I recently did something I hadn’t done in a while: I shot telephoto action shots. The top Tour pros were in town for the Hurley Pro and I wanted to use the opportunity to get rid of some cobwebs—to shake off some photographic dust after a long, flat summer.
On the beach with a tripod, it didn’t take long to remember how boring super-telephoto land shots are, especially without foreground or background, so I decided to spice things up by shooting speed blurs. For the uninitiated, a speed blur refers to an image shot at a relatively-low shutter speed to add a sense of motion to an otherwise static scene.
The only problem with this type of shot is that it’s risky; a a truly good blur is hard to pull off.
There are basically two types of speed blurs: the ultra-slow blur which is often shot in the 1/15th to 1/60th range, and something I refer to as a ‘motion differential’ blur, which is typically shot in the 1/90th to 1/200th range. The former has a less-recognizable, abstract feel, and the latter is more of a visual study in speed disparities. Most of the time, though, they both look like crap.
For my money, I prefer trying a motion differential blur. They’re a bit more subtle, and can make a photograph really come alive. I’m sure you’ve seen an effective one too—a speed blur of a running cheetah with its legs in motion and its upper body steady is a long standing visual cliché.
Below you will find some of the results of my experimentation, and you can use the listed shutter speeds as a guide to determine which look you’d like to go after. Just make sure you have a good tripod.