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10.04.2016
 © 2016 Liam Doran | Fall leaves make for a great pan shot.  Sigma 24-105 on Canon 1DX ISO 400 f/6.3 1/80 sec.

© 2016 Liam Doran | Fall leaves make for a great pan shot.  Panning is a technique of using a longer shutter speed and following a moving subject with your camera. Sigma 24-105 on Canon 1DX ISO 400 f/6.3 1/80 sec.

When shooting action sports I usually aim for ultra sharp images that capture the most fleeting of moments. After a long day or even multiple days in the field images captured at 1/1000 to 1/2000 of a second start to look the same.  To mix it up a bit I like to slow down the shutter speed and either pan or lock off shots  for  a distinct, creative look.

Incorporating a sense of motion is a great way to add a fresh dimension into your action photography., but it’s not easy.  There a few ways to achieve a good panning shot. The first I will talk about is a simple lock off and the second is the pan both with and without flash.

 

© 2016 Liam Doran | Using the lock-off technique I was able to keep the landscape sharp and let the subjects show their speed.  Sigma 12-24 lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 200 f/10 at 1/80 sec.

© 2016 Liam Doran | Using the lock-off technique I was able to keep the landscape sharp and let the subjects show their speed.  Sigma 12-24 lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 200 f/10 at 1/80 sec.

 

 © 2016 Liam Doran | Another lock off shot that keeps my background sharp while showing the rider in motion. The shutter speed is 1/50 sec. which in this case lets the subject go to blur but not so much so that we don’t recognize the shape of the bike.  Sigma 12-24 on Canon 1DX. ISO 800 f/10 1/50 sec.

© 2016 Liam Doran | Another lock off shot that keeps my background sharp while showing the rider in motion. The shutter speed is 1/50 sec. which in this case lets the subject go to blur but not so much so that we don’t recognize the shape of the bike.  Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM on Canon 1DX. ISO 800 f/10 1/50 sec.

The easiest way to add motion into an action photo is to simply “lock off”.  This means that after choosing your composition keep the camera firmly in place so the backdrop remains sharp and drop the shutter speed enough to let your subject go to blur.  What shutter speed?  That depends on focal length and how the shot is set up but keep it fast enough that the viewer still know what the subject is doing.

The second and more challenging way is to use a technique called panning. In this instance you follow the athlete with your camera thereby keeping the subject sharp while turning the background into streaks.  When panning with Sigma lenses with Optical Stabilizer, be sure to put your lens into OS Mode 2, if available, which is specifically designed for this type of shot.  IF you are on trail try to pre focus on where you anticipate your subject to be.  Also, be sure not to move your camera faster or slower than your subject but at the exact same speed. It helps to start tracking the subject through the viewfinder before releasing the shutter and all the way through the exposure. There is no exact “right shutter speed” as that depends on the total effect you are going for.

Keep in mind: You are going to have to experiment and practice to get a shot that works. Not every capture is going to be a winner. This is a low-percentage style of shot even for experienced action photographers. But when you nail one, you’ll know it!

© 2016 Liam Doran | Here is a lock off but this time adding flash to the mix which will add areas of sharpnees to the otherwise blurred athletes.  Sigma 24-105 lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 160 f/9 1/100 sec.

© 2016 Liam Doran | Here is a lock off but this time adding flash to the mix which will add areas of sharpnees to the otherwise blurred athletes.  Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS Art lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 160 f/9 1/100 sec.

© 2016 Liam Doran | Here I panned with the athlete at the same speed he was riding which kept him in sharp and blurred the background putting all the focus on him. I also used Optical Stabilizer in mode 2 to help keep the lens steady.  Sigma 120-300 lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 100 f/6.3 1/100 sec.

© 2016 Liam Doran | Here I panned with the athlete at the same speed he was riding which kept him in sharp and blurred the background putting all the focus on him. I also used Optical Stabilizer in mode 2 to help keep the lens steady.  Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 100 f/6.3 1/100 sec.

 

© 2016 Liam Doran | The key to a good pan shot is to make sure you are not moving the camera faster or slower than your subject. Sigma 24-105 lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 1600 f/5.6 at 1/100 sec.

© 2016 Liam Doran | The key to a good pan shot is to make sure you are not moving the camera faster or slower than your subject. Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS Art lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 1600 f/5.6 at 1/100 sec.

 

 © 2016 Liam Doran | Panning for portraits can work well too.  I used two off camera flashes to keep him sharp while I panned the camera through the exposure blurring the somewhat distracting background.  Sigma 50 lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 400 f/3.5 1/100sec.

© 2016 Liam Doran | Panning for portraits can work well too.  I used two off camera flashes to keep him sharp while I panned the camera through the exposure blurring the somewhat distracting background.  Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art lens on Canon 1DX. ISO 400 f/3.5 1/100sec.

 

 

Liam used the following lenses in this post:

 

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