I have a confession folks. When my daughters were in junior high, Clueless was one of their favorite movies and I actually loved it too. I know it's kind of juvenile but what can I say, there was something about the quirky humor that just appealed to me. To this day, my daughters and I still quote the movie to each other in conversations. Among the many iconic scenes, one of our favorites involved the main character, Cher, being scolded for running a stop sign while driving to school. Cher blew off the mistake by explaining “I totally paused.” Why am I bringing this up? Well, if you haven’t already guessed from the title of the post, avoiding blur in your sports photography often means “finding the pause” when you’re shooting your kids’ sports action. Wondering WTF I'm talking about? Let me explain.
Just to be clear, when I say “find the pause”, I’m not referring to a break in the game or a time out. Those are good photographic opportunities too but in this case, I’m talking about unique moments that happen in every sport where an athlete has a brief moment where they’ve either come to a complete stop or are moving much slower than they normally do throughout the game. For example, in the photo above, there was a brief moment before the player with the ball made a crossover move to get by the defender. The shutter speed was only 1/160th of a second, which would normally result in a blurry photo when shooting sports action. In this case however, the slight pause in the player's movement allowed me to capture a relatively blur-free photo. I’ve included a few additional photos below to illustrate other examples of game situations where you can "find the pause".
Hopefully the photos above help explain what I mean by “finding the pause”. But, you might still be wondering why it’s important. Good question! The simple answer is that photographing fast moving stuff is really hard. Beyond the basic challenge of physically following game action through a tiny viewfinder, freezing that action is a challenge for all but the most expensive camera equipment, which is why those pauses are so critical. Learning to find them in whatever sport you may be shooting will take a little practice but once you know what to look for you’ll be able to capture compelling shots with just about any kind of camera...and say bye-bye to the blur.