Simple Skills to get Super Shots of Speedy Subjects
Have you had the chance to go to a great racing event with your camera such as a Formula One weekend or Horse racing? Or maybe you wanted to capture fast moving animals, pets or your children?
Did you get back with your shots and look at them on the computer to find they were all blurred? Or there was half a car? Or the motorcyclists head was missing? Maybe there was no subject there at all!
It happens to even the best photographers at some point. But with a little planning you can get the best out of any event.
I’m using examples from photographing the action at the TT races on the Isle of Man, but these hints and tips can be applied anywhere.
This is the single most important aspect of getting the best from your time at any event.
Distance from the Action: You may think the best idea is to be as close as possible. This is true to a certain extent, but you want to be able to fit the whole of the subject in your viewfinder. You also need to remember if the action is right next to you, it will move past very quickly. It is often better to use a longer lens to allow yourself to be further away.
Angle of view: As with a short distance, a side on view means the action passes very quickly. Can you keep up with the necessary panning? A front on view helps you get the subject in the frame without you having to move but your lens will need to keep up with auto-focus. A three-quarter view is the best of both worlds in this case. You and your camera should be able to keep up with the movement across the frame.
Slowest Action Point: On the Isle of Man track and on Formula one tracks there are areas where the action is slower — the bends and corners. These are great places to capture stunning pictures. Be warned though, there will be lots of competition for space so be there early.
Light: You don’t want to spend a long time shooting into the sun. Preferably it should be over one of your shoulders. This isn’t always possible but try to keep yourself between the light source and the action. An area of deep shade, such as from buildings, is also not very helpful. A bright area will give the best chance of a good exposure.
2. Camera Settings and Techniques.
With fast action you need the fastest possible shutter setting. Switch to Shutter priority and set it for 1/2000 sec or better. You will need to set your ISO fairly high to get that speed, probably around 2000. Your camera will then set the aperture which most likely won’t give a massive depth of field but enough if you focus carefully.
To start with the easiest technique is to manually focus on a spot where you expect the subject to be and take the shot as the subject passes by. Even this will take some practise as you learn to anticipate when to press the button.
Depending on your kit, you can also set your camera to Continuous shooting. This technique relies on your camera being able to detect the subject, lock on and follow it as several exposures are taken at short intervals. This works best when you are at an angle to your subject so that the relative speed to you is reduced.
Once you are comfortable with the speed and motion of your subjects, you can try the panning technique. In this case, increase the exposure time to about 1/250 sec and follow the subject as you press the shutter. You will be aiming to keep the subject in the same place in your shot throughout the exposure. Keep your camera moving in a smooth action, following through like a golfer with his swing. This technique takes a lot of practice. Try it on slower moving objects before you set off for your big day.
3. Gear Guide.
A fairly long lens is a must have. If you are working to a budget a zoom lens around 300mm will suffice. If you plan to do lots of this kind of photography, then go for the fastest lens you can afford. These photos were taken using a Sony A37 and a kit zoom lens 75–300mm. With the right technique and practice you don’t need the ultimate in gear.
Get Out and Get Taking Pictures
The key to getting good results with any kind of photography is practice. take your camera out every day and take photos. Doing even a little every day will help you get used to your gear, help you to see with an Artist’s eye, help you respond to situations more quickly. Your skills will improve exponentially and you’ll find your unique vision in a natural and organic way.
Be persistent and you will make the most of every opportunity when the big moments happen.