Photo On the Northern Line

Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion

For the next few weeks, let’s push the envelope a bit and stretch our photographic technique. I’m taking these challenges from my e-book 32 Photo Etudes: Studies in Composition, Focus, Light, Motion

An etude (pronounced a-tood) is a technical study. The term comes from music. A photo etude is an exercise designed to enhance a particular photographic skill.

This week’s photo challenge is a motion etude.

Photograph Motion

Photography can uniquely stop time, freezing a fleeting moment that would otherwise pass us by. Photography can also show the passage of time through techniques like long exposure.

In my book 32 Photo Etudes, I’ve written an entire section on photographing motion that includes multiple etudes. Some of the etudes talk about how to freeze fast motion, others show the reader how to blur motion for a photographic effect.

Many of the exercises require the use of manual modes so I’ve opened up this challenge a bit to be accessible for all sorts of cameras and settings. 

This week’s challenge is broader – photograph any sort of motion.

Freezing motion – making a moving subject stand still – is one thing modern cameras do well. We can freeze the motion of anything from raindrops to race cars to birds in flight. Sports are perfect subjects for freezing motion, but so are wild animals.

Wild horses fighting

I spent a morning with the Broadfoot wild horse herd located near Eminence, Missouri. Mostly, they ate grass, but these two horses got frisky at one point. 1/2000 of a second shutter speed froze the action.

Technical Tip:  Use a fast shutter speed to freeze action.

We can imagine the motion, but perfectly freezing an action can sometimes make it feel static. A little bit of motion blur gives us a sense of direction and reminds us that there was a time before the photo and the action continued after the photo was taken.

Cuban Dancers
A little bit of motion blur in the feet of the dancers remind us that these ladies are all about movement. 1/10th of a second shutter speed.

Popular are photos of blurred water or clouds. We love the way all the bumps and waves smooth out. This effect is accomplished using a long exposure. How long is up to you.

I love, love, love to play with long exposure and waterfalls! This is only a small waterfall, but it looks large enough in the frame. By using a long shutter speed (0.4 second), I blurred the water, showing it’s path through the rocks.

Technical Tip: Use a slow shutter speed to blur the motion. Experiment with how long you leave the shutter open. The longer the shutter is left open, the smoother the water becomes. Neutral density filters are often used to reduce the light coming into your camera and allow longer shutter speeds.

Make great photos even better with Pic Monkey

Photography can create a unique sense of time that we can not normally see in reality. Zoom blur, light trails, and panning are fun photography techniques that play with time.

Zoom blur created during long exposure (0.7 second). Zoom lens is twisted during exposure to give this effect of the alter view of the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri.
Zooming by Westminster. Any street is a great place to do close-up long exposures with traffic – but choose your spot carefully! This sidewalk is tourist-central in London, but everyone carefully skirted my tripod set on the very edge of the pedestrian part of the bridge. Shutter speed 3.2 seconds

Technical Tip: Light trails are created by using a long exposure rather than short shutter speeds when photographing something in motion – like cars. Light trails show up best at night. The camera really needs to be on a tripod to make this technique work.

Panning at a local cycle race. I accomplish the background effect by moving my camera at the same speed as the cyclist (to keep her in focus) and a slow shutter speed (1/25th of a second) to blur the background.

If you want to try a new technique, like panning or zoom blur, check out the specific exercises in my e-book 32 Photo Etudes: Studies in Composition, Focus, Light, Motion

Check Out CreativeLive’s Free On-Air Classes 

This week, go out and find some motion. The motion can be slow, like leaves blowing in a breeze, or quick, like falling snow. Our lives are full of motion and action, this week, try to capture some of the motion in a photograph.

In each Photo Etude, the assignment is to create 12 photos, but for weekly challenges 12 isn’t necessary, just try your hand at the technique to get the hang of it. If you want to share multiple images to discuss with others, feel free to share on this Facebook Album.

Amazon Photo Etudes

If you want more photo etudes, the e-book is available on Kindle or directly through my website. To see a sample, check out the post I wrote when I published the book.

32 Photo Etudes Amazon

24 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion”


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s