act of pressing your finger on the shutter button, resulting in unusable shots like this:
Often, the third or forth shot are “keepers” once the camera settles down. I have sharpness where I want it and blurry movement from the water in the same shot. Choosing lenses with Image Stabilization will also aid in achieving sharper images, especially in situations when you are handholding the camera using slow shutter speeds.
In many cases, it took between four to five shots to get one that was clean.
Here is another example:
On land, this process is a lot easier to accomplish by using a tripod to stabilize the camera. When shooting in situations with longer exposures, everything not moving will be sharp. I would suggest the use of either an electronic cable release to reduce camera vibrations or the two-second timer on the camera to delay the exposure until your finger comes off of the shutter button. On land, these will help you get sharper pictures. On a boat, your best bet is to try to find something to hold the camera against for stability and take a lot of shots until you get a sharp one.
At the end of the day, the goal was to create some interesting views of the boat, tell a story and commemorate our Independence Day.