Motion Blur

The goal of neophyte action photographers is to freeze action, stopping everything in its tracks. Once you learn some reliable ways to accomplish that miracle, it soon becomes evident that people or things frozen in time tend to look a little bit like statues, and not particularly realistic or exciting from an action standpoint. We expect a little blur in our sports photography, especially if the blur of motion is used effectively.

If you know what you're doing (or even if you don't), capturing images with just enough blur to make them look alive is not that difficult with either digital or conventional cameras. Among the techniques at your disposal:

• Choose just the right shutter speed for the action at hand. Don't use a speed that's so slow that your subjects will be terminally blurry, and avoid supershort shutter speeds that freeze everything. With experience, you'll learn which shutter speeds work with which kinds of motion.

• Learn to move your camera with the action (a technique called panning), which reduces the relative speed of your subject to the camera, allowing you to capture action with a slower shutter speed. As a bonus, panning often blurs the background enough to add the kind of motion blur you want to achieve.

• Understand the dynamics of motion. Objects crossing the camera's field of view blur more than those headed directly towards the camera. Some parts of an object, such as the wheels of a moving car or the feet of a running athlete, move faster than the rest of the subject, adding inevitable (or even desirable) blur. Subjects closer to the camera blur more than those located farther away.

Understanding these concepts can help you duplicate them within Photoshop, too, as another example of how photographic experience can help you when it comes time to edit your images. Try the exercise which follows to see some of the ways in which you can add motion blur to your images.

1. Load the soccerblur.jpg image from the website. The original image is shown in Figure 2.41.

Figure 2.41. This image is sharp and unblurred and looks as if the soccer players were statues.

Figure 2.41. This image is sharp and unblurred and looks as if the soccer players were statues.

2. Select the soccer ball using the Elliptical Marquee tool. Hold down the Shift key to select a perfect circle. Press the cursor arrow keys to nudge the selection a bit, if necessary, so it encompasses the entire soccer ball.

3. Choose Filter > Blur > Radial Blur, shown in Figure 2.42. This is the same filter you used earlier to produce a zoom effect. This time choose Spin as the blur type, and move the Amount slider until the soccer ball has a bit of a blur to it, as shown in Figure 2.43.

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