When I started out taking pictures underwater, I was taught the baseline settings of f/8, 1/125, and ISO200. Since discovering the art of motion blur during a trip to the Bahamas with Alex Mustard in 2016, my default settings have changed dramatically.
My name is Nick, and I’m a motion blur addict…..
Using a slow shutter speed as a technique allows me to introduce motion blur into still images resulting in dramatic and dynamic pictures. Coupled with the slow shutter (between 1/4 - 1/15 second), I use a variety of flash synchronization settings and camera movements to create the effect I want. These pictures all rely on small apertures to control flash, low ISO to control ambient light, and high-power flash guns to freeze the subject in the frame by over-powering the ambient light. Motion blur images work best in low light scenarios, and it is best to avoid this technique in shallow water when the sun is high.
Front curtain synchronization is used with an accelerated panning movement to give a dramatic look to pictures, with lots of motion blur streaks. Additionally, front-curtain sync is the setting I use for creating spins/twirls and zoom blurs. Rear-curtain sync with no camera movement gives a more subtle feeling and a different look.
I’ve found that motion blur technique is highly addictive and has produced eye-catching results. Some of these have been placed in major international underwater imaging competitions, culminating in my being awarded British Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPY) in 2020 with a motion blur shot.
Give it a try, but be warned that it is addictive!