Set up to react fast…

As the Autumn fast approaches, and light will inevitably be less generous to us all, I thought it time to mention a camera setting as a great way to get your exposure right when reacting fast.

Most of the time, I work in Manual mode. You know what the light is doing, it’s relatively constant, and you set your camera accordingly, just focusing on what is in front of you. This is plenty to be thinking about, rather than grappling with the technical side of things, just when your attention is required to move, frame, focus and take a picture.

Red and blue. Copyright: Mike Kemp

Red and blue. Copyright: Mike Kemp

On this particularly wet day in January (I know sorry to bring this up on such a beautiful day) I’d been wandering around near Aldgate and had been working on slower shutter speeds in the gloomy light, looking for stationary objects.

In the background though, I’m ready to leap into action.

What I always do, even I am working in manual, is to have my Aperture priority set up to correspond to a shutter speed of at least 1/250th. So, in this case, on my cheap and faithful 40mm lens, I have it set to wide open at f2.8, which when I set it was giving me a minimum of 1/250th.

Anyway, there I am, wet, cold and walking home. Set to Manual, and crossing the road, when i see a woman walking along the pavement and her trainers are exactly matching the two colours of the cycle lane. This is when the street photographer’s instinct kicks in. So as I take a couple of long running strides to frame the scene closer, I change from Manual to Aperture priority (you’ll do this without looking if you do it enough, trust me). Focus as best I can on where she is walking to, drop to a better height bending my knees and take two frames, trying to time her steps as best I can in a rush. It’s all done in a couple of seconds.

The result is f2.8 at 1/250th second, at ISO 400, and although slightly focussed behind the woman, it’s pretty close. If it has been 1/125th, it probably wouldn’t have hurt, but there would definitely be movement. I wasn’t certain at the time, what the shutter speed would be, but I had set it up to work out. The point is, that if you need to react fast, you’ll be there or thereabouts, so you can just shoot and see what the result is…

In changing light I flip from Manual to Aperture priority often, and in this case, you could argue that I should already have been set to Aperture priority… You’d have a damn good argument there. I’m certainly not perfect, especially when tired, but you should try this next time you are out there. 

Have your Aperture priority setting prepared, and you’ll be able to react with accuracy.

Have a great week!