Some of my recent images were sharper than usual, and that puzzled me for a minute or two. I’m using all the same gear I’ve had for a long time, so why a sudden change in results? Well, the answer is quite simple: I’ve been doing a lot of home improvement projects lately.
What’s the connection? I’ve been exercising my upper body and I’ve been reciting an old mantra: “let the saw do the work.” The exercise improves my strength and coordination, allowing me to hold the camera more steadily and squeeze the shutter release more smoothly. The mantra reminds me that, even in my best physical condition, I’m a fairly shaky person whose photographs benefit from high shutter speeds; I should let the camera do more of the work. (I wrote about the value of good technique here, but that doesn’t mean I can always practice what I preach).
The surprisingly sharp images occurred because I switched the camera to shutter-priority and 1/640 of a second to shoot some hummingbirds and then decided to leave the settings there for several days. Digital cameras allow us to use higher ISO settings and therefore higher shutter speeds with minimal loss of image quality – so why not let the tool do the work?
However much we concentrate on technique, faster shutter speeds produce sharper pictures. This week I remembered that I have ALWAYS depended on fast shutter speeds. Even as a teenager, when I got my first “auto-exposure” camera, I chose shutter-priority while my friends all chose aperture-priority. My friends got greater control over depth-of-field, but I got consistently sharp images and compensation for my poor technique.
Somewhere between “Do you feel lucky, punk?” and “Go ahead, make my day,” Dirty Harry’s catchphrase was “A man’s got to know his limitations.” This photographer’s limitations include shaky hands. Fortunately, technology provides numerous opportunities to overcome such challenges, provided I remember to use that technology.