Fig 1: Swinging and marching band

A couple of weeks ago, I started to think about my first TAOP assignment. It’s about pairs of pictures showing contrast, with one of the pairs being the contrast between still and moving. I knew the annual rememberance parade was coming up, and each year there are five or six veterans in mobility scooters and pushchairs. I always find them an emotionally moving subject, so I thought it could be interesting to somehow use them for the assignment. Maybe a panned picture to emphasize the movement as they parade by, set off against a shot of an agile, younger person standing completely still.

Fig 2: Interlinked circular movements

Earlier in the year, I practised panning at our local half marathon, and found that between 1/25th and 1/60th gives a good effect for someone running. But the parade is a more solemn affair, kept at a speed where everybody can keep up. So I guessed at around 1/2 second. This introduced some practical complications. I don’t think I can hold a camera still for that long, and even on a dull day, there would be the risk of overexposure. So when the day of the parade arrived, with suitably dark clouds, I brought a monopod to at least be able to give some stability in one dimension, and also my set of neutral density filters.

It turned out that with a 3-stop ND filter, I could get 1/2 second shutter time at ISO 100 and apertures between f/5.6 and f/8. Splendid! As my normal zoom goes to f/22, I could even have left the filter at home, but I didn’t realise this until afterwards. Oh well. If the sun had come out, I would definitely have needed the filter, so I’ll file this one under “better safe than sorry”.

Fig 3: Moving veterans

Looking back over the pictures, I could have experimented more with different shutter times, and could probably have achieved a good effect with 1/6 or even 1/10th. But since there was only a limited amount of parade, I didn’t want to spend all my time thinking about camera settings instead of picture opportunities, so I stuck to 1/2 and 1/3.

The pictures are all fairly blurred, with even the faces and focus points showing significant motion blur. This makes the individuals appear more anonymous, which I think works well. In a way it adds a bit of mystery. Take the young army cadets in fig 2 with the trails of poppies that look like laser sights in an American movie – are they the soldiers of the future, or are they actually ghosts of the past?

My favourite shot of the day is Fig 3.  There’s a lot of blur, but the relative sharpness of the person in a wheelchair pulls the viewer’s eye in.  After seeing his face, the poppy on his beret and the medals on his chest tells that he’s a veteran in the parade. The poppy is mirrored in the ghosted image in front, and the medals there let us also recognise this person as a veteran. From here, the eye sees two additional wheelchair-bound veterans, before coming to rest on the civilians behind the veterans. At least that’s how I would like the image to work.

It’s hard to see all the details in the relatively small images here, so there’s a slideshow with larger versions here.