Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Day at the Races

In a last ditch attempt to get an 'interesting' photo for my module 5 submission ('motion') I headed to my local Race For Life event in the hopes of capturing the action. Sadly, it seems like the trip was a bust, and this is something I could have figured out ahead of time if only I'd stopped to think about it a bit first...

The main challenge of this module assessment is to take a good 'panning' shot, where a moving subject is seen as sharply focussed against a motion streaked background. You do this by moving the camera in the same direction as the subject's motion and at the same speed.

So here's the reason (or at least one of them) that I'm a total dumbass....people running aren't moving smoothly in one direction.

It's obvious when you stop to think about it. Even if I could correctly compensate for their horizontal motion they are also jiggling up and down in the vertical axis (and not all body parts are jiggling at the same rate...ahem). Another problem is that at no time are all body parts travelling in the same direction. A backwards travelling elbow for example will end up twice as blurred when panning in the forwards direction. Also, their back leg (from the knee down) is mainly travelling upwards. When looking through my pictures afterwards these problems meant that in a lot of pictures there was just a single body part that had been 'panned'. For example, this womans elbow and ipod...
The best panning shot that I managed to capture is seen below, and is only (roughly) in focus in the upper body. It doesn't stand up to close scrutiny though, especially in the face, where vertical motion has given the poor woman a ghostly face slightly above her 'real' one.

To add to my woes weather conditions were ideal for running, but not for photography. With bright harsh midday sunlight flattening everything. Getting down to a 1/15th of a second for the panning shots took the lowest ISO setting I had and f22+. I decided to try out the 'D-Lighting' setting on my Nikon D300 which is supposed to produce a more balanced result on bright sunny days (high contrast conditions). It supposedly does this through some in-camera voodoo which looked very impressive in the manual, but my images are all really noisy and I think D-Lighting is to blame. They all look like they were taken on ISO800 or more. I might experiment with this setting a bit more thoroughly, but it was stupid of me to try it out for the first time while out photographing a one-off event.

So I gained lot's more "dont's" to add to my list from today's experience but very little else. It looks like Johnson the dog on his roundabout adventure will be my assessment submission after all.

I did get a couple of cool abstract images from today that I thought were quite fun...One woman who has come out looking like an impressionist manga princess...

and another poor woman who looks like a jogging Nosferatu....

The moral of the story? Think harder when planning a shot like this to make sure you're not setting off on a fool's errand.

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