Project – Photographing Movement (2)

Project: Photographing movement

Exercise 5 : Panning with different shutter speeds (p. 21)


The aim of the exercise was to :-

  • Follow the movement of something moving continuously in front of me.
  • Compare the results of different shutter speeds.
  • Choose the photograph I like the best.

I thought about taking pictures of someone walking or cycling but decided, instead, to photograph cars.  I live just off a busy main road which has a 50mph speed limit, although the cars seem to go much more quickly (especially when I’m trying to cross over to the Common on the other side!).

To begin with, I stood on the pavement so that I could hear the cars coming round the bend and be ready for them. However, I then realised that I could be forming a danger to traffic if people were slowing down to see what I was doing and so I moved further back in the short access road to the Close.  The problem there was that I then couldn’t hear the cars as well, or see them.

The exercise briefing states that the panning technique comes naturally to most people.  I must be one of the exceptions because I found it incredibly difficult and was only slightly reassured when I read a couple of manuals which stated that panning is difficult. The photographs below were taken of cars coming from both left and right.  I found it easier to pan from the left.  Also, of course, some cars were travelling more quickly than others.

Car 1: 1/800

Both car and the background are clear and the car looks as though it is stationary, although it is actually travelling fairly fast.

Car 2 : 1/640

Car 3 : 1/160

At a much slower shutter speed now, with much increased aperture. The background has become blurred. The front of the car is also becoming slightly blurred.

Car 4 : 1/100

Car 5 :1/60

Even more blurred background and the car hub caps especially are blurred. The two combined make it look as if the car is travelling at very high speed.

Car 6 : 1/40

Car 7 :1/25

Background and the whole of the car are blurred and the wheels look as if they are going to fall off.

Car 8 : 1/20

Car 9 :1/13

The car is beginning to become more unrecognisable as such and the wheel blur is very pronounced.

Car 10 : 1/10

The background is now just shades of green and the whole looks rather like a child’s colour wash representing a car.


If I were buying a car I would prefer Car 1 because I can see more detail of the car.  The photograph of Car 3 gives an impression of speed with the blurred background but I can still see the car fairly clearly.  It somehow looks as if the car is holding its own at speed and could make a good advert for a car like a Volvo. From Car 5 onwards the photographs become increasingly abstract.  I prefer Car 3 as this photograph portrays a car, which is safe, solid and can still go fast.

As mentioned above, I found this exercise quite difficult and panning was harder than I had expected.  I think this was partly to do with the speed of the cars and the fact that I was standing back in an area where I could only see the road just about in front of me. I shall continue to practise, particularly to get the car (or whatever moving object) in the centre of the frame).

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