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Thread: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Here are a few images from yesterday. This is only my 3rd or 4th try at slow panning so not quite perfect but I think this set shows a definite improvement over the first two sets.

    I am striving to achieve sharp focus on part of the horse, ideally the horses head... a strong sense of motion and a blurred streaky background (because the background at the race track is distracting and full of ugly objects) I am also trying for blurry moving legs but the amount of acceptable blur seems very subjective.

    This time around I used shutter speed priority set at a SS of 40, iso 280-320 (320 is a safe iso for me) and the camera choose an aperture of F32. In my usual manual mode I would have chosen F4-F8 but the background is still blurry so I guess it works.

    I tried to pan from 0 to 180 degrees as has been suggested but the full pan was not always possible, ie; lost focus because of objects and people in the way, and just the set up of the track. I also tried single shot auto focus, with a single pan, but just once because it didn't work for me (at all), so I switched back to continuous focus.

    When there is more than one horse it seems impossible to manage focus on all of them. So I just did my best to get as much focus as possible.

    I would appreciate some C&C on these images including which ones are the better images. Thank you.



    #1
    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    #2

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    #3

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds


    #4 ( Focus problems in all of the remaining images but I kind of like these for the action and the sense of motion, and it is hard to know how much needs to be in focus for these types of shots)

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    #5

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    #6

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

  2. #2

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    When there is more than one horse it seems impossible to manage focus on all of them.
    Focus on the most important horse and use a depth of field that includes the others (if that's possible in the particular shooting situation).
    it is hard to know how much needs to be in focus for these types of shots)
    That's a matter of taste that you can develop most quickly by looking at other people's images, not to say that your taste might not change over time. Personally, I like images that either stop all of the motion or images that stop the motion of the horses' torsos while showing motion blur in their feet. I realize that focus and stopped action are only indirectly related, but I'm sure you get my point.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Christina, you are definitely getting the hang of it. I like #3 the best.
    I was wondering if you could practice on your panning techniques somewhere else other than horse races.
    I am not saying to stop going to horse races, but to practice on other moving objects - like cars.
    Just a suggestion.

    Bruce

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    I am striving to achieve sharp focus on part of the horse, ideally the horses head... a strong sense of motion and a blurred streaky background [/I](because the background at the race track is distracting and full of ugly objects) I am also trying for blurry moving legs but the amount of acceptable blur seems very subjective.
    Hello Christina,

    And you are certainly achieving what you are aiming for in my humble opinion, although, as you are aware it needs further improvement.

    So here's some comment and suggestions founded on my 'expertise' which is based upon my own assumption that I have achieved shooting one decent panning shot with the same aim as yours

    1. Aperture

    I do not believe you are going to get a significant difference in background blur whether using f4 or f22, these images I believe support this when compared with previous ones. I base this on the theory that if you were to blur the background and take it to the n'th degree you can not produce motion streak from smooth bokeh/oof blur.

    In addition wider apertures giving less DoF are going to possibly give you OOF problems when shooting groups of horse that are not parallel to your sensor, ie No 6.

    2. Panning

    I also read the previous comment regarding 180/90/0 degree panning and wonder if is the best method. For my car shots I targeted on the car when it was about 45 degrees from me and found there was ample time to get into rhythm at these subject speeds. A longer body movement (twist) may be harder to keep steady than a shorter one. Something that can be easily be tested and practised.

    3. Focus

    If you attempted AF-S (Single shot focus) it would have locked on the subject when it was farthest from you, causing the subject to be OOF when closest to you. I had noted that comment in a previous post but assumed it a typo.

    In AF-C there will always be a problem of something coming between you and the subject momentarily drastically changing focus whilst panning and this can only be solved by positioning yourself.

    You say ""When there is more than one horse it seems impossible to manage focus on all of them. So I just did my best to get as much focus as possible."" Not sure I understand this comment. If your panning speed matches the subject you are focusing on, it, plus other horses that are within the DoF dictated by your aperture will be in Focus. What they may not be is 'sharp' due to motion movement as either they or parts of them are going at different speeds and directions to the subject your panning movement is synchronised with.

    4 General

    All images except No 4 have parts which are sharp but perhaps not the parts we really want. So how can this be improved or how do we give ourselves a better chance of achieving the image with the parts we want sharp?

    a) An increase in SS will 'freeze' more of the movement.

    b) Taking a burst is going to give more chances of capturing the right bits at the right time when their movement is 'closer' to your panning movement.

    I suspect the ultimate is when we achieve one riders head and his horse head within acceptable sharpness and the sharpness of all others may then be insignificant.


    Grahame

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Christina, I find this a very interesting topic and am longing to get a chance to try something myself. I have been following the panning thread.

    It looks to me as though you have done a good job in general of tracking one point of one of the horses, generally an eye which is good, but different horses are moving differently and different parts of a horse move differently - it is not a solid body. This means that it is simply not possible to get the background blur you have and the horses crisp.

    Because of the uniform background it is hard to see how long the blur is. I wonder whether it is more than enough, in which case it might be possible to increase the shutter speed to get the horses clearer and still have a good background blur.

    The idea of a smaller aperture seems good to me. This should give more of a streaky background than just a blurred one.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    I have been following your panning thread. You are getting closer. #2 is not too bad. Keep practicing, I know you will get a good photo.

    I saw a photo presentation last week and the presenter had a picture of the waves crashing on the beach and he used panning. It was quite an interesting photo. Something I would have never thought to do.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Thank you to everyone for your comments and suggestions which I find very helpful.

    Mike,

    Yes, I know what you mean. I guess I have this vision in my head which I just can't manage to accomplish. I did take some normal photos which I will post later, as my husband thinks that these shots are a little bonkers. That said I do have a second set of photos to go through and I will see if I managed any better ones... If not I have one more try at this next week.

    Bruce,

    Thank you. Yes, I likely should practice on cars but I'm not crazy about cars and I only have so much free time, so I've chosen to devote all of it to trying to capture these horses at a slow shutter speed.

    Still, great advice and after next weekend I will force myself to practice on cars throughout the fall and winter so I have more experience when the horse races start again next year.

    Grahame,

    Thank you for taking the time to provide a very thoughtful and informative reply.

    I have a 2nd set which I took at manual and F11, so I will look compare the backgrounds, but I do think you are correct... F 29 just seems like a very small aperture for my camera to have chosen using SS priority.

    2. I will try starting at 45 degrees on my next attempt.

    3. Yes, sorry for the confusing statement. I suppose it is motion blur from all the different directions of movement going on and at the time of typing I was thinking that such a small aperture with a great DOF should just capture everything in focus which of course is not possible.

    4. With respect to SS I've tried 80-160 several times and none of them produce the background I want...

    Tony,

    It is nice to know that you are finding this interesting and hopefully learning from it, too. Yes, I'm striving to manage clear focus on the horses head and eye but more parts would be better.

    I chose the least distracting background but it really is distracting, and that is why I am trying to learn how to pan at slow shutter speeds. Maybe I am going to have to compromise and find a middle ground.

    Thank you to all. Truly appreciated.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Christina, I think that it is difficult to get what I believe you want (mostly sharp horse with background blurred from pan) because the horse is not moving in one axis like a car. Yes, the horse is moving forward and you could halt the forward motion with your pan but, while it is going forward, the horse and rider are also bobbing up and down. This will be blurred at a slow shutter speed despite your pan and despite any Image Stabilization (or Nikon equivalent) in your lens.

    I think that you probably need to use a selection of shutter speeds in your shooting and then decide which shutter speed will give you closest to what you are aiming for.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    I think you've come quite close to achieving your stated objective with your first shot! On the other hand I wonder how consistent one can be at slow shutter speeds? With so much motion (the panning, hand shake, horse movement) it would seem that to be consistent (meaning more than lucky) you may have to give up something. Maybe find that sweet spot where the shutter is just fast enough to freeze the horse as you pan quickly enough to get the blur in the background? Best of luck; I admire your efforts.
    Andrew

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Richard and Andrew... Thank you for your analysis and suggestions for a faster shutter speed. Perhaps I will have to revisit my thought process and start at a higher shutter speed of 125 and work backwards from there... I thought it was possible but perhaps not...

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Here is the 2nd set of images. This time I selected photos where more of the horse and perhaps one jockey was in focus, even if I didn't manage to grab focus on the horses head and eye...

    Manual SS 40 Aperture 11 ISO 125


    For this set of images I would find it helpful to hear any reasons why the focus varies so much, especially in shots with multiple horse and riders. Perhaps it is my panning skills or perhaps it is just because the horses and riders are moving in so many different directions that using a faster shutter speed is the only solution to stop all the motion blur?


    The almost there images that make me think that it is possible to do at a SS of 40 if only I... panned better, etc...

    Image 7

    Please excuse the WB (I tried the WB dropper on a horses hoof and it didn't work and I forgot to change it back)


    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Image 8

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds


    Image 9

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Image 10

    Note the sharper focus on the riders and horse on the inside, and also on the jockeys at the back, and how it varies.

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Image 11

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Image 12

    Almost there but it still doesn't work. And the blurred poles are still evident despite the panning and slow shutter speed and if I use a faster shutter speed they will be more obvious.

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Image 13

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Image 14

    Note the nice focus on the brown horses head, and the almost focus on the grey horses head but everything else is blurred

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Hi Christina,

    I can see nothing in any of these images that suggests your panning technique or focusing mode is anything other than spot on.

    It comes down to movement and 1/40s not being fast enough to freeze more of it. Raise it up to 1/60s or 1/80s and you will crack it.

    Image 12 shows what you are up against with the tremendous movement in the hooves in a direction other than you are panning.

    I see you concentrated on group shots this time, did you do and close ups with any success?

    Not sure of how much PPing you have done with all of these and I understand it's not your priority at present but some basic sharpening gives them way more Pop.


    Grahame
    Last edited by Stagecoach; 7th October 2013 at 05:28 AM. Reason: New comment re sharpening

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Hi Christina,

    Grahame has already said in post #4, point 3 and just above what I think the root of the problem is, namely;
    You may be confusing softness from subject movement with that from mis-focusing, lack of DoF and (your perception of) bad panning technique.

    Let me re-iterate Grahame's points;
    a) I think the AF is coping well on the majority of shots, although it is hard to tell with such a slow shutter speed
    b) At f/11 or f/22, DoF is unlikely to be the problem
    c) there's now little or nothing wrong with your panning technique

    UPDATE

    Regarding the variability of shots and apparent sharpness of horses you weren't even focusing on, I think this is down to sheer chance (some may call it 'luck'). I think what is really happening here is that when you take the shot, during these quite slow exposures, only some horses will exhibit minimal up/down or fore/aft movement of certain body/rider parts (with respect to the average horse velocity which is matched by your pan speed) and those are the bits you are perceiving as being 'in focus', but as I think we're all realising by now, focus (distance) and panning accuracy has little to do with it.

    I can fully appreciate the shot you are trying to achieve and believe it might be possible to approach it, but only 1 in 100 attempts, a large dollop of 'luck' is required for the horse that's exhibiting minimal movement to be the actual subject horse and not one of the others and for said movement to be minimal where it matters, like the eye in the first shot in this thread.

    At the risk of being banned from CiC for life for suggesting 'cheating' (only kidding), how is this for a suggestion;
    Take some shots at those higher shutter speeds as mentioned below (which should result in sharper horse and rider) and if the background isn't blurred enough, give that a treatment of motion blur in Elements (on a separate layer). I know this isn't what/how you want to do it, but your results suggest it may be the most practical way - at least it gives you something to do after racing has finished this season

    I was hoping to get back here before anyone noticed I'd left this post half finished, but alas, your threads have a great following

    Hope that helps,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 7th October 2013 at 06:41 PM.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Agreed with Grahame and Dave's follow-up.

    I have never photographed racing horses, but I wonder if there is a need to be preoccupied with focusing on the horse's eye when you are using an aperture of f/11 to f/22. If you focus on the neck or torso, you'll surely get the entire head in focus using such large depths of field. I look forward to someone who is used to photographing racing horses to correct me about that.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Hi Grahame,

    Good to know.

    I will give 1/80 and 1/60 a try next weekend, perhaps 1/125 too.

    Yes, indeed... lots of motion.

    I did do some close-ups in the first set but likely didn't post because they were worse but I will take another look and post if I find any.

    Hardly any PP simply because I didn't think they were worth the time. However on the first set I did sharpen and add clarity to the horses head and any sharp parts, and on the 2nd set I just skipped it because this is a learning exercise for me, or perhaps an impossible challenge.



    Quote Originally Posted by Stagecoach View Post
    Hi Christina,

    I can see nothing in any of these images that suggests your panning technique or focusing mode is anything other than spot on.

    It comes down to movement and 1/40s not being fast enough to freeze more of it. Raise it up to 1/60s or 1/80s and you will crack it.

    Image 12 shows what you are up against with the tremendous movement in the hooves in a direction other than you are panning.

    I see you concentrated on group shots this time, did you do and close ups with any success?

    Not sure of how much PPing you have done with all of these and I understand it's not your priority at present but some basic sharpening gives them way more Pop.


    Grahame

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Dave and Mike,

    Thank you for adding and confirming Grahame's comment.

    Mike there is one race horse photographer who has written an article on the subject recommends focusing on the saddle cloth, so as much as that goes against my instinct I may give it a try.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    I am wondering if a faster shutter speed combined with a wider aperture, producing a more narrow DOF might not get a different, yet similar product with the horse and rider in focus and the background OOF. While this freezes the horse, it shows motion by capturing the horse's hooves off the ground. Here is a series of three shots I did at a polo match as an example of what I mean. These were shot in burst mode using a Canon 300mm f/4L IS lens using AV at f/4 and ISO 200 using servo AF with AF point expansion. The f/4 aperture allowed me to get the entire horse in focus because of the distance at which I was shooting while blurring the background and, at my maximum lens aperture, the ISO 200 produces a fast enough shutter speed to freeze action...

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    I do like shot number one because of the position of mallet and ball. However, I tend to like the second shot best because of the cleaner background as well as the positioning of the pony's hooves. The third shot shows how wonderfully athletic these polo ponies are...

    A disadvantage of shooting Polo is that the players and ponies do not ride in a circle. They are all over the place on a tremendously large field. However, an advantage of shooting polo is that a match will allow many opportunities for photos with the the ponies and riders charging of in different directions.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 7th October 2013 at 02:29 PM.

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you for sharing. Beautiful images with #2 being my favourite... Simply stunning.

    Yes, I know that I can do this and I have done so... It is just not what I am trying to do (more artistic and a stronger sense of motion from blurred legs and bits) but if I can't manage what I am trying to do, I agree that this method is my best option.

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I am wondering if a faster shutter speed combined with a wider aperture, producing a more narrow DOF might not get a different, yet similar product with the horse and rider in focus and the background OOF. While this freezes the horse, it shows motion by capturing the horse's hooves off the ground. Here is a series of three shots I did at a polo match as an example of what I mean. These were shot in burst mode using a Canon 300mm f/4L IS lens using AV at f/4 and ISO 200 using servo AF with AF point expansion. The f/4 aperture allowed me to get the entire horse in focus because of the distance at which I was shooting while blurring the background and, at my maximum lens aperture, the ISO 200 produces a fast enough shutter speed to freeze action...

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    I do like shot number one because of the position of mallet and ball. However, I tend to like the second shot best because of the cleaner background as well as the positioning of the pony's hooves. The third shot shows how wonderfully athletic these polo ponies are...

    A disadvantage of shooting Polo is that the players and ponies do not ride in a circle. They are all over the place on a tremendously large field. However, an advantage of shooting polo is that a match will allow many opportunities for photos with the the ponies and riders charging of in different directions.

  19. #19

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Here's a link to a National Geographic page with a panned photo and some tips on panning.

    http://photography.nationalgeographi...ng-richardson/

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    Re: Horse Races -Still trying to learn to pan at low shutter speeds

    Thank you.

    This is actually one of my references and he states

    Pick a good shutter speed. This is important; however, there is no “correct” shutter speed for panning. The longer the shutter speed, the more blurred the background will be. A long shutter speed will make your subject pop out from the background, and that is good. But the longer the shutter speed, the more difficult it is to get the subject reasonably sharp. It’s a balancing act. As a starting point, let’s go back to the example of the sprinters running across the picture. Try anything between 1/8 and 1/60 of a second. Beyond 1/8 of a second it's really tough to get sharp, but it can be very interesting. Above 1/60 of a second, the camera will probably stop too much action and ruin the effect. Except for low-flying jets at air shows. Then you might need 1/500 second, and that brings us to our next problem.

    Which is one of the reasons I've been so steadfast in my choice of shutter speed.

    Also Kent Weakly uses 1/50

    http://kentweakley.com/blog/pan-frozen-horse-race/

    So 1/60 it will be for my next try....

    Quote Originally Posted by ajsmith View Post
    Here's a link to a National Geographic page with a panned photo and some tips on panning.

    http://photography.nationalgeographi...ng-richardson/

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