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Here comes the fuzz

No focus? No worries.



From speed-flying to mountain biking or even tailgate riding, today's adventure sport athletes are moving faster than ever. And the more hard-charging the action, the harder it is to capture the scene without blurriness. While few things spoil an action photo like blur, used selectively it can also be your friend and create very cool effects.

To make the most of the situation, it's helpful to understand what causes blur in the first place. Typically, it's because the camera moves, the subject moves, or both things happen at once. More simply, if the subject's reflection moves across your camera's sensor while the shutter is open, it blurs the image.

Both problems usually occur by accident, the result of your camera compensating for a low-light scene and leaving its shutter open longer than normal. What's normal? Well, shutter speeds are described in fractions of a second, and most camera shutters can be set to stay open from a few seconds (very long) to 1/2000th of a second (very short) or faster.

It's also valuable to know which shutter speeds capture action scenes without blur, so here are some examples: 1/1000th of a second or faster will completely freeze any adventure sport athlete—downhill skiers and skydivers included, and 1/250th of a second will freeze most, but not all, human-powered activities. Choose 1/60th of a second or slower and you'll likely get blur. At 1/20th or 1/10th of a second, getting a sharp photo (without a tripod) is frequently a losing proposition.

To solve the problem, start by bending the rules (and I'm not talking about defying any laws out there that ban riding in the backs of trucks). I got this photo sitting on a tailgate after hitching a ride home from the mountains. I needed a shutter speed short enough to keep my feet in focus but long enough to blur the moving road—1/20th of a second did it perfectly. Any faster and the road would be too sharp; any slower and I'd have to struggle to keep the camera (and my feet) motionless.

But don't take my word for it. Turn your camera from auto to manual, and have fun with the fuzz. Then send us your most amazing, spectacu-blur images. We'll happily publish the best.

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