It's the Tour de France, and all eyes are on cyclists whizzing by at 25 miles (40.2 kilometers) per hour. Sports photographers capture sweat pouring down the faces of the cyclists. They capture the pained expressions on cyclists' faces as they struggle up another hill. They photograph an entire pack of cyclists from a distance, capturing the scale of the competition. Those are all good photo opportunities, but bicycle photography is known for something else: the motion blur shot.
You've probably seen it before -- a photograph of cyclists flashing by, the background and sometimes even their bodies blurred thanks to their high speeds. That blur isn't an accident: It's the result of a photographer shooting with a slow shutter speed to capture a sense of motion in a still image. The longer the camera shutter remains open, the more light it's taking in. When a fast-moving object makes its way across the frame, it becomes blurred.
Motion blur adds a layer of style often missing from static images and proves there's not just one way to photograph a scene. The technique can be put to use photographing all manner of sports, but it isn't the best choice in every situation. In fact, sports photography often relies on the opposite practice -- shooting at a high shutter speed -- to secure a sharp image.