Panning

I was reading one of my amateur radio friend’s blogs when I chanced upon this great imagetest310sm of Mike Walker on his bicycle. As Mike describes on his blog (www.walkerphoto.blogspot.com) the background isn’t actually moving, he is. How does this work? It takes some practice but this is called panning. Here the photographer moves the camera from left to right at exactly the same speed as the subject. A slow time exposure is used to create the blurry background. Here, I’d guess that the shutter speed was somewhere around 1/2 second. You’d have to experiment to determine the correct shutter speed based on the available light and how much blur you wanted to create.

Now before the emails start arriving, let me explain how the photographer can take a photo at such a slow shutter speed. It’s true that most camera blur is caused by setting a shutter speed too slow for the photographer to overcome his or her own body movement. The old rule of thumb from my film days says regardless of what mode you’re shooting in, the camera’s shutter speed must be set to match the size of the lens. In other words if you were shooting with a 50mm lens you’d need to make certain your shutter speed didn’t go below 1/50 of a second. If you’re shooting with a 200mm telephoto you’d need to set you shutter speed at 1/200 (or 1/250 as that’s the typical shutter speed you’d find on your camera).

So how did the photographer get away with shooting at a 1/2 second? By panning the camera and keeping the subject in the middle of the screen there’s an illusion of sharpness created. Mike looks like he’s in focus and sharp. Well not quite. Look at the bicycle tires. Not only are they not truly round as their shape is being distorted by the slow shutter speed but they are blurry because their motion isn’t being matched exactly by the movement of the camera.

Not only is Mike a great amateur radio operator and first-class contester but he’s a professional photographer as well. Go on over to his blog and enjoy his photos and commentary.

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