For my first photowalk I wanted to practice panning while we were out sledding. I did some reading and found the process is about as complex as I’d thought it was – use a slower shutter speed and follow the action.
I learned that if you use a zoom lens you can get a better panning effect – which makes sense. For one, you can fill the frame with your subject – for two, you enhance the perception of motion due to zoom. (ie. the reason you get sometimes get blurry pictures when you’re zoomed in really far with a superzoom point and shoot)
Things I learned while I shot. I shot with an Olympus E-410 DSLR using a 150mm zoom lens. I stopped the aperature down to about 7 and used a shutter speed of about 1/20. It seemed to be long enough to blur the background while letting me get some keepable images handheld. Ideally I’d have used a tripod, but with the action moving downslope and I not having a ball-mount tripod, that’s not going to go that well.
I shot with both eyes open, one looking through the viewfinder and the other watching the action. I was able to sort of unfocus my eyes and let the frame around the viewfinder be semi-transparent, letting me see what I was framing. It’s a technique I’ve used several times but never found mentioned anywhere – maybe everyone assumes it’s natural.
The trick I found was in managing to keep the camera moving in a panning motion at the exact same speed as the action. If I was too slow, or too fast, I’d end up with a very blurry subject – ideally the subject must remain stationary to the point of view of the sensor while the background moves. Since I’m a fixed point and moving around a pivot point that’s impossible, but when I was close to the right speed the action worked.
I’d like now to try shooting a moving subject from another moving subject at the same speed – that would give a great background blur while keeping the main subject stationary from the POV of the camera. (An effect we see in action movies lots of times) May be something to try this summer – I’ll have to hit up some of my motorcycle riding friends to trade off. Greg has a new Nikon D300 D90, we can take pictures of each other if we have a driver for a car or truck.