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.
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.
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.
Canon 5DIII with a Canon 24mm f/1.4 lens: 1/10th of a second at f/4.5 on ISO 640
Cars, motorcycles, buses and rickshaws swung by me one evening while I was in the heart of Cabo San Lucas. With the neon signs hanging above many of the shops and the sky still deep blue, I didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to drag my shutter and play with what images I could create.
When practicing motion photography, I like to try different techniques. I switch between keeping the subject sharp by panning in sync with its movement and panning out of sync so that only a small part is sharp or the whole thing has a large or small amount of blur that pushes the image into an abstract shot.
For the better part of an hour, the traffic kept me happily occupied while I waited for my bus to arrive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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