Panning with different shutter speeds

I picked what turned out to be a tricky subject matter to try out this exercise. The F1 cars, even though taken on a corner, were still travelling extremely fast. However, having the opportunity to photograph these machines outweighed the technical difficulty in obtaining my desired results. All the photos below are taken straight from camera to show exactly what was taken at the time. I was using a high ISO to obtain the high shutter speeds I needed to come even close to capturing the subject within the frame. The camera was set to shutter priority to enable me to change the shutter speeds manually and accordingly the aperture automatically. Many, many of the shots had nothing in the frame at all. The following images, I hope, demonstrate the different look and feel of the photographs depending on the various factors involved while taking them. I will try to describe why and how they ended up looking as they do. The numbering is not sequential and is only to make identification of the images easier for me and the viewer. I have ordered them from slowest shutter speed to fastest.

Panning 5 – ISO3200, f/14, 1/100, 55mm

Panning 4 – ISO3200, f/14, 1/100, 55mm

Panning 10 – ISO1600, f/6.3, 1/200, 55mm

Panning 9 – ISO1600, f/6.3, 1/200, 55mm

Panning 11 – ISO1600, f/4.5, 1/200, 55mm

Panning 3 – ISO3200, f/7.1, 1/250, 55mm

Panning 8 – ISO3200, f/7.1, 1/250, 59mm

Panning 6 – ISO1600, f/4.5, 1/320, 55mm

Panning 1 – ISO3200, f/5, 1/400, 55mm

The photos were shot across a range of shutter speeds from 1/100 to 1/400. At this point I think it is fair to say that the varying degrees of difference in results were as much down to my technique as the speed settings although there are of course areas within the frame which are a direct result of speed settings.
All the photos were taken at night under lights, hence the high ISO rating. The fence was difficult to throw out of focus as there was a barrier between me and the fence you can see in shot. This isn’t to say with more practice the fence’s obstructive nature couldn’t be reduced. Another variable in to the mix is that all these photos were taken on  manual focus (the auto-focus not standing a chance) with the focal point being an oil spot on the track. This meant that unless the cars were travelling over exactly the same spot then they were likely not to be bang in focus.

When panning at all speeds it was noticeable that keeping up with the moving object, taking the photo and keeping an even plane were difficult to do all at once (again with plenty of practice this would become second nature, as would composition). In shots 1, 8 and 11 I am very noticeably at an angle that isn’t very pleasing to the eye. Two reasons; I am not square with the subject when taking the photo and also have not stayed on the horizontal plane when taking the photo.

In photos 3, 4 and 5 I am starting to blur the vertical lines in the frame while the subject is reasonably in focus. The suggests that I am following the car at the correct speed when panning an also that I am staying on the same horizontal plane throughout my pan. Also to note is that two of those shots were taken at my lowest shutter speed (1/100) but are still quite clear (part of this being the high f-stop that was a result of the low shutter speed). Within those shots the wheels are still blurred which starts to give a nice sense of movement combined with the background and foreground also being blurred. Consequently I find these images quite pleasing.

At the point where I am using upwards of 1/250 shutter speed the wheels blurring comes to an end. While the cars are quite obviously in motion they don’t project the same sense of speed as those taken at a lower shutter rate. I don’t like these quite as much.

In conclusion, I never expected the choice of subject to be an easy one to shoot, but it was actually harder than I had expected. However, out of that I learnt a lot. My choice of location to shoot from could have been more clearly thought out. A slower car would have definitely been easier to get in frame and therefore more pleasing (for me at least). But did I want photos of cars that are caught stock still? My favourite shots, as I say above, are the ones taken at the lowest shutter speed and while they may not stand up to technical critique I still find them the most rewarding, especially number 4 (aside from the fact the tail is missing from frame!). It was very noticeable as the evening wore on the my ability to get the car in frame and also somewhat in focus was getting better and with more time (and subject matter) the results would become something that I was aiming for rather than what frankly in this series, are quite ‘hit-and-hope’. I am used to getting my images to look and feel as I want them to so this took me out of my comfort zone. Which, of course, can only be a good thing!


3 thoughts on “Panning with different shutter speeds

  1. Pingback: Shutter Speeds | BA Blog
  2. Wow I would love to get the chance to photograph F1. What a brilliant race it was as well.. BIG F1 FAN :) Shame about the fence.. did you get any other photos? Do you have a gallery somewhere?

    • I have my Flickr gallery with other photos ( but in general a lot of fences this year. H&S gone a bit mad I think. The only way to avoid it is the main grandstand (which is pretty expensive and you’re up pretty high so not great for photos). I need an access all areas pass really! Still, a great experience in the middle of a big city.

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