Week 10: Panning, Polarisation and Flash…

We covered a lot of little bits and pieces this week – some recaps, some new.

The aim of a panning shot is to have the subject in focus but the background out of focus, so as to capture the feeling of a subject travelling at speed.

To do this you need to adapt the shutter speed to allow for enough blur – too fast and you will loose the sense of movement, too slow and the whole thing will be one big unfocused mess. Next you need to adjust the aperture (and ISO if needs be) to fit the shutter speed. If shooting in bright sunlight you can use an ND filter to correct. You can also work on shutter speed priority, but you’ll still need an ND filter if conditions are too bright.

We tried our hand at this down by the side of the A316. We manually focused on a mid-point on the opposite side of the road – so where we would expect the oncoming traffic to be – and then picked up and followed individual cars through the viewfinder as they came towards us so that we could get a sense of the speed that they were travelling at, panning as they approached and then taking the shot when they were directly in front of us, while continuing to pan at the same time. As you can see from my attempts, panning is hopefully something that improves with practice.

Shutter speed guidelines:

1/15 to 1/8 work for cars on A roads.
1/30 for motorway
1/8 or less for cyclists
1/2 for runners.

The closer you are to the subject, the more the relative speed of the subject increases and vice versa.

For more tips on camera panning check out Nikonusa.com

Contrary to what I’d always thought, flash is best used in daylight to fill in shadows. For example, shooting portraits outside in bright sunlight, but you don’t want your subject squinting? Have them turn away from the light and use flash to fill in the shadows. Just make sure that you, the photographer, are not shooting straight into the sun as a result.

You can also use flash to enhance colours and even out lighting – say if you’re shooting portraits or close-ups on a grey day.

Common uses of flash include natural history photos – flowers; fungi growing in undergrowth etc – macro photography (use kitchen roll to diffuse the flash!)

Last but not least, you can use flash when there just simply isn’t enough light to take a photograph, but the effect will be harsh. You can mitigate this by using reflectors and/or an external, wireless flash so that the flash can be placed at an angle so that the light is not firing straight onto the subject. (For this reason, camera’s inbuilt flashes are not great). Set the flash functions to easy wireless setting and the external flash, once paired up, will fire automatically.

Use manual mode when working with flash – there is no consistency when using the other settings. Take a shot first without flash to check your light readings and then change the power of your flash accordingly. Remember, your shutter speed determines how much light will be coming from the background.

POLARISATION: Just a quick reminder that, in order to use a polarised filter to boost sky colour, you need to be shooting at a 90º angle to the sun. So, if the sun’s in the East, you need to be shooting from North or South, and so on. So, having touched on Polarisation in earlier lessons, we discussed the difficulties we had been having in using a polarisation filter to much effect.

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