Manual 10771489
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243
C H A P T E R
Action and Event
Photography
Objectives
When you have finished reading this chapter, you will be able to:
• List the major categories of action and event photography.
• Identify the techniques used to stop action.
• Describe the different focus techniques used in action photography.
• Contrast hard news and feature (“soft news”) photography.
• List the advantages and disadvantages of using the camera’s built-in flash.
Technical Terms
bare-bulb flash
buffer size
built-in flash
caption
dedicated flash units
flash unit
follow focus
hard news
high-voltage power pack
hyperfocal distance
lens collar
Ambient light:
The light that already exists in a scene or space,
without any additions being made. Ambient light
can be natural or artificial. (Henry Bros. Construction
Photo by Larry Morris)
main light
motor drive
off-camera flash
painting with light
peak of action
photojournalism
picture story
prefocusing
rear-curtain synchronization
red eye
In the early days of photography, there was
no such thing as an “action shot.” Film emulsions
were so slow that street scenes usually included
no human figures: pedestrians strolling by the
camera were moving too rapidly to register on the
film. To be captured by the camera, a person had
to remain in one spot for several seconds.
As film emulsions became more sensitive,
and lens and shutter speeds improved, the
photographer’s ability to include moving objects
in pictures improved as well. Today’s camera
systems and image receivers (films and digital
sensors) make it not only possible, but relatively
simple, to “freeze” even the rapid action of
relative motion
ringlight flash
self-contained flash units
sensor-type automatic flash
control
shutter lag
slave units
soft news
zone focusing
zooming
a sports activity. See Figure 9-1. The greatly
increased sensitivity of films and sensors,
combined with fast lenses, also make possible
event photography under low light and other
difficult conditions.
Types of Action and Event
Photography
Virtually any picture that portrays people
involved in activities—from children playing
a game to the hustle and bustle of an urban
street scene to the colorful activities of an ethnic
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244
Figure 9-1. A shutter speed of 1/1600 second froze
both the ball and the players in this scene from a soccer
match.
festival—can be classified as action and event
photography. So can most of the assignments
covered by photojournalists, whether they are
shooting fires, the effects of weather, or the
doings of public officials.
Major categories of action and event
photography include:
• Sports. Portraying athletics at any level from
Little League to professional.
• Street shooting. Capturing candid views
of people and their activities, usually in an
urban setting.
• Photojournalism. Recording breaking news
events of all kinds, plus feature photos to
accompany articles and photos shot strictly
for their visual interest.
• Performances. Photographing entertainment
activities of all types from concerts to stage
productions to festivals to parades.
The photographs resulting from action and
event shooting often will fall in the category of
record shots or straight portrayals of a scene (“I
was there and this is what I saw.”), Figure 9-2.
At other times, the photos may convey a strong
emotional or artistic impact. News photographs
frequently convey emotional content, while
performance photos can have an abstract artistic
appearance, Figure 9-3.
Section II
Shooting
Figure 9-2. A “record shot” showing the start of a
children’s boat race. Families build the watercraft from
supplied materials: cardboard, plastic sheeting, and duct
tape. Surprisingly, most stay afloat!
Chapter 9
needed adjustments instinctively. You need
to make technique decisions—such as “freeze
motion” vs. “motion blur”—without hesitation
and apply them immediately.
Alfred Eisenstaedt, a renowned
photojournalist and street photographer in the
middle years of the twentieth century, once
described his approach as “f/8 and be there.”
In other words, being in the right place at the
right time, and using the proper camera settings
to capture the scene. On most lenses, f/8 is the
aperture that gives you the best combination of
sharpness and depth of field when used with a
shutter speed that is the nearest reciprocal of the
ISO, such as 1/125 second with ISO 100.
Although using the camera’s full
automatic setting is often considered the mark
of the amateur snapshooter, professional
photojournalists frequently leave their cameras
set on “auto.” They do so to anticipate situations
where a quick “grab shot” may be their only
opportunity to capture the action. If time allows,
they can then make necessary setting adjustments
and keep shooting.
Stopping Motion
Figure 9-3. The color, costumes, and motion of the
dancers in a performance often provide photographs
that approach the abstract.
To be successful as an action and event
photographer, you must be able to respond
quickly to changing conditions and, often,
to rapidly moving subjects. You have to
be completely familiar with your camera’s
capabilities and controls, so that you can make
245
Action and Event Photography
In many action and event photography
situations, an important objective is a crisp, wellfocused shot of the subject. Since the subject is
often moving, this objective can only be achieved
by stopping that subject’s motion.
When you seek to totally stop the movement
of a subject, the relative motion of that subject
will affect the shutter speed you select. This
involves not only the speed at which the subject is
moving, but the direction of movement in relation
to the camera. In terms of the subject’s speed of
movement, the relationship is straightforward—
stopping a sprinter requires a faster shutter speed
than you would use to freeze the motion of a
slowly strolling pedestrian.
Figure 9-4. Motion toward the camera, such as this
approaching boat, can be stopped quite easily with a
slower shutter speed.
speed. If the movement is perpendicular to the
lens’s axis (i.e., across the field of view), a still
faster shutter speed is needed, Figure 9-5. Under
identical conditions, shutter speeds become twice
as fast for each directional change. For example,
if 1/125 second stops movement toward or away
Effects of Relative Motion
Direction of movement also affects the choice
of shutter speed. A subject moving directly
toward the camera (whether that movement is
fast or slow) can be stopped by a relatively slow
shutter speed, Figure 9-4. A subject moving
at an angle to the lens’s axis, either toward or
away from the camera, requires a higher shutter
Figure 9-5. Movement across the camera’s field of
view requires a faster shutter speed than either motion
toward the camera or diagonal motion. Focal length of
the lens and the distance of the subject from the camera
also influence the needed shutter speed.
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246
Section II
from the camera, 1/250 second would be needed
to freeze a diagonal movement. Motion across the
field of view would need 1/500 second. Figure 9-6
is a table comparing the effects of distance and
direction of movement on shutter speeds for some
typical subjects.
Another factor is the distance of the subject
from the camera—the closer the subject, the
faster it will move across the lens’s field of view,
and the faster the shutter speed needed to stop
its motion. The most challenging combination
is a fast-moving subject crossing the camera’s
field of view a few feet in front of the lens. At the
opposite extreme, of course, is a slow-moving
subject coming directly toward the camera, but a
long distance away.
Complicating the issue is the focal length of
the lens you use. As the focal length increases,
the field of view narrows proportionately. If both
Object in motion
(or type of action)
Approximate
speed
Shooting
a 100 mm lens and a 200 mm lens are focused
on a bicycle rider 100′ away, the bicyclist would
cross the field of view of the 200 mm lens twice as
fast, because the field of view of that lens is only
half as wide. Using a longer lens also requires
a faster shutter speed, since you are in effect
closer to the subject. The shutter speed is doubled
for each doubling of the focal length. If you
selected a shutter speed of 1/125 second to stop
the bicyclist’s motion with the 100 mm lens, you
would have to use a speed of 1/250 second with
the 200 mm lens to achieve the same effect.
Even though today’s most fully featured SLR
cameras offer shutter speeds as brief as 1/8000
second, some action cannot be stopped by shutter
speed alone. In some cases, the movement is too
rapid even for a very fast shutter speed; in others,
low light levels require slower shutter speeds
(even with large apertures) for proper exposure.
Distance
from camera
Type of
movement
(meters) Toward/ Diagonal Across
away
(mph)
(kph)
(feet)
• People walking
5
8
10–12
25
50
100
4
8
16
33
1/125
1/60
1/30
1/15
1/250
1/125
1/60
1/30
1/500
1/250
1/125
1/60
• People jogging, skating,
or bicycling
• Children in active play
10
16
10–12
25
50
100
4
8
16
33
1/250
1/125
1/60
1/30
1/500
1/250
1/125
1/60
1/1000
1/500
1/250
1/125
• Active sports
• Animals (large) running
• Vehicles on city streets
25
40
10–12
25
50
100
4
8
16
33
1/500
1/250
1/125
1/60
1/1000
1/500
1/250
1/125
1/2000
1/1000
1/500
1/250
• Vehicles on highway
50
80
25
50
100
200
8
16
33
66
1/500
1/250
1/125
1/60
1/1000
1/500
1/250
1/125
1/2000
1/1000
1/500
1/250
• Racing vehicles
• Other fast-moving subjects
100
160
25
50
100
200
8
16
33
66
1/1000
1/500
1/250
1/125
1/2000
1/1000
1/500
1/250
1/4000
1/2000
1/1000
1/500
NOTE: Shutter speeds listed are for 35 mm cameras, based on use of a normal (50 mm) lens. For longer lenses, shutter speeds
must be adjusted upward, moving to the next highest speed for each doubling of the focal length. Thus, 1/500 with a 50 mm lens
increases to 1/1000 for a 100 mm lens, or 1/2000 for a 200 mm lens.
Figure 9-6. Shutter speeds needed to stop motion for some typical situations.
Chapter 9
247
Action and Event Photography
Capturing the Peak of Action
The solution, in these situations, is the use of
electronic flash. The duration of the light burst
from the flash tube is extremely short (between
1/10,000 second and 1/50,000 second), so that the
subject is frozen into stillness.
Using flash to stop motion is most effective
in conditions with low levels of ambient light,
since the subject will be isolated against a dark
background. When the level of ambient light is
fairly high, ghost images can result. Although the
flash serves as the main source of light and stops
subject motion for an instant, the shutter remains
open for 1/60 second (or less, depending on sync
speed). The blurred “ghost” is caused by ambientlight exposure of the moving subject during the
time the shutter remains open, Figure 9-7. With
older cameras, the blurred ambient light image
is in front of the subject. This occurs because the
flash exposure is made the instant the shutter
opens. The subject continues to move, and is
recorded on the film by ambient light until the
shutter closes. Many newer SLR cameras offer
rear-curtain synchronization that delays the
firing of the flash until the instant before the
second curtain of the focal plane shutter begins
to close. This places the “ghost image” behind the
moving subject for a more natural appearance.
Since sync speeds are higher with most new
cameras, the shutter is open for a shorter
duration, minimizing the ambient-light exposure.
Experienced action photographers, especially
those covering sporting events, are often able to
capture dramatic stop-action photos without the
use of flash or extremely high shutter speeds.
They do so by catching their subject at the
peak of action, an instant when motion slows
dramatically to almost a stop. Probably the
most familiar example of catching the peak of
motion is the image of a pole vaulter or high
jumper who seems to hang in midair, just above
the bar, Figure 9-8. At that instant, the upward
momentum of the athlete is briefly balanced
with the pull of gravity—he or she has stopped
moving upward, but has not yet begun moving
downward. Similar situations occur in most
sports: the football receiver leaping high to snag
a pass, the soccer forward “heading” a ball, the
home-run slugger’s bat meeting the ball, the diver
snapping arrow-straight out of a twist, the rodeo
cowboy being whiplashed atop a bronco or a bull.
See Figure 9-9.
The key to using the peak-of-action technique
effectively is knowing the sport, and sometimes
the individual participant, well enough to
anticipate when action will reach a peak. Some
sports, such as the high jump or basketball,
have action peaks that are fairly regular and
predictable. Others, such as lacrosse or rodeo
Figure 9-7. With rear-curtain flash synchronization,
a “ghost trail” caused by ambient light follows this
swinging crystal pendulum.
Figure 9-8. This jumper has been caught at the peak
of action—the fraction of a second between his body
moving upward and starting to move downward.
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248
Section II
Figure 9-9. Many sports offer opportunities to stop
motion by timing the shot to capture the peak of the
action. Even the violent motion of this rodeo bull riding
event came to a virtual halt at times as it changed
direction, allowing the photographer to effectively stop
motion.
or racquetball, feature more random and
unpredictable motion, making it more difficult
to anticipate the peak of action. Good timing
is vital, since the shutter must be released an
instant before the peak of action takes place. This
means that, if you wait to see the peak of action in
your viewfinder, it is too late to press the shutter
A
B
Shooting
release—you will miss the shot. It takes practice,
plus knowledge of the sport, to perfect your
timing.
With some digital cameras, capturing the
peak of action is made more difficult by shutter
lag, a noticeable delay between the time the
shutter release is pressed and the actual opening
of the shutter. The problem exists mostly in
older models and the simpler point-and-shoot
cameras—digital SLRs usually respond as
quickly as film SLRs when the shutter release is
pressed. Shutter lag is caused by slow operation
of the camera’s autofocus system, and can often
be overcome by pressing and holding the shutter
release halfway down to prefocus. To make the
exposure, press the release the rest of the way.
Your chance of capturing the peak of action
can be improved by the careful use of the motor
drive (also called continuous film advance or
burst mode) feature found on most SLR cameras
today. Separate motor drives are available as
accessories for older film cameras. On a film
camera, the battery-operated drive will keep
making exposures as long as the shutter release
is pressed. Many cameras will make exposures
at a rate of from 3–6 frames per second. By using
good timing and making exposures in short
bursts of 3–4 frames, a photographer has a good
chance of getting the exact shot he or she desires,
Figure 9-10. With poor timing and too heavy a
C
Figure 9-10. A camera’s motor drive or burst mode allows the photographer to capture a sequence of action, such as
this pitcher’s delivery, by exposing three or more frames per second. A—Windup. B—Delivery. C—Follow-through.
Chapter 9
249
Action and Event Photography
shutter finger, however, it is easy to “burn” an
entire 36-exposure roll of film and still fail to
capture a good action photo.
The number of continuous shots taken by a
digital camera is limited by its buffer size—the
amount of information that the camera can hold
internally before writing (transferring) it to the
removable memory device. For most advanced
amateur digital SLRs, the buffer size will allow as
many as 10 continuous shots. Professional models
typically allow a larger number of shots.
(birds, joggers, bicyclists, children, dogs) that can
be used to practice the follow-focus technique
until it becomes virtually automatic. If you are
using a film camera, much of the practice work
can be done without film, since the object is to
develop proper coordination and motor skills.
Shooting an occasional practice roll of film will
allow you to assess your technique. Digital
cameras, of course, allow you to make a shot
and immediately assess the effectiveness of your
follow-focus technique.
Focus Techniques
Prefocusing
Cameras with predictive autofocus and
similar sophisticated focusing systems have
made life simpler for sports, action, and wildlife
photographers. Besides improving the percentage
of well-focused shots, autofocus has freed the
photographer from one task, allowing more
attention to be paid to composition, timing, and
other matters. There are, however, a number of
manual focusing techniques that continue to be
valuable tools for the photographer.
Prefocusing on a specific spot is a useful
technique when the action follows a regular
pattern or route, as it does in baseball and most
types of racing. All that is necessary is to select a
particular location (for example, first base or the
finish line of the track), sharply focus the camera
there, and wait for your subject to reach that
point, Figure 9-11. This method works best when
it is possible to use a smaller f-stop for increased
depth of field. To compensate for reaction time,
the shutter release should be pressed just before
the subject reaches the point of focus.
Follow Focus
Some autofocus systems react too slowly for
action photography; a photographer skilled in
manual focusing can do the job faster and more
effectively. A common situation in which manual
focus is preferable to slow autofocus is when a
moving object must be kept in focus to allow the
shutter to be pressed at any time.
Known as follow focus, this technique
requires continuous small adjustments by the
photographer to keep the subject sharp. An
example would be “tracking” a goose or duck
coming in for a landing on a body of water.
By keeping the subject in sharp focus, the
photographer can select the exact instant to
release the shutter. (If the camera is equipped
with a motor drive, a number of exposures could
be made during the landing.)
This type of focusing is usually done by
judging the sharpness of the image on the
viewfinder’s ground glass, rather than using the
split-image or microprism portions of the finder.
Determining the amount of lens barrel rotation
needed to keep the focus sharp requires practice.
Visits to a city park will provide many subjects
Figure 9-11. Prefocusing on a specific spot allows you
to capture a well-focused photograph when the subject
reaches the point you have chosen. In this bicycle race
shot, the prefocus spot was the orange traffic cone at
right.
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250
Section II
Shooting
Chapter 9
251
Action and Event Photography
Zone Focusing
Blurring for Visual Interest
Another type of prefocusing is called zone
focusing, since it covers a wider area. This
makes it a good choice for activities that are less
predictable, such as football, basketball, or soccer.
The first step is to determine the pair of distances
between which you wish to be able to capture
action, such as 10′ and 30′. The area of acceptable
sharpness is approximately one-third in front of
and two-thirds behind the actual point of focus.
Thus, your point of focus should be one-third the
distance between 10′ and 30′, or at approximately
17′. Once the camera is focused at that distance,
the lens must be stopped down to an aperture
that will provide acceptable sharpness from 10′ to
30′. The camera’s depth of field preview feature
can be used to observe the changes in depth of
field as the lens is stopped down. Once the zone
of focus is established, any action within that
zone will be acceptably sharp, Figure 9-12.
As described in the preceding paragraphs,
some degree of blurring from subject movement
is often useful to help convey a sense of motion.
Normally, blurring due to movement of the
camera is considered much less desirable. Two
types of blur induced by camera motion—
panning and zooming—are often used creatively,
however, to add visual interest.
Panning and zooming
Figure 9-13. Using motion blur to convey movement. In
this shot of a rodeo rider “biting the dust,” the shutter
speed was fast enough to preserve the instant of impact,
but allowed some blurring of the bucking bronco’s
hooves and tail.
Using Hyperfocal Distance
A similar technique is to set the lens at its
hyperfocal distance, the nearest point that will
be in sharp focus when the lens is focused on
infinity. This distance is different for each f-stop
and each focal length. When a lens is set to its
hyperfocal distance, everything from one-half
that distance to infinity will be in sharp focus.
To find the hyperfocal distance on a lens with
a depth-of-field scale, first align the infinity
symbol (∞) on the focusing mark, as described
in Chapter 8, Making Exposure Decisions. Note
the distance (in feet or meters) shown above the
mark for the appropriate f-stop on the left-hand
scale. This is the hyperfocal distance. Rotate the
focusing ring until the hyperfocal distance is
aligned with the focusing mark. The distance
figure appearing above the appropriate f-stop on
the left-hand scale will be one-half the hyperfocal
distance. Everything from that point to infinity
will be in focus.
Sharp Focus vs. Motion Blur
The preceding sections concentrated on
obtaining photographs where the subject was
sharply focused. Typically, this involves using
shutter speed and focus techniques to “freeze”
the subject’s motion. Completely stopping motion
Figure 9-12. The photographer set a focus zone to
include the area between the free-throw lane lines. This
ensured that any action taking place around the basket
would be in focus. Note that the two players fighting
for the rebound are sharply focused, while those on the
bench are somewhat soft.
is not always desirable, however. To convey a
sense of movement, it is often useful to have some
degree of motion blur in the photograph.
Depending on the effect you wish to convey,
the amount of blur may be very slight or almost
total. As shown in Figure 9-13, selecting a shutter
speed fast enough to stop the most important
motion will still allow some degree of blur to
convey movement. Figure 9-14 shows the opposite
effect: conveying a strong sense of motion by
using a shutter speed slow enough to capture
streaks of colored light from moving vehicles on a
city street at dusk.
Figure 9-14. A slow shutter speed was used to blur the
lights of these cars on New York’s Eighth Avenue into
colorful streaks that show movement. Although the
handheld camera was braced on a solid object, the long
(1 second) shutter speed allowed some blur due to slight
camera movement—note the ghosting or doubling of
the letters on the neon signs.
In panning, the camera is moved in an arc
as the subject passes, and the shutter release
pressed at the desired point. The result is a
sharply focused subject moving across a blurred
background, strongly conveying the idea of rapid
movement, Figure 9-15. Best results are obtained
when the camera is moved smoothly at the same
apparent speed as the subject. The panning
movement must continue past the point where
the shutter is released. A background close to the
moving subject will streak more interestingly
than a distant background.
Although most panning is done with a
horizontally moving subject, vertical panning can
be used to capture an ascending rocket or a fastclimbing stunt plane at an air show. For either
horizontal or vertical panning, a tripod-mounted
camera results in smoother movement than can
be obtained in hand-holding. This is especially
true when a long lens is being used.
Figure 9-15. Panning the camera along with the motion
of the subject will produce a picture with a sharp subject
and a streaked background.
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252
Zooming is usually done to impart motion
to a photo of a stationary subject, but it also can
be used with a moving object. The subject is
centered in the viewfinder and sharply focused,
Section II
Shooting
and the camera’s zoom lens is moved in or out
during the exposure. Since a fairly long exposure
time (1/30 second to 1/15 second is typical) must
be used to allow zooming, tripod-mounting of the
camera is vital. When properly done, a zoomed
photo will have a center area that is in focus, and
streaking that extends outward from the center to
the edges of the print. See Figure 9-16.
Photojournalism
Figure 9-16. Zooming in or out during a long exposure
creates a very interesting, almost abstract effect and
a strong feeling of motion. Use a tripod to keep the
desired framing.
In a strict sense, every photograph is an act
of communication, conveying information or an
idea or an emotion. Photojournalism involves a
specific kind of communication: telling a story.
The story may be communicated in a single
image, or in a series of images called a photo
story. Ideally, the photograph itself should be
able to convey the story to the viewer; most often,
however, the words of an accompanying caption
are used to provide necessary information,
Figure 9-17.
Chapter 9
Action and Event Photography
Types of Photojournalism
Photojournalism can be categorized in many
different ways, but these four types include
almost every relevant application:
• News/feature photography
• Picture stories
• Yearbook/school event/newsletter
• Other “event” photography
The categories overlap to some extent,
of course. For example, both news/feature
photography and yearbook photography might
involve shooting picture stories. In this text, the
four categories will be considered separately for
ease of discussion.
News and Feature
Photography
The majority of photojournalists work
for daily or weekly newspapers, and handle a
variety of photo responsibilities. On any given
day, a newspaper photographer may have both
hard news assignments (fires, auto or industrial
accidents, crime coverage) and soft news (feature)
assignments, such as seasonal pictures, fashion
or food shots, or human interest photos. Mastery
of technical skills is important in any photo
situation, but particularly on the hard news
assignments, where there may be no opportunity
for additional shots.
Hard news photography
Important skills for the photojournalist,
in addition to photographic knowledge, are
the ability to make decisions and act quickly,
determination to carry out the assignment despite
obstacles, and the physical stamina to work in
unpleasant and sometimes dangerous conditions,
Figure 9-18. In addition, the photojournalist must
have the ability to work with people of all kinds,
from political figures and government officials
to distraught crime victims and downright
antagonistic individuals. Especially in smaller
news organizations, the photographer may
be required to work long or irregular hours
(including being on call for breaking news at any
hour of the day or night).
The use of digital cameras is almost universal
among photojournalists; in fact, they were
among the first professionals to “go digital”
Figure 9-17. While the photo itself provides some information (the woman in the car is the “Citizen of the Year” and
is in a parade), the caption provides other necessary information about the situation.
253
Figure 9-18. The photojournalist sometimes works in
dangerous situations, such as shooting this approaching
tornado. (NOAA/Harald Richter)
because of the speed with which images could
be taken, delivered, and processed. Except in the
largest news organizations, the photographer
is likely to shoot the photo, and then use image
processing software to prepare the chosen file
for publication. In many cases, however, the
photographer will not actually select the image to
be used. A member of the editorial staff (in larger
organizations, a designated photo editor) will
usually review the possible images and choose
one or more to be published.
In smaller communities, photojournalists
and reporters are well-known to police officers,
firefighters, and other government personnel
and seldom have a problem gaining access to
sites where a news event is occurring. Larger
municipalities typically issue press credentials,
Figure 9-19, to news people so that they can
Figure 9-19. The author’s Chicago press card from his
early days as a print journalist. In larger metropolitan
areas, press credentials are usually issued by the police
department.
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254
control access to the scene. Depending on local
regulations, independent (freelance) photojournalists may obtain credentials.
The photojournalist is also called on to shoot
a variety of civic, business, and community
events, Figure 9-20. Typical of such assignments
are groundbreaking ceremonies for new
buildings, speakers at civic meetings, school
ceremonies, spelling bees, local celebrations or
festivals, and award luncheons. Such assignments
are often referred to as “grip and grin” events,
in which the participants shake hands and smile
for the camera. The major challenge in such
assignments is to avoid the tired photographic
cliché—such as the “grip and grin”—and find
a fresh approach that results in a visually
interesting, storytelling photo. One problem is
that participants often expect the photographer
to shoot the cliché (they do not see it as such)
and resist taking part in anything different. This
calls for some persuasive ability on the part of the
photographer (good “people skills” are an asset in
many photographic situations).
Figure 9-20. Civic events, such as this groundbreaking
for a new high school, are common assignments for
photojournalists. By including part of a billboard
and a piece of heavy construction equipment, the
photographer helped the photo tell a more complete
story. (Henry Bros. Construction photo by Larry Morris)
Section II
Shooting
Chapter 9
255
Action and Event Photography
(note the water droplets around the swimmer
in Figure 9-23). Sports officials may sometimes
restrict the use of flash for the safety of the athlete
or in situations where the flash could adversely
affect competition. A common example is a swim
meet, where flash is usually forbidden at the start
of a race, since it could disrupt the competitors’
timing. Flash photography is also used
extensively in general news and event coverage,
particularly indoors. This type of photography
will be discussed in some detail later in this
chapter.
Large metropolitan newspapers often
have staff members who specialize in sports
photography; photographers at smaller
publications handle sports assignments as well
as regular news and feature pictures. As noted
earlier in this chapter, knowledge of a given sport
and its specific types and locations of action is an
asset, Figure 9-21.
Soft news photography
Figure 9-22. Long, heavy telephoto lenses are basic
equipment for professional sports photographers, along
with a monopod that provides support and allows quick
changes of position. This photographer is walking along
the sideline as he prepares to shoot a baseball game.
Figure 9-21. In hydroplane racing, the most dramatic
action takes place in the turns. Knowing where the
best action shots can be made for a given sport is an
important asset for the photojournalist.
Indoor sporting events usually involve
a smaller playing area, so the photographer
is closer to the action. Offsetting the shorter
distances, however, is the generally lower light
level of indoor venues. The sports photographer
often must supplement the ambient light with
portable flash, Figure 9-23. Using flash not only
provides enough light for proper exposure,
it may also freeze motion for dramatic effect
Almost all outdoor sporting events
take place on large fields, making use of a
long telephoto lens a requirement for filling
the frame with dramatic action. Such long
lenses (1200 mm is a common focal length
for professional sports photographers) are
impossible to handhold because of physical
size. Since a traditional tripod is bulky
and hard to reposition quickly, sports
photographers typically use a monopod for
support, Figure 9-22. Combined with the
photographer’s legs, the monopod provides a
form of tripod that is easily repositioned and
steady enough for sharp images. Long telephoto
lenses—whether used on a monopod or a
tripod—are attached with a lens collar, rather
than the tripod mounting screw on the camera
body. This prevents strain on the lens mount
from the weight of the lens, as well as better
balance for the camera/lens unit.
Figure 9-23. Low light levels at many indoor sporting
events often make use of a flash necessary. In this shot
of a high school swimmer doing the butterfly stroke,
using flash had the additional benefit of stopping
motion of the water droplets and adding bright
highlights to the water.
Newspapers frequently carry “human
interest” stories about the activities of individuals
or groups. An example might be a feature on a
person with an interesting occupation, collection,
or hobby activity, such as rock climbing,
Figure 9-24. Photo illustrations for human interest
stories on individuals usually include an informal
portrait of the subject, and might also involve
one or more illustrations of the person involved
in her or his activity. Stories about collectors will
typically require shots of items in the collection,
Figure 9-24. A “human interest” story about this
person’s rock-climbing hobby includes a number
of photographs of the person, his equipment, and
the activities involved in his hobby. Notice how
the photographer used a shallow depth of field to
emphasize the climber against the soft-focused rock
wall behind him.
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256
Section II
Shooting
Figure 9-25. Different techniques must be used for
the various types of illustrations. The informal
portrait may be taken indoors with flash or
studio-type lighting, or outdoors with ambient
light and fill-flash to open up dark shadows.
Depending on the location and lighting, photos
of the subject involved in an activity can be shot
with available light, possibly supplemented by
flash or a reflector. Illustrations of collection items
vary considerably in their requirements: postage
stamps or butterflies obviously require different
lighting and shooting techniques than antique
autos, Figure 9-26.
Chapter 9
and high-interest subjects, such as decorated
houses, children on an Easter egg hunt, grinning
jack-o-lanterns, or Independence Day fireworks,
Figure 9-28.
Picture Stories
Figure 9-26. Antique auto collectors often display their
vehicles at outdoor car shows. Although bright sunlight
in such a setting can cause problems of extreme contrast,
it can also provide an opportunity for attractive specular
highlights from the highly polished finish of the car. The
“star” effect resulted from use of a small aperture (f/22).
A picture story consists of feature-type
photos that carry out a theme. In purest form, a
picture story, sometimes called a photo essay, relies
on the photos and their accompanying captions to
“tell the tale.” While there may be an introductory
paragraph or two, the emphasis is obviously on
the pictures. The heyday of the pure picture story
was the middle years of the twentieth century,
when large format magazines (LIFE and LOOK
were the most prominent) were devoted to that
form, Figure 9-29.
Figure 9-27. The interaction of buyers and sellers at a
local farmer’s market is a typical seasonal subject for
many publications. This vegetable vendor’s stand was
covered by a white canopy, providing a softly diffused
light.
Figure 9-29. Pictorial magazines such as LIFE filled
each issue with dramatic photographs, usually in the
form of picture stories. This story shows shipwreck
survivors being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.
Today, magazines continue to use numerous
photos on a specific topic, but use them primarily
as illustrations for written articles. Newspapers
sometimes run short picture stories consisting of
several shots relating to an event or topic, but they
are not as comprehensive as the pure magazine
form of the mid-1900s.
Seasonal photos are a staple item for most
publications. These may be scenic shots of trees
blazing with fall color or a garden displaying
spring flowers in bloom. Seasonal events are
also popular, such as activity at a local farmers’
market, Figure 9-27. Holidays provide colorful
Figure 9-25. A natural illustration for a human-interest
story about a collector of souvenirs from the 1893
Columbian Exposition may be a photo of items from his
or her collection.
257
Action and Event Photography
School Event and Yearbook
Figure 9-28. Shooting multiple fireworks bursts is often
done by using the camera’s “B” (bulb) setting to hold the
shutter open and covering the lens with a card or hand
between bursts.
For the student photographer,
photojournalism opportunities usually involve
shooting for the school newspaper or yearbook.
In some schools, the newspaper and yearbook
are a specific class (often in the English or
Fine Arts departments); in others, they are an
extracurricular activity relying on volunteers.
School activities, such as assemblies or
concerts, provide a wealth of subject matter. For
such events, a good strategy is to shoot a variety
of types of shots: wide-angle overall views of
the activity, medium shots of groups within the
larger activity, and close-up shots of individuals
taking part, Figure 9-30.
Yearbook photography often involves
group portraits of various clubs or classes.
When shooting such posed groups, a tripod is
recommended. This allows you to set up the shot
and frame it, then make any adjustments, such
as moving people around in the group to avoid
hiding faces, before shooting. Using a tripod
also permits you to make a number of exposures
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258
A
Section II
Shooting
under identical conditions. This is useful to get
the best expressions on the faces of the subjects
(nobody with eyes closed, for example), as well
as allowing exposure bracketing and/or white
balance bracketing. In such situations, the value
of digital photography is obvious—you can be
sure that you have a good shot before permitting
the group to disperse.
Some yearbooks make use of a form of
street photography, featuring candid shots of
students, faculty members, and administrators
taken in hallways, classrooms, or other settings.
Sometimes, parents or members of the public
attending school events might be candid
photography subjects.
Covering school sports is usually an
important part of student photojournalism,
Figure 9-31. Although a good sports photo
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259
Action and Event Photography
is worth using no matter whom it features,
you should try to concentrate on members of
your school’s team. Try for recognizable faces
whenever you can. Since student photographers
seldom have access to very long telephoto lenses,
concentrate on action taking place as close to
you as possible. Try to position yourself near to
where the action is most likely to take place: the
soccer goal, the home team basket, first base, the
volleyball net, the cross-country finish line. Do
not neglect high-angle and low-angle viewpoints
to provide visual variety—lay on the ground and
shoot upward to isolate hurdlers or high jumpers
against the sky, or climb up in the stands for a
“bird’s-eye view” of football or soccer action.
Do not just shoot the action on the field.
Look for photo opportunities such as scenes on
the bench or in the dugout, warm-up areas, the
coach along the sidelines, even the spectators,
Figure 9-32. When shooting with a digital
A
B
B
C
Figure 9-30. A variety of shot types will help tell
the story of an event, such as a school band concert.
A—This wide shot shows the overall activity, including
the conductor and band members. B—Smaller group
shots capture performance by one section of the band.
C—Solo performers can be featured in medium close-up
or close-up shots.
C
Figure 9-31. School sports are a staple subject for school
newspaper and yearbook photographers. Whenever
possible, feature players from your school.
D
Figure 9-32. Besides action on the field or court, sporting events provide many “photo ops” for the student
photojournalist. A—Cheerleaders add color and action to the basketball or football sideline. B—Including spectators
puts sports action in context. C—The coach instructing his team helps tell the story of the game. D—Team members
in the dugout form a backdrop for the batter.
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260
camera, you have the opportunity to make
many exposures without worrying about film
or processing costs. The yearbook or newspaper
editor will appreciate the extra shots you take.
Other Event Photography
Our lives are filled with events, from
community activities to family celebrations,
worth photographing. Shooting such events can
be considered a form of photojournalism, since
you are recording activities for future reference
or for the enjoyment of others who will view the
photographs.
Community events
Most communities have one or more public
celebrations or festivals each year. These may
be a commemoration of a historic event, such
as the anniversary of the town’s settlement,
or a promotional activity for the region’s most
important agricultural product, or activities related
Section II
Shooting
to a major competitive event, such as a balloon
rally or regatta or auto race. In rural areas, an
important event is the annual county fair, which
includes agricultural displays and competitions,
contests of various kinds, entertainment events,
and carnival rides, Figure 9-33.
These events provide opportunities to
perfect photographic skills under a variety of
conditions. Parades lend themselves to various
ways of recording the activity, from wide shots
of participants and spectators to close-ups of
costume or equipment details, Figure 9-34.
Flea markets or swap meets associated with a
festival are good places to practice candid street
photography of sellers and buyers interacting,
Figure 9-35. Competitive events from auto and
boat races to kite flying to cycling and rodeo
riding are colorful and allow you to perfect
action-shooting techniques. Indoor events under
stage lighting, such as dance performances and
concerts, Figure 9-36, require good timing, a
steady hand, and the ability to shoot using only
available light.
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261
Action and Event Photography
A
B
C
D
Figure 9-33. A good time to photograph a carnival scene is between sunset and full darkness. The twilight period
provides enough light to help illuminate the scene, but a sufficiently dark sky to let the colorful lighting stand out.
Meter the sky near the horizon as a starting point, then bracket exposures. This photo was made at a 1 1/2 second
shutter speed at f/5.6 with a 28 mm wide angle lens. The slow shutter speed blurred moving rides and some of the
people on the midway.
E
F
Figure 9-34. A parade can be “covered” photographically in many different ways. A—This wide shot establishes the
small town setting and family-oriented nature of the event. Photos B–F are glimpses of participants and spectators.
This sample chapter is for review purposes only. Copyright © The Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc. All rights reserved.
262
Figure 9-35. A community sale or flea market allows
you to practice “street” photography, such as this candid
view of a seller looking on as potential customers
examine his merchandise.
Section II
Shooting
ISO that will permit a shutter speed high enough
to avoid camera shake. An ISO of 800 can be used
in extreme circumstances, but using a setting of
400 or lower will help reduce disfiguring digital
noise or film grain.
When photographing a new mother and
her baby, move in to fill the frame with the
subjects, since hospital backgrounds are typically
cluttered and distracting. If possible, capture the
infant with his or her eyes open (the flash will
not cause any harm), Figure 9-37. Today’s more
sophisticated digital cameras use TTL (throughthe-lens) monitoring that adjusts the duration
of the flash. This results in a more natural and
correctly exposed subject.
For birthdays and similar celebrations, you
will obviously want to take the traditional shots,
such as blowing out the candles. But you should
also include as many photos as possible of friends
and relatives interacting with the person being
honored, Figure 9-38. You may want to “work the
room,” taking photos of families or other groups
263
Action and Event Photography
Figure 9-38. At a ninetieth birthday celebration, the
guest of honor listens intently as he is serenaded by one
of his great-granddaughters.
Figure 9-39. Friends and relatives of the couple being
married are all eager to photograph the event. Try to
find a vantage point for your shot that does not interfere
with the professional hired to shoot the wedding.
at tables. Prints made from these images can be
assembled in a commemorative album for the
honored person.
A wedding, Figure 9-39, presents some
problems not usually encountered at other family
events. Chief among these is the presence of
the professional photographer hired to record
the ceremony and surrounding activities. Since
the photographer is being paid to produce
professional results, relatives and guests with
cameras should avoid interfering with the pro.
Some professionals are disturbed when wedding
guests “shadow” them, copying each setup shot;
others consider it to be a minor annoyance at best.
Try to be courteous to the photographer and the
bride and groom—avoid acting like a member
of a paparazzi pack closing in on a celebrity.
If you want to photograph the same scenes as
the professional (such as the couple cutting the
wedding cake), take your shot after the pro has
captured the image.
Figure 9-36. The stage lighting at this concert was
sufficient to capture a close-up portrait of a violinist
deep in concentration on her music.
Family milestones
Weddings, birthday and anniversary parties,
the birth of a child—all are events that are
usually photographed by one or more members
of a family “for the record.” If the photos are
taken indoors, flash is almost always necessary to
obtain proper exposure. If flash is not permitted,
shoot at the widest available aperture and lowest
Chapter 9
Street photography
Figure 9-37. To avoid cluttered hospital backgrounds,
move in close to the mother and her new baby. Catching
the baby with open eyes adds to the quality of the photo.
Life on the streets of a community, showing
everyday activities of people engaging in various
activities, has long been a favorite subject for
photographers. Performers, Figure 9-40, are often
colorful additions to an urban street scene, but
Figure 9-40. Colorful additions to the urban scene
in many large cities are street performers such as
musicians and jugglers. This mime, in traditional
whiteface, was performing on a street in Paris’
Montmartre neighborhood.
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264
even a quiet view of a man seated in front of
a barber shop helps tell a story about city life,
Figure 9-41.
Street photographers use a variety of
techniques to capture unposed-looking shots
of their subjects. Some work from a distance,
using a telephoto lens; others use shorter lenses
while walking along the street or standing at
a convenient vantage point, such as a traffic
island or building doorway. Digital cameras with
pivoting LCD viewfinders can be held at waist
level to be less obtrusive or to provide a different
angle. Twin-lens reflex film cameras, which are
held at waist-level and focused by looking down
at the ground-glass, can be used in the same way.
Shots can be made from a moving or stopped
vehicle, although using a camera while driving
is not recommended. If possible, open the
window and set a shutter speed high enough to
compensate for the vehicle’s movement. Do not
support the camera by resting it or your arms on
the door or windowsill of the vehicle—vibration
transmitted from the street or even the engine
can cause camera movement and blur. If the
window of the vehicle, such as a bus or train,
cannot be opened, hold the camera’s lens as
close as possible to the glass without touching it.
Section II
Shooting
This will prevent capturing reflections from the
glass, Figure 9-42, and will also help the camera’s
autofocus system avoid focusing on the window
rather than the scene you are photographing.
If the window is very dirty, your camera may
still attempt to autofocus on the window. If this
occurs, switching to manual focus, if available,
will be necessary.
Chapter 9
265
Action and Event Photography
Working with Flash
As noted in the preceding sections of this
chapter, action and event photography often
requires the use of a portable light source, or
flash unit. For many years, film photographers
used flashbulbs, Figure 9-43, to bring the light to
the subject as needed instead of being dependent
on daylight or room lighting.
The first type is widely used by amateur and
professional photographers alike; the second type
is primarily a professional tool.
See Figure 9-44.
A
A
Figure 9-43. Flashbulbs were made in a variety of sizes,
burning rates, and light intensities to meet different
photographic needs. Screw-in bases were eventually
replaced with quicker-to-change bayonet mounts in
a number of forms. The multiple-flash cube and strip
forms were used primarily with snapshot cameras.
Flashbulbs are seldom used today, except in specialized
situations. They have been supplanted by electronic
flash units.
Types of Flash Units
B
Figure 9-41. A candid view of a city scene, taken from
the window of a vehicle, is this tranquil view of a man
relaxing in front of a barber shop in Savannah, Georgia.
Figure 9-42. Shooting through glass. A—A view taken
through a train window near the summit of Pike’s
Peak, Colorado. Placing the lens very close to the glass
eliminates reflections and allows the autofocus system
to function properly. B—Moving the lens away from the
window allows reflections to appear, partly obscuring
the scene outside.
In recent decades, the use of flashbulbs has
been almost entirely supplanted by the electronic
flash. Ease of use, greater light output, and rapid
repeatability are among the advantages that have
made electronic flash popular.
Built-in flash units are found in most
point-and-shoot and many consumer-level SLR
cameras. While they are convenient for snapshot
use, they are limited in capability for serious
artificial light photography.
Self-contained flash units are available in a
variety of sizes and types, but can be divided into
two broad categories:
• Smaller units designed for mounting on a
camera’s hot shoe or accessory shoe
• Larger, usually more powerful, units attached
to the camera with a removable bracket
B
Figure 9-44. Two basic types of flash units. A—Many
small- to medium-size flash units, such as this one,
are designed for mounting on the camera’s hot shoe or
similar camera-top locations. (Canon USA) B—Large,
powerful flashes used by wedding photographers,
photojournalists, and other professionals mount on a
special bracket attached to the camera. (Sunpak/ToCAD
America, Inc.)
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266
Shoe-mount flash units
Models are available from camera
manufacturers and from third-party equipment
makers (those whose units can be used with
various camera brands). They vary in light
output, physical size, mechanical design (typically
with or without a tilting head), and degree of
automated operation.
Light output is measured scientifically in
beam candlepower-seconds (BCPS), but from
a practical photographic standpoint, the guide
number is generally used. The guide number is
calculated by the flash manufacturer and relates
the light output to the ISO rating being used. As
described in Chapter 8, Making Exposure Decisions,
the proper flash exposure is determined by
dividing the guide number by the flash-to-subject
distance to yield the proper f-stop.
Guide numbers will range, depending on
the manufacturer, from the low or mid-40s to
as high as 150 for shoe-mount units; handlemount flash units may have numbers as high
as 200. All of the guide numbers noted thus
far have been for distances measured in feet.
For distances in meters, the guide numbers are
just under one-third those used for feet (1 m
is equal to approximately 39″, or a bit over 3′).
Thus, a flash with a guide number of 66 for feet
has a guide number of 20 when distances are
measured in meters. Manufacturers’ catalogs or
advertisements often will list both numbers, such
as 20/66 or 36/120.
Section II
Shooting
The physical size of most shoe-mount flashes
does not vary greatly. Most are approximately
3″ in width and from 4″–6″ tall. Depth will vary
from 2″ to almost 4″, depending on the projection
of the flash head.
The major mechanical difference in shoemount flash units is whether the flash head
is fixed at a right angle to the body, or can be
pivoted to point upward at an angle or even
straight up. See Figure 9-45. The pivoting
head provides greater flexibility, allowing the
photographer to soften the light by bouncing it
off the ceiling or another surface. A variation is
the ringlight flash, used for close-up and macro
photography. The flashtube encircles the front of
the lens, providing even, shadowless light. The
flash body containing the electronic circuitry
mounts on the hot shoe and is connected with a
flexible cable to the flashtube, Figure 9-46.
In recent years, shoe-mount electronic
flash units have become highly sophisticated,
with many automated features. The most
fully-featured products are the dedicated
flash units manufactured for use with specific
camera models (or a range of models from one
manufacturer). These units fully automate the
process of flash photography, setting the proper
aperture and shutter speed, and adjusting the
duration of the flash by reading the light at the
film plane. Because of the metering method they
use, such dedicated units are often referred to as
TTL (through-the-lens) flash systems, Figure 9-47.
TTL exposure control is more precise than the
Chapter 9
267
Action and Event Photography
makers offer special modules that can be used
to provide dedicated operation for some of their
flash units.
Handle-mount flash units
Figure 9-46. Ringlight flashes provide even lighting
for close-up work. The flash body is mounted on the
camera’s hot shoe. (Porter’s Camera Store)
Professional photographers who require
high light output, durability, and the ability to
use different types of power usually will select
the larger handle-mount flash units, Figure 9-48.
Handle-mount units are physically much larger
than shoe-mount types, and are connected to the
camera with a sync cord. They are designed to
be easily attached or detached from an L-shaped
bracket fastened to the camera.
Wedding photographers, and photojournalists covering sports or breaking news
stories, need power sources that can provide
numerous full-power flashes. The power source
must also permit fast recycling of the capacitor to
avoid missed photo opportunities. Handle-mount
flash units typically can be used with a number
Reflected light
strikes sensor
on the image
receiver plane
Figure 9-47. For precise control of flash exposure,
TTL flash units evaluate the amount of reflected light
reaching the camera’s film plane. Once sufficient light
has fallen on the image receiver plane sensor, the flash
is cut off.
Figure 9-45. Many shoe-mounted flash units are designed with a pivoting head that can point straight forward,
straight up, or at one or more angles in between.
sensor-type automatic flash control found on
general use (and some dedicated) units.
Dedicated flash units offer many other
features, such as automatic fill-flash and
compensation for different zoom-lens focal
lengths. Features will vary from model to model
and manufacturer to manufacturer; detailed
manuals provide the needed information for
using the flash effectively. Most third-party flash
Figure 9-48. Many professionals use powerful
handle-mount flash units like this one. The high light
output permits photography under low-illumination
conditions. (Sunpak/ToCAD America, Inc.)
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268
of power sources, ranging from multiple AA
batteries to household current supplied through
a plug-in power cord and transformer. Many
photographers consider the most practical power
supply to be a belt-mounted high-voltage power
pack that uses special rechargeable batteries,
Figure 9-49. Spare charged batteries can be
carried along and quickly substituted as needed.
Power packs also can be used with many of the
dedicated shoe-mount flashes.
Flash Techniques
The flash method used by most amateur
photographers—aiming the flash straight at the
subject from a position directly over or right next
to the lens—almost guarantees an unflattering
photograph. Direct flash, as it is called, creates a
number of problems in the picture, including the
following:
• Harsh, flat lighting
• Unattractive shadows
• Burned-out foreground details
• Red eye
Figure 9-49. Power packs that have rechargeable
batteries can be worn on the photographer’s belt and
provide a large number of full-power flashes. (Quantum
Instruments, Inc.)
Section II
Shooting
The only advantage of direct flash is ease
and convenience of use: wherever you point your
camera, the light will go as well. With the small
built-in light source found on many cameras,
of course, direct flash is the only choice (other
than turning off the flash). For people interested
primarily in taking snapshots of friends, family,
pets, or vacation activities, the quality of the
lighting is not usually an issue—from observing
results of their own and friends’ photography,
they expect “flash pictures” to look that way.
One aspect of direct, on-camera flash is an
issue—no one likes the red eye appearance caused
by the light of the flash reflecting back from the
retina of the subject, Figure 9-50. Red eye is most
pronounced when the pupil of the eye is dilated
(wide open), which occurs in dim light. Of course,
this is precisely the situation in which flash is
most likely to be used. Camera manufacturers
have attempted to overcome the problem by
introducing a red-eye reduction feature for
built-in flash units. This is a series of short, lowpower flashes that are made while the camera is
autofocusing. The theory is that the short flashes
will cause the subject’s pupils to contract (close
down to a smaller opening) before the main flash
is triggered. Since the opening is smaller, less red
light will be reflected back. The method works, to
some extent. Red eye is usually reduced, but not
eliminated.
Figure 9-50. Red spots in place of the expected black
pupils (red eye), result from the light of a flash reflecting
off the retina at the back of the eye. Positioning of the
flash immediately above or to one side of the lens is the
cause, since the light bounces directly back to the lens
and is recorded on the film.
Chapter 9
Action and Event Photography
Shoe-mount flash units do not have redeye reduction, but they can be used in a way
that not only eliminates red eye, but overcomes
the other problems of direct flash. The simplest
method for improving results with an oncamera flash is to diffuse or soften the light it
produces. Diffusion is accomplished by placing
a translucent material—a piece of tracing paper,
frosted plastic, or even a white handkerchief—
over the flashtube. This will cause the light rays
to scatter, eliminating the harshness of the light.
Several types of translucent plastic diffusers are
commercially available. The diffusion material
lowers the light output, making an exposure
adjustment necessary with manual flash. As a
rough guide, assume you will have to open up
one f-stop for each layer of diffusion material.
A second method is to remove the flash
unit from the hot shoe and position it more
effectively. By using a coiled sync cord, the flash
can be moved a foot or more to one side of the
camera, as well as being raised, Figure 9-51. Some
photographers use a bracket like the one shown;
others prefer to hold the flash in one hand and
operate the camera with the other. This off-camera
flash method will eliminate not only red eye, but
Figure 9-51. Moving the light source to one side of the
camera and tilting it downward from a higher level will
eliminate most of the problems encountered with direct
on-camera flash. Be careful when aiming the light to
cover your subject sufficiently. (Porter’s Camera Store)
269
troublesome flash reflections from eyeglasses,
mirrors, and metal surfaces. The higher positioning
of the light also throws shadows downward behind
the subject and out of sight. Because the light is now
striking the subject at an angle, instead of straight
on, the flattening effect of direct flash is relieved.
Depending on the situation, the flash also may be
slightly further away from the nearest subjects,
making it less likely that they will be overexposed
and burned-out.
Light coverage can be a problem when using
direct flash, especially with wide-angle or telephoto
lenses. Most flashtubes project a cone of light that
will evenly cover the subject with a lens as wide as
28 mm. When a wider lens is used, such as a 24 mm
or a 20 mm, severe light fall-off will be noticeable
on the edges of the picture. Special wide-angle flash
heads, or supplementary lenses slipped over the
standard head, will spread the light for adequate
coverage. When using a telephoto lens, the opposite
problem occurs—the angle of light coverage from
the flash is considerably wider than the angle of
view of the lens. As a result, much of the light is
wasted, as well as being weakened by the distance
it has to travel. A number of shoe-mount flashes
have a zoom design that includes wide, normal,
and telephoto settings. The telephoto setting
concentrates the light into a narrower beam to
minimize light fall-off with the more distant subject.
Several types of flash projection devices are made
to permit adequate lighting with longer telephoto
lenses, Figure 9-52.
Figure 9-52. Special light-projection accessories, such
as the Project-A-Flash, are made to attach to flash units
when using telephoto lenses of 300 mm or greater
length. These devices are most often used in bird and
small animal photography, where such long lenses are a
necessity. (Tory Lepp Productions)
This sample chapter is for review purposes only. Copyright © The Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc. All rights reserved.
270
Bounce flash
A softer and more pleasing lighting effect is
possible by using bounce flash. In this technique,
the light reaches the subject only after being
bounced off something else, such as a wall, a
ceiling, or even a piece of white plastic or card
stock. As shown in Figure 9-53, the light is
directed at a light-colored surface and reflected
to the subject, becoming much more diffused and
even. This can be done with an on-camera flash
that has a pivoting flash head, or by removing the
flash from the hot shoe and tilting it to direct the
light upward.
Two important considerations in using
bounce flash are the flash-to-subject distance and
the color of the reflecting surface. Dedicated or
automatic flashes will compensate for the greater
distance the bounced light must travel, but users
of manual flash units must take that factor into
account. In addition to calculating the f-stop
Figure 9-53. Bounce flash can help light your subject
evenly and avoid harsh shadows. When bouncing light
off a surface, choose an aiming point about midway
between your flash and the subject (remember the
old principle, “the angle of incidence equals the angle
of reflection”). If you are using a manually adjusted
flash, remember to add together the distance from
the flash unit to the ceiling and from the ceiling to the
subject when determining exposure. If you use only the
straight-line distance from the flash to the subject, you
will underexpose the shot.
Section II
Shooting
based on the increased distance, you must open
up one or two stops to account for the loss of light
due to scattering from the reflecting surface. The
actual increase in exposure for bounce flash will
be established through experience; for safety,
bracket exposures when using this technique.
Beware of reflecting a color cast onto your
subject by using a bounce surface that is strongly
colored. A wall painted sunny yellow might be
attractive on its own, but the yellow light that
it reflects onto your subject could be highly
unflattering to skin tones. Very dark surfaces,
especially those with a rough finish (such as
certain types of wood paneling), will absorb
much of the light striking them, rather than
reflecting light onto the subject.
When the benefits of bounce flash are desired
but suitable reflective surfaces are not available,
you can provide your own surfaces, Figure 9-54.
If an assistant or some form of stand is available,
a photographic umbrella (normally used in
studio photography) or a piece of stiff white card
several feet square can be used as a reflector.
The reflective surface is positioned above and to
one side of the camera and angled to reflect light
on the subject. The flash unit is then reversed
so it points at the reflective surface rather than
the subject. When using manual flash, exposure
adjustments must be made to compensate for
distance and light scattering.
Another method, which has the benefit of
simplicity and ease of use, is the bounce card. A
small piece of white card stock is cut the width
of the flash head and fastened in place with tape
or a rubber band. The flash unit’s tilt head is
pointed straight up, and the card bent to extend
over it at about a 45° angle. When the flash is
triggered, most of the light bounces off the card
in the direction of the subject. A version of the
bounce card, made of rigid plastic, is available
commercially.
A direct-flash technique with many of the
benefits of bounce flash is known as bare-bulb
flash. This method requires a special flash
head without a reflector (or one from which
the reflector can be removed), so that the light
can spread in all directions. The result is a soft,
even illumination that is a bit stronger than the
light from a diffused flash. Because the light is
emitted in a 360° circle from the flash, coverage
is adequate for even extreme wide-angle (fisheye)
lenses.
Chapter 9
Action and Event Photography
271
ambient light exposures may be combined. An
example might be a faintly moonlit landscape
with a single feature, such as a tree or plant, that
is given prominence by the use of flash exposure.
See Figure 9-55.
A
Figure 9-55. Open flash provides many creative
possibilities. In this scene, the shutter was left open long
enough for the overall scene to be exposed by ambient
light; the streaks in the sky are “star trails” resulting
from the long exposure. A single flash provided proper
exposure of the blooming yucca plants to give them
prominence in the scene.
B
Figure 9-54. Alternate methods of bouncing light from
a flash. A—A large square of white card or a photo
umbrella can be used to bounce light onto the subject.
B—A bounce card will reflect most of the flash unit’s
light output toward the subject. A commercial version
in plastic is available, but many photographers make
their own with an index card and a rubber band or tape.
(Porter’s Camera Store)
Open flash
Most flash techniques rely on synchronization to make sure the flash is triggered while
the shutter is fully open. Open flash requires no
synchronization, since the shutter is held wide
open and the flash triggered manually one or
more times. Obviously, this technique is most
effective when there is little or no ambient light
to cause additional exposure. For effect, flash and
The technique called painting with light
is an open flash technique. It is typically used
in large, dimly lighted spaces such as church
interiors, or for exterior photos taken at night. The
basic procedure for this technique is to open the
camera lens by using the B (bulb) setting and a
locking cable release, then illuminate the subject
with a series of flashes. Care must be taken to
avoid overlapping the different light bursts to
prevent localized overexposure, and to avoid
silhouetting the person holding the light against
the illuminated background.
Often, this technique is easier to employ
with an assistant, especially when the amount of
ambient light makes it undesirable to leave the
lens open between flashes. With the assistant
handling the flash unit, the photographer
can cover the lens while the flash is being
repositioned. Verbal signals permit the lens to
be uncovered just before the flash is triggered.
This sample chapter is for review purposes only. Copyright © The Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc. All rights reserved.
272
Calculating exposure is simple: even though
multiple flash “pops” are being used, each part
of the scene is lighted by a single flash (if you are
careful to avoid overlap). Thus, the flash’s guide
number divided by the flash to subject distance
will provide the correct f-stop. For even exposure,
keep the flash-to-subject distance approximately
the same for each separate flash.
Another application of painting with light
is done with a continuous light that is moved
around during a long exposure. A small bright
continuous light source will produce illuminated
lines in the image. See Figure 9-56. If desired,
a large diffused light source may be used to
illuminate the background, such as the side of a
building, during the exposure.
Section II
Shooting
use, or an adapter connected to a conventional
electronic flash. In either case, the actuating
device is a photoelectric cell that responds to the
bright burst of light from the master flash that is
connected to the camera. The photoelectric cell
causes the slave unit flash to fire instantaneously.
For more complex multiple flash situations,
radio slaves are often used. These consist of a
transmitter unit mounted on the camera, and
receivers used to trigger the flash units. See
Figure 9-57.
When portable flash is the primary source of
light for a portrait, a more pleasing photo can be
taken by using two or more flash units. One of
these will be the main light and will provide the
principal illumination. The second light, called
the fill light, should be adjusted or positioned
to provide about one-half as much light on
the subject as the main light (this topic will be
explored more thoroughly in Chapter 12, Portrait
and Studio Photography). Additional units may be
used for such tasks as lighting the background.
Exposure calculations should be made based on
the guide number and flash-to-subject distance of
the main light.
Figure 9-56. One form of light painting is done by using
a small flashlight in a dark space with the shutter locked
open.
Multiple flash
Lighting a large or complex subject can
also be done through the use of multiple flash
units. Since the entire scene is lighted at one
time (unlike the painting-with-light technique),
moving subjects can be captured. Photos of birds
arriving at a nest, or small animals moving along
a forest trail at night are often made using two or
more flash units. The camera and flash units may
be triggered manually, but often are controlled by
a motion sensor or sound trigger.
Sometimes, two or more flash units may
be physically connected with pc cords to fire
simultaneously. A more reliable and flexible
method of control than cord connections,
however, is the use of slave units. These may be
a small flash unit specifically designed for such
A
B
Figure 9-57. A radio slave system can be used to
trigger multiple flash units at distances of up to
1600′. A—Transmitter unit that mounts on camera.
B—Receiver used to trigger flash units. The LCD panels
provide status information on the system, which can
make use of multiple channels for sophisticated lighting
setups. (LPA Design/Bogen Photo Corp.)
Chapter 9
Action and Event Photography
Questions for Review
Please answer the following questions on a
separate piece of paper. Do not write your
answers in this book.
1. Explain what is meant by the statement, “In
the early days of photography, there was no
such thing as an ‘action shot.’”
2. In action photography, the point at which
motion slows almost to a stop is called
the _____.
A. decisive moment
B. sweet spot
C. action key
D. peak of action
3. A manual technique used to “track” a
moving object is known as _____ focus.
4. To capture a moving subject in sharp focus
while blurring the background, you would
use a technique called:
A. following
B. panning
C. zooming
D. shifting
5. Photographers who work for newspapers are
described as _____.
6. Describe the challenge that faces a
photojournalist when shooting routine
events (such as civic luncheons or award
ceremonies).
7. Why would a professional photographer use
a monopod when shooting a sporting event?
8. When covering a school activity (such as an
assembly) for the yearbook, what is the best
photographic strategy?
273
9. For a student photographer, what is the
advantage of shooting at community
events, such as parades, festivals, sports
competitions, fairs, or carnivals?
10. When photographing an indoor event where
flash cannot be used, an ISO setting of _____
or lower is preferred to minimize digital
noise or film grain.
A. 1600
B. 800
C. 400
D. 200
11. Why are self-contained portable electronic
flash units preferable to built-in flash?
12. _____ shoe-mount flash units are designed
for use with specific camera models or range
of models from one manufacturer.
13. To permit comparison of different units,
the guide number for an electronic flash is
typically stated for use with an ISO rating
of _____.
14. Flash units that adjust flash duration by
reading reflected light at the film plane are
called _____ systems.
15. For a softer and more pleasing lighting effect,
many photographers use _____ flash instead
of direct flash.
A. bounce
B. remote
C. reduced power
D. indirect
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