The Way I Shoot: Severin
By Severin - 7 min read
Severin explains his technique and why the subway is the perfect place to capture motion blurs.
With our ongoing series “The Way I Shoot” I was thinking about the way I shoot myself. I believe everyone hastheir own unique style of taking photos, which depends on a lot of factors: your character, your taste, the images that inspire you… in the end it’s about who you are and how you see the world that defines how you take pictures.
In my eyes the world is a beautiful and exciting place and great moments happen every second you look around you. I, for example, could never listen to music while I’m taking photos. I need to perceive my environment with all my senses to be aware of what’s happening: a swarm of birds flying in the evening sun, a kid riding on a red bike against a beautiful background, a woman entering the subway. It’s all about time and space coming together in a photograph: and this is exactly what happens in motion blurs.
How motion blurs are created
Technically, motion blurs are created when your camera captures a period of time instead of a single instant of time in one image. But time is relative: it always stands in relation to the speed you are capturing it. This means that there are two factors that can cause motion blurs: either a rapidly moving subject or a long exposure. With these two factors in mind, you can create motion blurs practically everywhere.
For example, you can choose an exposure time of 1/15 and an aperture of 22 together with the sensitivity of ISO 25 and you’ll be able to capture motion blurs on bright daylight. But wait: do you have those settings on your mobile phone? Most probably not. Your phone chooses its exposure time and aperture automatically according to the light that surrounds you, so you have to find the right situations to capture that blur.
Notes from the underground
For mobile photographers there is no better place for motion blurs than the subway:it’s dark but has strong artificial light sources, it has moving subjects (the subway) and it has still subjects (the people). The strong lights give your camera enough light for a fully exposed shot, yet force it to take a longer exposure time than at daylight. The great thing is that there’s enough light for you to capture a sharp shot holding the camera in your hands without needing a tripod.
There are many different ways to capture scenes in the subway. I will focus on 2:
1. The close-up
The close-up requires you too go as close as possible to your subjects and capture them while the subway arrives before their eyes. First of all, you need to wait at the keys for the subway to arrive. Look at the people around you: is there anyone that captures your attention? Look out for colors, shapes, settings.. when you’ve found your subject, get close to it and wait. To get your environment used to you and your phone, you can pretend to check your messages or listen to music – I guess you know the tricks.
The train arrives! It’s a matter of seconds now. The subway must still move when you take the photo. At the same time, your subject should not move. So you must capture exactly that moment where the person waits at the keys without moving and the train is arriving. Always remember: time and space! Get close, go closer, go even closer and … shoot!
2. The still life
This one is for those who don’t dare to go as close or in case there’s no one but you around the subway station. Again, you need to time your shot well to capture the moving subway on your photo. Look out for a still subject on the subway station, for example a clock, a column or one of those old-school scales that still exist in some cities.
The advantage of a still life shot is that you have more time to focus on your angle and composition. There’s no one to stalk or observe here, everything remains as it is. Now just find what you want to capture and wait for the train to arrive. 3,2,1 snap!
That’s it! Have fun. To get inspired, here are some of my favorite blurs from the subway album: