Some Thoughts On Panning

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To share the sense of speed and urgency, a nicely panned shot makes all the difference in the world.

Camera:  NIKON D800E
Exposure:  1/100 sec at f 13 ISO 200
Exposure Mode:  Manual
Lens:  Sigma DG 120-400mm 4.5-5.6 APO HSM
Focal Length:  120 mm

Panning is a necessary thing for me.  My camera gets panned a lot.  Maybe my images, too.  Who knows.

Shutter Speed

High shutter speeds can be the enemy, robbing an image of any sense of motion.  For bikes, I have found 1/80 or 1/100th second works well for me. 

Lens Choice

On bike courses I'm almost always be in a position where a short focal length is necessary.  This is good; a short focal length will enhance the sense of blur in the background.  I find that most of my shots are done at around 100mm.

The lens should have image stabilization.  My Sigma 120-400 zoom has a Mode 2, which is optimized for panning. 

I have a 70-200mm lens without stabilization; it's much harder, with this lens, to avoid disappointment.  A tripod helps, in a way, but it reduces my ability to act and shoot quickly.

Body Motion (Swing)

Of course, it's obvious that, as you follow the subject, the swing at your waist should be smooth and steady.  I found that I tended to stop for a microsecond as I pressed the shutter.  I now always use burst mode, just holding down the trigger.  My motion stays smoother.


Complex, overly blurred backgrounds drive me crazy.  I like to choose the simplest possible background.  The blur will be apparent and the viewer won't be overwhelmed. 

It seems, too, that there is more sense of motion if the target has just gotten slightly by me.

Posted March 28, 2016 at 12:16 pm.