Shooting Speed

by William Lulow

One of the things I’ve always liked about my job is that I am constantly being challenged and continually meeting new people. Over the years, I have been asked to photograph everything from studio portraits to aerials. From stationary products to professional golfers, to speeding race cars. This week’s assignments were no different. I was asked to photograph an indoor Go Kart racing facility.

Now, if you just want to capture the cars and the ambiance of the place, that’s one thing, and it’s fairly easy to do. But, if you’re intent on capturing some of the speed involved, there are a couple of tricks of the trade that come in handy. If you’ve been in a moving vehicle and noticed that another vehicle moving at the same speed appears to be stationary, then you can see what you need to do to create sharp images of any moving object. Your camera needs to be traveling at the same speed as the other moving object. The following image was made by panning the camera at close to the same speed as the moving go-kart and using a fast shutter speed:

This image was shot at 1/125th of a second at f/4.5. ISO setting was 2000. I used a small speedlight mounted on the camera and bounced into a reflector. Many people think that you need a super-fast shutter speed to capture movement like this, but it simply isn’t true if you pan the camera at the same time you trip the shutter. The trick is to continue the panning movement even after you take the picture.

Now, if you want to create the feeling of speed, simply slow down the shutter speed, but continue to pan the camera with the action:

Here you can see that the car is almost a blur, yet you can see most of the details and you get a feeling of speed. The tone of the image has changed because the slow shutter speed is allowing more of the ambient light to register in the exposure. The exposure here was 1/15th of a second at f/5.6. ISO 2000

This image was shot at 1/25th of a second at f/5.6. ISO 2000. You can see that the faster the shutter speed, the more you will stop the action. You can also tell that the camera was panned because the background is blurry. So, you need to experiment with shutter speed and camera panning until you arrive at a combination that gives you the effect you seek. Remember, unless you pan with the action, you will capture more of an indistinguishable blur.

This is only one example of the photographic challenges that I’ve met with as part of my daily job. I will try to keep posting more of them.