I talk a lot about technique here on the blog. It’s only a very small part of photography as a whole but it’s not until actually using the camera becomes second nature that you can start really thinking about all the other stuff.
Seeing a different angle or composition, for example, is far harder to do when you’re still trying to figure out what your shutter speed needs to be.
This weeks’ photo was taken when I was standing on Brooklands corner at Silverstone. I just happened to look behind me to see a car rounding Woodcote, just visible above the barriers. I found something to stand on to get myself a little higher and saw there was a shot to be had.
The settings are pretty standard for this type of shot (1/160th at f/8 in Shutter Priority mode) but I had them already dialed in so I didn’t have to think about them. All I had to do was pre-focus on where I knew the cars would be and flick my 70-200mm into manual focus. Because of the number of barriers, signs and fence posts along my panning path, my auto focus would have had very little time to lock on to the car one it came out into the open.
The real takeaway here is that because I wasn’t chimping the back of my camera, or fiddling with dials and buttons, I was free to look around me and spot this different image opportunity. So spend some quality time with your camera – get to know it even better.
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.