Friday, September 24, 2010

Panning to Create Movement in Still Photos

Another way to show movement in a still image is to pan with a moving subject.  Panning involves moving the camera close to the same speed as your subject during exposure.
The classic desired effect when panning with a moving object is that the resulting image has something sharp in the frame, while the rest of the image becomes blurred.  This week's featured images were made at the 2010 Indiana State Fair during the harness races. The first example (Above) is a classic pan showing the horse's head in focus and the rest of the image blurred. (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f4 IS USM, 1/25 sec @ f18, ISO 50)
Another successful effect of panning is the creation of a totally blurred abstract image.  (anything in between these 2 extremes tends to look like a mistake!!)  In this second image, nothing is sharp, making this an abstract image of the sport of harness racing. (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f4 IS USM, 1/20 sec @ f20, ISO 50)
 I have included this 3rd image for the sake of comparison.  I experimented a bit with freezing the action as this horse raced by.  Although technically sharp, you can certainly appreciate that this image is nowhere near exciting and has much less emotional impact than the other two.  The panning technique is what added the drama and excitement to the photos above.  (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f4 IS USM, 1/2000 sec @ f4.5, ISO 320)
 So, are you ready to give panning a try?  Here are a few tips to get you started:
A good beginning point when panning is to choose a low ISO.  Place your camera on aperture priority and choose a small F-stop. (i.e. higher number- like 16 or 22)  If the light is too bright to achieve a slow shutter speed, a polarizing filter or neutral density filter can help.  Meter your scene to see what shutter speed the camera 'chooses' for your chosen F-stop. The desired shutter speed will vary for the speed of the subject of which you are panning.  Luckily, in this digital age, we can see our efforts immediately on the back of the camera to judge if we are achieving the desired effect at the moment and adjust our settings accordingly.
When panning with a subject, be sure your have a wide steady stance.  Then, lock your elbows to your sides and pivot from the waist.  It is important to lock your focus on the moving subject and begin tracking it before pressing the shutter and continue following the subject once your it passes by and the exposure is complete.  This will keep your panning motion smooth.
Panning takes a great deal of practice, but once you get it, it is a fun technique to experiment with and to use in your photography.


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