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 couple of weeks ago, I walked with a friend down to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Canada geese were massed along the Bow River in and around the cold water. Flights of these birds came in and out all morning.
I dragged the shutter and panned with the birds as they flew past to create blur and lend motion to the images.
A very enjoyable couple of hours went by and then my friend had to leave. I elected to stay and walked down the iced over path that parallels the Bow along the eastern edge of the bird sanctuary.
A young stag trotted along the rocky beach right in front of me at one point. He stopped for a few seconds out of mild curiosity before skipping around the corner and quickly going out of sight.
An immature bald eagle alighted in a tree across the water a few hundred meters away. It was watching the geese that congregated near the water intently. After half an hour it launched into the air, crossed the river and flew directly overhead. I love eagles so this was a highlight of the morning for me despite the somewhat harsh lighting.
The day was close to noon by then and I headed towards the ponds. A couple of magpies were making a terrific racket which drew my attention. Looking in the dense stand of trees I spied a great horned owl calmly perched a couple of meters off the ground. She stayed mostly oblivious to the angry birds and they soon moved on. I returned to check on the owl a couple of times in the afternoon but she was napping for the most part so I didn’t photograph much. It was unseasonably warm so I enjoyed spending time with the owl with no expectation for more.
I woke to a grey morning on the Pacific earlier this week. As the sun rose, its light diffused across the dull silver clouds and carried on to the waves rolling in. In these images I stretched some of these waves out with longer exposures (1/30 to 1/2 seconds) and swung the camera around a bit just to play with the idea a bit more.
Amid the abstract work, a few seals skimmed by. One of these glided inside a wave as it rolled into shore – which was fantastic to watch. I hope to share images from those encounters as well as a few with Brown pelicans from the same morning soon.
I photographed a pair of Pacific Golden Plover, called Kolea in Hawaiian, in the grasses near our hotel this morning. They scuttled about the grass in the same fashion as I had observed them skip over rocks along the shoreline last year on a beach further north here in Kaua’i. In the photograph above, I panned the camera while one of the birds ran nearby.
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.
Two 4400 horsepower diesel-electric locomotives (GE AC4400CW is the model of both trains if anyone is interested) lead a convoy of freight cars past the Third Vermilion Lake heading west through the Banff National Park.
A photograph created by using a slower shutter speed (here 1/13 sec.) and then panning with the train to keep the engines in focus and blur the surrounding landscape. This joins the images that chronicle my long running love of things in motion!
Here, I panned with the one of Calgary’s C Train cars as it moved out of downtown towards the southern reaches of the line. I used a longer exposure, 1/4 of a second, to really stretch the lines of light and dark in background. Usually I pan the trains at between 1/10 and 1/20 of a second as that allows for decent blur streaks in the background and achieving a sharp subject (the train or sometimes its occupants). Longer exposures can end up a blurry mess quite easily. In this image, my panning matched the train’s movement pretty well so outline at the front of the vehicle is clearly that of a train. Not sharp but I think there is a good balance between the background blur and the lines and edges of the train. I think there is a lot of movement in this photo which was my intent.
Working with a slow shutter speed, I wanted to see what kind of detail I could of the commuters riding into the downtown core on one of Calgary’s light rail transit trains. For this image I panned with the train as it sped past, trying to pivot quick enough to briefly match the rail car’s velocity. The goal being to capture the detail inside the train while blurring the scenery outside. This technique has been applied to all types of motion by many photographers and creates an interesting effect.
Click on the image for a larger version
Exposure details: 1/13 second, f/4.0 at ISO 400 using a Canon 1D Mark III with 70-200 lens at 200mm.
A neighbor has this lovely old hot rod that he’s brought up to show condition. He takes it out for a cruise now and then. Here is one of the photos I’ve made as he rolls past.
The blur is created by using a slow shutter speed on the camera and then panning with the car as it drives by. Here, the shutter is set to 1/8 seconds using a 300mm lens on my Canon 1D Mark III.
In this second image, I have softened edges in the image to play up the painterly quality of this motion blur. In Adobe Lightroom, I reduced the clarity to -84, set sharpening to 0, and adjusted noise reduction (luminance 100, detail 0 and contrast 0). A different look, I’m going to print both to see which I like more.