Although it may seem like an odd concept, it is possible to show motion in a still image. Motion can be depicted by how various elements are captured by the camera and how they are interpreted by your brain. Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
One technique is to freeze your main subject while allowing the background to blur. In this image, I locked on the people riding the train and held the camera steady. Since the train was moving, the passing landscape blurred in the image, showing motion. I also selected an f/2.8 aperture setting and slow shutter speed to help blur the background.
In case you’re wondering about the odd angle of this image, there is a good explanation. This picture was taken on the Incline Railway in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. The train travels straight up and down the mountain at a 73 degree incline, thus the slightly strange result. I also think that the impression of people sliding forward in the image also shows motion.
Another technique is to reverse the previous process and blur the main subject rather than the background. To do this, lock your camera on the background and hold it steady. Snap the image as your main subject passes through the frame. Remember to adjust your exposure high enough to account for how fast the main subject is moving.
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a travel photograph, but it’s the closest I could find right now. This image shows comedian Gallagher smashing creamed corn during a recent concert. I locked on where the sledgehammer would contact the corn and held steady. I used an exposure of 1/125 sec as it was fast enough to freeze most of the action, yet slow enough to allow the fastest parts (i.e., the creamed corn) to blur slightly. The result is actually a combination of freeze frame and motion, but you get the point. The same trick would work for a race car, airplane or carnival ride.
Freezing your main subject in motion can also give the impression of motion. For example, I photographed this seagull as he took off from his place on the pier. With his wings extended and legs outstretched, you get an impression of flight and motion.
As a bit of full-disclosure, this poor bird was sleeping on the pier when I slipped up and yelled “Boo!” I’m not entirely proud of my tactics, but I really wanted this picture, I’m sad he doesn’t know what sleeping with a snoogle pregnancy pillow feels like.
Try out these tips and tricks to show motion in your travel photography and let me know how it works.