Category Archives: 03 Photographing movement

Exercise: Panning with different shutter speeds

The brief:

To take the camera off the tripod and make a series of images from a fast shutter speed to a very slow one, using a panning motion for each shot.

After having so much bad weather which really hampered me in completing this assignment I managed to get out and shoot today. For ease of doing this assignment I headed off to Grand Boulevard park just a short distance from where I live. There is continuous traffic next to the park and I would be guaranteed to get some panning opportunities. I position myself midway between two intersections on the hill so that I would able to capture some speed from the cars.The cars were travelling between 30 and 50 km per hour. I ended up with a selection of 17 frames, but have only included 12 for the exercise.

At 1/320 both the car and the background are nice and sharp as can be seen in figure 01. At 1/200 (figure 02) the background begins to show signs of very slight blurring, as can be seen on the siding of the house – the horizontal lines are not so crisp any more. At 1/125, the background blur is more prominent and the wheels of the car are also showing some radial blur on the wheels (figure 03). This continues in the following images and at 1/60 (figure 05) we can see a faint streaking coming into play on the side of the house. The car is still relatively sharp. At 1/40 there is definite ghosting around the sides of the house and trees and the car’s body has begun to show signs of blur (figure 06). At 1/30 the background has a nice motion blur and the car’s blur has intensified slightly. This photo conveys the idea of speed fairly well (figure 7). At 1/25 (figure 8) the background blur is more pronounced but the car doesn’t seem to have blurred much more than the previous frame. It is possible that this particular car was travelling slower than the preceding one. In figure 09 one can see that at 1/20 the foreground and background are nicely blurred and the car is still quite sharp. At 1/15 the image is beginning to hurt my eyes – there is too much discord happening (figure 10). This just gets worse down to 1/10 (figure 11). This could also be due to some camera shake occurring. However, the image at 1/8 (figure 12) seems to work better.  Perhaps this has something to the slight shift in view point and the fact that the background and foreground are totally smoothed out.  One can no longer discern the background shapes, or make out what they are, but this image has a painterly feel to it. I had to do some highlight recovery on this last image as I started hitting the right end of the histogram at 1/13.

On reflection, I would say that I like the images at 1/30 (figure 07) and 1/20 (figure 09) the best. They convey a sense of speed and are not confusing to the eye. Figure 09 is probably aesthetically more pleasing as the SUV is larger and thus creates better sense of balance in the photograph. Blurring definitely gives a better sense of speed and creates more interest in the photograph.

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Exercise: Shutter speeds

The brief:

Set the camera on a tripod in front of something that moves across your view. Make a series of exposures, from the fastest shutter speed on your camera to a very slow one. Adjust the aperture each time, or have the camera set so that it automatically adjusts the aperture so that the exposure stays the same.Take note of the shutter speed used for each frame. Compare the finished images. Find the slowest shutter speed at which the movement is sharply frozen. Make notes about each print in your learning log.

For this exercise I headed down to the Seymour River and set up my tripod on the river bank. The Seymour River is a fairly fast flowing river at this time of the year as we have had quite a bit of rain recently. Because I’m rather rubbish at shutter speed settings, I decided to try this exercise using my shutter speed priority and set the camera to auto ISO. I started out at 1/1600 of a second, with ISO 500 and aperture f4.5 at 92mm. I took a photo at 1/3 of a stop intervals (only 12 photos are shown here), stopping down to 1/5 of a second before my highlights were totally blown out. I noticed that the water is sharp until 1/200 – the splashes over the rocks still show definition and volume. However, one can also see at 1/200 that where the water is more free flowing (not splashing over rocks), it is beginning to smooth out. At 1/50 the droplets have consolidated and one can see the beginning of the milky effect on the “mini rapids”. At 1/25 the undulations of the water over the rocks are beginning to form. It is almost as if the water is “solidifying”. At 1/13 the undulations are move evident and the colour of the rocks and the water have begun to merge/streak together. The “mini rapids” are now beginning to look like candy floss in the water. At 1/10 there is sufficient motion blur in the water for creativity to emphasis the strong flow of the water, but still enough ‘realism’ that were one to crop a portion of the river, it would still be recognizable as water. I think this is my favourite photo. By the time the shutter speed is reduced to 1/5 the water has a painterly effect and is almost totally smoothed out and the rocks below the surface have totally lost all definition.

This exercise was definitely harder than I thought it would be. I found the tripod rather restrictive. I first attempted it with people walking across the viewfinder, but I had little success focusing on the moving targets. However, I’m determined to try this again with human subjects, so I will come back to this exercise again.