Magazine article Communication World

Life in Motion: Freeze or Blur? How to Choose the Decisive Moment

Magazine article Communication World

Life in Motion: Freeze or Blur? How to Choose the Decisive Moment

Article excerpt

A photograph describes the present, which immediately becomes the past. It stops time in its tracks, taking an instant out of its context and either freezing it or blurring it to make a point and communicate an idea.

Photographers use this time option in various ways. They choose which moment to lift out of its context and capture as a photograph. They may select a fast shutter speed to stop action, or a slow one to blur it. Photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson have elevated the seizure of time into an art form by arranging the flow of shapes, forms and patterns within the frame to express meaning as a "decisive moment."

Here are four pictures that communicate, depending on how the photographer elected to use time to freeze, or time to blur.

Chicago free-lance photographer Jim Summaria captures the enthusiasm of a speaker by freezing his gesture and expression. The speaker's mouth forms a word, while his open hands underscore his point and tell us how strongly he feels about it. This photograph offers viewers insight into the speaker. Although they may not know him, or even care about his subject, viewers discern the passion this speaker brings to this moment in time.

In the second example, Summaria moves his camera to a basketball court to capture another kind of moment--one of maximum tension. Under ominous skies, a silhouetted player hangs in the air, a fraction of a second before he slams the ball through the hoop. Abstracting the scene through backlighting, Summaria makes sure that nothing will distract from this moment in time. He has stopped the flow of shapes within the frame to tell a story of skill, energy and athletic ability. He contrasts the body language of the player hanging in air with the figure of an earthbound player watching his flight. Summaria waits until the last possible instant to push the shutter button. The space between the hoop and ball becomes minimal, and the picture crackles with tension. Yet the player is still moving too fast for the camera to freeze entirely. His left hand becomes a secondary focal point--a blurred mass that tells us just how fast this is all happening.

During a visit to Russia last spring, I used choices in time to express meaning in two examples of my own travel photojournalism. …

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