Looking back and forward.

Still in the way-back portion of old photo organizing, I started working on some photos from the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City. If you are not familiar with this pre-pandemic, annual event then perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words.


With campy costumes galore, this "everyone free to participate" parade offers tons of photographic opportunity, but with a few challenges thrown in - sometimes harsh lighting among them.

But that harsh light can also be an ally. Parasols are a mainstay of this parade and having one back lit makes a wonderful frame.


When I took my camera out on this particular day, I remember that I was specifically trying to work on getting the right amount of background blur. This was a challenge because the parade keeps parading by, so there isn't unlimited time to keep readjusting camera settings. At the time, it was pushing myself to just do what I usually spent time thinking about.

Coming home and previewing the shots, I was very pleased with my progress - happy that my subjects were, for the most part, standing out from the background but with enough background detail when I wanted it. The "this way to the circus arrow" in my first photo adds a little something to the scene.

But getting more zoomed in while trying to compensate for the lighting, I noticed something I didn't back when I took these: they are all a little softly focused, and I had a sneaking suspicion why. Between being in a jostling crowd of spectators and having my subjects in motion my shutter speed was probably always a touch too slow. Checking photo metadata confirmed most of the shots were taken with about a 1/60 second exposure. With more experience I have found I usually need 1/90th of a second to eliminate my hand shake, and faster than 1/100th of a second is best. What is worse is I could have gotten better shots. My camera was set at ISO 100 for the whole afternoon. If I had moved to ISO 200 I would have taken faster exposures.

But faster isn't always better.


In this shot I think the slower speed works. Giving the subject's hand and the hula hoop a little motion blur.

This reinforces a lesson that even more blurry photos have highlighted in my past: especially when shooting hand held, keep an eye on the shutter speed, too, and don't forget if I am set on a particular aperture setting I can still adjust the ISO to get an appropriate exposure time.