Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member

Peak action

From: The Elements of Effective Photographs

Video: Peak action

At first glance it may not seem like photographing sports and photographing wildlife have anything in common. One takes place out in the wild and the other usually takes place in a town or a city. But there is an important similarity: with both types of photography you can't control the action. You're relegated to the sidelines where you wait for the action to happen, and when it does, you've got to be ready to capture it; you may not get a second chance.

Peak action

At first glance it may not seem like photographing sports and photographing wildlife have anything in common. One takes place out in the wild and the other usually takes place in a town or a city. But there is an important similarity: with both types of photography you can't control the action. You're relegated to the sidelines where you wait for the action to happen, and when it does, you've got to be ready to capture it; you may not get a second chance.

In every active situation there is a moment called peak action. It's the one photograph from a series that can stand alone, that tells the story. It may be the longjumper at the top of our arc, or your daughter as she kicks the winning goal, or a bear just missing a salmon, or the driver flying out of the hydroplane. Let's take a closer look at peak action. I spent a wonderful day at Oso Ranch photographing Sue jumping on horse.

Before I even took a shot, I asked Sue what I should look for in this peak action photo. Then I watched her jump a couple times, paying close attention to how the horse approached the jump and Sue's posture. The point of my research was to help me know a bit more about the activity, so I could anticipate the action. Now the best tip I can give you when shooting peak action is to take a lot of photographs. It increases your chances of getting everything right. To show you what I mean, here's my entire take from the horse jumping assignment: a total of 54 images.

My exposure was at 1/2000th of a second to make sure I stopped the action. My aperture was f/4.5. Using my Depth of Field preview button, I knew that the jump would be in focus. I put my camera shutter in Burst mode so I could shoot continuously, and I set my camera's Auto-focus feature to Continuous mode so that the lens would constantly keep the subject in focus. On Canon cameras this feature is called AI Servo; on Nikons it's called Continuous focus.

As soon as the horse began its approach, I pressed the shutter button and held it down to shoot a burst of photos. Let's check them out. No, no--Oh! Here it is: of this series this image is the peak action shot. The horse's legs are up and it's jumping over the rail. It's okay, but based on what I learned from Sue, this is not great form. I want the horse's front legs to be raised a little bit more. I missed it by only a split second.

That can be a problem in Burst mode: the best peak action sometimes happens between shots. This time I waited to start continuous shooting. I figured that my instincts would do a better job. I kept the same settings as before except that I pre-focused on the rail. Now I still used auto-focus, but this gave the camera a starting point close to the action. This is helpful because not all cameras and lenses are the same when it comes to auto-focus speed or burst speed.

By holding the shutter button down part way it makes a camera's job of focusing a little bit faster. Burst speed is affected by your camera, your Flash card's write speed, the buffer, and the size of the capture. Here we go. The first one is definitely the best peak action. I was able to anticipate the moment and catch it. In this situation I know exactly where the action was going to happen, but what about shooting wildlife or sports like football or soccer.

You've really got to do the research so you can anticipate the action and then be in position when it happens. Before I shoot wildlife, I learn about the animal behavior. For example, where do bears fish for salmon? With sports, too, knowing the behavior of the athletes is important, but also study the rules so you'll be able to anticipate the plays of the game. You get the idea. The more you understand the action, the better chance you have of capturing the peak action.

Here are some general tips to remember when you're going for peak action. Set your shutter speed to 1/500th of a second or faster. If you're shooting in dim light, increase your ISO to allow for the fast shutter speeds. Follow the action with your auto-focus set to continuous. Shoot a little bit looser than you normally would to allow for the animal or athlete's movement. Shoot in high speed burst mode. You'll shoot a lot of images, but what the heck. As photographers used to say film is cheap, opportunity is expensive.

And keep your head in your game. Don't be distracted by who is winning or losing. So next time your kid's playing a soccer match, head out and get some practice in. If you can get great shots from the unpredictable action of a junior soccer game, you can shoot just about anything.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for The Elements of Effective Photographs
The Elements of Effective Photographs

29 video lessons · 25882 viewers

Natalie Fobes
Author

 

Start learning today

Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.

Become a member
Sometimes @lynda teaches me how to use a program and sometimes Lynda.com changes my life forever. @JosefShutter
@lynda lynda.com is an absolute life saver when it comes to learning todays software. Definitely recommend it! #higherlearning @Michael_Caraway
@lynda The best thing online! Your database of courses is great! To the mark and very helpful. Thanks! @ru22more
Got to create something yesterday I never thought I could do. #thanks @lynda @Ngventurella
I really do love @lynda as a learning platform. Never stop learning and developing, it’s probably our greatest gift as a species! @soundslikedavid
@lynda just subscribed to lynda.com all I can say its brilliant join now trust me @ButchSamurai
@lynda is an awesome resource. The membership is priceless if you take advantage of it. @diabetic_techie
One of the best decision I made this year. Buy a 1yr subscription to @lynda @cybercaptive
guys lynda.com (@lynda) is the best. So far I’ve learned Java, principles of OO programming, and now learning about MS project @lucasmitchell
Signed back up to @lynda dot com. I’ve missed it!! Proper geeking out right now! #timetolearn #geek @JayGodbold
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.


Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ.

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.


Mark all as unwatched Cancel

Congratulations

You have completed The Elements of Effective Photographs.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


OK
Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member?

Become a member to like this course.

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses.

Get started

Already a member?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any lynda.com page and choose Site preferencesfrom the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Are you sure you want to delete this note?

No

Your file was successfully uploaded.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.


Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

   
submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.