As a college yearbook photographer, I focused mainly on sporting events and particularly liked the challenge of capturing those pregnant moments in a contest. I was always trying to get that split second when a defender stretches out in the air to block a punt, or that moment when the receiver strains to catch a long pass, the ball is frozen just above his hands. Strangely though, I never was able to see the moment live as the opening of the camera’s shudder blocked my view. If I heard the sound of the punted ball bouncing of a defender but didn’t see it, I was usually confident I captured the moment. But you could never be sure until you had gone through the long, and somewhat tedious process of developing and printing the images.
Because digital photography offers immediate feedback, you can not only see if you captured a moment, but you can analyze a photograph’s composition and reposition accordingly. This photograph was enhanced by this ability.
I framed this photograph with a series of Victorian-style homes as a backdrop. I liked how the large structures spaced at regular intervals both anchored the image but also created some visual pacing. The static backdrop offered a nice contrast to the action in the foreground. I realized after an initial review that placing a building directly in the center of the frame enhanced the stability of the backdrop.
Even better, I realized the happy accident of the panorama lens—the long straightaway curved in a way that enhanced the sense of speed. Not only did the runners seem to boomerang across the frame but the lines from the telephone wires, the road markings, and the curbs further accentuated this sense of motion.
The other happy accident that really captured my imagination was the way the lens coped with the speed of the runners. Because you are moving the camera in the course of the shot, the camera and runners need to be in synch to render an exact image. If the motion of the camera and subject are not in synch the moving objects break apart. I liked the way this picture captured the scattered flight of all those constantly pounding feet and the way the runner’s seemed to out run their shadows. I focused on this expressive potential in the Running Girl picture that followed.
Have students play with the natural distortions of the panorama image and explore its expressive potential. The closer you stand to the subject and the longer the image the more the image will curve. Also explore how varying the speed of the camera to the subject creates different effects.
Review the students’ photographs. Have students discuss their various experiments, how they managed the variables in each image, and the happy accidents they found. As a community they can explore the expressive potential of these distortions with greater alacrity and with more variety than on their own. Harness the power of collaboration while pursuing individual goals.
Now, with greater intentionality, have students use this newfound understanding to create a new set of panoramic photographs that harness the natural distortion’s expressive potential. Consider different ways of sharing their work and their new understandings with the larger community.