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Making ‘Jess Jumping’

Just one tiny thousandth of a second … and it took 2 days to capture it.

I set up a jump in the garden – a light metal broom-handle resting on 2 upturned buckets – and put my camera with a 300mm lens on a tripod some distance away. I set the camera to Manual, with a high shutter speed (1/1000 sec) to freeze the rapid movement, and the widest aperture the lens had at that focal length (f5.6) to throw the background out of focus. I also used an additional fill-in flash and a remote release so that I did not have to be looking through the lens while the action was happening.

Then I switched off the auto-focus – it couldn’t possibly work fast enough to capture this action – and pre-focused on a spot a fraction after the bar. I estimated where her head would be in mid-jump and placed a small leaf on the ground to focus on. Then, having focused on the leaf I re-aligned the camera.

The last step was to ensure a plentiful supply of sausage, and get my dog Jess to jump over the bar … again and again. Fortunately she is well-trained and clever too (border collie genes). So, on my command, she will go off to the start position, wait, and then jump over the bar, while I sit on a stool by the camera and give orders! And dole out sausage.

It was a question of taking photo after photo, until the dog got fed up, or the light got too bad, or I ran out of sausage. For most of the photos she was in the wrong position (I had to be fast on the shutter button) out of focus or otherwise blurred. At f5.6 you don’t have an awful lot of depth of field to play with. But a handful came out well.

Such is the work of a photographer!

And of a dog. All credit to Jess for obedience and endurance. Border collies rule!

Technical details:  Nikon 28.300mm lens at 200mm, ISO200, 1/1000 second at f5.3


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