The beauty of action is it can be captured in many ways. It can be graceful and show lots of fluidity when slow shutter speeds are used or it can arrest the motion when fast ones are utilized. The first shows implied motion and the other freezes it. Each has its own virtues and required means of capturing the effect. Both make stunning images when properly handled. Incorporate both into your photographic repertoire to make you a more diverse photographer.
Arrest movement of fast moving subjects with shutter speeds of 1/250th and above. The faster the movement, the higher the required speed to freeze the motion. Additionally, the angle at which the subject moves dictates the shutter speed. If the subject moves toward or away from you, a slower one can be used than if the subject’s action is perpendicular.
Fast shutter speeds are attainable under given conditions. First of all, you need a lot of light. Next, higher ISO’s are used. Finally, fast lenses are a great asset. If you have all three working for you, you’re ahead of the game. If the lighting conditions or your equipment won’t allow you to get a fast enough shutter speed, bump up the ISO but know that digital noise will appear. As digital cameras advance, so does the quality of the image when higher ISO’s are used. Another trick is to wait until the action reaches its apex or stalling point. The momentary pause allows you to shoot at a slower speed and still stop the action.
Implied action is achieved via panning or creating an intentional blur. With panning, you follow your subject as you make the exposure. The result is a sharp rendering of the moving object with a background that shows horizontal streaks. Intentional blur gives a painterly, impressionistic effect by using slow shutter speeds that record the motion of the subject. Panning produces a more predictable result, but it still requires you to develop the follow through technique. A tripod with a panning head is a wonderful tool to help you attain a high success rate. Basically, start to follow your subject before you take the image and continue to follow it after pressing the shutter. The smoother the pan, the sharper the subject.