The peak of the action – quite literally
Things thrown in the air follow an arc, and the top of the arc is both the slowest moment and – quite often – the classic moment
In last month’s article on capturing the moment we saw a classic moment in photography: a horse with all four of its hooves off the ground. I say classic because it was in 1878 in California that photographer Eadweard Muybridge, commissioned by a wealthy patron, used an early form of high-speed photography to show what the eye had never previously been able to see: this precise, mid-air moment. This frozen in mid-air quality made it special, and things thrown in the air have the same quality. Put almost any photographer in front of a scene where something is being thrown a short distance (so that it stays in the frame), and they’ll try to catch the same mid-air moment, usually the peak of the parabola. There is some logic in doing this, because not only does the thing suspended in mid-air catch the viewer’s attention, it also connects the thrower with the destination.
The image shown here was taken for a story on a school in Thailand that trains macaques to pick ripe coconuts. This particular macaque also helped out on the ground. As the shot shows, the key to mid-air moments is a combination of good timing and a clear viewpoint, with whatever is flying through the air clearly visible against the backdrop.
Here, the slowest moment in the arc of the coconut being tossed is when it’s at its highest point, and what helps make the shot is that the two coconuts are aligned