I’ve shot various types of motor sport and other fast moving subjects, but two weekends ago I got my first opportunity to shoot some drifting from the right side of the fence. For those that don’t know, drifting is different to most motor sports where speed and times are everything. It’s all about keeping your car sliding while you complete a course and competitions are judged on line, angle, speed, and showmanship rather than who finishes first.
While the sport is different, the basic technique for shooting it is the same because you want to capture movement and sense of speed. You want to slow your shutter speed and track the car as you fire off frames – known as panning.
- Face your body towards the point where you want to take the photo.
- Keep your feet planted and twist at the hips as you track the car.
- Use one of the focus points in your viewfinder as a cross-hair and try to keep it locked onto part of the car as is passes by.
- When your body is in line with your feet and the car is in position, fire off a few frames in burst mode.
- Stop shooting but continue to follow through – think golf swing.
- Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat. The more you try, the better you get so don’t be put off with early failures.
The real key to getting a good panning shot is finding the right shutter speed. Too fast and the car looks parked on the track;
Too slow and you have a blurry mess;
Unfortunately there no magic number I can give you as it depends on how fast your subject is moving, but with a drift car a good starting point is 1/160th. Put the camera Tv or Shutter Priority mode and drop your ISO right down (in daylight) and let it do the maths on what your aperture needs to be. When you’re consistently getting sharp shots at 1/160th, walk your way down in shutter speed. Some of the shots here taken during the drivers free practice session were taken at 1/80th – Some worked, some didn’t so don’t push things too far if it’s your one and only chance to get an image.
On the Birmingham Wheels circuit, 1/100th seemed to be the sweet spot for me so I stayed there and gradually walked the ISO upwards as darkness fell and the flood lights came on.
Thanks to Niall, the rest of the JDM guys and the other photographers for a great day of shooting. See you all at Wembley for the final.