Art of Photography

Rob Townsend


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Exercise – Panning with different shutter speeds

Brief:

Take a series of exposures of a moving object at various shutter speeds, following the subject by panning so that it is fairly sharp and the background becomes streaked. Note how different shutter speeds affect the image. Then look back at the photos in this and the previous exercise and note which ones are most attractive as a viewer.

Equipment:

Canon EOS 650D with EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM lens.

Method:

I positioned myself at a bend in the road on a busy coastal highway and took several shots of passing cars, bikes and joggers at different shutter speeds.

Results:

I took many more shots than are posted here! It took me a while to get into the swing of the panning action. I’m still not very good at capturing the subject sharp enough, but these are the best pictures to demonstrate the learning points.

A cyclist moving past me and a shutter speed of 1/30 sec produced a reasonably pleasing sense for movement, although the cyclist isn’t very sharp. There is enough difference in the motion blur to give the sense of movement:

1/30 sec

1/30 sec

I took some car shots at 1/40 sec exposures and got a few images where the cars were pretty sharp and the background showed plenty of streaking:

1/40 sec

1/40 sec

1/40 sec

1/40 sec

I moved up to 1/50 sec for the next batch. At this speed I captured a pair of joggers, another cyclist and another car. The cyclist one is the sharpest, and the feeling of movement is accentuated by the cars moving in the opposite direction:

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

Stepping up to 1/60 sec I captured the following shots of cars; I found the black car to give more movement, possibly as it is moving left to right, which is how I think I naturally read a photograph:

1/60 sec

1/60 sec

1/60 sec

1/60 sec

Finally I took some shots at 1/80 sec, but found it didn’t give as much of a sense of movement in the background streaking; the one example I thought showed a sense of motion was this of the Mini, where the jogger walking the dog provides the visual clue to the movement.

1/80 sec

1/80 sec

What I’ve learned:

As mentioned, I didn’t find this an easy technique to master! Once I’d discarded the outtakes, I found images that looked OK at shutter speeds from 1/30 sec to 1/80 sec. The most reliable range was probably 1/50 sec to 1/60 sec. What seemed to make a difference were various factors: how steadily I moved the camera; the speed of the moving object; the distance I was away from the moving object; the focal length.

The one in this set that most pleases me is the cyclist with the oncoming traffic at 1/50 sec – it is the sharpest subject yet it doesn’t look ‘frozen’ as both the background and the wheels clearly demonstrate the movement. Of the others, the joggers at 1/50 and the first cyclist at 1/30 are also appealing; in these cases I think the very slight blur of the subject, accompanied by the stronger blur of the background, gives the best sense of motion.


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Exercise – Shutter speeds

Brief:

Take a series of exposures of a moving object that fills the frame with various shutter speeds, from the fastest available on the camera to a very slow one. Observe the differences and the speeds at which the image is sufficiently sharp and in focus.

Equipment:

Canon EOS 650D with EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens, tripod.

Method:

I set up my bike upside down and spun the front wheel to the fastest speed I could by hand. The camera was set up on a tripod and manually focused on the centre of the wheel to ensure consistent framing and focus. I started at the slowest shutter speed I could without blowing the highlights (1/10 sec) and worked up to the fastest shutter speed (1/4000 sec).

Results:

With the shutter speed at 1/10 sec, 1/25 sec and 1/50 sec the movement blur is so much that the tyre appears to be completely smooth and the spokes aren’t visible. Markings on the tyre are rendered as smears. The white reflector attached to the spokes gets progressively shorter as the shutter speed increases.

1/10 sec

1/10 sec

1/25 sec

1/25 sec

1/50 sec

1/50 sec

When the shutter speed was increased to 1/100 sec, 1/250 sec and 1/500 sec the texture of the tyre tread is increasingly revealed, and the spokes start becoming visible first vaguely and by 1/500 are quite well defined. There is still a blurriness to the lettering on the tyre though.

1/100 sec

1/100 sec

1/250 sec

1/250 sec

1/500 sec

1/500 sec

At shutter speeds of 1/1000 sec, 1/2000 sec and 1/4000 sec the image is getting increasingly sharp. At 1/1000 a very slight blur is evident on the ‘Continental’ lettering, but at 1/2000 and 1/4000 the image looks like that of an absolutely stationary wheel. The image is completely frozen at these shutter speeds.

1/1000 sec

1/1000 sec

1/2000 sec

1/2000 sec

1/4000 sec

1/4000 sec

What I’ve learned:

Shutter speeds of around 1/2000 sec will freeze movement to the point of appearing stationary. Deliberately slowing down the shutter speed can give a real sense of movement – the one at 1/100 depicts this best in this set, in my opinion. Choice of shutter speed is therefore dependent on the effect one if trying to achieve.