Week 39.2009: Motion Blur

Rally car racing is one of those things that has always seemed interesting to me but I had never taken the time to find out much about it. When I saw a tweet come through that there was a rally car race in Steamboat, CO I jumped at the chance to check it out.

The morning of the race I made my way to the approved viewing area and as I waited for the race to begin the rain that had been threatening all morning started to come down. Because the race is on public roads there are three cars that run the course before the race can begin ensuring that the course is clear. This was handy for me to get an idea of what my settings needed to be by shooting these pre-race cars. As the last car sped by I captured this example of motion blur which turned out to be one of the better shots of the day.

Motion blur shots are some of my favorite and can be tricky to get sometimes. It gives the viewer a feeling of the motion that is happening at the time of the shot while still keeping your subject clear. To do this your shutter speed must be slower than if you were going to shoot a photo of the moving subject and have it come out in focus. To compensate for this you must track the subject, a process where you keep the subject ( in this case the car ) in the same place in the frame while the shutter is open by panning the camera while your shooting. Because you want the subject to come out clearly it must stay the same distance away from you while the shutter is open, it also makes panning at a constant speed easier. Shooting in continuous mode ( where the shutter repeatedly opens while you hold down the button ) as your panning will give you the best chance of getting one good shot where the subject is clear. My photo of the car was one of ten that were shot in continuous mode. Some just didn't have a good panning speed causing the car to be blurred as well, others had the car outside of the frame, this was the one that worked out. If you're interested in practicing these types of shots, I suggest finding a bike path along a road where you can use both cyclists and motorists as subjects. Cloudy days can help you with slowing down the shutter speed without blowing out the photo or having to use filters. If you get something you like or have a question, leave a comment, I'd be happy to help.

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