Action Photography | Slow Shutter Speed For Sense of Movement

Belly Dancer | Putrajaya

© 2009 Wazari Wazir | Belly Dancer | Moroccan Pavilion Putrajaya

Have you ever seen a whirling dervishes? It is one of the symbol of Turkey tourism. Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning),  is a physically active meditation which originated among Sufis especially in Konya Turkey. If you have ever seen those “Whirling Dervishes” picture on the internet or in the magazine, most of the time you will see a a blurred kind of a picture, it is rare to see a whirling dervishes picture in a static movement, usually a photographer will use a slow shutter speed to captured that beautiful dancers in motion, captured their sense of movement gracefully.

Actually when shooting this Belly Dancer picture here in Moroccan Pavilion in Putrajaya, I try to figure out, what is the best way to show this dancer in motion, they are a real dancer in the very first place. They are not wearing this Belly Dancer costume for the sake of this photo shoot, they are the real dancer and as a photographer I try to find out   the best way to show their movement in a still photograph. So I remember those “Sufi Dance” or whirling dervishes, I want to get that kind of a picture, I want to get that kind of a movement, I want to captured their sense of movement and I decided to give a “slow shutter speed” a try.

I ask the dancer to dance in one spot, just move their body, swing their body but just keep their position at one spot, so that I can focus on her  face, the idea is to get a sharp image or well recognizable face while her other body part is blurred due to her movement. I do a lot of trial and error before I get this shot, we can still see her face while other part is blurred, giving it a sense of movement. We can feel it, I think this is a better way to captured a dancer than just a static boring shot. To captured this “sense of movement” I use a slow shutter speed, the shutter that I use was 1/13, ISO  100 and the Aperture was f10, I use what we normally called a “Kit Lens”, I use 18-70mm lens and at shooting  at 18mm Focal length.

A little bit about the composition, why I don’t use a tight shot here, why there is a lot of head room here, the idea is that, I want to give this Belly Dancer a space to breath, a room for movement, sometimes we called it as a negative space. A tight shot will be “too hard” for her, I don’t know how I can explain this but dancer really needs a space and that’s why I leave a lot of head room there. Other than a sense of movement, I also want to include a sense of place here, so that’s why I need all the decoration above her on the ceiling.

It takes a lot of practice to nail this shot, because sometimes I get the movement right but her face was facing the big red door behind and sometimes her face was facing left and right which is not very good, so I keep on shooting at burst mode and luckily I get this one right. When facing with action photography or anything that moves, always be creative, the choice is in our hand, we can freeze the action or we can give them a little bit of a sense of movement. The idea is to experiment, think outside of the box, always think creatively how to captured the soul of the subject being photographed beautifully, blurred picture is not always a bad picture, sometimes it’s the blurry image that make the picture.

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