I have a lot of fun photographing just about anything in motion. Thinking about how a picture could look, using different techniques to realize that and then the element of luck throwing in a wildcard or two. Here are a few car shots from last year which came together pretty well.
Night suits this type of photography as the darkness allows for slower shutter speeds. I set a longer exposure, often between 1/10th and 1/50th of a second, and then pan with the vehicle as it passes by. The background blurs and, hopefully, the vehicle remains in sharp focus.
And then, sometimes, you find a car just sitting patiently in an empty parking lot in Montréal under a light rain in the early morning that simply looks amazing.
A pretty view caught my eye as I crossed over the Trans-Canada Highway near the Springbank airport west of Calgary. The early sunsets of late autumn like this are great to enjoy.
Coach Hill, a rise in west Calgary, affords a great view of city’s downtown. I found a place there where vehicles traveling along Sarcee Trail pass in front of the knot of skyscrapers. The play of perspective, especially the relative size of the cars to the buildings, was very interesting to me.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Springbank, just west of Calgary, and made a few long exposure photographs from the overpass that leads to Calaway Park to the south and the Springbank Airport to the north. The TransCanada Highway runs west from Calgary, under this bridge and a few more, before heading into the Rocky Mountains. As night faded, the line of the mountains in their snowy blankets stood out.
To the east the sun painted the scattered clouds before it rose above the eastern horizon. The color from the headlights, tail lights and reflections in the shiny pavement patches balanced the sky in a way I liked.
Shortly before the sun rose, the landscape and clouds to the west were illuminated with soft, even light which helped the light trails to really glow.
I stopped under a railway overpass to photograph a small piece of the morning commute in Berlin. It was interesting to see and compare the vehicles on a German roadway with what I’m used to at home in Calgary.
I have a lot of fun photographing things in motion and the half hour I spent on this street just outside of downtown was no exception. Playing with the shutter speed to isolate subjects as they speed by is a good challenge and can make for strong, dynamic images. Here then are a few more from that session beside the road.
Last week I was downtown for the day and before leaving the urban cacophony spent a bit of time dragging my shutter among my fellow commuters. It had been quite a long time since I was downtown during the evening rush hour and I enjoyed panning with the C-trains, shooting in the middle of the cross walk and looking for ways to capture the movements of people and their conveyances.
A member of the ground crew at the Calgary International Airport does the critical work of de-icing the airplane during a cold sunrise well below freezing in Alberta, Canada.
The Plus 15 walkways which are ~5 metres above Calgary’s street level connect the majority of buildings downtown. This allows people to avoid going outside during cold winter days and provides a great vantage point for watching the bright, orderly retreat of workers from their offices to their homes.
Fuji X100s + 23mm lens: 1/4 of a second at f/5.6 on ISO 3200
I played around with longer exposures (wishing I had a way to counter the slight bounce in the skybridge due to my fellow Plus 15 pedestrians) and had a moment to appreciate a benefit of the early sunsets that come with the winter months and daylight savings time.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24mm f/1.4 lens: 1/320 of a second at f/1.6 on ISO 50
I love driving along backroads through the farmlands on the prairies and in the foothills of Alberta. The landscape is beautiful, wildlife (when they allow you to see them) abounds and I often have the roads to myself. On these tours, I keep an eye out for interesting farm vehicles and buildings. There are many unusual items designed for a specific agricultural purpose that can be very photogenic. As purposes move forward alongside changes in technology, some of these barns, tractors and other things fall out of use and weather. This tractor is a beautiful example of the worn down equipment that dot the landscape. This old Massey Ferguson seemed to be parked in an idyllic spot to enjoy a hard-earned rest after a long run of service. That’s a rather romantic notion and I could drive by there next week and find it out turning soil in one of the fields on the far side of the pond. Whatever the truth, it was a great subject to photograph on a summer day north of Cochrane.
We met some good friends and their boys in Cochrane for a classic car show just outside of the town. The kids had a great time looking at all of the roadsters, muscle cars, coupes and funny cars. I was drawn to the emblems and lettering used on the cars from the 50’s and 60’s – there was a style that was spread across most makes and models that was very compelling.
Great lettering script on this Mercury Monarch Richelieu
Headlights from a Dodge Challenger
A detail from a Ford Galaxie at the show
Chevrolet’s brilliant chrome past as found on a ’56 pickup
I love this classic Mustang’s grill, particularly the horse itself
Trains in the Rockies raise mixed feelings for me. There is a majesty to travel by rail, especially through the mountains. And, the railway certainly played a role historically in binding this country together that continues today. The wildlife deaths from train collisions on the tracks that wind through the Banff National Park is an issue that has improved but has a long ways to go before the animals are safe. Wildlife photographers like John Marriott and Peter A. Dettling are among those stakeholders who are raising awareness and making positive changes. Hopefully increasing awareness and engagement by the public and those on all sides of the equation will continue to reduce deaths of wolves, bears and other wildlife on the railways in the Rocky Mountains. It will be good when the trains and their rich history can be enjoyed without the dark shadow that currently hangs around them.
The morning’s are still dark when I’m downtown so the lights from the buildings and the vehicles create these illuminated pools. With a longer shutter speed, I sometimes play with stretching these pockets of lights while capturing the motion of vehicles driving around Calgary’s streets.
I went down to the Stampede Grounds yesterday with my kids to tour the World of Wheels on its stop in Calgary. When I told Kian that Bigfoot would be crushing and jumping over cars in a hockey rink he was buzzing with excitement.
I was impressed with the truck’s driver, Kyle Doyle. Driving a huge vehicle inside a hockey rink would be challenge enough. Throw in the jumps, brake stands, racing from end to end and tight cornering and it was a great show to watch.
Bigfoot finished the main act with a park on the crumbled automotive heaps – seemed a fitting end to the last of the four shows over the weekend.
Kezia was a bit ambivalent about the monster truck, the loud engine turned her off a bit, but when the motorcycles came out she got right into it.
As soon as she they started performing stunts, Kezia was mimicking their moves while standing in the seating aisle – with the encouragement of the crowd nearby.
Shaunavon is a town in southern Saskatchewan that continues to be a centre for agriculture and has started to prosper from the mining and petrochemical boom in the province. We were there last weekend and while driving on a range road I noticed this field of weathered and worn out farming equipment on the edge of town.
The tractors were lined up in neat rows and there was a large mechanic shop on the same acreage so I’m guessing that these vehicles were the ones that could not be repaired or it was no longer worthwhile to do so.
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.
This photograph was from yesterday on my walk through downtown. The last one for a week as I’m heading up for a photography tour along the Rockies between Jasper and Banff. I’ve been invited by Art Wolfe to join him and a small group for the week as a photo guide. The first destination is the Tonquin Valley – we horseback ride in tomorrow morning – today is the travel day up to Jasper. Can’t wait to meet everyone and get the trip rolling.
I’ll be offline for most of the trip but it will be fun sharing the photographs I come back.
A big thanks to Bobbi and my kids for supporting my photography and holding down the fort while I’m away.
I roamed the back roads west of Calgary for a couple of hours last night as a storm blew across the prairies giving way to a pretty sunset. I really enjoy the opportunities to wander without a specific image in mind, working with what I discover along the way. My wife and children are still vacationing in Nelson so it’s nice to spend the evenings with a camera in hand and stave off the loneliness of the empty house. It will be great when they return home tomorrow.
As the days slipped away, I had a nice chat with Alan, the farmer whose field this tractor stands in. A fellow photographer, Alan and I found a common interest to build on after introductions. The tractor is a White 2-85 but I don’t know too much more about it beyond it running with a 6 cylinder Perkins diesel engine and the line being manufactured between 1975 and 1982 (I have no idea what year this vehicle is). Not the best looking tractor (as tractors go!) but the plain color scheme allows the color in the sky to catch the eye.
This massive cloud settled over Calgary about an hour after this photograph. I was chasing the sunset then but could see a great lightning show flashing just after sunset.
I thought this Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis calurus) had a great perch atop the exhaust stack of this old International Harvester 706 tractor. The 706 is a really classic looking tractor, they were made between 1963 adn 1967 so it is great to see this one still on active duty.
Went by this old truck for another visit on the weekend. The last time I was there the morning light was pretty warm, today it was harsh but still fun to shoot and then play with the image.
Nice subject even in the middle of the day under a lot of bright light.
Along 9th Avenue in downtown Calgary, Gulf Canada Square’s dark panes of glass often provide a large mirror that abstracts the traffic heading east on the one way road.
I watched traffic for a while, looking down from the 12th floor of Banker’s Hall, until this taxicab drove by distinctive and separated from the other vehicles in that moment. The slight curvatures of the glass did the real work to create this warp of a simple scene.
I panned with this train as it slid through downtown Calgary, working to keep the front sharp. When I reviewed the photograph, I liked the driver’s wave to his counterpart on the just passed train. A detail I didn’t see in the moment.
I was exploring the country roads that divide up the fields along the prairie west of Calgary and found this old Ford 350 farm truck long since abandoned overlooking a river valley. The truck looked like it had been left where it finally broke down, just past a cattle guard on a dirt track that led down to an old farmstead.
With the deep blue sky of the early morning, the weathered reds and oranges of the cab and the hood made a nice contrast. I liked working in the white line on the horizon where the Rocky Mountains are still covered with snow. I will be back to this lonely Ford again soon to work in some star trails and light painting. When the new green grass comes in, I’ll return to work with the three strong colors (two primaries – red and blue, and one secondary – green) as they will allow for some dynamic compositions by varying the amount of each color in a frame. A great subject to find and I suppose it will be returning to work after having had at least a few years rest.
In the image below, I de-saturated the sky to emphasize the color in the truck (both the body and the rust on the bed’s frame. It creates an interesting feel to this image as the relationship between the truck and the surrounding environment is different.
In this final picture from this set, I walked down towards the valley so that the sun’s position relative to the truck changed from behind and streaming over my shoulder to behind the truck backlighting the truck and throwing a lot of reflected light towards the camera. The washed out color that resulted allowed for an image very different from the others.
I am enjoying the people I meet and see during my commutes into and out of downtown. The photographs of these two gentlemen drew my attention when I was looking through my recent pictures. The driver was a quick shot taken as my car passed by a bus – I didn’t realize that the bus driver was looking at me. It certainly makes the picture. The man waiting for the train had a stately, refined manner which stood out from the standard commuter. I am taking queues from this man’s sartorial tastes.
More to come from the commuting into Calgary’s core…
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Usually I see old, distressed trucks like this one rusting away next to a barn. It was cool to see this fellow had his on the road. I’m sure the old Ford appreciated being taken out for a spin and put to work!
For those who are curious, I believe this is a 1956 F-100. The fender threw me for a bit but I think the owner just put on a replacement. Or else this is a different year – I’m not an expert. It’s a great looking truck whichever year it was made.