Take nothing but pictures
Leave nothing but footprints

Exercise 5: Panning with different shutter speeds

To photograph moving objects at different shutter speeds while panning – following the motion with the subject in the centre of the frame

The shots for this exercise were taken in the same session as those for Exercise 4: Shutter Speeds – cars on a local road with a 30mph speed limit.  Panning shots were taken of cars travelling in both directions.

I selected to use shutter priority mode to have control over the shutter speeds – starting at 1/1000s and halving the shutter speed (doubling the exposure time) all the way down to 1/15s. My expectations were, even given the modest speed of the cars, that I would struggle to capture any decent shots below about 1/60s.

Pre-focus was set for the centre of each lane for each shot.

Closer shots

5.1: 1/1000 sec. Sharp and with little difference to a tripod mounted stationary shot.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO400, f/5, 1/500 sec]

5.2: 1/500 sec. Generally sharp with a small amount of motion blur observable on the wheels.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO400, f/3.2, 1/1000 sec]

5.3: 1/250 sec. Some very slight blur on the car body and more motion blur on wheels.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO400, f/8, 1/250 sec]

5.4: 1/125 sec. Pretty sharp car body and good motion blur on wheels. Background beginning to blur more.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO200, f/8, 1/125 sec]

5.5: 1/60 sec. Good background and wheel blur. A lack of sharpness of the car body.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO200, f/11, 1/60 sec]

For cars travelling in this direction I failed to get any sharp shots below 1/60s.

More distant shots

5.6: 1/1000 sec. Very sharp and hard to distinguish from a stationary shot.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO400, f/4, 1/1000 sec]

5.7: 1/500 sec. Sharp with very slight motion blur on the wheels.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO400, f/4.5, 1/500 sec]

5.8: 1/250 sec. Generally sharp with increased blur of wheels.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO400, f/6.3, 1/250 sec]

5.9: 1/125 sec. Sharp car body with more blurring of the wheels and background.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO400, f/9, 1/125 sec]

5.10: Extra shot at 1/125s - shows blurring of wheels and background while writing on van body is clearly legible.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO400, f/10, 1/125 sec]

5.11: 1/60 sec. Good blur of wheels and background. Writing on side of van is legible.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO200, f/6.3, 1/60 sec]

5.12: 1/30 sec. Sharp car body with good blur of wheels and background.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO200, f/11, 1/30 sec]

5.13: 1/15 sec. Excellent blur of wheels and background with a sharp car body.

[EXIF: Sony A900, CZ24-70 @ 24mm, ISO100, f/16, 1/15 sec]

Conclusions drawn from this exercise

Panning is an excellent method to show the speed and dynamism of a subject whilst keeping the subject sharp. The blurring of the background in panned shots with slower shutter speeds makes the subject ‘pop out’ and creates a much more engaging image.

Taking similar shots (shutter speeds, distance to subject) with a more distant background will further enhance the blurring of the background as the background will ‘move further’ relative to the sensor plane in the camera. I will be taking a series of shots in that situation and will update this post once I have taken them to show the difference.

Technical conclusions

The ratio of good:bad shots decreases when compared to using a stationary camera – whether hand-held or tripod mounted. Since this was the first time I had attempted panning with a purpose in mind it became clear that if this is a technique that I plan to use in the future then I will need to practice more.

Body positioning and dynamics are also important to getting good results. My first attempt at panning cars travelling from right to left were taken with my feet spread at approximately 45° to the angle of travel of the cars, with my left foot forward and I struggled to get even a reasonable proportion of keepers. Keeping the same stance (left foot forward at 45° to the travel of the cars) my keeper ratio improved.

A quick analysis and repetition of the body positioning and panning gave me the answer to this. The improvement in good:bad ration was obtained when starting with my back slightly ‘coiled’ and unwinding as I panned. I switched my stance to right foot forward and re-shot the slower shutter speeds of cars travelling from right to left which led to an improvement in keeper ratio.

Preferred shots

I actually have two preferred shots.

From a technical perspective my preferred shot is of the blue florists van – shot 5.11. The background and wheels are clearly blurred while the car body is sharp and good detail can be seen in the subject. A closer crop emphasises the movement even more, as below:

5.14: Shot on a Sony DSLR-A900 at ISO200, f/6.3, 1/60 sec at 28mm. A close crop shows the movement better.

From an aesthetic perspective however my clear favourite is the blue Audi TT – shot 5.12.  At the slower shutter speed the blur of the wheels and especially the background makes the car stand out wonderfully and gives a real sense of speed.  I asked my two teenage daughters to guess how fast the car was travelling and both said 50-60mph – almost double the speed the car was travelling. This is emphasised even more with a crop and slight rotation of the shot – below:

5.15: Shot on a Sony DSLR-A900 at ISO200, f/11, 1/30 sec at 26mm. Cropped and slightly rotated.

Who said the camera never lies? 😉

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This entry was posted on Saturday, July 17th, 2010 at 16:16 and is filed under 01. A way of seeing, OCA Learning Log, TAOP Exercises, The Art of Photography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.