Monday, June 2, 2014


While working through my backlog of photos from Korea I came across two that I thought would make a great illustration of something I talked about at the last Eastman Camera Club meeting.

We were visiting the historic city of Gyeongju South Korea with our daughter Holly and two of her friends Rhonda and Minseon.  One of the attractions is riding in these brightly painted horse drawn carriages that are festooned with Christmas lights and play really loud pop music as they go by.  No charming stroll through the park here.  They seem to challenge each other to see which one can run up and down the road faster.   We didn't take the ride but I did catch a few shots of them as the went by.

This first photo was taken as the carriage came nearer.  The shutter speed was a relative fast 1/100 of a second.  The carriage and driver with his cool sunglasses and pink cap are pretty sharp and in focus.  Although he was moving, you can't tell it in this photo.
Fast Shutter - Slow Speed

The second carriage was moving about the same speed, but the photo really has a feeling of speed.

Slow Shutter - Fast Speed
I slowed the shutter speed down to 1/3 of a second and used a technique called panning.   I panned my camera to keep the carriage as close to the same position in the frame as possible as it passed by.   When done right the background will be blurred and the subject will be sharp.   In this case I had my shutter a bit too slow for the speed of the carriage and was not able to keep from having some motion blur in the subject.   Being a horse drawn carriage on a bumpy road, there was more than just the horizontal movement.  The wheels are blurred due to their rotation, the trotting horse is very blurred and the lights show some motion blur.  Surprisingly the people came out pretty clear considering everything else in the photo.  This is not my best panning shot, but I really like the way it came out.   You get a great sense of motion and speed in this photo compared to the first.

Panning works best when the subject is moving parallel to the front of the camera and on a relatively straight path which allows you to predict where they’ll be moving to. If the subject is moving more at an angle they can move out of focus and you don't get the same effect with the background.

1/25 second exposure
The best shutter speed depends on how fast the subject is moving and how close you are. The faster the subject is moving the faster your shutter speed will need to be.   Experiment with speeds between 1/3 and 1/60 of a second.  If your camera or lens has image stabilization / vibration reduction then turn it off or turn it to Mode 2.   Set your focusing mode to lock on and continuously adjust the focus as the subject moves.  This is called AF-C on Nikon, or AI Servo on Canon.  You also want the camera set on burst mode.  As the subject approaches press the shutter button down half way to lock on the focus then press and hold it down to take as many shots as you can as it passes by.

This is a technique that takes some practice.  Luckily it's easy to practice.  Stand on the side of a busy street and take pictures of the cars that pass by.   Don't worry if you get some strange looks from the motorists.  Just look official.  You'll find they tend to hit their brakes as the go by.  Other practice subjects include bicycles, motorcycles and people walking or running.   There are plenty of examples online if you google photography panning.  Give it a try and have fun.

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