Inspiring photography workshops, courses & tours

From 20 minutes to a two-thousandth of a second

Aside from Fototonic’s signature landscape photography, we’re also pretty keen on capturing fast action. Some of you may know that I used to be a sports photographer and I still love photographing flying motorbikes, upside-down jet skiers, surfers and any other kind of fast-paced action. I’m also lucky to have my very own sports photography training tool in the form of my amazing dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, called Redd. I often take him along on my photography workshops and clients love photographing Redd in action. He’s the perfect model to help people get to grips with capturing sharp shots while he’s galloping along at high speed. If you can master photographing Redd in action, then you can take your new-found photography skills to most animal or sports photography.

This week I’ve had two great opportunities for fast-shutter photography. While out walking with Redd, I came across a group of paragliders soaring along Jersey’s west coast, beautifully lit and with brightly coloured wings they looked fantastic against the bright blue sky.

The photo looks as if they were stacked one on top of another but, in actual fact, they were at varying distances from me. It was simply that I found a vantage point where they all appeared to line up for a split second.

The week’s second opportunity for fast shooting came in the form of Mr & Mrs Seagull who had nested just above my terrace at home. With baby chicks in the nest they get very protective when they see Redd (literally!) in the garden. The seagulls usually fly around squawking to scare Redd away and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to get a dynamic shot of these birds.

And anyway, the whole world has been obsessing over bird of prey photography, what about the all too familiar Herring Gull? Hey, it was happening in my garden. Of course, an Osprey or Hawk would have been better, but I still managed to get a good shot of these gulls in action. Great fun and it pushes the camera to its limits of focus tracking. I was using a Canon 5D Mk3 with the tracking sensitivity cranked all the way up! Also a 200mm f/2.8 L lens helps….. f/2.8 you say? Must be really easy to get super fast shots? Well if I told you I shot it at about f/10 to ensure optimum sharpness what would you say? It’s a common mistake that people think they must shoot subjects like this with the widest aperture possible to “freeze the action.” But, in reality, the focal plane is so small you end up with one wing in focus and the rest is just blur, or the nose of the race car is sharp and everything behind that is blur. And there is nothing worse than thinking that you have the shot you want having seen it on the back of the camera and getting home only to discover your prized shot is actually out of focus….. head in hands moment :-(

Ok, so do you need pro equipment to get shots like this? No, not really. The herring gulls were a bit of a challenge as they were twisting and turning and passing very close to me, so this is where the 5D Mk3 really came into its own. But for almost all of the other situations I come across you can do this with a basic DSLR and a zoom lens. You just have to know how to set it up and get out there and practice! So where is best to practice? That’s up to you and your area and what’s going on around you. Here in Jersey we are spoiled as we have a thriving motorsport scene that covers many different disciplines. We have a wide range of water sports, a horse racing club, and many many other other sporting clubs. Not to mention a growing bird-of-prey population around our coasts.

My advice is to find a sport or activity that you like, get online and do your research as to where and when and then and get out there and capture some fast and dynamic shots!