Capturing Motion: My Life in High Speed Nature Photography

Capturing Motion: My Life in High Speed Nature Photography


In this fascinating book Stephen Dalton takes the reader on a journey, recounting how he started in photography and how he became fascinated with the idea of photographing insects and birds in flight.

When Dalton started to combine his interests in nature and photography, no photographer had succeeded in capturing on film a focused image of an animal in midair. There were no digital cameras, no high-speed film, only primitive flash units powered by a heavy car battery. Colour film took a week or more to be sent away and processed, too late for Dalton to make adjustments to his camera and flash set-up. There were also no publications to learn from.

Dalton describes how persistence, hard work and sheer faith that it could be done pushed him to experiment with a variety of methods. Two years of repeated attempts, an understanding of flight mechanics and insight into the art of photography brought success: he captured a sharply focused image of a barn owl leaving its nest. Dalton had created the art of motion photography.

Capturing Motion: My Life in High Speed Nature Photography is part memoir, part adventure story and part scientific explanation, illustrated throughout with Dalton's pioneering photographs. Dalton explains how the photographic equipment of the time worked and takes the reader on his journeys into the English countryside in the 1960s as he searched for subjects. Each attempt could be long and frustrating but success finally came with his image of a barn owl in flight:

"We employed two cameras set-up side by side in the hide, one containing colour film that had to be sent away to Kodak for processing, which took a week, while the other was loaded with black and white film. When the owl took off both cameras recorded two almost identical images. More often than not the negatives revealed that at least one of the flash heads failed to fire, ruining the chance of obtaining the lighting so carefully planned. Even when we managed to obtain an image, the chances were that the wings were not in an attractive position. By now, after three weeks our patience was running thin. Although we had managed to obtain a few indifferent pictures, none of them did justice to the bird and the setting. I decided to struggle on for a few more days. A couple of evenings had passed when out of the blue everything jelled - next morning from out of the developing tank I withdrew a strip of dripping negatives that held the image that had been in my mind's eye for weeks - all four flash lamps had fired and the owl's wings were perfect."

Capturing Motion follows the incredible journey of a highly skilled and creative nature photographer inventing an entirely new method. All photographers will enjoy reading about the determination and skill that went into creating a method they use every day in their craft.

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