GO GO GO!

August 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Aperture f2.8, Shutter speed 1/40th second, ISO500 I’ve been asked a couple of times how I got the shots that I took of speedway last weekend. I’ll try to explain the technique I used which is a technique called panning. Firstly here’s the disclaimers!

You need to approach this technique experimentally – it can provide some awesome results but it can be frustrating to master (and I definitely haven't!). Which brings me to my second disclaimer which is more of an admission! I took well over 100 shots on that Saturday night in order to get a handful that I was happy with, where the fence post wasn’t obscuring half the car and the car was actually in focus!

However, it is fun and it’s a great way to show speed in your images – try it on anything that moves from kids, to dogs, to runners and cyclists. I even use it for sunsets occasionally to create a more painterly effect. You probably have seen shots of horse races as well as car races where the technique of blurring the background while keeping the subject in focus has been used to depict speed effectively.

Aperture f4, Shutter Speed 1/6th second, ISO125

The knack

In short you set your camera to an automatic tracking focus setting and use a slower shutter speed whilst tracking your subject as it moves past you.

Which means what???

  • First find and set your focus to the automatic tracking option. This will keep whatever subject you focus on in focus while you track your camera at the same speed as the subject. This setting will be something along the lines of AF-C, continuous or Al Servo in your camera menu depending on your brand of camera.
  • Next select shutter priority (“S” for Nikon users and “Tv” for Canon users) on your mode dial. This means the camera will choose the "correct" aperture for you and it's one less thing to worry about in the moment. 
  • Choose a shutter speed of around 1/30 second. You’ll need to experiment from here – for faster objects (e.g. race cars) you’ll need faster shutter speeds like 1/50th and for slower subjects like someone walking you’ll need something slower like 1/15th. For the sunset image above I used 1/4th second.
  • Position yourself so that your object moves past you. Before it gets to you focus on them or it by pressing your shutter half way. Keep it held down and track the subject with your camera until it is parallel with you, at which point you press the shutter all the way.
  • With the shutter pressed keep tracking the subject with your camera for a second. This creates the background blur whilst keeping your subject in focus but it does take practice!!

Speedway

At speedway it’s also dark which doesn’t help so bump your ISO up to something like ISO 500 (you’ll have to experiment for your own camera here) and try to position yourself so that you are pressing the shutter all the way as the car comes past you in one of the more well lit sections of the track. I also found it useful to zoom out more than you might like for this technique and then crop your image later.

Aperture f20, Shutter Speed 1/4th second, ISO100 Don’t forget to share your images to the Facebook Group


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