Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Exercise - Panning with different shutter speeds

Subject: Cars passing by

We're still on the doorstep sheltering from the rain unfortunately.  This is only the second time I've attempted 'panning' with the camera, so using the tripod for this predictable subject seemed like a good strategy to get half-decent results.  I started with a quick shutter speed and went all the way down to some slow speeds which I hoped would give a big range of results for comparison.

From left to right: 1/125 sec, 1/60 sec, 1/30 sec

In the first two pictures we can see the movement is well frozen (except perhaps the wheel spinning on the 1/60 sec image) and the background is starting to blur a little, however, I don't think the effect is looking particularly interesting at these fast shutter speeds.  At 1/30 sec in the third image above, and first below,  there is significantly more blurring of the foreground and background.

From left to right: 1/30 sec, 1/20 sec, 1/10 sec
I think the middle image at 1/20 sec is the superior image of the group.  The car is still crisp and focused (except the rear wheel which is wonderfully blurred) with the rest of the image blurred and streaky but still recognisable.  The final car image at 1/10 sec is still fairly crisp, however, not quite as sharp as the other images.  I'm not sure whether this is just due to my technique and experience at panning (there were many attempts to get a good image at this shutter speed) or whether it is simply very difficult to obtain a sharp image at this speed.  It is worth noting that the background is so blurred now that the tree in the top right corner of the frame has been rendered nearly invisible. 

Left: 1/30 sec, Right: 1/60 sec
I also attempted a couple of shots with pedestrians instead of cars as the subject.  As can be seen from the left hand image of the gentleman walking with his hands in his pockets, there will inherently be movement blur in images like this because our movement is not uniformly in one direction like a car.  We move our arms and shoulders, legs and feet (as illustrated in the inset above) as we walk.  As part of this movement is in a direction perpendicular to the panning movement, it therefore results in blurring.  It is a little difficult to see, but the ladies hand in the image at 1/60 sec is slightly blurred, even though the image was captured at a relatively quick shutter speed.


While I do like some of the images at longer shutter speeds from the previous exercise where the subjects movement was completely blurred, (I enjoy making these type of shots at night which results in fantastic light trails from the cars lights) my favourite is the panning shot at 1/20 sec.  It is so sharp, the car stands out well from the blurred foreground and background, and the detail of the spinning alloy wheel really draws my attention.  I enjoyed practicing the panning technique and will be keeping an eye out for situations where I can use it again.

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