Pan in the place where you live

Ever wonder how to get those sweet shots of cars ripping around a track where everything is all blurry, but the car is in focus? Then read on, to think about your shutterspeed and where to set it now.

Sony a900; Minolta beercan (70-210 f4) @ 75mm; 1/60; f22; ISO 100

Today, we cover a technique called panning. The camera is at a fixed spot and swivels left to right or right to left to follow an object in motion. The goal is to keep the moving object in the same specific spot of the frame as the camera moves from side to side. If done properly, the moving object will be in sharp focus, but the environment will be blurred from motion.

A ‘slow’ shutterspeed is used so that the environment blurs as it moves through the frame. The actual shutterspeed you use will be dependent on your focal length and how fast the object is moving. Obviously, the slower the shutterspeed the greater the effect, but be careful because as the shutterspeed drops, it becomes more difficult to keep the subject in focus (even if you use autofocus). Shorter focal lengths can get away with slower shutterspeeds, but telephotos will need a little bump up.

Vivitar 450pz; Kodak Tri-X (14 years expired) @ ISO 800; HC110(b)

Regarding technique, you want a smooth sweeping motion with the camera and need to follow through after the button that fires the shutter is hit. If you are relying on continuous autofocus, try to keep the indicator on the car as you move the camera side to side.

If you are shooting film or have a manual focus lens, you’ll need to prefocus. For this, first find the spot and the framing that you will want for your image. Next focus on the area you anticipate the car to be in. You can use lines on the road, rocks, leaves, etc. to get somewhat precise, or you can just use a smaller aperture and rely on depth of field calcs. Follow the subject with the camera on the approach and when it gets to your spot, fire that shutter.

This is a technique that is reliant on a manual element of the photographer’s skill. Even if you use autofocus, it will not result in a perfect hit rate if you can’t move the camera smoothly. At first, you will have many images out of focus, but that will improve as you get more experience and muscle memory takes over.

Minolta a7D; Sony 100mm 2.8 Macro; 1/200; f5.6; ISO 400

Well, there you go. Your feet are (likely) going to be on the ground. Your hands are there to move the camera around, so pan. Pan!

Thanks for reading!

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