Monday, August 1, 2011

Tension and Climax


What is the peak moment in an action shot?



I took my son to a friend's birthday party and helped take some photos.  Like many kids' parties, they had a pinata waiting to be whacked into submission.  When taking action shots like that, I try to capture the peak moment.

Sometimes the peak moment is the climax of the action.  It's hard to imagine a better boxing shot for example than a shot of the knockout blow with the sweat spraying from the target's hair and face, which has for a brief moment distended so much that the face looks like it was separated from the skull.

On the other hand, sometimes the peak moment is not the climax but the moment just before the subject launches into action, when there is maximum tension.  Take a look at these shots.  They are very similar except for the timing of the capture.




In this case, I much prefer the shot with maximum tension instead of the strike.

The choice between capturing tension or climax is based on the result of the action.  If the action has a lot of visible impact, then I would try to capture the climax.  Otherwise, I would capture the tension.  Besides the boxing shot for example, a balloon bursting would be another example of a lot of visible impact.  On the other hand, a baseball pitch - even a 110 mph fastball - doesn't have a lot of visible impact, no matter how fast the ball might be thrown unless the ball was thrown so fast that it ignited in flames and looked like a fireball :) .  Hence I would try to capture the pitcher's maximum wind-up instead of the actual release of the ball.

In the pinata example, if one of the kids was extraordinarily strong and blew apart the pinata with one earth-shattering blow then the exploding pinata would have been a spectacular shot.  But the pinatas these days are so tough though that they survive several rounds of beating even by sugar-driven kids, falling apart little by little rather than blowing up all at once.  Thus, tension is the better choice.  At least while kids still use sticks instead of shotguns.