Welcome back for week 2!

Capturing Light


Last week I used the analogy “painting with light”, because photography is basically a process of capturing light. Without light, you would not have a photograph… it’s that simple. Once you have light, no matter how small, then it’s just a matter of being able to capture it.

The way a camera works is this: there are two MAIN settings that balance together. The first is Shutter Speed and the second is Aperture.  Both of these settings control how much light enters the camera, and they must be perfectly balanced in-order for the image to receive proper exposure.

Shutter Speed


Inside you camera is a tiny door that opens when you push the shutter button. When the door is open it exposes the film/sensor to the incoming light. When the door closes, there is a tiny mirror covering it, allowing you to see through your camera’s viewfinder and out the lens.


However long the shutter stays open… is how long the film/sensor is exposed to the light. 

Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed is numbered in fractions. If I have my shutter speed set to 1/2, that means the little door in my camera will stay open for one half of a second. That sounds super fast right? It is… but most moving objects will end up looking very bury, because it’s not quite fast enough to freeze movement. For a fast-moving object, that you want to make it look like it’s frozen in time, 1/1000 of a second would be a better choice.



Here is an example of a fast-moving object. I can tell that this motorcycle is moving, because his front tire is in the air. Actually, it looks like it’s moving pretty fast, but for the most part the image is clear. My guess is the photographer took this shot at a fast shutter speed, maybe 1/500 or 1/1000. 


Now, what if the photographer decided to take this same photograph and he accidentally left his shutter speed at 1/15? My guess is that it would look something like this:

2925BDBD23 blur


Here is another example where the subject of this photograph is moving quickly. The waves of the ocean are violet, when splashing against rocks. The photographer’s choice to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion is really dynamic! Each water-drop is motionless in time! This is probably another 1/1000 or 1/500 shutter speed. 


Yet, here is a very similar subject. Once again waves crashing against rocks, only this time the photograph doesn’t seem bold and violent, rather it’s soft soothing and pleasant. How did these photographers get two very different feelings from essentially the same scene? Shutter speed. 


The second image was taken with a slightly slower shutter speed, likely 1/30 – 1/60. This effect made it so the very fast-moving water blurred, while the slow-moving water stayed more sharp. The result is gorgeous silky waves.

Set Up:

I would like for you to refer back to the dial on top of your camera. If your camera is set to Auto, say “bye-bye auto”! For the rest of this course you will not use the Auto setting. Now… pat yourself on the back, because while it is slightly intimidating, you are about to learn so much about how a camera works!

digital camera dial

Here we go! Turn the dial and set your camera to the “S”, Shutter Speed setting. This setting is designed so that you can adjust only the shutter speed and the camera will automatically adjust the aperture depending on the amount of light needed to balance the light properly. Its sort of like “half-auto”. You aren’t fully in complete control, just yet.

Imagine: You are driving a car, with your feet on the gas & brake petals (controlling how fast or slow the car is moving). Now, instead of using the steering wheel… the car does that part for you. “Half-Auto”! OK, that analogy might be a little scary, but it works.


Now this is where you will need to check your camera’s manual to see how to switch between the different shutter speeds. For my camera there is a dial that I can twist, but this is different for everyone. Once you figure that out, begin your Week 2 assignment, and don’t forget to follow the prompt for the Week 1 image submissions!

TIP: When using a shutter speed slower than 1/60, use a tripod. Even the subtle movements of your hand at a slow shutter speed will cause the image to blur. 


Remember: No editing the photographs. Resist the temptation!

Your assignment this week is “moving water”.

  1. Find an “interesting to you” subject of moving water (a creek, waterfall, garden hose, faucet flowing over dishes, etc.). Make sure this location has plenty of natural light!
  2. Check and make sure your ISO is at 400 and your focus is on “M”.
  3. Place your camera (pointed at your desired water subject) on a tripod (or box, car, log, counter, etc.) to steady it. Focus your camera manually. Make sure your camera stays in the same spot. Do not move it again, until you are competently done with this assignment.
  4. Set your camera to “S” (or for some of you its TV) and adjust the shutter speed to 1/200. This will be your starting point. Being extremely careful not to move your camera, push the shutter button to capture the photograph.
  5. After you take the photograph at 1/200, then change your shutter speed to 1/125 and take another one, then again to 1/100, etc. until you get to 2″ shutter speed (if you can). Write down each shutter speed in a notebook as you go! (ie. Picture #1 1/200, Picture #2 1/125, Picture #3 1/100)
  6. When you get home, examine your images on a full-sized computer screen and compare them with your notepad. Notice the subtle changes with each photograph.
  7. Submit your two favorite images; your favorite slow shutter speed and your favorite fast shutter speed.

**If your photographs are turning all white or VERY bright, you may need to move to a darker location, or set your ISO to AUTO**

It is OK to submit two photographs from the same scene, however they do not have to be from the same scene. You are welcome to try this exercise in several different locations.

I recommend getting a piece of paper with a pencil to keep track of your shutter speed as you take each photograph.

**Always be safe and never do anything dangerous!! Make sure you have your parent’s permission and have them supervise!**


WEEK 2 ASSIGNMENT #2 – Nature Walk

Send me your 3 favorite images from our nature walk at Lewisville Park!

 WEEK 2 ASSIGNMENT #3 – Blue Challenge (optional)

Take your camera with you everywhere this week. I mean… everywhere! Every-time you see something Blue…. photograph it. At the end of the week (October 15th), submit your favorite “Blue” photograph.


DUE: October 15, 2015

For the moving water assignment, please type the shutter speed you used in the file description box.