Jim Frazer's "Surfer Dude" is a perfect example of the kind of action photograph that looks best when every bit of motion is frozen in its tracks—either by a fast shutter speed and/or through the use of the ultra-high "shutter speeds" offered by the very brief duration of electronic flash. While some "frozen in time" sports shots look as if the subject were posed and told to stand very still in an awkward position, this image screams action from every pixel, almost like one of M.I.T professor Harold Edgerton's famous bullet-bursting-balloon shots. Frazer has captured a moment you can't actually see in real life.
These days, with camera shutter speeds of 1/4000th to 1/8000th second common, and ISO sensitivity settings that make them viable under a variety of lighting conditions, stopping action isn't as much of a challenge as it used to be. The hard part is knowing what subjects can benefit from the technique. Motor sports almost always look better at shutter speeds slow enough to allow the wheels of a vehicle to blur and eliminate the illusion that it's actually just parked on a racetrack. Baseball, football, and many other sports sometimes need the bit of motion that a slightly blurred hand, foot, or ball can provide.
But the shower of water that bursts from this young man's surfboard, coupled with his carefully balanced pose on the board, offers all the movement the image needs. Frazer says that this photograph of his grandson was taken at a water park resort. "He was fascinated with the Flow Rider and spent most of his time surfing there. I used a flash both to improve the lighting and to freeze the water drops. I took 20 shots and this is the one I liked best."
Frazer used an Olympus E-510 camera with a 70-300 mm f/4.0-5.6 lens at 70 mm (the equivalent of 140mm on a full frame camera with this Four Thirds model). Center-weighted metering, combined with the electronic flash, called for an exposure of f/4.5 and 1/125 sec at ISO 400. A small amount of post processing of the RAW image was done in Adobe Lightroom. The photographer cropped the image slightly on the top and the left. Using the Levels command, the black point was adjusted upward to 20 and the clarity setting adjusted to 40. The tone curve was adjusted to increase the contrast. The last step was to convert the image to TIF format and export it to Adobe Photoshop Elements where it was sharpened for printing.
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