Motion Pictures: Trains, Horses, Buses and Blurs

I love to show movement in my photographs.  One of my favourite techniques to achieve this is to pan with my subject as it moves in front of me.  I like the effect of the blurred elements stretching and wrapping around a train, horse or any number of other things in motion.  The actual shooting is great fun too and I enjoy interacting with the scene to create the image I have in mind.

Standing on a street corner, a forest’s edge or along the fence at a rodeo, I will slow my shutter speed down either by using a smaller aperture or lowering my camera’s ISO setting.  With the camera ready, I then focus on the subject in motion and shoot it as goes.  When the panning of the camera matches the speed of the train, animal or athlete, the subject will remain sharp while the static elements and those moving in another direction or at a different speed will blur.

It is this blurring that frames the subject and creates the sense of speed. I like to play with the shutter speed to adjust how much blur there is and to affect how sharp the subject is.  An abstract quality can be found in some images where the details are soft allowing patterns and colors to step ahead of the subject in importance.

There are numerous techniques to improve the success rate of sharp subject’s in a motion blur image including keeping the camera parallel to the subject’s path, starting to shoot as the vehicle approaches and following through as it passes, locking arms, shoulders, knees and feet and pivoting at the hips and many more.  I try to practice these and incorporate as many as possible when I am panning.

The results can be really interesting and create compelling images.  The web is your friend for specific details on these and many other ways to pan effectively.  It is worth mentioning that while the slower the longer the shutter speed, the harder it is to keep the subject sharp, the payoff can be more interesting blur and consequently a more dynamic image.  I often set my shutter speed as low as 1/10 of a second, which can result in more misses (blurry, unusable pictures) but when everything comes together there is a chance for something magical.

If you have an interest, give it a try and see if you like the photographs you create.  It can be a great way to see a common scene in a new way or to pass a few minutes waiting for the bus.  I would love to see any results you would like to share.

17 responses

  1. EmilyBide

    hi!, doing a critical study on you for my a-level photography work! amazing work. thank you for being so inspiring 🙂

    April 27, 2020 at 5:57 am

  2. WOW

    June 20, 2017 at 4:25 pm

  3. Pingback: Christopher Martin – GskeePhotography

  4. Cyn

    This is really impressive. Favorite of all is the rodeo shot. You captured the beauty and strength of the beast, the still focus of the rider, and the chaos in the environment around them! I also enjoyed your narrative about capturing these shots. Great page!

    March 3, 2013 at 12:50 am

  5. Not only am I rather fond of trains, I’m also always impressed by this technique as well. Thanks for another set of great photos!

    October 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

  6. Awesome photos! I particularly love the one of the train… the colors are incredible.

    September 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm

  7. I love the color on the buses. Great idea, very inspirational!

    September 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm

  8. The last one is really cool – thanks

    September 22, 2011 at 4:58 am

  9. cool photography !

    September 22, 2011 at 3:00 am

  10. Cool photos !

    September 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm

  11. TheBlueMorpho

    Thats cool! I like the one with the horses. 🙂 (main blog) (photo blog) (store)

    September 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm

  12. Great pans, liking the hotrod and the horseback rider. Great Work!

    September 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    • Thanks Dustan. I really enjoyed touring your recent posts – on the subject of pans you have great ones of bicycles (and their riders, of course).

      September 21, 2011 at 10:40 pm

  13. This is a great post, and wonderful photos. Thanks so much for all this information.

    September 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    • Thanks Katie – I’m glad you liked these images. Your study of flowers in motion is great – I made a short comment over there with a couple of my thoughts. Cheers, Chris

      September 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm

  14. kingstar

    Good picture.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm

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