Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Project: Photographing Movement (continued...)

Exercise: Panning with different shutter speeds.

Objective: This exercise will show the effects achieved by panning the camera to follow the movement of an object, with progressively slower shutter speeds.
Location:  I knew that I would have difficulty panning from the layby I chose in the last exercise. The cars were moving too fast and I was very close to the carriageway. I moved to a junction in a 30mph zone where I was able to stand back from the roadside and pan in both directions.
Camera Settings: To complete this exercise as quickly as possible (in freezing conditions) I chose to use a fast (f1.8) 35mm lens for my camera which allowed me to use each one of the range of shutter speeds from 1/1000 sec up to 1/5 sec. (24 in all. I have selected  only 12 to display  here) I also used shutter priority mode  to set the aperture to match the manually selected shutter speed. To make sure I got a good selection of shots, I set the shutter release to continuous high speed mode (4.5 fps) which resulted in three or four frames of each passing car. The exposure information is below each image. The ISO setting was 200 for all frames.

3818: 1/1000s f1.8. The car is sharp with only a very slight blurring of the wheel hubs when viewed at 100%. The background is slightly blurred but this may be a result of the shallow depth of field at this large aperture. Note that the car travelling in the opposite direction is blurred by the combination of it's own motion and the movement of the camera in the opposite direction.

3824: 1/640s f 2.2 The car is sharp with slight blurring of the wheel hubs but the background is less sharp than previously.

3832: 1/400s f3.2. At this speed, the car is still sharp, the wheels still show slight blurring but the background is showing more blur.

3839: 1/250s f4.5. The car is still sharp, the wheels are more blurred as is the background.

3847: 1/160s f5.6. Even at this small size, the blurring of the wheels and background are noticeable. The images are starting to look more dynamic.

3858: 1/100s f7.1 The motion blur of the background is more pronounced and it is more difficult to pan and keep the car sharp at this shutter speed.

3873: 1/40s f8. Although the car is now blurred, the background is nicely streaked and there is a real feeling of movement.

3882: 1/25s f16. The car is still reasonably sharp and the streaked backround really moves it along.

3888: 1/15s f13. The car is now starting to lose definition but the image still gives the feeling of movement and excitement.

3907: 1/10s f14. It is now difficult to pan at this shutter speed and maintain sharpness. The overall impression is still one of action.

3914: 1/8s f20. Difficult to be consistent with the panning but still an acceptable image.

3921: 1/5s f22. Right at the limit for hand held operation,  it's not sharp anywhere but still says speed.

What did I learn? As the shutter speed increases the depiction of speed is easier to achieve. It is difficult to pan consistently at slow shutter speeds. I think perhaps I need more practise and "follow through" with the movement after the shutter has released. I may have had better results if I'd used my tripod to pivot the camera but I didn't feel it would give me the spontaneity that depicting speed demands. The blurring of the vehicles seems to add someting to the dynamism of the images. I have practised using the shutter priority mode on my camera and the shutter release in continuous high speed mode.

Which pictures do I prefer from the two exercises?

Shutter speeds: Until the shutter speed reaches 1/125, the images are fairly static. At this point the emphasis on the contrast between the static and moving obects becomes apparent. My favourite image from this series is 3746 (1/50s f14). The vehicle is recognisable as a tanker, moving at speed and fills 75% of the field of view. The kerb with its roadside reflector, emphasises the danger posed by the unfenced pavement. You can almost hear the noise and feel the wind as it passes.

Panning at different shutter speeds: Although I did not achieve a very sharp picture of a car with a streaked background, I suspect that it may looked "staged" (although blurred, spinning wheels would add realism). I liked the image above 3921 (1/5s f22). Looking at the larger version, the road surface, kerb, fences, background buildings and trees are all streaked into parallel horizontal bands which give movement across the frame. The driver can be seen staring intently ahead. The bonnet, windscreen and roofline have a highlight which indicates clear open space ahead. None of the image is sharp but that just reinforces the brevity and spontaneity of the moment. The sense of speed is exaggerated, 30mph looks more like 100mph.

I have printed and placed these two images in the display folder of my learning log.

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