I’m a big fan of the Day in Pictures on SFGate — the photos are generally quite interesting, they’re well-captioned, and the editor likes to play amusing games with proximity.
Today’s set had two photos that are excellent illustrations of the things you can do if you understand exposure. This one shows an elderly man praying in the middle of the road, with cars whizzing by on either side of him. The blur of the cars is worrisome– you’re sure he’s going to get hit at any moment– but it shows his conviction.
The second one shows a landscape with a closeup of poppies in the foreground. The poppies are crisp and sharp, and the background is reasonably sharp as well.
Take a moment to think about how you might shoot those two photos.
Got it? OK, here’s my take.
The first one requires a slow shutter speed in order to capture the motion of the cars. If we look closely, we can see that everything is sharp as far as the eye can see. This suggests that the photographer used a very narrow aperture and a slow shutter speed, and probably a low ISO as well. We don’t know how fast the cars are moving, but let’s guess, oh, 30MPH. We can ask Google and find out that’s 44 feet per second. I’d guess that the shutter speed was somewhere between 1/2 second and 1 second. I’d guess that the photographer also used a neutral density filter (something I haven’t talked about, but it’s basically a piece of grey glass that reduces the light coming into the camera) to get a slower shutter speed.
The poppies were clearly shot at a fairly small aperture, since the background was mostly in focus. The shutter speed is indeterminate, but was probably “whatever it takes”.
Whenever you see an interesting and unusual picture, take a minute to see if you can figure out what the photographer did to get it. This is excellent practice for figuring out your own shots when you’re trying to get a specific effect.