Panning racers

Discussion in 'Sports' started by tcyin, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. I watched the famous cross country ski race, the Birkebeiner, in northern WI this past weekend. The homestretch consists of climbing a bridge and then skiing down the bridge to the finish line about 500 m away. While I photographed the start, at a midpoint, and the finish of the race (over 10,000 racers over 2 days of racing), I found shooting them coming down the bridge to the finish line the most challenging. While it's easy to shoot the colorful outfits at high shutter speed, it doesn't convey the speed of the racers. So I tried panning with low shutter speed to try to give a sense of the movement. My yield in terms of getting the racers in focus was pretty low, but there were a few acceptable ones. Any thoughts on how to do this more successfully?

  2. Panning has always required a LOT of practice.
    Like shooting a shotgun, your body has to know how to track and move with the subject.
    And like shooting a shotgun, some will "get it" faster than others.

    Trick: Stand a few hundred feet away from a residential street (slow traffic). The farther you are from the road, the slower the apparent speed of the cars.
    Then practice panning by tracking the cars, left to right, and right to left.
    As you get better, move closer to the road, where the apparent speed of the cars will increase.
    The trick is to find a place where you have a decent view of the street and cars going L->R and L<-R. A park is what I can think of, and a parking lot next to a road.

    BTW, cold muscles under thick jacket does not move as well as warm muscles in thin summer shirt.
    So if you want to shoot cross country again, you need to also practice panning in the COLD.
  3. Hi, I'm presuming that when you say "in focus," you don't mean actual focus of the lens, but rather minimizing the blurred appearance due to motion.

    My technique, if handheld, is to hold elbows to body, trying to make the camera, as well as my head and arms, act as a unit with the trunk of my body. I don't think I'm stating this gracefully, but imagine that everything is locked together, along with a rigid spine. So the camera can become part of this large mass - the trunk of your body. Now the technique is to get the trunk of your body to rotate at the right speed to track the skiers, or whatever it is. The large mass of your body won't get all those little shaky motions that moving your arms, only, will. And like Gary says, practice.

    Just in case you don't know this already, many cameras with image stabilization have an option to allow horizontal panning, stabilizing only the vertical motion, so might be useful to you.

    For future events, consider the use of flash. It would not have worked too well here, in the bright sun, but in dimmer situations a pop of flash can superimpose a sharp image of the subject over some blur. If an on-camera flash lights up the background too much (freezing it too) consider putting a radio-triggered flash up closer; maybe a friend can hold it for you.

    In this example you can see the freezing effect of flash on parts of the scene. In this case, it's not my flash, but rather that of the track photographer. If you have a radio slave you could reliably catch this effect on every shot.

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