Making the Most of Long Exposure Handhelds


As you can see, there are many small pieces to consider and ultimately put together in a concerted effort in order to see any change in your photography. You may have the best breathing pattern in the world, but if you can't "pull the trigger" of your "weapon" in a controlled, deliberate manner, well you aren't reaping any benefits. And don't worry - your drill sergeant will take a vested interest in making sure you are well aware of this.

It takes a lot of practice and repetition (repetition, repetition) in order to have these fundamentals become second nature. Just like riding a bike, driving a car, or playing an instrument. The first times you ever attempted any of them, you thought about every possible aspect - How am I not going to fall? Were those trucks this big when I wasn't driving? What note is that? - until you did them so much (dare I say through so much repetition, repetition, repetition?) that they became instinctual.

When applied to sports, the scientifically accepted term is muscle memory - your body parts have performed a certain motion so many times that it doesn't have to think about it and the result is seemingly natural. Hence why gymnasts make 6 handsprings in a row look effortless, and yet my attempt at just one with spotters on both sides to catch me resembles what my sergeants affectionately refer to as a "soup sandwich."

While there are so many nuances to consider before these instincts kick in, what applies for most people does not necessarily mean they will apply to you. The purpose of this article was to introduce you to an organized manner of addressing what the United States military has labeled the "Four Fundamentals of Marksmanship" in their technical and training manuals. There are several - and sometimes many - different possibilities so that, through experimentation, you can determine what combinations of techniques yield the most effective and consistent results for you.

When learning how to effectively apply the principles mentioned here, focus on one at a time. Start with body position, then once you have those components down, then go to breathing, and so on. Or start with sight alignment since it's the least complex section. Regardless, start with just one, and then build upon it with the next one, using each previously honed component as the foundation for the next. Remember, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. You don't start street racing as soon as you get behind the wheel - you stall several hundred times until you don't have to think about that damned clutch.

Lastly, as just a closing disclaimer, these fundamentals are by no means all-inclusive, particularly the positions. There are many other techniques, and many, many more positions to be experimented with. The intent behind this article was to illustrate fundamentals soldiers are trained on for marksmanship and how they apply and can be implemented to further your photographic capabilities, as they have for me.

Making of this Article

All of the photographs in this article were taken with a Pentax K-5 and either the DA 12-24mm f/4, the DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 WR, or the DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8.

The camera featured in all of the photographs is the Pentax K-7 with the DA* 55-135mm f/2.8 mounted on it.

All photographs were taken using a Manfrotto 7301YB-BB Tripod.

All photographs were taken using the Metz 50 AF-1 in P-TTL mode.

All photographs were taken using a 12-sec timer, no remote.

All photographs were taken in my home.

All photographs were processed, cropped, and converted to black and white through Adobe Lightroom 3.

All other photographs and diagrams were collected from various sites hosting information/different versions of the referenced marksmanship manuals.

All research for this article was conducted utilizing several marksmanship manuals, namely Basic Rifle Marksmanship, Field Manual (FM) 3-22.9.

After a painfully arduous casting process, the author was selected to model each of the positions.

About the Author

Currently serving as a commissioned officer in the United States Army with a focus in engineering and linguistics, Heie is an aspiring adventure photographer/photojournalist while being currently stationed in Bavaria, Germany. His family lives in Florida, and he enjoys travel, rock climbing, alpinism, running, obstacle courses, and the study of languages.

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