Grand Prix Lesson 2 of Many

Posted on May 29, 2010

Panning for motion blur takes practice. A lot of practice. And yet is easier than you might expect. Just one catch: you need to know to do it. I went an entire Grand Prix without remembering to do this. Lots of greatly detailed, exceptionally sharp images of cars frozen in time – they could just as well have been parked on the track. What a ‘doh’ moment after two days in the sun!

In stark contrast this photo from the Bahrain Grand Prix a few months ago: notice the blur on the advertising.

Above: ISO 250, 1/160, f14, 285mm: I like the amount of blur, the flare behind the driver’s head, good enough. But then compare this one, much faster shutter:

ISO 400, 1/400, f10, 260mm: notice how the Gulf Air text is less blurred and the picture gives less of an impression of speed than above.

With the Canon 100-400mm zoom lens set to Mode 2 on its stabilizer, it provides the usual stabilization vertically but not horizontally, so you can track your target smoothly. Bring the shutter speed down as far as you can (practice! some are better at tracking than others, so for me personally 1/25 means a lot of wasted shots of fast moving F1 cars; YMMV). Meaning use the “Tv” or shutter priority mode: you pick a low shutter speed and the camera will pick an aperture and ISO for a usable picture.

For practice, try something that moves smoothly but more slowly than race cars. Here is a shopping trolley race at the University of Stellenbosch:

Light was getting low but I was practicing at 1/60 so I pushed the ISO to 1000 and the camera being in Tv mode then only had the f-stop to work with (in the above at f/5).

Posted in: Photography