How do I Understand and Use Shutter Speed?

I am continuing from where we left off when we previously talked about photography. This post is a part of the series of posts on Photography Basics, a series born out of my interest in the subject. In this series, I write and share with you what I get to learn about the topic. The impressions are entirely mine, and you are free to differ. (Though I don’t wish you to.)

Shutter speed is one of the most important things to consider in photography; the others being the aperture, focal length, and ISO. So far we’ve covered aperture in detail. Before we get to talk about shutter speed, we must first understand what a shutter is.

What is Shutter?

Shutters are like curtains. And, what do curtains do? They control the amount of light entering a room. Similarly, shutters help control the amount of light falling onto the imaging sensor through the lens. The basic mechanism in cameras is that when you click the shutter button, or tell the camera to capture an image – by releasing the shutter (that’s what it is called, technically), the camera opens and closes the shutter to expose the imaging sensor to the light. The imaging sensor captures this light and produces an image that is then written into the memory card and displayed on the LCD panel of the camera.

What is a Shutter Speed? And, what are fast and slow shutter speeds?

Shutter Speed is a representation for the length of time for which the shutter remains open. But, why speed? Speed, in photography, is more than just a figure of speech. Understand that the imaging sensor, by default, captures the image for only a frame of time. In some advance-level DSLRs, this frame of time can be as fast as 8000th of a second. But, you can regulate the image by manipulating the amount of time for which the shutter lets the light pass through to the imaging sensor – hence, fast and slow shutter speeds.

A fast shutter speed means that the imaging sensor is exposed to the light for only a fraction of a second; that the shutter opens and closes speedily (as speedily as 8000th of a second, as we just discussed). So, the light is exposed to the imaging sensor for only a short amount of time. So, if you see photographs of people hung in the air as they jumped, it was probably the camera that captured them at higher shutter speeds. Here’s a picture that my friend Arun shared with me specially for this post! Arun is a blogger, too. I love reading his blogs IdleMusingz and Lulling Lores.

arun-with-his-daughter-riddhi

Whereas, a slow shutter speed means that the shutter remains open for anything longer than a second (technically, anything slower and longer than a 100th of a second should be called slow shutter speed). Today’s cameras can have slower shutters that open for as long as 30 seconds to capture one frame. That’s actually slow. And, then there’s this bulb mode, where the shutter remains open for as long as the shutter button is in the released position. It is like 30 seconds of slow shutter speed multiplied by the amount of time the shutter button is released – something of that sort. But, that can be controlled by an intervalometer, which, as the name suggests, can be used for taking pictures at regular intervals.

How do I apply the understanding of shutter speed while capture images?

To capture an image, as you already now, you need the right focus, an aperture that lets in sufficient light onto the imaging sensor, an ISO that’s set to sufficient light sensitivity, and a sufficient shutter speed to capture the details. Irrespective of what or where you are capturing, you will need a combination of all these.

If, for example, you are shooting in the dark (or want to create a dramatic effect that shows flow), to set your camera to capture for longer shutter durations, because to capture a sharp image you will have to let in more light onto the imaging sensor. But, this again is subjective.

I prefer to shoot in the Aperture Priority mode. So, all I am supposed to do is control the aperture. The camera system controls the other elements based on the aperture I choose. This means that if I choose f/4, the camera system will analyze the scene and then set the other values automatically for me. Typically, a 2:1 ratio is associated for the aperture and shutter speed calculations.

How do I create special or artistic effects?

To capture images creatively, you have to learn to adjust your creativity to match the capabilities of your camera. There are lot of techniques available on the Internet that I found were easy to try. The motion blur effect that you see in all those utterly-clichéd photographs (Sorry, but no sorry.) of waterfalls, seascapes, and clouds are the result of slower shutter speeds. Here’s what I captured on my way to Harihareshwar (Konkan area), some years back.

zippy-drive

Feeling dizzy looking at the picture? Me too!

You can combine a relatively slower shutter speed with panning to create a motion blur. Some photographers use this technique in sports and automotive photography. For those who don’t know about panning, it is a technique where the camera is fixed to a tripod and then moved from one point to another keeping the motion horizontally parallel to either the ground or the movement of the subject.

Are there any rules?

Yes; Keep the shutter speed inversely proportional to the aperture. The wider the aperture, the slower the shutter speed. Otherwise, you may end up over exposing or under exposing your photographs.

Rain Rain Come Again.jpg

That one’s from my Flickr profile.

I am still experimenting with the shutter speed: My Canon IXUS HS is a Point & Shoot, which powers up to only about 3 frames per second. So, I don’t have a lot of ground for a high speed action. The truth is:  Your creativity is your only limit.

Until next time, happy clicking!

Cricket and the 500th Test for India

I seldom write on sports. But of course, only if we think Cricket is just a sport, at least in India; It is the blood that runs through the nerves of the Indians. It is the thought that drives them closer, even strangers get to dance on the same tunes when India registers a win. Those are reasons enough to share my thoughts on it. And, hence this post.

The Indian cricket’s milestone figure of the 500th test match comes at a time when most of us are more interested in the pleasure of seeing the Cricket balls smash out of the Cricket ground. The test cricket, unlike the other – faster – formats of the game, is about patience. It is about something that today’s generation, mostly, will not choose to see… “you know, who waits for five days to see the result”, someone might add.

Amidst the current air of reaching the milestone figure of 500 test matches, I sense this strange feeling: Will we ever get to see India’s 1000th test? Not because it took us exactly 80 years to reach this milestone – and that, doing the basic math, it would take us another 80 to play the remaining 500 – but because the trend is shifting, for whatever reasons.

The game is increasingly becoming more about the story and glory of batters than about the overall spirit of the sport. The game is now more about the batting average than the fun in either chasing targets or not letting chase targets. Is it wrong? Are spectators’ expectations wrong? No, because they are in dearth of perhaps the most important thing: time!

My two cents worth of thought? I have always been a believer of that “old-school” thought that even pleasure must be earned, and Test Cricket, as a format, lets you do just that: Five days; close to 540 balls to be faced per day; scorching heat (or varying temperatures, in some cases); and test of patience for players from both the sides – now I know how it got its name. It just can’t get more demanding than that.

But, like I said before, it is the momentous pleasure that most of us seek today. All they care is about shouting out loud as they see the cricket ball being batted out of the bounds. All they seek is the “unearned” pleasure in the batter’s eyes for taking a hit at (pun intended) whatever comes. Is there even a technique in situations that already have your adrenaline pumped up? If you think so, I’d choose to differ.

For a player (doesn’t matter who they are, a batter, a bowler, or one of the umpires), the test cricket is the ultimate test of their physical and mental strength. It is only when they burn themselves on the hard pitches that they truly earn their pleasure –the true spirit of the game. It is like the rare encounter where you enjoy the journey as much as the destination. It is but pity that the spectators only seldom get the true feel of the game.

That is why I think we must celebrate this milestone; We really must. Also because this is time when we make a conscious choice: Of either preserving the soul of Cricket or moving on! Though I really like to watch Cricket, and that I will continue to watch whatever format they choose to play, I will continue to have my reservations in favor of my thought. Call me an “old school” guy.

Each format has its own good thing. And, every match is going to end in a result. But, that anticipation, constant engagement, and hard work in “earning” the pleasure will always be of the utmost importance to me, even though I will be one of those “poor” spectators who would never really get to “feel” the game. Even though I will continue to enjoy the new formats of the game, I will continue to have reservations for the “test” cricket. Howzat!

Three Tips to Internationalize Content

Last week, while I was talking to one of our teammates from the UK, this thought of writing for the international audiences drew my attention. I thought I should prepare a list of some generic points to consider while preparing content for international audiences. In this post, I share the that list with you. As a technical communicator, not often it is that I get to try my hands on localization (or internationalization, for that matter). Nevertheless, it is nice to know about the following points and put them to practice, whenever possible:

Culture-proof the references

This is by far the biggest cause of worry for the content writers. “He plays football” sounds a simple phrase to translate. But, as you know, more than one games share the spelling: The American football, the British football, and then there’s the Australian football. The English people wear black for formal parties and weddings. In contrast, it is not supposed to be good to wear black for weddings in India. As a communicator, if I come across any information that has a reference to a culture, I will like to either supply additional information or simply remove the reference.

I also make sure that I do not use any idioms, phrases, or initialisms that are specific to a location, culture, or race. For example: The Indians could have lost that match, had the other team not done a Devon Loch at the last minute. When you use idioms – like the one I used – you (or your translators) have to invest a lot of time searching for its equivalent counterpart in the language they are translating.

For those who don’t know, Devon Loch was a racehorse (Yes, racehorse is one word!) that collapsed just short of the winning line of one of the national horse races in the UK. That was in 1956, I suppose. So, you can use the idiom, only if you have the time and willingness to share the unnecessary background with the readers – assuming that your translator remains to be sane to translate it in multiple languages for you, multiple number of times.

Just for the fun of it, imagine translating the funnier idioms in the following sentences:

  • Today’s politicians are all talk and no trousers. (No imaginations, please!)
  • I’ve been a developer for donkey’s years. (Yes, trouble for you!)
  • Honesty will prevail in this world when pigs fly. (Seriously!)

There are also times when you generally refer to things from your own culture and expect others to know about it – unless you tell them about it. I’ve celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi ever since I was a child. But, to hear that this is a festival to celebrate the birth of the elephant-headed god was still weird for me. Still, the additional information helped my colleague explain our UK counterparts on what the festival was about.

Mind the Formatting

Formatting is one of the key aspects when it comes to comprehension. Translation can cost you the information if the formatting isn’t proper. During my stint as a freelancer, I’ve worked with a lot of clients who required translations from the English to the Hindi or Marathi language. And, in either of the cases, I faced issues especially with the alphabetical lists. Items marked until A, B, C, D, E, and F were fine, but anything beyond that became a little weird to read in Hindi and Marathi.

But, the comprehension is affected even when the language remains the same. For one of my clients, who, being from the US, used the MM-DD-YYYY date format, I had to get detailed clarifications for their date-based stamps that included one-digit dates. For example, 1-11-2016 is 11-JAN-2016 in the US, but 1-NOV-2016 in the UK. Not only is the date translation incorrect, but the difference is much as 10 months.

In some Indian languages, the bulleted list doesn’t exist in their legalese. So, whenever I’d receive scripts for translation, I’d double check for possibilities on using the numbered and unnumbered lists in their respective translated sections. It was time consuming, but definitely worth the time and effort. Speaking of the languages, some countries read right to left, like the Arabic or Urdu, or top to bottom, like the Mandarin. Are there any points that you consider when you localize, or if I may say, internationalize your content? I’d think considering placing screenshots in the middle of a page and using icons that aren’t specific to a gender, race, or ethnicity. But, I’m curious to know your opinion on it.

Error-proof your Data

The differences in the units of measurement are known to be fairly common ones. A 5’ is both five inches and five feet. In fact, this is so confusing that in some cases I’ve seen even 5” (a double quotation mark instead of a single quotation mark). Depending on the context of furniture designing, real estate, and even food – pizzas and cakes are measured in inches – the unit of measure will change. But, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. The standard unit of measurement for length in the US are Yard and Mile, while in the UK are Meters and Kilometers.

Then there’s also about the data integrity. If for a UK reader, I give data references like “the barren land is as big as the Lake of Utah, in the Utah state (UT, US)”, the reader will most likely either not understand it or completely misunderstand the estimate. Also, notice how states appear in the addresses in the US, such as the one we discussed. I cannot use the contracted form when I write the same information for the Indian audiences. For us in India, for example, the contractions UT and TN will never stand for the US states of Utah and Tennessee, but for the Indian state of Uttaranchal and Tamil Nadu.

Conclusion

I am a technical communicator, so I will only seldom get to try hands on localization and internationalization. But, in the limited amount of time and scope, I will find this list handy. Do you too have such a list? If yes, what are the points on your handy list?