Written by Michael Zeigler | Photos by Michael Zeigler and Todd Winner
The next time you find yourself in a creative slump, try this technique for a quick pick-me-up. Dragging the shutter is a term generally used to describe when you use a very slow sync speed with your flash, and it’s a technique with which I have enjoyed experimenting over the past few years.
The technique is really quite straight forward. In order to convey a sense of motion, especially with a wide-angle lens, a good starting point for your shutter speed would be 1/30 second. If your image will include ambient background light (especially when shooting wide-angle), you are going to want to start at base ISO (e.g. ISO 100). You will be letting in so much ambient light with the slower shutter speed (e.g. 1/30 sec), that you’ll want your sensor to be less sensitive to light in order to keep the background exposure from blowing out. For this reason, I have found that this technique works best when lighting conditions are darker (e.g. early/late in the day or when it is cloudy).
When including ambient light, your strobes will be competing against a lot of ambient light and a low ISO, and you will most likely find that your strobes will be at or near full power. You may need to open up your aperture a bit, and position your strobes closer to your port in order to achieve a proper foreground exposure.
For the image of the yellow sponges, I took several test frames while spinning the housing. I kept lowering the shutter speed until I achieved a nice blur of the sea floor. Once I decided on a shutter speed of 1/30 second, I spun the camera until the sponges were framed the way I wanted, and released the shutter (and fired the strobes). It helps to continue the spinning motion until after the shutter closes to ensure a nice, smooth recording of motion.
Dragging the shutter can be fun with macro, too! The settings mentioned in this article are just recommended starting points, and experimenting with your settings is part of the creative process. Now … just dial down the shutter speed and turn up the fun!
Michael Zeigler is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video, as well as an AAUS Scientific Diver. More of Michael’s underwater photography can be seen at www.seainfocus.com. For the latest information on workshops and trips, sign up for our newsletter.
Todd Winner is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video and has over 20 years of experience in underwater still and broadcast video. To see more of Todd’s work please go to www.toddwinner.com. For the latest information on workshops and trips, sign up for our newsletter.