Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Triathlon season is approaching in South Africa

People have asked me how I get the shots of objects or people in motion where the primary subject is in focus and the background is smeared accenting the motion or speed of the subject. The way I do that is by using a technique called dragging the shutter.

For the pictures above, I used a Nikon D2Xs with a 17-55 f.2
.8 lens on shutter priority with a shutter speed of 1/30s on continuous. The riders were in motion, so I panned the camera with the rider maintaining focus on the rider's head while the shutter was open. This takes some practice. 

Let me break down how to do this and get consistent results.
1) Use a 17-55 or 70-200 lens with image stabilization (This can be a zoom. You will be on something like f/11 or higher usually.)
2) Set the camera on the lowest ISO setting
3) Set the camera on shutter priority 1/30s for bike riders or 1/15s for runners
4) Set the camera on continous shutter and continuous focus, where it takes photos as fast as it can and continues to track the subject. (Alternatively, you can set the focus on manual at a fixed distance and lock it in.)
4) Get some distance from the subject on a flat area where you can see the subject approaching from a distance.
5) Pan by rotating your upper body at the waist, keeping your arms, shoulders and shooting platform stable.
6) Pan consistently before and after you press the shutter release. Any stopping and starting will be obvious.

As the subject or rider in this case approaches, begin panning by rotating your body at the waist. Press the shutter when the subject is just about perpendicular with you. Continue to pan until you are looking at the subject's back leaving the area. You do not need to have a camera that is capable of taking 9 frames a second while focusing, but it helps. The main point is to use a slow shutter speed, pan with the subject and maintain focus. This takes a lot of practice and you will still only get a few keepers out of hundreds of shots, but it is worth it.

with thanks to vigorotaku

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